For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition.
Mark 7:8-9 NLT
Traditions can be very dangerous.
I was on the way to a friend’s church last night to give my testimony. On the way, we stopped at a gas station so that I could get some water. I have a few practiced “openers” that I’ve used in the past to catch people of guard and to open up a conversation about Jesus. So I set my water bottle on the counter to pay for it, and I asked her, “Do y’all have any of that living water?” As is the usual response, she said she didn’t think so. To which I replied, “Have you ever heard of it? It’s good stuff.” The normal response of, “I don’t think so” came next. So I followed up with, “Jesus Christ gives us the living water. Do you know Jesus Christ?” To which I received a different response last night. Instead of the usual smile or nice response, I saw this lady at the counter visibly harden herself. So I said, “You know that Jesus loves you.” To which she now responded in disgust and borderline anger, “It’s not about that. I married into a Catholic family.” This all happened as I was paying, and I was shocked by this response just before leaving the store.
I walked out to the truck and climbed in. I was shaken by her response, by the hold that a spirit of religion had upon her that she would show disgust and anger towards anyone talking lovingly about Jesus Christ – while clinging to the traditions of her professed Catholicism. So I examined myself. Yes, the Lord tells us to examine ourself and remove the log in our own eye instead of focusing on the speck in another’s eye.
On the way, I had been going through a ritual of praising the Lord with my heartfelt song. Lifting up songs to Him during the drive, listening to the words as I sang them to my Savior, singing with my heart and meaning it – entering into worship. Tradition is not bad as long as our heart is in it and it isn’t an empty, practiced thing.
But when I went into that gas station and got a water, my focus was not on how much I loved Jesus and wanted to share His love with her, my focus was not finding a new friend who might enjoy talking about Jesus even if just for a moment. I fell into a practice and did it with no heart, no power behind it. I realized that I had slipped even just a small amount into religious practice, into tradition, into something not genuine and heartfelt, but practiced.
And it rocked my world. I had a prepared message to deliver. I had notes just in case I got distracted. It was focused on sharing my testimony. It was focused on sharing with those there that they are chosen children of God no matter what path the Lord has led us down in the past. But I began to wonder how much focus had I spent on the delivery, versus how much love and care was focused on those who would be there. It wasn’t that I had left it out, but there was an adjustment that needed to be made to underscore the importance of my focus.
So I pulled off if the road just before we got to the church. My wife was confused as I had said that I wanted to get there early. She knew that we had been praising whole heartedly on the way. When I told her something wasn’t right in my Spirit, she was visibly concerned that she might have said or done something wrong, but I simply explained, it was something inside the gas station while you waited in the car. And we prayed together, similar to how we had before leaving the house, but this was less about the delivery, less about our being vessels, and more about the hearts to receive the message, more about the seed, more about raising lives from death, healing deaf ears, softening hearts – delivering us from evil.
And I prayed for that woman from the gas station as well, knowing that I recognized what was in her because I was familiar with it. You see, my message was on Mark 5, the man Jesus healed from an unclean spirit. As I told them in my testimony, I acknowledged that I am familiar with many spirits, because they walked with me in my past. I tasted and tried just about every bad thing the Bible warns us against in one season or another of my life, only to have the Lord prove that the flavor wears out and they don’t fill the hole of an empty heart. There is no combination of evil spirits, pleasure, pride, sexual immorality, anger, jealousy, envy, strife, division, dissention, tradition, religious practice – we can cram them all in there and still find that we are thirsty because we don’t have the living water, the anointing of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are still empty of anything truly valuable.
1 Corinthians 13:2 NLT
If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.
But the Holy Spirit fills completely and satisfies completely. Now I have that living water, that fire in my bones, that hunger for the Word of God that fills my soul and that spills out of our new heart as fresh, living water. When we run to Jesus and cry out to Him with our heartfelt surrender, He is faithful and true to His promises.
So friend, I don’t ask you this out of practice, or obligation, or hopes of reward – but I ask you that we might together glorify and honor our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, “Do you have the living water?”
Interesting article of note that I found afterwards: http://www.greatbiblestudy.com/religious_spirits.php