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Journey Through Matthew: Who Are You Really Worshipping?

Journey Through Matthew  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Tradition often gets in the way of true worship of God. When we simply "honor God with our lips" we are stooped in what others may think instead of concerned about a true love for God and true worship from the heart, which is the only worship that is valid.

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Introduction

Good morning and welcome back!
This morning we are going to return to our Journey Through Matthew, looking at the subject of “Who are you really worshipping?”
And we will be doing so in the context of , if you would like to start turning there in your Bibles.
In just a moment I will be reading from , verses 1-20.
And this morning we will be looking at the first 9 verses and tonight we will be looking at verses 10-20.
However, I want to read them all in context because in reality it all goes together.
In this passage we are going to find a lot going on and Jesus talking about a lot, but it is all going to center around one central theme.
And that theme is what is actually within our very hearts.
And, as we will see in a moment this is very important because it will actually determine the health and stability of our relationship with God.
So, if you have found in your Bible, I’d invite you to stand with me.
And again, I will be reading the first 20 verses of .
Matthew writes . . .

Scripture Focus

Matthew 15:1–20 NIV - Anglicised
1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” 3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honour your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’5 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ 6 he is not to ‘honour his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 8 “ ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’” 10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean’, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’.” 12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” 13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” 15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean’.”

MORNING WORSHIP

Tradition Versus Worship (vs 1-9)

Now, just to bring us up to speed, remember that just prior to this, Jesus had been performing some pretty amazing miracles.
First, he had taken 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread and fed upwards of 10,000 people to be conservative about it.
Then after that he had saved the disciples from drowning and demonstrated his complete power over nature by both calming the water and walking on the water.
Then right after that event, we have more healings taking place.
In fact, the last verses we went through before Easter break was that tell us . . .
Matthew 14:34–36 NIV - Anglicised
34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognised Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.
So, Jesus and the disciples were not missing a beat.
And where we are going to be picking up this morning is right in the midst of all of this.
Again, Matthew starts out . . .

A. Breaking the Traditions of the Elders (vs 1-2)

Matthew 15:1–2 NIV - Anglicised
1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
And I know that we have visited this scripture a few times but it is vitally important that we really get a good understanding of what Jesus is talking about here and how this relates to our own worship.
We know that the Jews were looking for any excuse they could find to accuse Jesus and to basically discredit him in any way that they could.
And what we have here is one more example of this going on.
Jesus and the disciples had just been healing people and in the process of that they were laying their hands on people.
So, when you touch sick people, you need to wash your hands, that’s a given.
However, this is not what the Jews here are talking about.
They are talking about ceremonially washing your hands.
They had all sorts of rules around how a person was to wash their hands before they touched food.
And this ritual went as far as to include a certain way to wash the cups and bowls before using them.
Also, this tradition that the Jews are citing is not a tradition found in the Mosaic law.
It is one that was specific for priests and rabbis, that they had made up to “ensure” that they were ceremonially clean.
So on the one hand they are acknowledging Jesus and his disciples as ones who had spiritual authority.
But on the other hand, they are trying to discredit this authority because Jesus and his disciples were breaking the tradition of the elders by not washing their hands (the right way) before they ate.
Which brings us to our first important point: For many tradition outweighs God.
And what I mean by that is over the years, the “Church” has developed all sorts of traditions.
The denominations have developed all sorts of traditions.
Individual congregations have developed all sorts of traditions.
And when these traditions were first started, they were done innocently enough.
They were done as a way to SUPPLEMENT the worship of God and our relationship with God.
The key word here is supplement.
But over time many have forgotten that these traditions were supplemental and not meant to be sacramental, in that they were related to commands of God.
And because we, over time have made them sacramental we have begun to move away from the worship of God and move toward the worship of traditions.
And in many ways, it is easier this way.
It can get uncomfortable to open yourself completely up to God.
He may tell you something you don’t want to hear.
But, if we wrap ourselves up in all of these good old traditions, then we’re in good shape.
All we have to do is learn to follow the rules, or at least follow them when others can see us.
Behind closed doors we can do whatever we want.
But, that’s not how it works.

