Hardening the Ground with Religious Talk
In his Gospel, Matthew records an incident in which Jesus confronts once again the religious hypocrisy of the Pharisees.
The Pharisees have forsaken the commandment of God in favor of following the traditions of men (they are worldly) and Jesus is appalled. God has made it very clear in His Word that the people are to “Honor their father and mother.” Yet, the religious elite had begun to tell the people that what they would have given in provision for their parents should be given to God. For them, this was a source of pride. Jesus has a scathing response to their disobedience.
“So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” - Matthew 15:7-9
This is a humbling, confrontational statement from our Lord, that should give us a pause. These men, claiming to be godly, were forsaking His Word and obeying the words of men instead. Jesus recognizes what is happening and calls it out directly. You say all the right things; you wear the right clothes; you pray at the right times; you offer your sacrifices; you sing your songs, you bring your offering; but your heart is not mine. This is the height of hypocrisy. These were cultural Israelites.
Cultural Israelites fail to display the glory of God. In fact, religious hypocrisy has the exact opposite effect. “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” - Romans 2:23-24 The Gentile world could see right through the Israelite hypocrisy. The Israelites claimed to love God and claimed to live for His glory, but the reality of their lives was condemning. They were living for themselves and putting a God stamp on it. The result was catastrophic, the Gentile world blaspheming God because of them.
Here’s the sobering reality, there are many people just like these Pharisees sitting in the pews of churches all around the world. The cultural Christian goes to church, loves their family, prays before supper… sometimes, maybe goes to Bible study every once in awhile, sings the songs, listens to the sermons. However, their heart is far from God—professing Christians, who love what God hates and ignore what God loves, consumed with personal entertainment, personal pleasure, personal fortune and self, all the while, ignoring evangelism, serving the brothers, caring for orphans and widows and feeding the hungry. The Glory of God and the supremacy of Christ doesn’t seem to intersect with daily life anywhere. Friends, this is hypocrisy. The church cannot be full of people who are mesmerized by the world and bored with Jesus and his cross. Jesus tells us in this text that those who worship like this, worship in vain.
Read what Christ says in the parable of the sower: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” - Matthew 13:3-9
Let’s consider the thorny soil for a moment. Jesus explains what he means later, “As for the what was sown among the thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” This individual hears the word of the kingdom and receives it with much joy. He has become a Christian, right? He joins a church, starts giving some money, singing in the choir and greeting people at the door. But something is wrong. He is enthralled with this world. His vision is earthly. He is distracted. At the end of the day, he has been deceived by worldly riches and blinded by worldly concerns. As a result, he fails to bear any fruit for the kingdom. The treasures of this temporary world have blinded him to the more glorious treasures of heaven. This is the cultural Christian.
Cultural Christianity is a spiritual disease and unless the church is diligent to snuff it out, the church will succumb. The result of cultural Christianity is disastrous. As a watching and dying world, as an up-and-coming generation, looks upon professing believers who say one thing with their mouths while they do another thing with their lives, the name of God is diminished, and hearts are further hardened. Our lives must shout from the rooftops, “There is something better! There is something much more glorious, more deeply satisfying, more joyous, than big houses, nice cars and extravagant vacations.” The church must be a group of born again people who are compelled by the things that bring glory to God and point the world to the only Savior, Jesus Christ.
Let’s ask a few personal questions of ourselves. What is driving and motivating me every day? What is my why? What is most important to me? Am I consciously working to die to myself and to live unto God each day? Do my goals for the coming years (work, play, money, retirement, etc…) reflect God’s priorities for my life? Am I passionate about what God is passionate about? How would my children answer these questions concerning me?
The answer to these questions does not impact you alone but also the people living all around us.
May God give Gray Road Baptist Church grace to be full of people who live lives in a such a way that our children, our family members, our neighbors will “give glory to our Father in heaven.”
God, help us to honor YOU with our LIPS and our LIVES.