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MM00091 Worshiping God in vain

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Mentoring Manna:  Worshiping God in vain

© 2003 Pastor Keith Hassell



Matthew 15:1-9 (NKJV) “Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, ‘Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?  For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.’ He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?  For God commanded, saying, “Honor your father and mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift of God”---‘then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.  Hypocrites!  Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying, ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.  And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

            Jesus declared it possible to be a worshiper, and yet, for our worship to be in vain.  The Pharisees were the religious elite of their day. You might say that they had the largest denomination among the Jews. They were externally devout and developed a whole system of worship that began with a desire to obey God.  However, over time their commentary on the Scripture (along with their commentary on their commentary), known as the Talmud, became more important to them than the Scripture. This highly developed system of civic and religious laws eventually superceded the word of God. However, the power to keep these laws was found in their own ability leading to self-righteousness. The goal of a relationship with God was lost in the maze of rituals.

When the Pharisees confronted Jesus about His disciple’s failure to keep the traditions of the elders, Jesus countered with the Pharisee’s failure to keep the commandment of God because of their traditions.  Their self-legislated exemptions from the commandments of God did not exempt them in the eyes of God. They were not disobeying man-made rituals but the commandment of God for the sake of their tradition! 

Jesus addressed the hypocrisy and disobedience of the Pharisee’s by quoting Isaiah 29:13. They honored God with their lips although their heart was far from them. They worshiped God in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. Webster’s defines “vain” as “having no real value or significance; worthless, empty, idle, hollow.”[1] Sadly, many people grow up in a system of religious tradition that has no real value or significance before God. They are taught to keep the religious traditions of men that go contrary to the commandments of God.  When manmade traditions become ingrained within a religious system, they can take on an aura of being sanctioned by God. But, such worship is worthless, empty, and hollow. It means nothing to God. 

“Religion” is the imposter that parades itself as true worship. It is an obstacle to everyone who seeks to be a true worshiper, an obstruction to the work of God, and an enemy of Christ. I am not speaking of the church that Christ came to build.[2] I am not speaking of corporate worship, for the Bible is clear that we are not to neglect the assembling of ourselves together as the church.[3]  I am speaking of manmade traditions that, in the name of God, impose themselves above the commandments of God. True worship flows from a heart of love that honors God above the traditions of men.  Anything less is only vain lip service to God.


Application:  God is not impressed with our words of worship when they do not come from our heart. The worship that God accepts comes from a heart of love and obedience. This type of worship demands that we honor God above any tradition of man. Are you holding to religious traditions that hinder true worship in your life?  Have you succumbed to a religious system that negates the zeal, passion, and truth of God’s word?  Don’t worship God in vain.  Become one that worships God from the heart according to His word.


Prayer:  “Heavenly Father, forgive me for the times I have worshiped You in vain. Forgive me for giving lip service in worship when my heart was far from You. Forgive me for not honoring You above men. Help me to be one whose heart is near to You and whose worship flows out of love for You.  This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”



[1] Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition

[2] Matthew 16:18

[3] Hebrews 10:24-25

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