B. Breaking the Commands of God (vs 3-6)

And Jesus going to confront the Jews with it, and in the process, confront us as well.
Matthew writes . . .
Matthew 15:3 NIV - Anglicised
3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?
Matthew 15:
Which is exactly what I explained earlier.
The Jews were placing their traditions above God’s commands.
And in fact, they were using their traditions to circumvent God’s command.
They thought that those things that they had made up, were some how equal or even greater than what God’s law said.
And Jesus gives them an example . . .
Matthew 15:4–6 NIV - Anglicised
4 For God said, ‘Honour your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’5 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ 6 he is not to ‘honour his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
Matthew 15:
Now what Jesus is referring to here is the 5th of the 10 commandments.
Exodus 20:12 NIV - Anglicised
12 “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
The first command that had a promise attached to it.
And notice that the command did not have conditions attached to it… “Honor your father and mother, IF ...”
It simply says honor them and part of honoring them is taking care of them.
But what the Jews had done is they had developed a nice rule that says, anything devoted or given to God can’t be used or sold for other purposes.
However, if it were something like a house, land, valuables, etc… the person held on to it until they died and then it went to the Levites.
So, these people were taking all of their possessions and dedicating them to God and then telling their parents that they couldn’t help them because they had no ability to do so.
But, all of the stuff that was supposed to be God’s they kept and used just like they always did and when they died, it didn’t matter, they were dead anyway.
So they were letting their parents die in destitute while they lived the big life.
And to them it was okay because they had developed this tradition and elevated it above what God actually said.
And it doesn’t have to be something this extreme either.
It can be absolutely anything that we elevate above God.
In the church it could be things like music styles, preaching styles, teaching styles, use of the facilities, the church van, carpet color, types of seats, and on and on and on.
Whenever our personal preferences get in the way of God moving and supercede what the Word of God actually says then we are no better off than these Jews.

C. Hypocrites and False Worship (vs 7-9)

And here is what Jesus tells them . . .
Matthew 15:7–9 NIV - Anglicised
7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 8 “ ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”
Now Jesus always had a way with words.
Jesus always knew how to address people in a way that would get their attention the most.
And this is no exception
First he calls the hypocrites, or “actors” or “fakes” in essence.
Those who act like something they are not.
They want everybody to think that they are good God fearing people, but in reality they are just putting on a show.
And really I probably don’t need to explain how this relates to the 21st century church in the United States.
We have a lot of people who are out there putting on a show.
Which is one of the many reasons why it is difficult for the younger generation to find what they are looking for in the Church.
They are looking for something real, something authentic and all they get are exactly what Isaiah prophesied about . . .
Matthew 15:8–9 NIV - Anglicised
8 “ ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”
Matthew 15:8 NIV - Anglicised
8 “ ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
The Jews were really good about establishing rules, following rules, and ostracizing anyone who didn’t follow their rules or anyone who questioned them one little bit.
Anybody who was different was demonized and looked down upon.
In our modern Church we are also really good about establishing rules, regulations, and traditions.
And we are also really good about ostracizing those who do not conform to the way we “think” things should be done.
Key word here is “think.”
The newsflash here is God doesn’t care what we think.
God has been and is trying to get us to respond to what the Holy Spirit is telling us, not what we think is going on.
God is trying to get us to slow down and hear the small still voice that is talking to us.
But sometimes we let tradition and rules get in the way of that.
And heaven’s forbid someone ask some questions about their faith or about why we do what we do.
I wonder if it ever occurred to some that the reason people question is because they are looking for answers.
We are all out there searching for God.
And God can handle the questions, even if we can’t.
And Jesus is telling us that it doesn’t matter what honor comes out of our lips, if our hearts are not right there it is wasted breath.
Our worship is in vain, and we are not following God, but rather traditions we have been taught.

Altar Call

And a key component to where our heart is, is related to how we treat others.
Not others who are in the church and follow all the rules, but rather those outside the church, who do not follow the rules.
Do we have compassion on them?
Do we love them as Jesus commands?
Or do we look down on them, ostracize them, ridicule them?
Try to get them to get it together?
Is that really our job?
Maybe you are here this morning and this is how you feel, like others have been judging you, putting you down, ostracizing you.
And you are hurt by it.
You are angry about it.
Why don’t you come and allow God to start the healing process.
Maybe you are here and God has brought it to your attention that you are one of those who has been doing the hurting and the ostracizing.
You thought you were doing right, but realize that all you were doing was trying to keep up appearances.
That you were following traditions more than God.
Why don’t you come and allow God to break you free from those chains.
We have only scratched the surface of what God wants to do in this community through this church.
And the reason that is, is because we have a lot of people who are stuck in tradition.
Unwilling to allow change.
Unwilling to be part of change.
Unwilling to get a little uncomfortable.
There are people out there dying, lost, broken, who we can help, but we are holding ourselves back.
If that describes you, don’t be embarrassed.
Come and allow God to start the healing.
Maybe you are here and you do not have a relationship with Jesus.
Why not?
And I do not mean that sarcastically, but really want you to ask yourself, why not?
What is holding you back?
What is the barrier that is preventing that?
Would you come and allow God to remove that barrier?
Maybe you are here and you have backslidden.
The sam question applies, why?
What’s holding you back from being reconciled to God?
What is the barrier?
Why not come and allow God to break down that barrier.
The altar is open to all who will come. Who will be first?
_______________________________________________________

