Matthew 15:8-9 (KJV)
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
A tradition is defined as anything that has been handed down from one generation to another. Though many traditions are good and have great value, traditions have to be put into perspective.
No matter how long traditions have existed, they must not violate Scripture. Traditions can never replace Scripture no matter how well meaning they may be. Jesus addressed this issue in Matthew 15 with great wisdom and understanding. Though the issue of “washing hands” was considered a matter of life and death according to the Talmudic traditions, Jesus struck at the real heart of the matter. True worship comes from the heart of an individual. This is the kind of worship that God seeks.
John 4:23 (KJV)
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
True Worship is in spirit and in truth.
• Spirit involves a meaningful expression from the heart and not vain actions out of repetition.
• Truth involves worship to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. True worship can only come from individuals who have received, responded and obeyed truth which is found in the Bible.
A. Pharisees Drew Near with Their Mouths
When Jesus addressed the Pharisees in Matthew 15:8, He referenced the words of the prophet Isaiah:
Isaiah 29:13 (KJV)
13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
In these words the Lord condemned the reliance of the Pharisees on their own human ideas and traditions. If the Pharisees were as skilled in the Scriptures as they pretended to be, they should have clearly recognized the strong rebuke in this scripture.
Let the Bible be true and everyman a liar. In a world and culture that is constantly changing, we need a fixed landmark to keep us focused and on track. This landmark is Jesus Christ:
Hebrews 13:8 (KJV)
8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
Drawing nigh to God involves both spoken and unspoken worship. It involves what we say and also what we think or meditate upon. True worship involves every aspect of a person and is vital for every believer!
James 4:8 (KJV)
8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
True worship comes with intentions to get closer to God. It involves cleansing ourselves from sin in our life and purifying our heart in that what you see on the outside is what is filled on the inside.
B. Pharisees Honored God with Their Lips
Honor is much more than spoken words. True honor is followed by honorable actions. As the old cliché goes, “Talk is cheap.” What really counts is action! God sees beyond the shallowness of words spoken.
Hebrews 4:12 (KJV)
12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
He hears the mouth of an individual, but He also sees the heart from which those words come from. In addition to the attendance on Sunday morning, he sees the life that is lived on Monday morning, Saturday night and all times in between.
God knows the thoughts and intents of the heart.
C. Hearts of Pharisees Were Far from God
The heart is a vital, life sustaining organ that delivers blood to the many organs and systems of the human body through a network of many miles of veins. This intricate organ and system which supplies oxygen to the human body is essential to a person’s life. But there is also another part of a person to which we often refer to as his heart. In this usage of the word heart we refer to the very center of his human will, emotions, and nature.
It was in this part of mankind that he was separated from God following the sin in the Garden of Eden. Sin caused Adam and Eve’s hearts to be removed far from their Creator. Through the nature of sin, it followed along to all mankind. Since the garden, God has sought to restore the hearts of the people to a close relationship with Him.
Though sin took a terrible toll upon mankind, all was not hopeless and forever lost, for in the Old Testament God promised mankind a new heart.
Ezekiel 11:19-20 (KJV)
19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:
20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
When God gives a person a new heart, He empowers the believer to be different from his worldly counterparts. The Spirit of God in his heart provides power that he may walk according to God’s statutes and keep God’s ordinances.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
When we put on Christ in baptism, we receive a new nature. Our inner desire is to please God with our entire being. A heart transplants takes place.
It is so wonderful to have a heart that is once again near to God! Truly He is our God and we are His people. This leads us to true worship!
In their high esteem of man-made additions to the law, the Pharisees and scribes missed the entire point of the law. They especially failed to recognize the Lawgiver! They questioned Jesus as to why His disciples ate with unwashed hands in disobedience to the ‘”tradition of the fathers.”
We must keep our heart with all diligence because from it comes the very life that we live for God. God is seeking men and women with hearts that will draw near to Him.
True worship must come from the heart of an individual. There will be outward manifestations of this inward work that others can see, but outward works should never be our focus. The focus of true worship is from within and is always directed toward God.
In a recent study 727 randomly selected adults who identified themselves as “Christian,” 601 senior pastors, and 69 worship leaders, pollster George Barna found that one in three adult regular attendees reported they had never experienced God’s presence while in a church.
Two in three were not able to describe to the survey-takers what worship is. Less than half of the participants reported worship was a top priority in their lives, and only one in four described worship as something people do for God.
Barna says, “Americans make worship services a self-centered activity. Of the reasons given to researchers on why they go to church, 47 percent were self-focused, 29 percent were God-focused, and 2 percent had no focus at all.” Barna adds, “We view ourselves first and foremost as consumers, Americans are always looking for a deal, or what’s in it for them.”
One in four ministers put worship as his or her top priority. Barna says the relatively high satisfaction rate and low frustration rate in churches found by the survey means most people do not know what worship is and that we are “worship challenged.”
In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren writes, “Matt Redman, a worship leader in England, tells how his pastor taught his church the real meaning of worship. To show that worship is more than music, he banned all singing in their services for a period of time while they learned to worship in other ways. By the end of that time, Matt had written the classic song ‘Heart of Worship.’”
After the pastor imposed song-fast ended, Redman led his church in worship with his heart-felt words, “I’m coming back to the heart of worship. It’s all about you…” Worship isn’t a song, a liturgy or a service—these are only vehicles of worship. Worship is God’s people understanding his worth to them and reflecting it back to Him.