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Transition from Tradition

January 4, 2015

 Ecclesiastes 1:18 “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.”

True wisdom comes from above, according to James 1:5 and James 3:17.  Unfiltered by the teachings and opinions of our contemporaries, is a priceless thing; “first pure, then peaceable, and easy to be entreated.” But oftentimes, this wisdom contains an element of sadness, because we then survey the landscape with greater clarity and realize that it’s actually much darker than we had previously thought. We see the souls around us who are bound by the same things that we were once bound by, until the Lord Jesus delivered us. And just as we were in that un-regenerated state, those around us do not realize that they are walking in darkness. They hold in high esteem, the chains of their captivity; even calling them fun and equating them to “really living.” All the while, they view those who have been delivered from such vanities as being weird, legalistic, haters, and, as I was recently called by someone very close to me, “a real killjoy.”

Satan has a vast array of tactics which he utilizes in keeping his captives in a state of blindness.  Some are physically destructive, such as alcohol/drug abuse, promiscuity, homosexuality, uncontrollable anger, and what have you. Others have a seemingly benign nature; unless one considers that they cause one to not prepare for their moment of departing.  This category includes the pursuit of endless acquisition, being consumed by a career to the point that it becomes ones god, a relentless seeking of entertainment or pastime, or any interest that an average person employs to occupy their proverbial spare time instead of considering issues of eternal significance. I know of people who are so consumed by the following of sports that it seems to dictate every facet of their lives.

Still others become deeply involved in divers causes, organized dead religion, cults-including those with a Christian veneer, or something which appears to have aspirations beyond this temporal world but does not lead one to real faith in Jesus. These are oftentimes the most dedicated kinds of people that one will find; especially since many of them operate from the idea of “working their way to heaven” or a perceived better situation after they leave this world. Jehovahs Witnesses will pound the pavement relentlessly; seeking to lure the non-discerning into following another Jesus because they are working for a place on the new earth. Many people who fall into these sects joined them after becoming adults. Others were born into a religious system which is void of life. These souls who are born into a false system are, not only following a lie, but are cemented into that system because of tradition.

And this brings us to the topic at hand – traditions. They come in a variety of flavors, however, they all have a single commonality. It keeps a person captive to a format that demands specific actions to be carried out at certain times. For one who knows not the Lord Jesus, traditions often stand in the way whenever they are presented with truth. For example, one who has been brought up in Roman Catholicism will equate the traditions that they have always known with godliness. Even if they cannot reference a single passage of scripture, they will oftentimes cling to what they have always known, as opposed to listening to the words of a stranger who lovingly tells them that “ye must be born again.” This is further complicated when they are “very nice people;” displaying all of the natural affections and courtesies that are standard amongst most of our contemporaries. (Matthew 7:11) 

Colossians 2:8-9 “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

This passage reveals three important points. First, traditions are earthly in their origin. They are implemented by men and not God. They are flesh-based at best, and demonically inspired at their worst, as the enemy continuously seeks to lead people away from Jesus. Second, they will spoil a person who allows themselves to be governed by them. Whether a person practices them out of a sense of religious obligation, cultural expectation, or they simply serve as a nostalgic reference point, (this takes me back to when I was a child…and I would visit my Grandma…..and she would do such and such….) they keep a person beholden to a continuous loop of unprofitable motions. And thirdly, they deviate away from the Lordship of the Lord Jesus. Even when they are believed to be done in honor of the Lord Jesus, they will keep one from “following him wheresoever he leadeth” because such a one is being governed, not by the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit (if they are saved) but by the earthly system that everyone else is doing to honor Jesus. Thus the tradition is in control and not the Lord Jesus.

This will stir up some controversy, so it’s important to state that I am neither for, nor against a person partaking in the festivities associated with Christmas. I refer to Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16 in regards to this issue. (although I am an every day the samer) Around that time of year, people spend incredible amounts of time on financial reserves on observing the day. Decor, presents, consumable items, and what have you. If asked “why are you doing this?” the standard answer is “we’re celebrating Jesus coming into the world.” Well, if we really want to honor Jesus coming into the world, we should do what he would have us to do with these resources. (there are some who do this) Instead of spending all of this time and money on ourselves and those closest to us, take that same amount and allocate it to a homeless shelter; where souls are at their wits end and in danger of perishing before the sun comes up tomorrow.

