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“The Traditions Of Men Vs. The Word Of God.”

Thursday, December 17, 2020

            The Pharisees were constantly at odds with Jesus and His disciples. No occasion makes it more defined than Mark 7:1-16. There, the Pharisees confronted Jesus and His disciples for not keeping “the tradition of the elders” (v. 3, 5). Mark explains that these people held their traditions in high regard. One such tradition had to do with the washing of their hands. They had been taught that unless one washes his hands to his elbows before eating, then the food he eats is considered unclean by God. By extension, eating this unclean food made the person unclean as well. Similarly, there was a demand for washing the pots, cups, and other vessels holding the food. Jesus would later say that He was more concerned about what came out of the mouth rather than what was put into the mouth (Mk. 7:15; Matt. 15:17-20).

            Jesus then pointed out that they had another tradition that if someone gave a gift to the Temple, this exempted him from providing needed money and care to his parents (“Corban” - Mk. 7:11-13). This person could say essentially, “I gave at the Temple” rather than giving needed funds to his parents. Jesus said this and several other traditions had “made God’s word of none effect” (Mk. 7:13). God never intended for His commands to be placed at odds against each other. The Law of Moses granted people the ability to give a gift to the Temple and care for their parents. The Pharisees, in contrast, encouraged them to do one thing and exclude the other.

            What does “tradition” mean? A tradition is simply something we’ve done for a long time. We can certainly think of many things we do as individuals, as a community, as a church, and as a nation that fit in the category of “traditional.” Traditions are not equal with inspired Scripture, though (II Tim. 3:16-17)! After reading Mark 7, we might all agree that it is a good idea to wash one’s hands and eat off of clean plates. Yet, Jesus showed how the people’s traditions had become sinful because they “set aside” God’s commands and made God’s word “of none effect” (Mk. 7:8, 13). Traditions in and of themselves aren’t necessarily sinful. It is when we place our traditions above God’s revealed will that we have a problem!

This is why I titled this essay “The Traditions Of Men Vs. The Word Of God.” If we are not careful, we will end up treating a tradition as truth or as an unbreakable command when, in reality, it is not in that category at all! Let me hasten to add this is not an article condemning everything “traditional.” Paul even wrote to the Thessalonians and reminded them that some traditions come from God (II Thess. 2:15). Indeed, there are many things Christians (and non-Christians) do that, while traditional, aren’t sinful. Mark 7 (and Matthew 15) reveal, though, that men placing traditions above God’s commands is a real possibility. After years of practicing these, the Pharisees preferred their traditions to God’s word. In so doing, Jesus said they were sinning.

            How can I know whether or not a tradition I am practicing will place me at odds with God’s word? A simple test is: Ask whether or not my tradition came from God (II Thess. 2:15, 3:6; I Pet. 4:11)? Am I doing something simply because “Dad and Mom” liked it, or a preacher said to do it, or because we as a nation have “always done it”? Am I doing something because I have found it authorized in the Bible (II Tim. 3:16-17; Col. 3:17)? Traditions can lead me into sin if I give them as much respect as I do the word of God.

When we look at traditions from this perspective, I hope we see that there are many things we do that can be called “traditional.” Are any of these traditions obstacles to our spiritual growth? If so, then those need to end! Practicing man’s traditions is not worth losing our souls (Matt. 16:26)!

God’s word must come first in my life (Matt. 6:33)! After that, everything else must fall into place. When we get this in the wrong order, we will have problems, but when we do it right, we will be blessed! The Pharisees’ problem was they placed their traditions above God’s will and were condemned for it. It got so bad they refused to recognize Jesus as Christ because He didn’t fit what they wanted. Let us learn the lesson and put Christ and the gospel first and lay our traditions aside when they conflict with what Christ has said! Let us get this right because our traditions will die one day, but the word of God will never pass away (Matt. 24:35; I Pet. 1:25; Ps. 119:89; etc.)!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“Awake Not My Love.” (#2)

