I have read these words from Jesus so many times and it still always stirs my heart. How easy it is for us to have our "hearts far" from God.
The part that gets me is that Jesus says that when our worship is only "with our lips" (in other words, it is only external... appearing to be Christians by the way we talk and even pray), then our worship is a FARCE.
The question I'm asking myself is, "how close is my heart to Him?". If it's far, my external expressions of faith don't mean anything to him. It might convince others that I'm "spiritual" or Christian, but it won't please God.
Then, Jesus goes on by saying "they teach man-made ideas as commands from God... and ignore God's law and substitute your own tradition". How often I see myself and the church prioritizing our man-made traditions and ideas, over the very commands of God in Scripture.
- Catholics and many other churches do this by teaching things like infant baptism, purgatory, prayers to Saints, burning of candles for forgiveness of sin... ("substituting God's commands with man-made ideas")
- Other denominations and non-denominational churches often do this by thinking their 'style' of music is the right one, or by 'teaching' that worship is the music we sing on Sunday mornings...
- Others do it by teaching that things like drinking alcohol is always wrong for every Christian or that the only translation that is truly inspired is the KJV...
How dumb we are sometimes! Get so caught up in meaningless man-made rules and teachings that we forget the things Jesus spoke about the most. Things like loving God wholeheartedly, loving our neighbors, giving to the needy, showing compassion, embracing the hurting, living pure lives, spreading His Message...
Two questions to ask ourselves and our churches:
- Do I work more on "looking and sounding" like a Christian, or do I focus more on "knowing and loving" my God from the heart?
- Am I known more for man-made ideas and traditions, or for following the words of God in the Scriptures?
God forgive us for so often forgetting the things that matter most to you, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. Forgive us for not honoring you with our hearts. Forgive us for not honoring your Words above our own ideas, styles, and traditions.