A God Named Sue

Matthew 15:9 “But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

Observation: Jesus had rebuked the Pharisees for exalting their own traditions above the clear teachings of God. In bringing these charges He quotes Isaiah 28:13, “This people draw near with their lip service, but they removed their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.”

Application: These fellows were worshiping gods named Bill or Frank or Sue or Dave, but not Jehovah, the One named “I Am.” It’s horrifying to think that church leaders could fall into the trap of teaching precepts of men as doctrine. Surely no boy considering Pharisee hood as a career started out with the intent of being deceived. Like the bride and groom who in the midst of wedding joys give scant thought to the hard work ahead in building a strong marriage, each Pharisee wannabe had surely begun with good intentions. 

The sobering thing about Jesus’s quote of Isaiah is that it applies to more than just church leaders. When I consider the passage less self-righteously, I realize that it addresses me too. If I claim Christ as Savior, God has given me responsibility for the flock He has placed under me. This business of teaching as doctrine the precepts of men hits between the eyes precisely because it applies in my own spheres of authority and influence: husbands to wives, parents to children, employers to employees, friend to friend. If my life is lived according to the precepts of men rather than precepts of God, I am in every bit as much error as the Pharisees. 

Surely what happens to deflect the human heart from God is a slow, insidious deception. Like a Pharisee-in-training, I begin with every intention of finishing well. Like the innocent bride and groom who have no capacity to assess future stresses, I begin my walk filled with hope, but it’s often a hope based more upon easy assumptions than one fired in the forges of life.

I must consciously lay my heart before God and ask Him to bring correction where needed, which leads to the importance of fellowship. A key tool He uses is vulnerability to bring course correction where needed. The proverb says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). When I feel the heat of His refining fire, I must know that it comes from my loving Abba who desires above all else to conform me to the image of His dear Son. I must abandon forever all precepts of men. The alternative is that I serve a god named Rick or Abby or Tom.

Prayer: Father, I want to serve You. I want to live a life that’s pleasing to You, useful to Your kingdom. Identify in me every precept of man, so I can confess and be rid of it once and for all.

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