EVENING WORSHIP

Introduction

Good evening and welcome back!
I hope everyone has had a good and restful today.
Just as a reminder, we have been looking at , if you would like to start turning there in your Bibles.
Again, this morning we looked at the first 9 verses and tonight we are going to look at verses 10-20.
And remember what we are actually talking about is the subject of Who Are You Worshipping?
And just as a recap of the morning sermon, we looked at the Jews trying to pass judgement on Jesus and his disciples because they were not following proper ceremonial procedures about washing their hands of all things.
And this was typical.
They would find the most insignificant thing they could and that would be what they would blast Jesus and the disciples on.
And of course we know that Jesus wasn’t having nothing of it and called them out pretty quickly.
Bringing to light their hypocrisy and their false worship of God.
Their dedication to tradition more than a true and pure love for God.
So, that sort of brings us up to speed, and now just for reference, I’m going to read the entire passage again.
And just for reference I will
Again, , starting in verse 1, he writes . . .

Scripture Focus

Matthew 15:1–20 NIV - Anglicised
1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” 3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honour your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’5 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ 6 he is not to ‘honour his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 8 “ ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’” 10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean’, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’.” 12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” 13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” 15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean’.”

The Heart Makes You Unclean (vs 10-20)

So, now Jesus has thoroughly called out the Jews in front of everybody.
And I am sure the are pretty embarrassed and angry about it.
But the reality is, they did it to themselves.

A. What comes out Makes You Unclean (vs 10-11)

And, in typical Jesus fashion he takes this as an opportunity to teach the people something.
Verse 10 tells us . . .
Matthew 15:10 NIV - Anglicised
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.
And there is not big theological point with this verse, but it is important to understand the lesson here in this one little verse of Scripture.
Even though Jesus called these people out for their sin, he didn’t just call them out and tell them to go away.
He did it to get their attention in hopes that they might listen to what he had to say.
Jesus never did anything out of hate or spite, and we shouldn’t either.
Jesus wants them to understand the truth so that they won’t keep repeating the same mistakes.
Which we have a tendency to do a lot.
We may call it something different or put a different spin on it, but really it is the same exact mistake over and over and over again.
When really we need to stop, slow down, realize what is going on and allow God to speak the truth into us to change it.
And change does not start on the outside.
Change comes from within . . .
Which is the underlying point of what Jesus is trying to tell them.
He calls them together, tells them to listen and understand, and proceeds to tell them this . . .
Matthew 15:11 NIV - Anglicised
11 What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean’, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’.”
Matthew 15:
And Jesus is going right back to the earlier point about handwashing.
The Jews were saying that Jesus and his disciples were ceremonially unclean and the food they were eating was no longer clean and kosher because they did not wash their hands the proper way.
And Jesus’ rebuke here is that it does not matter what food you eat.
The food has no impact on your cleanliness or righteousness before God.
And really Jesus is giving us a foreshadow of a lesson Peter learns later recording in .
In , Peter is going to pray and has a vision.
And during that time. . .
Acts 10:10 NIV - Anglicised
10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.
Acts 10:
And this is what happened . . .
Acts 10:11–13 NIV - Anglicised
11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
Acts 10:11
Which was a problem for Peter because even though he was present and heard this lesson Jesus taught, he still was a good Jew and still was pretty wrapped up in tradition . . .
Acts 10:14 NIV - Anglicised
14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
Acts 10:
And God is quick to rebuke Peter . . .
Acts 10:15–16 NIV - Anglicised
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” 16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
Acts 10:15
And the whole reason that Peter had this vision was because right afterward he was going to go to the Gentiles, enter their house (which would defile a Jew) and preach the Gospel to them.
God is preparing Peter to take the gospel to all people.
And the point is that all people are precious to God.
All people deserve our compassion.
All people deserve to hear the gospel.
If God has called us to a ministry, to a place, to a people, we have no right and no business calling them unclean or unworthy.
And shame on us if we do.
And it is a shame that Peter had to be taught this lesson a second time about tradition.
And Jesus gets right to the heart of the matter . . .
Matthew 15:11 NIV - Anglicised
11 What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean’, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’.”
Matthew 15:
And at this point Jesus doesn’t really explain things to them, probably because he is interrupted by his disciples who were worried about what the Jews were thinking.

