Do we question enough? Do we seek to replace old information – or traditions, with better understandings? Are we re-teachable? Do we re-renew our minds, or stand on old information because searching is work?
There’s an old game with a great lesson – several people line up side by side, then the 1st person whispers a short story to the 2nd person in line. The 2nd person repeats it to the 3rd, and so on, until the last individual tells the group what they heard. The outcome is usually quite amusing, and the longer the line, the more the story changes. Sometimes it is quite unrecognizable from the very 1st whisper given.
Certainly, not all traditions are lies. They can be comforting; meant to be a place of truth or commonality that everyone can share – like Pumpkin Pie at Thanksgiving, at least at my house. Tradition, however, should be qualified by scripture. The death of a longstanding lie, or tradition, occurs when people realize they have listened and believed without fact checking – without putting the verse in context, so they know that its meaning is the same as when it was originally spoken. That’s one reason God urged early New Testament (NT) followers to write things down. A lot of arrogant, or misinformed people were leading new believers astray, like the Jewish converts that demanded circumcision as an “entrance fee” to the new faith. Paul spoke against this practice as the numbers of non-Jewish people entering the faith was growing rapidly.
Gal 6:15-16 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. NKJV
The civilization of that era was based in many oral traditions, and many stories were recited thousands of times to crowds of people and children, so they learned the lesson by heart, and without variance. They weren’t whispered into a single ear – they were “shouted” to many, and the many repeated back as one, over and over again. That is how their faith remained pure. A single person whispering lies would hit an insurmountable wall of people who knew the truth, and there the lie would fall to its death.
As the world grew and people of faith either went out into it, or resided in that world without a lot of support, and needing a foundation to share by, letters were written to help them understand, remember (Phil 3:1), and share their faith effectively. These “books” (the NT) became the wall that lies would hit, and die.
Even children are called to embrace their faith with personal zeal rather than just walking contentedly in their parents’ shadow, without fact checking. If we only walk in the shade of others, we’ll fall when we have to walk on our own. The “bright lights” of opposing viewpoints never openly dealt with can blind us to truth when we have not embraced it for ourselves. John (the Baptist), and Jesus Christ are examples of children who pursued their personal relationship with God, and were mighty ministers because of it. (Of course, their families, leaders, and synagogues encouraged and participated in their growth.)
Lk 1:80 So the child (John) grew and became strong in spirit… NKJV
Lk 2:40 …the Child (Jesus) grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. NKJV
Young people are also called to reason with people of faith, to learn, and to share their understanding and respectful zeal.
Lk 2:41-47 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast…Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. NKJV (Special note – I am NOT advocating that you ditch your parents in a crowd! 😊)
At what point do we have the skill to teach? That is up to our own efforts, our elders, and God, who is patient with us. In the NT we see people enter discipleship to teach as late teens (like Timothy in Acts) or much later in life, like Nicodemus (John 3:1-21), depending on when they heard God’s Truth, and pursued it.
For devout Jews, like Paul, who was an expert in OT knowledge, it meant going back and re-evaluating, praying through what he had been taught against the truth of Christ now lain before him.
Ac 9:11-19 So the Lord said to him (Ananias), “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.” …So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. NKJV
The truth had to hit Paul (then called Saul) so hard to wake him from his zeal for tradition that Paul was left stunned deep within his soul, “blinded by the light,” fasting and praying, and needing a more mature believer to come to him, to pray with him, so he could heal. God sent Ananias, and Paul became an apostle, a writer of many NT epistles, planted numerous churches, raised up many leaders, and eventually gave his life to this cause.
All from re-renewing. From searching out truth, rather than just accepting the practices and ideas of others. The Bereans are complimented for fact checking Paul’s teachings against scripture after listening to him speak! (Acts 17:11) They “raised the wall” of truth in front of him, and his words proved accurate.
Look – no longstanding, Holy Spirit-filled preacher or teacher of God’s Word won’t occasionally say something like “I used to teach this, but I have studied more, listened to experts, and changed the way I think, act, and teach because of it.” Our own dear pastor regularly challenges us to challenge her. Who does that? People who are more worried about Holy Spirit being grieved (Eph 4:20-32), than about how they might look in the moment. People who are purposely re-renewing their mind…like Apollos in the book of Acts.
Ac 18:24-28 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ. NKJV
Apollos was doing a good job to begin with, but, because he was still teachable, even though he was already “eloquent and mighty in the scriptures” he was able to go even further and change the lives of even more people in Jesus’ Name.
The active faith in our souls is crying out to God for “more” all the time. God answers. In the bible are many discoveries waiting to enhance your relationship with God. Reading to understand; to be corrected, to discover new truths (Prov 25:2) – it’s a bit like the “date night” a married couple wisely maintains in order to grow together, rather than become stagnant – lost in repetitions (traditions) of their everyday lives.
Let’s question even more – are our local or national traditions Godly? What about traditions or practices in our own homes and schools? Those verses we heard spoken of, but never looked up for ourselves, never pondered – was that teaching complete and in context? How do we know?
Are we allowing ourselves to be led toward Christ, or just led???
Col 2:4-10 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. NKJV
Jesus Christ Himself warned against traditions of men being allowed to override God’s Purposes and commandments.
Matt 15:3-9 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God” – then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
“These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me. (heart – kardia #2588, the mind, intellect, thoughts)
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” NKJV
Mk 7:13b …And many such things you do.” NKJV
Let’s practice our faith carefully, having good reasons for our actions and beliefs, so the next worldly principal that comes by doesn’t mess with us. Let’s enjoy saying to each other “Where does it say that?” Then, let’s set off together on a mini adventure of discovery in God’s Word!
There is an expanded study on this subject in “Digging Deeper”, for those who want to start asking questions right away!
September 4, 2021