Sola Scriptura and Church Traditions

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Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? – Matthew 15:3

Church Tradition

Traditions! Some hate them and some love them, what when we come to the New Testament scriptures and the Church what are we to do with them? Are they good, bad or neutral? The Scripture passage shared above is one of the first bible verses we think right away on the position of our Lord on human religious traditions. It seems on the outset that all traditions are against the commands of God and therefore we have to disregard them. But let us take a closer look this passage and others. The pharisees were coming to Jesus stating that his disciples were breaking their traditions, “the tradition of the elders” (Mark 7:3). The pharisees believed they were keeping the passed on traditions of moses and elders in hand washing. But what they missed was the inner reality of why the hand washing was done. God was desiring inward purity and they lost the inner meaning and simply focused on the outward.

 

The Pharisees Traditions Wrong?

Jesus did not say that all the traditions of the pharisees were wrong, he actually at one point told his disciples to keep the pharisees ways but not to follow the actual example of the pharisees as they did “not practice what they preach” (Matthew 23:3). We know that Jesus did put great emphasis on the Word of God, he quoted it against satan (Luke 4:4), quoted it to the pharisees (Matthew 21:13), He spoke it to the crowds (Matthew 11:10). Our Lord actually quoted the Scriptures all throughout his ministry and life, including his death on the cross possibly reciting the entirety of Psalm 22.

Yet it is interesting to note that Jesus went to the The Feast of Dedication (John 10:22–23) which was not a biblical feast but one through tradition of the Jewish people. Jesus though putting great emphasis on the Word of God did not leave us a Bible upon his death. But rather he left a Church, leaders who would perpetuate and share His kingdom. It seems our Lord’s importance was on the Church he was establishing and not a canon of Scripture. Of course the Scriptures are of great importance but the emphasis seemed to be on “living epistles” (2 Corinthians 3:2) who would be walking Bibles sharing the message of God.

 

Inner Spiritual Reality of Traditions

Traditions do not need to be in opposition to the word of God. Traditions are things that are passed on that give us signifigance and meaning to a spiritual reality. But when the symbol becomes only just that, then we lose the reason for doing the practice and then it becomes a dead tradition and can even oppose the words of God in the end. In many cases the Scripture themselves state traditions early believers kept (1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 3:6). The Apostle Paul encouraged believers to: “hold fast to the teachings (traditions) we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

Matthew Poole a minister in the reformation said,

“The apostle delivered many things to the primitive church only by word of mouth, which have since that time been imparted to succeeding churches, to the observation of which Christians are as much obliged as to the written word.”

 

Godly Traditions, Memorials for Us

Clearly from the New Testament writings we see godly traditions that were passed on and that the next generation of leaders held to. These traditions are there so we can not forget what God did in the generation past just as the 12 stones were a memorial to Israel (Joshua 4:6-7). But when we forget the reason for the memorial that is when everything becomes lost. For any godly tradition of the Church if we cannot find the inner spiritual reason for it or if it does not originate in the apostolic first generations of the Church it should probably be held lightly or disregarded.

We must never hold such a tradition higher then the Word of God, they are simply symbols and memorials pointing to the spiritual realities the very Scriptures speak of. Perhaps these thoughts will help you next time you hear the word Church tradition.

(Free eBook) The Following of Christ by Greg Gordon

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“Enter in by the narrow gate…”

Verses like this one can be confusing to the modern Christian mind. How does this apply to my daily experience? The answer to this question and others lies in a secret truth that the early believers closely guarded. It was the secret of Martyrdom.

In The Following of Christ, Greg Gordon gives us a glimpse of what following the Lord truly meant to the Early Church. Join hands with your nail-pierced Lord’s hand and learn of that great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) who have gone before us, some giving their very lives.

 

“All who desire to live godly in Christ will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12)

So promised Paul, who simply reiterated what Jesus repeatedly taught His disciples. To be a follower of Christ is to be one who is persecuted. We should question our faith if it does not attract at least some verbal persecution. Jesus warned, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you” (Luke 6:26).

Yet there are harsher forms of persecution that some followers of Christ have endured, including the loss of possessions, job, homeland, friends, family—and as Greg Gordon points out in this book—even life itself.

