5 Sep



I’m going to make an assumption: that everyone reading this blog would like to grow spiritually, be more like Jesus, connect with God on a deeper level, and/or become unstuck regarding his/her relationship with God.


The Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
 They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! Mark 7:5-9

Jesus chastised the Pharisees. They thought they were close to God, but Jesus said the opposite was true. They substituted human tradition for God’s commands – grace-filled edicts designed to bring them closer to God and who he created them to be. Man’s relationship with God and their highest good is God’s end game. Why would they (or we) substitute our greatest good for legalistic traditions constructed by men?

A no-brainer, right?

When we get down to the foundation of the issue, it’s clear. Crystal.

But life is cloudy, especially when we add our motivations to the mix.

Instead of unwashed, defiled hands, let’s talk about spiritual disciplines. Neither are wrong in and of themselves, in fact, both a really good practices– as long as the heart-motivation for doing them is pure.

Like the Pharisees’ hand-washing requirement, Bible reading, prayer, fasting, and worship can be items on a spiritual checklist, done for their own sakes; a self- (or church-) imposed requirement, a mature believer’s attainment.

God, however, asks us to draw near to him using these means. John Wesley described these outward practices as the means of grace.

Putting our souls in the means of grace is like potting a plant and setting it outside. Kept in the garage it has no way to grow, but outside it enjoys the sunshine and rain that nourish and feed each root fiber and chloroplast. Photosynthesis happens naturally. It is not forced– the plant doesn’t summon all its plant-will and push roots down and leaves out. The plant simply takes in the sun rays and water…

…and growth happens.



Before anticipating gathering with my church family this weekend, I have intentionally put myself in the means of grace many times this week. Sometimes for a few moments, others for larger chunks of time. Instead of dutifully having a time with the Lord, I have come to these times from a different perspective, each time bowing humbly and asking God to have his way in my heart, mind, and soul– like a seedling soaking up the sun after a gentle rain shower.

Will you join me in this… and report back how your worship of him with your church family was different than last week?


Next week: Collectively practicing the means of grace.



2 Responses to “Tradition!”


  1. Weekend Links | Worship Links - September 11, 2015

    […] Cathy Howie reminds us how easy it is for us to become modern Pharisees, even about good things: […]

  2. Collective Worship as a Means of Grace | worship devo - October 3, 2015

    […] the text of the last devo the pronouns are obviously plural (people, their, they), referring to the Scribes and Pharisees […]

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