“From the Heart” teaching by Drs. Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne.
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and 2 saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. 3(The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?” 6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” Mark 7:1-8 NIV
Religion and tradition are terrible things. They cause you to take your eyes off the really important things and to become obsessed with trivia – things that are completely unprofitable to your spiritual life. If the devil can’t get the Church to reject God outright, he will try to dilute the power of God and the power of the Word by mixing it with doubt, unbelief and man-made tradition. In the end you are serving a ritualistic form of religion and you have no more relationship with the Lord at all – you only think that you do. This is the place the Pharisees were. They were blinded and deceived by their religion, relying completely on their own works for favor with God and neglecting to keep their hearts pure and honest before God. They only did Him lip service. They worked at perfecting the outward man to impress people, rather than humbling themselves before God – the only One Who has the power to save their souls. Because they only gave lip service to God without giving Him their hearts, all their efforts amounted to nothing before God and were of no eternal value.
And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” Mark 7:9-13 NIV
Because the Pharisees’ hearts were not right with God, they were not afraid to brashly pervert the Word of God. They were so deceived by religious tradition that they even encouraged people to bring an offering to the temple in lieu of obeying the Word and commandments of God! They built their kingdom at the expense of God’s kingdom. No wonder they were disturbed and threatened by Jesus – He exposed their lies and hypocrisy and their impure hearts.
Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.'” 17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”) 20 He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'” Mark 7:14-23 NIV
You must not only put a guard on your lips, but you must guard and protect your heart. Don’t try to please or impress man. The only One you should be trying to please, is the Lord – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Your lip service is totally insufficient without a humble heart that is yielded to the Lord. Your sacrifice is worthless if your heart is not submitted to God and if it is not right with God. If you turn your heart toward God and you seek to please only Him, then He will gladly accept all your sacrifices, including your sacrifice of praise.
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalms 51:15-17 NIV