That's not what HE said

Watching kids play games together can be pretty comical. Somebody always has to be "in charge" and that means that he pretty much makes up the rules as he goes. Many of the domestic disturbances that I am called in to officiate between my own children can be traced back to a flexible rules system that is always slanted to the advantage of the one in charge of score keeping. Extra swings of the bat, "short cuts" while playing Chutes-and-Ladders, establishing "base" at the nearest tree before someone tags you out - whatever it takes to make sure that things go your way.

This is nothing new. In fact, man has been trying to bend the rules in his favor for centuries. It's not that we are necessarily Lance Armstrong level cheaters; we just don't like to lose. So we tweak a word here, change a sentence there, until the narrative matches more clearly with the story in our heads. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?

What if I told you that if you are a Christian then drinking alcohol is a grave sin? Or if you commit suicide then there is no chance for you to go to heaven? Or a certain version of the Bible is the only accepted form of Scripture in God's sight? Many of you have heard these words before and you might even believe they are true. If challenged, you might even be able to dig around in your Bible and find something to support your view, even if you have to extrapolate the text a bit to fit your desire.

So let's be brutally honest: There is a lot that we believe - much that we stake our faith on - that is based more upon tradition and personal preferences that it is on the truth of God. Think about it. How many times have you been convinced of a certain teaching or conviction that you've held for years but you just can't find anywhere in the Bible to support it? Still, you KNOW it must be true because godly men and women taught it to you since you were in child in Sunday school so it MUST be true. God really does only help those who help themselves, right? Cased closed.

Not even close.

Jesus was a pretty savvy guy. As he walked the earth proclaiming the kingdom and dispensing His gospel message, He regularly encountered religious guys who challenged Him with iron-clad notions wrapped in their own traditions and opinions. One day a bunch of these fellas told Jesus they had a bone to pick with Him (Mark 6:1-13). It appeared that His disciples were not observing the traditions and customs of the elders, things such as ceremonially washing their hands before they ate and the scrubbing of other eating utensils and pots. These men did not deny that these were traditions passed down through the ages; they simply chose not to challenge Jesus on what was actually written in Scripture. They only cared to debate about man-made rules crafted to fit their own agendas.

Jesus was quick to dismantle their house of cards. Quoting from Isaiah, Jesus told them that they were guilty of "teaching as doctrines the commands of men" (vs.7). He went on to tell them that when they pushed their personal ideology on others, these guys were really "Disregarding the command of God" (vs.8) and they "revoke God's word by your tradition that you have handed down." (vs.13) In other words, all of those ideas and rules they were trying to push on others were not biblical. God did not command these things, nor did Jesus. They are the words of man, nothing more. Moral as these rules might appear, they are not ensconced in God's word.

This sounds familiar.

I was once told that I needed to wear a tie to church because God expects my best. A man once said to me that most of today's worship music was of the devil because it contained a "double beat" (whatever that is). This same person was also convinced that the version of the Bible he read from was more inspired than the original Greek and Hebrew from which his version of the Bible was translated. Seriously. And then there are the many overweight gossips who are secretly addicted to porn that are convinced that a drop of alcohol will send you to the fiery pit of hell for all of eternity.

I see a pattern here, don't you?

Please, hold fast to your convictions and do nothing to cause a brother or sister to stumble in their faith. But beware of holding others to the shackles of your opinions that are not founded in the word of God. And for the love of all that is good and holy, please don't ever preach a gospel founded on prosperity promises that are curiously absent from the pages of Scripture. Let me leave you one last word on the matter.
Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Don't add to His words or He will rebuke you, and you will be proved a liar. (Proverbs 30:5-6)

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