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The Trap of Tradition

The Trap of Tradition

We’re continuing through the book of Romans. Paul is talking about God’s dealings with Israel. They’re still a part of God’s plan, but they enter salvation the same as all people. It must be though faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The history of the Jewish people needs to be a lesson to us. We cannot allow tradition and self-righteousness to short-circuit our walk with God.

What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened…

Romans 11:7

We see from Scripture, that what the nation of Israel as a whole intensely craved and sought for, it did not obtain. But, the few who entered by grace obtained it. These are the people who confessed the Lord Jesus Christ and believed that God raised Him from the dead.

According to Paul, the rest were hardened, literally, petrified – turned into stone. The apostle now quotes some Old Testament prophecies.

…as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.”

Romans 11:8

The Greek word for stupor, in this verse is that prickly feeling you get when a body part falls asleep. It’s numb and you have a hard time using it correctly.

It’s what happens to us spiritually, when we get caught up in religious traditions. We have eyes that don’t see what they should see, and ears that don’t hear what they should hear. God rebuked the Israelites for this on many occasions.

Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them: Your eyes have seen all that the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those miraculous signs and great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.

Deuteronomy 29:2-4

When I read this, it seems that the Lord is almost being sarcastic with them. It’s like He’s asking them, “Did I really have to give you a supernatural mind to understand what I was doing?” It shouldn’t have taken a seminary degree to see that God wanted to work out His plan in the Jewish people.

But this is not just an Old Testament trap. If we’re not careful, we could fall into the same mindset. Isaiah warns us about it.

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”

Isaiah 29:13

It’s unfortunate, but this rebuke could be said of many churches throughout the world today. Many people who call themselves “Christian” are merely following a set of rules that have been laid down for them.

It’s clear from this verse that using religious terminology is not enough. Simply saying, “Of course I love God, I go to church every Sunday” is not enough. We have to bow our knees to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Paul goes on to quote David.

And David says: “May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.”

Romans 11:9-10

The people of Israel got all messed up by what should have helped them. They got tripped up by their traditions. Don’t let that happen to you.

We need to seek intimate relationship with Christ. Spend quality time with the Holy Spirit.

Question: What are your private prayer times like?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2021 in Faith, Israel, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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Which Came First?

Which Came First?

As we continue to look at the book of Romans, Paul asks another important question about the righteousness God imparts to us by faith.  He has already pointed out how blessed we are to receive it.

Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised?  We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness.

Romans 4:9

The apostle asks us who, exactly, is blessed by this righteousness.  He’s been using Abraham as an example for us.  But, what was it about Abraham that put him in a position to receive this righteousness?

Was it because he followed all the religious rules that he’d been given?

Under what circumstances was it credited?  Was it after he was circumcised, or before?  It was not after, but before!

Romans 4:10

Paul answers the question for us.  God credited Abraham with righteousness before he ever started following any religious observances.  All he needed to do was believe that God’s Word was truth.

That’s good news.  There’s no indication that Abraham had to continually try harder and harder until he was finally good enough to please God.  He was declared righteous in his uncircumcised condition.

If that’s the case, then why are there so many religious things that people do?  Is there a place for them?  Or are all religious observances to be done away with?

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.  So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.  And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

Romans 4:11-12

Here Paul explains the place of religious observances.  They come after faith has been given and righteousness is received.

According to Paul, circumcision – the religious act is a sign.  This means that the outward observance is an indication of the change that took place on the inside.

What we do on the outside, is a seal of the righteousness received by faith.  A seal is the official stamp that confirms the genuineness of the item in question.

If I really believe that God’s Word is truth, then it will show up in my actions.  I don’t live right to obtain God’s blessing.  I live right because I’ve already received it.

There are many so called “religious” things that Christians do.  What we need to realize is that we don’t do them to get God to accept us.  These observances only serve to support the fact that we are accepted already by faith in Jesus Christ.

Don’t get it backwards.  That only brings frustration, guilt, and condemnation.  Come to the Lord in faith, trusting Him for His righteousness.

Then allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen you to walk in obedience to God’s Word.  That will be the outward sign of the inner transformation that’s taken place within you.

Question: How do you yield to the Holy Spirit’s life-changing work?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2020 in Faith, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Form of Religion

The Form of Religion

In my last post we started looking at Paul’s view of religious people.  We saw that it’s foolish to rest on a set of rules rather than the work of the Holy Spirit.

Paul continues…

…if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth…

Romans 2:19-20

Remember, when talking about religious people, I’m referring to those who choose religion over relationship with Christ.  They’ve convinced themselves about a number of things.