Throughout the centuries since Christ gave His life, millions of His followers have imitated Him in literally laying down their lives. In fact, in our day annual martyrdoms number in the thousands worldwide. And if I’m reading my Bible correctly, there are many martyrs yet to be made.

Certainly Christ requires all His followers to at least be willing to die for Him, whether we are ever granted the opportunity or not. Thus, we should think about it and ask ourselves if we are willing. We fool ourselves, however, if we think we are willing to die for Christ when are unwilling to live for Him, obeying His commandments.

This little book helps us to not only admire the ancient Christian martyrs, but to examine our lives and prepare for own martyrdom should God will it. As Greg reminds us, God grants special grace to those whom He calls to suffer by the sacrifice of their lives, enabling them to be fearless and even triumphant.

May this book help us all to better live for Christ’s cause—and to die for it, if need be.

David Servant, January 2017

 

Download the Following of Christ here: https://www.amazon.com/Following-Christ-Greg-Gordon-ebook/dp/B06VTTV85K/

Kyrie Eleison, Lord Have Mercy

kyrieelieson

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. – Psalm 51:1

Deserving Mercy?

So many times in life we feel deserving of right treatment, we feel like we deserve always good things. We look at others and think of them as worse then us and try and justify ourselves. Those who always judge others are not recipents of mercy or have at least forgotten the great mercy shown to them. We consider God a just God, and in many ways He is, but if He were truly just without mercy we would all be sent to hell. God chooses to remember us when we should be forgotten and left to our own devices.

Asking for God’s mercy is something the prophets and believers of the Old Testament cried out for. In the New Testament we see this same cry, notably three times in the Gospels. The Canaanite woman cries out “Lord have mercy on me” (Matthew 15:22). The two blind men cry out to Jesus, “Lord have mercy on us” (Matthew 20:30-31). Lastly, Blind Bartimaeus cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:46). These individuals saw the reality of humanity that it is in need of God’s mercy. Jesus clearly gave these people mercy, something they did not deserve.

The Foundation of Christianity

This has always been the foundation of the belief of Christianity that we are not deserving and need God’s mercy. Whether or not we have experienced God’s forgiveness we need God’s mercy still. We stand by God’s mercy. All Christian life needs to be lived out “in view of God’s mercy” (Romans 12:1).

Church tradition carried on the reminder of the need of mercy through the phrase, “Lord have mercy.” This phrase in the greek Bible is: “Kyrie Eleison.”

Many liturgies in the early Church and protestant denominations have kept this phrase in a hymn or said three times during communion or a service. It reminds us that we constantly need God’s mercy and it newly petitions God for this undeserving mercy in our lives.

Praying for God’s Mercy

One of my mentors used to tell me that all he can pray for is God’s mercy these days. I scratched my head and wondered why? But now years later I understand that the more we understand and know God, the more we realize we do not deserve forgiveness and need His constant mercy.

John Chrysostom says, “Even if we reach the summit of virtue, we are saved only by God’s mercy,”

We cannot pray for mercy to God without being willing to extend mercy freely to others. When we pray for mercy we are also praying for God to make us merciful to others. It is a very ancient thing to do but something very acceptable by God to pray, Lord have mercy on me a sinner. And with humility we can also pray Marantha, come Lord Jesus

Unto Him that Loved us, To Him that Washed us from our Sins

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The Following of Christ by Greg Gordon

The Roman Coliseum was one of the main centers for entertainment and, on this day, it was not gladiators or sports competitions, but a different type of crown was being competed for. Rows upon rows of circular seating, with humanity throbbing inside. Fifty thousand faces fixed their attention on the scene below. The noise at times was deafening with cheers of the crowd, anticipating what was to come. To whet the appetites of the onlooking romans, gladiators were sent out to fight. Then wild animals who were starved were released, and a skillful gladiator would kill each one. But all of this is just to prepare the crowd for the main event and attraction. It was the Christians that were competing today for a heavenly crown following the way of Christ in the noble way of martyrdom.
What happens next, The Martyr of the Catacombs, details the sad scene well for us:

“An old man entered upon the scene. His form was bowed, and his hair silver white with extreme old age. His appearance was hailed with shouts of derision, although his majestic face and dignified manner were only calculated to excite admiration. As the shouts of laughter and yells of derision came down to his ears he raised his head and uttered a few words.
“A loud outburst of yells and execrations from the fierce mob drowned his voice. Before it was over three panthers came bounding toward him. He folded his arms, and looking up to heaven, his lips moved as if murmuring prayers. The savage beasts fell upon him as he stood, and in a few minutes he was torn in pieces. “Other wild animals were now let in. Into the midst of this a helpless band of prisoners were rudely thrust. They were chiefly young girls, who were thus sacrificed to the bloodthirsty passions of the savage Roman mob. The sight would have moved to pity any heart in which all soft feelings had not been blighted. But pity had no place in Rome.