Friday, October 16, 2020

            (Note: If you have not read part 1 of this article, please read it first. It will help you to understand the applications I am making in this article. - JMJ)

            After completing the article this morning, my mind continued to think about Solomon’s writing. As is common for me, my mind doesn’t seem to “shut off” easily! (ha) After writing about the Shulammite woman and her requesting that her love not be stirred up or awakened “til he please” (Song of Sol. 2:7, 3:4, 8:4), I began thinking about another application. As I stated in an earlier article, I am not convinced that Song of Solomon is a type/antiype of Christ, nor a “Messianic” song. I do think, however, that there are several places where applications can be made to Christ and the church when we consider the fact that God used the husband and wife relationship to describe this spiritual relationship (Eph. 5:22-33). I am always willing to study with anyone on this if you believe Solomon definitely had Christ in mind in this song.

            Having said this, please go back and reread what the Shulammite said. I believe this is one of those verses where an application to Christ and the church can be made. The text in Solomon’s Song said she didn’t want her passions stirred until the time was right and proper. It is not that the passion itself was wrong, but it could be expressed in the wrong way if the time (before marriage) was not right. This statement caused me to think more about “timing” and how God has His timetable for things. Is it not fascinating to consider that an eternal being is concerned with time and has a “timetable” of His own?

            I know God doesn’t count time as we do (II Pet. 3:8), but I also know things have happened at the “right time” with God! Think about the birth of Christ. Jesus Christ came to this world “in the fulness of time” (Gal. 4:4). He did not get here too early or too late. It is the same with the church, Christ’s bride. The church came into existence in the “last days” (Isa. 2:2-4). In other words, at the right time, when the right king was in power (Dan. 2:44-45), and when things had come to fruition as God wanted (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-21)! In the case of God and His plan for Christ and the church, no one was going to “stir up” anything to change God’s plan. When the time was right, it happened perfectly!

            We could include the fact that when God works providentially, then He is working things out at the right time. This was true with people like Joseph, Ruth, Naaman’s maid, Daniel, Hannah, Abraham, Esther, and a host of others. It is also true today. God has ways in which His will is going to come about. When this happens, it happens at the right time, regardless of whether or not it was our time!

When we think about the end of the world, remember Christ will return for His bride (the church). When He does, it will be at the right time. No man knows when this will be, but again, this eternal being, our Father, has said Jesus will come “as a thief in the night” (I Thess. 5:2; II Pet. 3:10), and when He does, He will return for His bride, and this world will end (Rev. 19:6-21). It is on God’s timetable and not man’s. No one will “stir up” God’s passions and make Him send Christ too early or too late!

            Some try to guess as to when the Lord will return. It seems some have made predictions about His return almost since the time He left (Acts 1:9-11; I Thess. 4:13-5:11; II Pet. 3; Acts 5:36-37; Matt. 24:4-5; etc.)! Does anyone remember the bulletin boards and bumper stickers that were out some years ago that said, “If the Lord doesn’t come soon, He will owe an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah!”?

            Let’s stop whittling on God’s end of the stick and realize that God won’t be “stirred up” but will make sure things are done right on time as He has always done. Let us, in the meantime, prepare for the Lord’s return by being saved (Jn. 8:24; Lk. 13:3; Rom. 10:10; Mk. 16:16) and remaining faithful to Him as a faithful bride would (Rev. 2:10; I Cor. 15:58). Let us spend time on earth growing (II Pet. 3:18) and maturing in the Lord that we will be ready for Him when He arrives. Let us prepare to hear those words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

"A Good Name..."

Sunday, September 13, 2020

                   Solomon declares that “a good name is better than precious ointment” (Ecc. 7:1). He wrote identical words in Proverbs 22:1. What makes a good “name” so important? Why would we want a good “name”?

                   First, understand that a good “name” speaks of a good reputation. What do people see when they see me? Be honest! Do people see a hypocrite or a genuine person? Do people see someone trying to serve God or self? It is a true statement that our actions speak louder than our words! Yes, we are known by what we do (Prov. 20:11; Matt. 7:16).

