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Daily Encounter: A Week-day Devotional by Richard (Dick) Innes of ACTS International.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Tradition

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."1

I have read how, as a boy in the Midwest, Dale Carnegie used to amuse himself by holding a stick across a gateway that the sheep had to pass through.

After the first few sheep jumped over the stick, Dale would take it away. Oddly enough, all of the remaining sheep would also leap through the gateway over the imaginary barrier. The only reason for their jumping was that those in front of them had jumped.

Sheep are not the only ones with this tendency. Many of us are prone to do what we have seen others do, believe what others believe, and often accept without question what our leaders teach.

Traditions can be a blessing or a bane. Some religious traditions are good and help keep healthy ties to the past. Other traditions may hold the church back. In recent years, one significant area of conflict has been the desire to change the church from traditional to contemporary style of worship--primarily in the type of worship music. And what has been the end result? According to reports from the well respected Christian Barna Research Group, today's church in North America is in decline. Sometimes it seems that, even though what we do isn't being effective, we still cling to what some leaders want to do regardless of its effectiveness or otherwise.  

Other traditions, especially man-made religious traditions, can keep people in bondage and stop progress in the church.

I know of one church where some members complained, not against singing praise choruses in their Sunday morning worship service, but against having a screen on which to view the words. They said they couldn't worship God with a screen in the front of the church sanctuary! That church clung so tightly to tradition that it was unable to move from the old ways to any of the new, and died. It no longer exists.

There's much truth in what Gloria Steinem is credited as having said: "The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn."

Saddest thing of all was that the religious people of Jesus day, while they were waiting for the promised Messiah, didn't recognize or accept Him when He came. Tradition blinded them to reality.

But there are also good traditions that we need to keep. Accepting Jesus as your Savior and Lord is a 2,000–year–old tradition. It has never changed. It never will. Jesus is still the only way to God. As Jesus himself said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father [God] except through me."2

As today's Bible verse points out, the early Christians in Berea constantly examined the Scriptures to make sure that Paul's teachings were in harmony with the Word of God. We need to do the same—and cling to that which is true and discard that which is untrue or no longer relevant. As the Apostle himself taught, "Test everything. Hold on to the good."3  Besides, have you ever noticed how silent the New Testament is on methodology? I think God had a good reason for that.

Suggested prayer. "Dear God, please help me to keep a healthy balance between the old and the new, to discern the difference between traditions that are in harmony with Your Word and those which are man–made irrelevant traditions. Please give me the wisdom to know the difference between the two, the courage to hold to that which is true, and the willingness to discard that which is not of You. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."

1. Acts 17:11 (NIV).
2. John 14:6 (NIV).
3. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (NIV).

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