Cowering and fearful, the poor young maidens showed the weakness of human nature when just confronted with death in so terrible a form, but after a few moments faith resumed its power, and raised them above all fear. As the beasts became aware of the presence of their prey and began to draw near, these young maidens joined hands, and raising their eyes to heaven, sang out a solemn chant which rose clear and wondrously sweet upward to heaven: “Unto Him that loved us, To Him that washed us from our sins. In his own blood; To Him that made us kings and priests, To God and the Father; To Him be glory and dominion Forever and ever. Hallelujah. Amen!”
“One by one the voices were hushed in blood, and agony, and death; one by one the shrieks of anguish were mingled with the shouts of praise; and these fair young spirits, so heroic under suffering and faithful unto death, had carried their song to join it with the psalm of the redeemed on high.”

This is an excerpt from the free Christian ebook, The Following of Christ by Greg Gordon.

K.P. Yohannan: Everything Changes When You Fall in Love

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K.P. Yohannan

I went into my study, sat on the floor and simply prayed: “Jesus, I don’t know what to do. I know so much and everybody thinks I am a spiritual person, but I am so lost. I don’t know where You are, and I can’t find You. Please talk to me.” And He did. At the end of seeking Him for two weeks, the Lord showed up. I can’t explain how, but within a few seconds, millions of pictures began to flash before my eyes: faces, images and places I had been to on the mission field. And then He said, “I have been waiting for this day when you would come to the end of yourself. I have called you. I know you.”

I expected the Lord to say, “You messed up. Sell everything, go back to India and wear rags.” But He didn’t.

Instead, I was so overcome with the awareness that He loves me, He understands me and He wants me. I wasn’t able to stop crying. For weeks I couldn’t think of anything else than just being His. I was so overwhelmed by His love that He could have asked me anything outrageous, and I would have done it.

I believe God, in His mercy, allowed me to take this journey so the ministry He wanted me to do was born out of love for Him.

One outcome of this encounter with the Lord was that I looked at the possessions I had accumulated for myself, and I started giving them away. They had lost their pull on my heart.

Another was that my heart was once again aching for the lost world, and I could pray and weep for the multitudes who were dying without Jesus.

My dear friend, you may feel spiritual in a crowd on Sunday morning, but following the Lord is intensely personal. You cannot borrow this life from someone else, nor can you get it by imitating the actions of others. You see, my giving away material things and praying with tears for the lost had nothing to do with attempting to act like Jesus. It was the result of being overcome by His love for me and falling in love with Him.

The apostle John wrote, “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19 NASB).

I don’t know where you are in following the Lord, but if your heart is unmoved by the things that break Jesus’ heart and your eyes are dry, then I urge you to seek Him and wait in His presence until you are overcome by His love and you love Him back.

Everything about following the Lord will change when you fall in love with Jesus.

The Publican and Pharisee, A Lesson in Pride and Humility

5445613926_85169104aa_bWhen pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. – Proverbs 11:2

Pride and the Devil

When we speak of pride we also often times think of the devil. He was the beautiful angel who through transgression and pride fell from his place with God to a fallen state. Lucifer, an anointed cherub of God became the devil, the father of lies (John 8:44). He was soiled and became filthy and the enemy wants to defile all those who are unsoiled also. When we are free from pride the enemy of our souls desires to sow prideful thoughts into our life. Pride is a preoccupation with self, it is to say that I am more important then all others. Pride says “I” am always right. Pride is when at all costs we need to revenge ourselves of our abusers. Pride says that we are more important then others and when sinned against our rights are more important. Personal glory and importance leads to a proud heart and opposition to God (1 Peter 5:5).

