Tag Archives: tradition

The Trouble with Tradition

We all have expectations of our families and friends, our society and government—and of God. We all have expectations of our church, how it should act and what it should teach and how it should govern. Some of these expectations are based upon customs and beliefs that pass down from generation to generation. These expectations are what we call “traditions.”

There is nothing good or bad about “traditions” in and of themselves. We get into trouble when we base our lives upon long-practiced and revered traditions that have questionable authority and keep people in bondage. We may give first priority to traditions, good in themselves, but of second priority to things more important to God.

Jesus had strong words for those that substituted divine revelation with human tradition. When the Pharisees challenged Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands, he told them they had left God’s Word to favor their own way. To be fair, the Pharisees were trying to avoid breaking God’s law, but they used their own way to do it, not God’s way. Tradition is still something that divides the church in our own day.

Paul tells us we are to adhere to “apostolic traditions” (1 Corinthians 11:1,2). The apostles were men chosen by Jesus. For three years, He taught them the revelations of God.

After Paul’s conversion, he went to the desert where he was taught by Jesus and the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 1:11-24, Paul tells us that later, he went to Jerusalem to meet Peter and compare notes and found that Peter and Paul’s teachings matched perfectly though the two men had never before met until that time.

This strongly confirms that apostolic traditions do not come from men but from God, from Jesus Christ Himself. We find these traditions, these teachings, in the gospels and in the writings of the apostles in the New Testament. Throughout the gospels, Jesus frequently refers to Old Testament scriptures, giving His stamp of approval to the Old Testament as well. Both the Old Testament and New Testament make up our Bible.

We must base our own traditions and experiences upon the traditions of the apostles which come from Jesus Christ Himself. Wherever the two come into conflict, our traditions and experiences and preferences must give way to the teachings of scripture.

Our traditions and practices must enable our relationship with Christ and one another, not detract. Too often, our traditions win the day, even as it did with the Pharisees 2,000 years ago.

Many disputes in families, churches and society result from elevating human teaching and tradition above the Word of God. Too often, we treat our beloved traditions and experiences as sacred writ. When we face these disputes, will we go back to the scriptures with teachable and humble spirits, ready to change if need be?

Let us remember the words of Paul to Timothy: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; to that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-16).

Let us remember that our faithfulness to the apostles’ teachings in scripture will give us good traditions that will enable us to free others in India and elsewhere with the same gospel that has given us freedom.

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What the World Cannot Ignore

autumn-trees-tumblr-wallpaper-3The first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims took place among people who sacrificed and suffered beyond words. During their first harsh winter in America, they lost almost half their number. Yet those who lived thanked God for His provision in the midst of widespread grief.

The apostle Paul suffered trials and persecutions almost without number. Yet he says he has learned to be content under all conditions, whether good or bad. “I can do all things,” he writes, “through Christ who strengthens me.”

Paul’s experience and that of the Pilgrims indicates that contentment and thanksgiving are not natural human traits. They are learned experiences that come over time through daily, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They are the product of seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. When we do this, Jesus says, “all these things [including contentment and thanksgiving] will be added unto you.”

We live in a general culture of discontent. We see signs of this all around us in high consumer debt and a high rate of mobility. Increasing numbers of people identify as victims. We become anxious over what we do not have. We exhibit jealousy and envy. We engage in self-criticism and self-hatred. We focus on everything else but God to meet our needs, but since God made us for Himself, these other things can never help us.

Discontented people are miserable people. Miserable people are not thankful people. Unfortunately, many such people are found in the church. Are we among them?

Contentment and thankful spirits are acquired traits. How do we acquire them? By learning to submit to God as sovereign, knowing that He puts us where we are and is fully able to give us all we need for the situation. By learning to serve the Savior who has served us to the fullest degree. By learning to trust the One who is all-sufficient in all circumstances.

Paul, who suffered many things, experienced the love of God poured out into his heart through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). How does this work out in real life? Read the testimony of a young man, 19 years old, dying of a fever, lying on a straw bed in a hovel with broken windows:

“I would not change my state with the richest person on earth . . . Blessed be God! I have a good hope through Christ, of being admitted to those blessed regions where Lazarus now dwells, having long forgotten his sorrows and miseries. Sir, this is nothing to bear, while the presence of God cheers my soul and where I have access to Him, by constant prayer through faith in Jesus Christ.”

“Only the love of God is constant,” said Henry Venn, who experienced shifting circumstances in his life. He learned to practice constant prayer, meditate on scripture, engage in fasting and keep a spiritual diary. To him, these were not mere religious exercises, but means to develop intimacy with the living God.

Henry Venn had lost two wives and a 16-year-old daughter through death. Through his trials, he recognized his sin and his need for humility before God. He experienced the love of God poured out in his heart. It was more than enough, and he thanked God.

Do we have that kind of contentment that leads to thanksgiving? When we learn contentment, we will have a testimony the world cannot ignore.

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