What are you doing? Do your actions match your speech? Do you tell people not to steal, even though you steal (Be it money, time on the job, dishonest on taxes, etc.)? Do you tell people not to commit adultery even though you are doing it (If you have never committed the act, remember adultery is possible in the heart, too, Matt. 5:27-28.), do you tell people to keep God’s law while you are breaking it? These are a few ways that we can be hypocrites and ruin a good name (Rom. 2:21-24). 

                   Many seem not to care about their name or reputation, and yet, Solomon points out that there is something valuable in it (Ecc. 7:1; Prov. 22:1). What are we doing to preserve and grow the good name we have as citizens in our community? People need to know that we are honest, trustworthy, and kind people. Do folks know this about us? Men like Cornelius (Acts 10) and others stand out in my mind as having a good reputation among men, and this reputation has lasted through the years. Abel had a good reputation, and by it, “he being dead, yet speaketh” (Heb. 11:4).

                   The best reputation we can have, however, is when we accept the name of Christ (Mk. 16:16; Acts 11:26). “There is none other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus Christ lived for 33 years on this earth and had the best reputation of all. Though He was unjustly taken and killed, all recognized He died innocent of any crime and free from all sin (Matt. 27:19; Lk. 23:4, 14; Jn. 18:38, 19:4, 6; I Pet. 2:22). He then invites us, those who have sinned and marred our reputations, to accept His good name and be free from sin, giving us the ability to start over (II Cor. 5:17). We put to death the old man of sin and rise up a new man, ready to do the Lord’s will (Rom. 6:3-6). We can honestly say that we have a new life. There are things I used to do that I do not do anymore. At the same time, there are things I used to avoid and scoff at that now I do wholeheartedly! This is such a radical change that our Lord compares it to a birth (Jn. 3:3, 5)! The result is a new and better reputation than I ever had, and I don’t intend to ruin it. I understand that this “good name” (Christ’s name/reputation) is better than precious ointment, riches, or anything that this world has to offer (Prov. 22:1; Ecc. 7:1). It is for this reason that all I say and do is done “in the name of” (in connection with the reputation of) Christ (Col. 3:17)! I strive daily to do nothing that would mar Christ’s reputation that He has offered to me.

                   Would you like to have such a good reputation? Do you realize that the only way this is possible is to start over? In Christ, you can have such a beginning! If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Jn. 8:24), and are willing to repent of your sins (Lk. 13:3). If you will confess your faith in Christ (Rom. 10:10) and then be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), you can be saved (Mk. 16:16)! You can have a new start (II Cor. 5:17). You can have a new name (Acts 11:26), which means a new reputation and a new beginning. 

Start over today and see the blessings that come when we do things the Lord’s way. Become a Christian and see this wonderful reputation, and know that it is worth preserving, protecting, and promoting through the rest of your life! This “good name” is the best name! Become a Christian today.

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“Why Study The Old Testament?”

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

            From time to time, we are questioned by some who wonder why we need to study the Old Testament. Some say, “The Old Testament has been done away (II Cor. 3:6-17), so what purpose does the Old Testament serve for us today?” I understand we can answer this question several ways, but I want to answer this by considering what is said in Jude’s letter to the Christians.

            When reading the book of Jude, we find no less than eight references to Old Testament people and events. Considering that this letter is only 25 verses in length, this means almost 25% of this letter is dedicated to reminding Christians of what has already happened!

            If you have not noticed this before, please slow down and see that when Jude wrote to Christians to warn them about God’s ability to punish the evildoers, he went back to when Israel left Egypt (v. 5; Ex. 5-12). Sodom and Gomorrah’s punishment was also presented as examples of not only dying in a fire, but also “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (v. 7; Gen. 19)!