Pride and Selflessness

Pride is in some ways the opposite of selflessness. When we are humble we seek the good of others even when we have been hurt by someone. Disgrace and shame comes with pride because God diminishes the proud one under his own displeasure. Just like Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, we can be blinded by Pride and a sense of self-importance thinking we are able to control situations and even people.

Ephraim of Philotheou says, “The mercy of God supports all of us, but if we are proud, God will lift off His grace and we will become worse than the others.”

This is a profound thought that God himself shows everyone grace, mercy, and gives constant help. And when we see others in the body of Christ fail, or cause abuse, if we become proud, judge them overly and do not do it all in love, we can have God’s grace lifted from our lives. And the sad result can be the brother who fails, when we judge him we can become worse then that brother. When we have pride against others in the body of Christ we have insulted the Creator Himself. We should never look down on others, never think we are better especially when we see another of our brothers and sisters fail.

The Publican and Pharisee

In Luke 18:9-14, we see the famous story of the Publican and Pharisee. It is a great contrast between pride and humility, self-assuredness and humility. The first error of the religious leader Jesus pointed out was of being “confident.” It was a self-reliant attitude that I am in a better place with God then most and therefore can speak down to others and also not need God’s grace as much. It is a subtle deception on the road towards knowing God we can start to trust on our past experiences of grace and not rely on the grace of God daily. And what happened? The religious leader, “looked down on everyone else” (Luke 18:9). He did not take the humble role of a being below others as a servant but rather assumed priority over others.

In such a contrast we see the Publican come to our Lord and simply say in humility, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13). This one humbled himself before God, no matter how holy or progressed in our Christian lives when we humble ourselves we keep our position of walking with God in His presence. But once we exalt ourselves then we are cast away.

In a famous drawing of this scene, we see the Publican bowing and humble, and the Pharise exalted and with one hand judging the other and the other praising God. Then in the picture we notice the hand of God blessing with grace and mercy the Publican only. Let this be a reminder that when we judge others we cannot praise God with the same breath and miss God’s blessing in the process.

Serving Others In the Body

When we have pride in our own accomplishments and skills we are taking the credit for these things to ourselves. The reality is all giftings given to brethren in the body of Christ is to serve and help others, not ourselves. To follow the way of pride is to follow the way of the devil. The follow the way of humility is to follow in the way of the Lord.

Not Repenting After Corrections From Spiritual Leaders

facebookI am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged. – 2 Corinthians 12:21

There are many tests for the humility of our walk with Christ. One of them is how we react to correction and namely correction by spiritual leaders in the body of Christ. It is never easy to consider we have been wrong in an area of our life and our decisions have caused hurt towards others. Paul the Apostle was encouraging the Corinthian believers to repent fully of their past behaviours, he was full of grace towards them that they could change. But sadly in the 2nd letter he wrote to them at the end he started to doubt whether they had changed. He wrote, I fear there would be “discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder” (2 Corinthians 12:20) still among you!

An arrogant attitude says I am never wrong, it says people need to listen to me. Arrogant, proud, haughty men were in the Corinthian church who were not even listening to leaders in their gatherings and were rejecting the Apostle Paul himself. You could possibly hear one of them saying, “I have no authority over me, I only submit to Christ!” It sounds spiritual but in the end such an attitude is of a decieved individual who is found apart from Christ in his pride.

The Corinthians were submitting to what Paul called, “super apostles” (2 Corinthians 12:11). These men where ear-tickling preachers that told the people what they wanted to hear. One thing they did not speak about was sexual sins or against disorder and discord in the body. All they probably wanted was the peoples money and esteem. Paul highlights at the end of his letter that “many” have “not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.”

No wonder they were not correcting a young man who was in incest (1 Corinthians 5). What shocked me is when I read the word “many”! The Corinthian Church was compromised and were neglecting the cure to their ills which was godly leadership and true spiritual elders guiding them. They were blind leading the blind into lives of sin and selfishness. The end was many who were slandering each other, name-calling, talking behind backs and ultimately division in the body of Christ, something that grieves the heart of God. Paul labored with them and sought to visit them again to spend time with these children of God and tend them like a Shepherd. This comes close to home for us, are we willing to submit to correction by spiritual leaders in the areas of our lives that are amiss. Or do we seek to always justify ourselves and not accept even the godliest of men who counsel against our decisions. Our way of repentance is to humble ourselves under such correction and allow Christ to start to be formed in us again.