Unchanging Promises for a Changing World
by Bob Burridge ©2021
A lot has changed in the years since I was born in 1947. There were different things we saw as “normal” in our day-to-day lives back then. Our clothes have changed a lot. Us kids back in the 50’s had different styles. I remember girls in poodle skirts and saddle shoes. Guys greased down their hair and the back was turned up in a “duck tail”. We wore Micky Mouse ears, Superman and Hopalong Cassidy costumes for Halloween. Music was “rock-n-roll”, but we heard a lot of “big-band” music on the radio too. The big names were Lawrence Welk, Elvis Presley, Chubby Checker, Connie Francis, and others of that era.
TV was those little Black & White tube sets with rabbit-ear antennas and about 3 or 4 channels. We watched Howdy Doody, the Micky Mouse Club, Kookla Fran and Ollie, and Leave it to Beaver. We listened to baseball games on the radio. I remember sitting on the floor and laying out my baseball cards of the players in front of me as I listened.
Our phones had dials, and shared party lines with others. Cars had an AM radio, but no air-conditioning or seat belts. Schools started with a prayer time, and we ducked under our desks in air-raid drills. Churches didn’t have websites, and ran off their bulletins on mimeograph machines.
It’s always amazing to look back a few generations and see how much changes. While we try to keep up with the things that change, we need to stay faithful to God’s principles that are eternal and unchangeable. They don’t change.
When God’s word is taken at face value it effects our view of life, family, the world, and the church. The Bible isn’t just a book of devotional thoughts and morality stories. It’s given by God himself, and should be respected and obeyed literally.
Religion is often seen as personal or handed-down opinions about God, life, death, and morality. But Paul wasn’t just a frustrated Jew writing to redesign religion to meet his personal beliefs. Moses wasn’t just a mythological figure made up to unify Israel by giving it a hero.
There’s always been this contrast: the truth given to us by God, and the changing traditions of men.
In Mark 7 Jesus warned the leaders of religion in his day,
6. And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
7. in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
8. You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
9. And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!”
Traditions can be either good or bad. According to Mirriam-Webster, a tradition is: an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior, a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable, the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction, cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions, a characteristic manner, method, or style.
The Greek word used in this passage for “tradition” is “pa-RA-do-sis” (παράδοσις). It’s found 14 times in the New Testament. It literally means “something given over”. It’s “a handed down truth or practice”.
For most of the Jews in the time of Jesus their traditions were the teachings of the Rabbis. Social traditions should be respected, but only when they don’t go against what God teaches us. To the child of God the binding traditions are the ones handed down to us from God in his word.
Paul often called the teachings God gave him and the other Apostles, “traditions“.
2 Thessalonians 2:15, “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.”
2 Thessalonians 3:6, “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.”
1 Corinthians 11:2, “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.”
In Mark 7, Jesus quoted from Isaiah 29:13-14., “And the Lord said: ‘Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.’ ”
The problem wasn’t that there were traditions. It was that they had ones based on wrong attitudes and wrong beliefs. They were there in the temple with their lips, they went through the motions, they felt good about it, but their affections, their commitments, were somewhere else far away. Churches today may not have ceremonial washings of pitchers and cups as their traditions, but there are many firmly ingrained beliefs and forms they call “worship” that replace God’s teachings.
God gave us foundations that never change with culture and time. He handed down principles to govern our work, morality, the home and family, our worship, and his church. They teach us about the saving work of Christ, and how to live together as a godly society.
Hebrews 13:8 tells about the unchangeableness of Jesus Christ: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Fallen people always try to hand down replacements for God’s ways. They promote and pass on a culture that praises what God condemns.
The world’s wrong view of God isn’t just some unimportant theology. It’s a subtle attack at the very core of all that should motivate us in all we do. God must be honored for what he is and in ways he says please him. Otherwise misguided churches promote lies and actually offend the one they say they serve.
If you tell your wife you love her blue eyes, but she has brown eyes, it shows her you don’t pay much attention to what she really is, or that you’re color blind. If you worship God for what he isn’t, you haven’t paid attention to what he says he is in his word. You are in fact spiritually blind and not seeing the God who made you.
When worship becomes creative it’s reduced to a set of empty practices. It aims at making people feel good, just the way it was in the time of Isaiah. Innovative worship abandons what God tells us about what should be in the heart of the worshiper.
False religion is outwardly showy. It might be noisy and full of emotional displays, funny skits, and entertainment. Or it might be filled with mystical symbols, costumes, or rituals and ceremony.
Pure religion is the humble pouring out of gratitude to God in ways he tells us please him. We need to be sure to anticipate worship as a time to show God how important he is in our lives. Come prepared with gratitude and expectation of God’s promised blessings.
The church wasn’t set up to replace personal involvement and responsibility. It’s an assembled body of redeemed people called to be a spiritual family, dedicated to one another, and to their unique places in God’s Kingdom. Its members are ambassadors for Christ to reach out and influence those they know and meet. Its members aren’t simply on a roll as they would be in Boy Scouts or Rotary Club. They are brothers and sisters with obligations and duties just like human families.
Look for ways you can help your church to be better. Make your home a more Christ centered place where the fruit of the spirit shows in all who live there. When you go to work, school, or out into the community do what you can to be responsible, to strive for excellence, and to give God the glory for all that’s good in your life. Promote a culture and world-view that’s Christ centered, not self-indulging. Put the work of Christ’s kingdom first in all you do.
Every day we face these tests of where our allegiance rests, of where our hearts are. Fallen man believes that his chief end is personal pleasure, peace and prosperity. If he has a good group of friends, has some nice things, and is seen as better than others then thinks he’s doing well and things like worship and prayer can be done just about any old way, as long as it’s comfortable to the person and doesn’t upset his personal peace.
That’s exactly what we’re warned against all through Scripture. Satan’s deceptions are aimed at just that: getting us to look at self perceptions rather than to know, to be, and to faithfully do what God has said.
It’s important how we live, worship and pray. It’s vital that we honor and serve God as he really is. It’s joyful. It’s the chief end of man. The world holds to traditions that standardize whatever we see as the current fads and theories.
We need to restore God’s truth and ways. The traditions of men are the changing things. They center on temporary things. The principles of God never change, and are centered on an unchanging God and eternal values.
We need to be zealous and diligent in promoting God’s glory in every place God puts us. We need to take advantage of every opportunity to mature spiritually. We should use our times of worship to guide, teach, encourage, and strengthen those assembled. We need to look to the scriptures together when personal problems come along. We value Christ’s counsel over the ungodly counsel the world gives. When we live out there in the world during the week we’re to be lights illuminating the darkness with God’s truth and ways, and to be the salt of the earth by our conduct in all we say, think, and do.
Do your part to shine for Christ, and enjoy the benefits he promises to those who truly love him.
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.