They see their lifestyle as superior to those around them.  They view others as blind, in the dark, mindless, and infantile.  On the other hand they view themselves as a guide, a light, an instructor, and a teacher.

That’s the unfortunate attitude of legalism.  By constantly judging the lives of others, you have a huge blind spot concerning your own walk.

Let me say this to all the godly teachers reading this.  There’s nothing wrong with being called to teach or guide others into the truth.  It’s all about your attitude.

My calling is to be a pastor and teacher in the body of Christ.  But, I’ve learned over the years that there’s a fine line that I have to walk.

My job is to help people to know and understand God’s Word.  I endeavor to show how the Scripture applies to your life.

That’s as far as it goes.  I have to realize that I cannot change anybody’s life.  It’s the job of the Holy Spirit to do that.  If anyone is blessed, it’s because of the Lord working in their life through the Word.

I might be the one you see speaking or writing.  But, I want it to be the Spirit teaching and guiding you.  Like I said, it’s all about the attitude.

However, I think there’s an important point that we miss in the above passage.  It has to do with the words that were used in translation.

When Paul says, you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, it gives the wrong impression.  The word, embodiment, is actually a word that means a form or appearance.  Following a set of rules only appears to be a logical way to serve God.

Unfortunately, we’re told that it’s not the best way.  In talking about what people would be like in the last days, Paul makes this comment about them.

…having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.

2 Timothy 3:5

Simply following a set of religious rules is a form without the substance.  These rules are like a jail cell.  Can we say that a car thief has changed just because he’s in jail?  Absolutely not!  It’s just that there are no cars available for him to steal.

It’s the same with a set of rules.  As long as my will-power is intact, it appears that I’ve changed.  However, when opportunity and weakness get the better of me, I show what’s really on the inside.  I need the true change that only comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in me.

Don’t allow empty religion to get the better of you.  Spend some time becoming more intimate with the Lord through His Holy Spirit.

Question: how do you overcome the temptation to be religious?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Freedom or Slavery

I’ve been posting through the book of Galatians and talking about legalism vs. our freedom in Christ.  We’re looking at the Apostle Paul’s personal battle against legalism as he ministered to the Gentiles.

[This matter arose] because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.  We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
Galatians 2:4-5

Here, Paul gives the reasons for the struggle.  The words that he uses are very scary.  They should cause us to be wary of our motivations.

He’s specifically talking about a group known as the Judaizers.  They were people who felt that in order to be saved, you had to trust Jesus and follow the rules contained in the Law of Moses.  This was particularly hard for Gentiles to conform to.  In essence, these Judaizers wanted us to become Jews first, before we could become Christians.

What concerns me is the fact that Paul calls these people false brothers.  I think that puts legalistic people on dangerous ground.  Can you truly trust Christ to save you if you think that your works play a major role in God accepting you?

Paul says that their goal was to spy on or watch with malicious intent, the freedom Christ bought for us.  They want to see our freedom and then convince us that slavery is the better option.

“You have to obey the rules if you want to be a good Christian.  After all, you can’t just live however you want and please God.”

That statement does have a grain of truth in it.  But it will bring you into bondage that will keep you from growing in Christ.

The fact is, the Holy Spirit had a reason why He inspired both James and 1 Thessalonians before Galatians.  They stress the truth that a believer must spend quality time in the Lord’s presence.  It’s in this way that our lives will constantly be transformed into the Lord’s image.

That has to be in place first, before you can truly walk in God’s freedom.  This is not a license to live by whatever your flesh wants to do.  It’s a freedom to walk according to the Spirit’s desire with no need for a set of rules to “keep us on the straight and narrow.”

When I look at the life of Jesus, I see the same thing.  He is the Messiah. Yet, He was always being accused of breaking the rules.

Paul understood this and wanted those under his spiritual care to be free from the bondage of religion.  The Christian walk is not about conforming yourself to a set of traditional, religious rules of performance.  It’s a personal relationship with Christ that’s constantly transforming us by God’s power.

The Apostle is writing to us from his personal experience.  The lifestyle of following rules and traditions is hard to break free from.  We see in Paul, the key to this release.

That’s why he says that he will never give in to them.  That phrase means to yield in submission.  Let me jump ahead for a moment so that you can see where Paul is bringing us to in this letter.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

Between here and there, he gives a detailed look at how this freedom should work in us.  That’s where we’re going over the next few weeks of these posts.

Question: How do rules hinder your spiritual growth?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2017 in Legalism, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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