Leaving God's Word: Mark 7:1-8

Religion is not always a bad word. There is nothing inherently wrong with saying that one is part of the Christian religion. After all, James uses this word in 1:26&27 of his epistle.

However, a helpful distinction has often been made in Christianity about this word religion. In this sense, it is quite appropriate to say that Christians are not a part of a religion, but are rather recipients of God’s grace, joyful worshipers of the true and only God. Religion is man’s created substitute for true worship (Colossians 2:23): It is Spiritless form and empty practice.

We have heard helpful distinctions like “religion versus relationship,” or “doing versus what has been done.” These have their appropriate use, but perhaps we should consider not over using cliches. After all, one might wonder, “Isn’t every person in a relationship with God according to Romans 1?” Or, “Does just because one trusts in Christ and what He has done mean Christians do nothing (James 1:22)?” Furthermore, it seems that what is often needed is thoughtful discussions, explanations, and distinctions made regarding religion versus pure/true religion.

Please discuss the previous paragraphs and any thoughts on religion.

Pray: That we as believers are sharpened in our thinking about this issue of religion. Furthermore, let’s pray that God gives us a breakthrough in seeing people delivered from the snare of false religion.

In our text we come directly into contact with people trapped in dead religion. In our text we see and are using the word religion in the negative sense of the word.

We saw that:

I.  The genuine working of God irritates religion (or the “religious”). Please read and discuss verses 1 & 2.

Why does the working of God irritate the religious?

While we are not trying, as Christians, to purposefully offend, what does it say when our Christianity is accepted, with little reaction by “the religious.”

II. Religion is very particular (verses 3-5).

One might think that religion would be very loose and unconcerned about exact practices. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Religion is very exacting, placing incredible burdens upon people. It often focuses on odd and minor issues. According to our text, the religious leaders were concerned about correct ceremonial washings, including everything from their hands to their couches. By the way, it was noted that these washings had nothing to do with hygienic concerns, but rather religious ceremonial traditions.

What are some ways that we have seen traditions of people, claimed that they are right interpretations of Scripture, elevated to a supreme authoritative status?

We saw how religion is both particular in its practice and also its judgment. It was not good enough for the Pharisees to practice these things, they felt that everyone must also abide by their standards. How is this a killer?

III. The great contrast between false and pure religion (please read and discuss 6-8).

Jesus calls the religious leaders hypocrites. Hypocrite means actor. Discuss the following quote: “It [hypocrite] does not carry the overtone of fraud that our English word does today. Rather it refers to the discrepancy in the behavior of one who unconsciously has alienated oneself from God, an ‘ungodly’ person.” Guelich

Jesus made two clear contrasts in our text. False religion is the product of an un-regenerated, dead heart. This is vital. One may be entrenched in all sorts of religious practices and be completely devoid of the Spirit and separated from God. Those devoid of the Spirit will not rightly love or apply the Scripture. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom and joy!

Secondly, the religious leaders had elevated the traditions of man to the status of the law of God. In reality, they had left the law of God behind in the dust. They had invented a system, supposedly based on the Scripture that was anything but.

It was noted that too often we stop at the rejecting man’s tradition as the authority and fail to see that Jesus was teaching that a person who loves God, loves God’s law.

This means that a person who loves Jesus is relentless in his pursuit of being like Jesus. One may ask, do we not try to apply Christ’s law to our lives? We can, we must, and we will want to if we love Jesus. The problem is when 1. Un regenrate people are in charge of teaching their “interpretations” of the Scripture. 2. We get so lost in our rules that we forget the primacy of the Word. 3. We make less obvious applications of Scripture of paramount importance in our own lives. 4. We make less obvious applications of Scripture a matter of criticism and judgment for others who do not accept our understanding. 5. We should be open to seeing things in Scripture, having a teachable spirit, not being so stubborn in and proud of our “anything goes attitude” that we are immune to growth.

Read: Psalm 1