Jesus repeatedly challenged his disciples to avoid the yeast of the Pharisees who placed the traditions of men above the commandments and word of God
“How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition.
Clearly, Jesus never intended that the traditions of the Pharisees would be replaced by the traditions of New Testament era churches that no longer serve the life of the disciple. Yet we all fall into this way of thinking
First, let’s be reminded that the commandments of God, when energized within us by the Spirit of God, are the pathway to immeasurable joy, not some kind of religious, duty-bound, heart-deprived existence. “The commandments of the Lord are right. They make the heart rejoice.” Psalm 19:8. Aligning heart and life with God’s ways, as the Spirit leads and works in us, produces freedom of soul and spirit like nothing else. Jesus called his disciples away from the traditions of religion in order to call them into the experience of life, in the Spirit, wholly devoted to the joy of following Him
Now, let’s consider why the ‘commandments’ of God are not always easily embraced. On the front end, when confronted with Jesus’ challenges, his words can often seem unsettling:
- Love God with your whole heart
- Love your neighbor as yourself
- Give to the poor
- Go and make disciples of all nations
- Take up your cross
- Be mature (embrace growth and transformation)
- Forgive as you have been forgiven
- Pray for your enemies
- Abide in me
- Give up everything you have
Indeed, as we look at such ‘commands’ realistically, I can understand why it seems much easier to simply take on the basic traditions of: going to church, meeting at Bible study, doing a daily devotion, giving a tithe, serving as an usher, etc, etc, etc. The traditions of western, cultural Christianity are actually quite comfort-able and easy to settle into especially considering the alternative of fully surrendering heart and and life to God’s life-transforming call.
But Jesus, in making such strong challenges like I have listed, was not creating rules of religion, rather he was inviting people to do whatever it takes to move out of self into daily, obedient, joyful life with Him! These ‘commandments’ help us confront and shake off the parts of ourselves that keep us bound up in self-willed living so that we can enter into the joy and freedom of God-centered, God-infused living. He does not bind us up afresh with His commands, but as we walk with Him daily, His word transforms us in the most profound and genuinely freeing way.
I meet people every day who, out of frustration or pain from their church traditions, want to leave those traditions but, really, just want to replace them with some newer, more comfortable, traditions. Perhaps we all continue to miss the point. When we stop clinging to our quest for easy traditions, we become more open to the Person who is drawing us into a much deeper, real, and fully-alive life.