B. Blind Leading the Blind (vs 12-15)

Verse 12 tells us . . .
Matthew 15:12 NIV - Anglicised
12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
Matthew 1
Which is probably not the smartest question to be asking Jesus.
Did they really think that Jesus hadn’t realized what he was saying was going to offend the Jews?
That was the whole point, to offend them enough to get their attention.
To get them to pay attention to what Jesus was actually saying here.
Sometimes, the only way you can get someone’s attention is to offend them.
Otherwise they just dismiss you and go on.
So, Jesus patiently explains why he did what he did.
He tells them . . .
Matthew 15:13 NIV - Anglicised
13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.
Meaning that right now these people do not belong to God.
And if somebody doesn’t get their attention and get them to understand the truth, then they are going to be eternally lost.
They will be pulled up by the roots, and thrown into the fire.
The intention was to get their attention, and offending them was the only way.
And there is a second reason as well.
Jesus tells them in verse 14 . . .
Matthew 15:14 NIV - Anglicised
14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
And what he is telling them is that he did this for the sake of the other people as well.
Those were were following these Jews and their teachings.
It is no better than the blind leading the blind.
If they continue on long enough, both will fall into the ditch, both will be lost.
And even if the leaders didn’t want to listen and didn’t want to change.
Maybe, just maybe those who were blindly following them would be willing to listen and change.
Which is why it is so important that we constantly examine who we are following in the Church.
We have a tendency to get wrapped up in the people and forget that we should all be following God.
This is really hard when things are going well, the church is doing good.
Or there is a really charismatic and exciting leader.
People will follow that person, but what if they are leading them straight into the ditch?
We have to be very careful.
And Jesus is concerned for the Jews but he is also concerned for the people.
And calling them out this way was the only way.

C. Jesus rebukes and explains (vs 16-20)

But then comes Peter.
Good old Peter . . .
Matthew 15:15 NIV - Anglicised
15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
Matthew 15:15
And Jesus’ response . . .
Matthew 15:16 NIV - Anglicised
16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.
Matthew 15:
Which makes it really astounding that Peter didn’t remember this lesson later in Acts.
But apparently he and the others were just that dull, or dense is how we would put it today.
And I can imagine Jesus just shaking his head, are you really that dense that you can’t understand.
And then probably after a deep breath, Jesus finally explains what he is talking about regarding the issue of handwashing and everything else for that matter.
Matthew 15:17–18 NIV - Anglicised
17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’.
Matthew 15:
Which is exactly the point we have been making all day long.
The food doesn’t matter.
The food that you put in you has no relationship whatsoever to your standing before God.
It’s just food.
If God made it so we can eat it, then that is all it is.
You eat it, your body uses it, and the waste leaves, over and done with.
However, the key as Jesus points out is not what goes in the mouth but what comes out of the mouth.
The words we speak, the actions we take, the way we live our lives.
That is where the rubber meets the road.
And the reason is, we can only hide our true nature for so long.
And even while we are hiding that nature toward other people, we can never hide our true self from God.
Remember . . .
1 Samuel 16:7 NIV - Anglicised
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7
It is all about what is in our hearts folks.
We can talk a good game all day long.
But if it is not in our heart, it is just empty words.
And if our heart is not pure then, Jesus tells us . . .
Matthew 15:19–20 NIV - Anglicised
19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean’.”
Matthew 15:19-20

Altar Call

Morning Worship

So tonight, the obvious question is, what is in our hearts?
The old saying goes “actions speak louder than words.” What do our actions say?
Do we love God with all our heart, mind, and soul?

Evening Worship

Do we love others as ourselves?
Do our actions demonstrate this love?
Or are we caught up in appearances, traditions, what others may think?
Do we say one thing and do another?
Are we hypocrites?
Tonight we need to ask those questions.
And tonight, I’d like for everyone to stand as we put on some music in the back.
And I asked you to stand because it is easier to come to the altar if you are already standing up.
And I want you to listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling you.
Don’t be dull like Peter and the other disciples.
But rather be responsive to the Holy Spirit.
Maybe you don’t meet any of the criteria described today, but God has put on your heart to come and pray.
Will you do that?
Will you be obedient to God tonight?
The altar is open, what will your response be?
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