But...we are not called to salvation, we are called to repentance! Salvation is the result of repentance.
Repentance is a turning away from something that we come to realize is opposed to the expressed will and desire of God. It is an admission of our wrongness (our sin) and a confession of His rightness and perfection.
The ugly side of salvation is US-in sin, unholy, abominable in God's sight, at odds with a flawless God, at war with a holy God, in rebellion against supremacy, against all that is good and perfect and right and pure. It is the state of every human being.
In Mk. 7:6-9 Jesus was addressing the Pharisees and Scribes.
"This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men." "Neglecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition."
Many in the church world teach and preach "Things have never been better in the church than they are today! The best is yet to come!" What is true is that church is much different than it's every been. We now have mega churches in almost every major metropolitan area. We have a program to meet every need any person could possibly ever imagine. We have churches whose badge of honor is that they are "nontraditional". But is this really "better"?
When we progress from one place to another, we move. We move away from one thing and to something else. We leave something behind and embrace something new. In doing so, the things that had been the basis for our belief and experience is no longer because something else has become the basis for what we now believe and practice.
If you look at a timeline you will notice that time for many years streamed from it's beginning to the Advent of Jesus Christ. Since that Advent, time has flowed from it. All history is to and from and because of Christ. He is at the center of history and time.
Someone once said that "all movement is not progress, just as all motion is not forward."
The church of today seems to take much pride in where it is. Progression is their catch phrase and there badge of honor. But I have to wonder, what have we progressed away from?
In this passage Jesus is rebuking the church for it's progression and he uses the same words of Isaiah's rebuke of Israel hundreds of years before. The church had certainly progressed but it had not moved forward. In fact, all of scripture is full of God calling people to turn back, to turn aside from, to return to the basis of faith first established by God. Christ is perfect. His teachings that established the doctrines of the church were and are perfect as well.
Jeremiah 6:16Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
How have we progressed past perfection? By relegating established Bible doctrine to the past and viewing it as outdated, antiquated, or non-seeker friendly, are we really progressing? By shaping our doctrine around the cultural and societal norms and pressures, are we progressing in faith and spirituality? By determining that talk of sin, holiness, repentance, and hell is not palatable to the sinner, are we not digressing instead and replacing doctrine with the current traditions of men, just as both Isaiah and Jesus charged in this passage?
Isn't it just arrogant that we decry the men and doctrine that has gotten us to this point and produced some of the greatest moves of God the world has ever seen and sorely needs to see again?
What is the result? Verse 7 says if very clearly. "But in vain do they worship me."
Last week I caught the tail end of a service held in one of the large mega-churches in the Midwest United States. After a call for people to come to salvation a prayer was prayed. Not once was the word sin mentioned. Not once were the ones praying told to confess their sins against God. Not once were they instructed to ask for His mercy or forgiveness. All they were led in prayer about was adding Jesus to their lives for their own betterment with a little phrase about glorifying him thrown in. Not once was the contrast between the saint and the sinner explained or mentioned. After the last amen, a round of applause was given for those who had prayed and they were told "now you are a child of God!" REALLY????
Scripture is very clear that the process of salvation has to be:
You cannot throw out any of the steps. They are ALL imperative!
We are further from what Christ established as church than we have ever been, both historically and spiritually. Our church meetings neither look or sound like those in the New Testament. We teach the traditions of men (or society) as the doctrines of God, creating an image of God that is so skewed that He is not recognizable. And when a true picture of Him is rightly presented, He appears mean, hateful, unloving, and unjust. This plays right into the devil's hands and sends people to hell in their doubt and unbelief.
Our traditions may make better men, but they do not make spiritual men. They do not regenerate a man's souls, they do not quicken a man's spirit.
We need to ask ourselves, "what do I believe?" "Why do I believe it?" "Is it plainly seen in the Word of God?" "What things do I see in God's Word that my life and experience do not line up with?"
"Progressive" may be a positive word in our society, but it is not in God's Kingdom. We must return to the basics of our faith and doctrine. We must repent of our arrogance and our wanderings from His Word and His established pattern of faith, teaching, and conduct or we, like Israel, will end up a Godless nation.
How do we do this?
Mk. 7:6 provides the answer. We must return in our hearts to God by allowing Him to en-graft our lives into His. We must be willing to admit, confess, and change what we believe by returning to the message and to the lifestyle of living that He has established as right, good and necessary for salvation.
Lord, let my worship not be in vain. Let it neither be vain in your sight. Let it not be an empty, hollow, exercise in religious activity. Let the words of my mouth honor you. Let them come from a heart that is so engrafted into yours that it is not even recognizable as my own. Let them honor you, magnify your greatness, character and awesomeness in truth! Take me back Lord, to the basic doctrine and tenets of the faith. Keep, guard and protect my heart from the traditions of men that arrogantly present themselves as more important than your doctrine. Let my feet walk the highway of holiness. Let them travel the old paths that lead me back to a simple, pure and unadulterated relationship with you. Bring me to the life of power and peace that can only be obtained by pure religion and that presents me blameless before your throne and unspotted by the world. Make my life a life that honors you in every respect. In Jesus' name I come and for His glory alone I ask. Amen.