            Do you remember when Moses died and how no man could find where his body was buried (Deut. 34:6)? Have you ever taken the time to study that event, and what spiritual foreshadowing and application might be there? If you have studied this, don’t forget to add Jude 9 to your work. This gives us insight that the Old Testament doesn’t.

            While Cain might be a familiar name to most, have we heard of Balaam (Num. 22-24) or Core (Korah, Num. 16)? Jude 11 reminds us of evildoers of the first century who acted very much like these Old Testament people. What does this mean? Are you familiar with the records of these men, and what made their acts evil? Why did God condemn them, and how can we avoid acting like them today?

            Another familiar name to most of the world is Adam (v. 14; Gen. 2-5). What of this other person, Enoch, though? Do we know anything about him (Gen. 5:22-24)? Why was he special, and why might the prophecy cited here be significant, not only in his day, but also in the 1st century?

            I understand this study is a little different. I offered more questions than answers, but there is a reason for this. How can we know the answers to the questions above if we do not spend time in the Old Testament? I know nothing of these people, nor the events referenced if I do not spend time studying the truth found in that section of Scripture, The Old Covenant. It has a purpose! Let us respect it!

            As we close, please remember what the apostle Paul said. He wrote the Romans and told them, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). I believe this is the purpose behind why Jude was inspired to refer to so many Old Testament people and events in his letter. By referring to these Old Testament people and events, it made his warnings crystal clear. Are we listening to the warnings? Maybe we need to go back and have a “refresher course” on these people that we might gain a better appreciation of Jude (and the rest of the New Testament)!

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

“The Christian’s Retirement”

Thursday, August 20, 2020

            Something that impresses me when I read II John and III John is that John had not “retired” from being a Christian (II Jn. 12; III Jn. 13-14)! In both letters, John called himself an “elder” (II Jn. 1; III Jn. 1). In this case, he refers to his advanced age, not that he had oversight over a particular congregation. Therefore, we read about a man, an apostle, someone who has seen Jesus, who has performed miracles, who has endured suffering, and someone who has enjoyed many victories and experienced defeats. He had a life similar to Paul’s (II Cor. 11:23-28), and John was not ready to quit yet!

John is an old man, an old Christian, when he writes these letters. Though advanced in years, he is not sitting in an easy chair! He is not grumbling about the young people! Conversely, he is not complaining about his advanced years and saying, “let the young people do it.” He has not stopped serving God. Before this man dies, he will have written five books of the New Testament. In addition this, he was consistently and continually preaching the truth. In two of his letters, he promises to visit the recipients and talk with them “face-to-face.” I do not know the miles between them, but I read of a man who writes in concern for souls and then says, “I am ready to do more. I’ll be there soon.” John did not “retire” from the Lord’s service when he reached a certain age!

            Since our society considers 65 the “retirement age,” I am concerned at how much this mentality has spilled over into the Lord’s body. How much work are we letting slip by because those 65 and above might see themselves as retiring, not only from an occupation but also from our work as Christians? I know there are exceptions to what I just wrote. I am thankful for such people and I wish that there were more like them.

            More often than not, though, I hear older folks say that they think the “younger ones” ought to “step up” and take on more responsibilities. If this is said with the mindset of furthering the Lord’s work, I agree. If this is said because the older ones wish to do less, then I think this is the wrong motivation!

Don’t forget that the older men are here for our instruction, and we need to be influenced by them while they are around (Lev. 19:32; Prov. 16:31; I Tim. 5:1; I Pet. 5:5)! John knew he had work to do to the end of his life. May we remember the same thing! Yes, the work of older people will look different than younger folks’ work, but I beg the older folks to please not deprive us of your wisdom and experience by “retiring” too soon! It has been said, “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.” How true! I pray older Christians will give us the benefit of their wisdom and experience while they are still here (Jn. 9:4). All of us need to be faithful to God until we leave this world (I Cor. 15:58)! Then, we can “retire” (Heb. 4:9-11)! I am thankful John didn’t retire too soon, aren’t you?

- Jarrod M. Jacobs

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