And if it’s good to do such around the 25th of December, it’s good to do it all year long…..and thereby truly honoring Jesus with what we have been blessed with. I know that the debate over Christmas is provocative (just look at the facebook debates) however, Christmas is a textbook case of tradition having power over a persons life. When asked about my thoughts in regards to the issue, I have a compound response. First – my family is unsaved and does not understand my position on this. They need to be saved first before getting into the particulars of this issue. Second, I don’t hold holidays in high esteem simply because they are earthly in nature. Decorating and gift exchanges take my eyes off the eternal – not the other way around. They focus on the “down here” and not the eternal. As we draw closer to Jesus, our appetite for anything that focuses on the “here” will diminish. Every December is a struggle to keep my focus on issues of eternal significance, while everyone around me wants to watch Christmas movies and drink hot chocolate……”because its what we have always done; it reminds us of when we were kids.”

This is the power that tradition holds over a person. I know that some do indeed, utilize this day to focus on Jesus…..however, much of what is done has nothing to do with the Lord Jesus. This is further demonstrated by the way that so many of our contemporaries are stressed out because of holiday obligations. Stress is not a fruit of the spirit and when it is the result of our need to fulfill obligations that have no eternal significance, something is amiss. The folks around me, whom I love dearly…..from about the third week of November, until the beginning of January, they are in a continuous state of stress. The peaceful moments that line up with the currier and ives imagery, are paper thin and the smallest snafu brings them crashing down……because the program has been interrupted.

This post is once again getting long, however, two more aspects are in need of bringing up a they specifically affect one who is born of the Spirit.

Matthew 9:62 “And Jesus said unto him No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

I miss the ability to use more than one color in a sentence…..unless I’m doing something wrong….it used to work.

Traditions make us look back and rehearse what has been. We are called to be looking forward – looking toward an eternity where all of this worlds concerns are no longer a factor – where all that we have done in the name of the Lord Jesus will be memorialized in the form of reward. Holding to the traditions of this world, the agendas that most of our contemporaries are consumed by, a religious form of godliness, and what have you, keep us from fulfilling the work which the Lord has called us to. One of the most fascinating aspects of walking with Jesus, is the changing of seasons. This is when the Lord carries us out of a situation that we have become comfortable with, and into a new situation where we have no idea what to expect. It can be scary, if we try to figure it out. But when we just trust the Lord and know that he has gone before us, it’s like an adventure. One more (troubling) passage, and I’ll wrap this up.

Luke 9:59-60 “And he said to another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.”

This is astonishing and runs contrary to how we operate in the flesh. I was present at the funerals of both of my parents and, most of us will do likewise whenever such a time arrives. And yet Jesus was revealing the importance of eternal issues as opposed to temporal issues….even those temporal issues done out of honor and respect for one who was very important to us. “Let the dead bury their dead.” Saved or lost; the eternal situation of that man’s earthly father was now determined. It was imperative for this man to look toward the future, where souls were still hanging in the balance, as opposed to holding on to what everyone expected, and what he really wanted to do. There may well be souls in heaven at this very moment, who would have never come to faith in Jesus; had this man gone back to bury his father and delayed setting out on the path that the Lord Jesus had assigned to him.

Well, it’s about time to go. I was not expecting this post to touch on certain areas of controversy, however, it is imperative that our focus is on the eternal and not on the temporary. There is a profound liberty to separating from this worlds agenda, and setting aside our own wants, as we seek to be about our Fathers business. We must be ready to let go of anything that the Lord tells us to let go of, and be willing to go wherever he would have us go – when he would have us go. Even if it seems totally impossible in the flesh and even if all of our contemporaries tell us “that’s a stupid thing to do.” If he says “go here, and when  you arrive, I will tell you what to do next” we must go; knowing that he has promised to be with us always. With this, I will close with a well known scripture:

II Timothy 2:4 “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”

Blessings in Jesus name.

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