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It is so easy to think you have to work for God's approval. After all, you have to work to earn a living. You have to work hard to succeed in life. We are taught a work ethic from childhood. It almost seems right that you should have to work to earn God's approval.


Religion is a despicable thing. You might ask yourself, "How in the world can humanity fall into this terrible, vicious trap?"

Proverbs 14:12 explains: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."

It is so easy to think you have to work for God's approval. After all, you have to work to earn a living. You have to work hard to succeed in life. We are taught a work ethic from childhood. It almost seems right that you should have to work to earn God's approval.

The rules of religion seem right, but they are not. Religion is a sad thing—something Jesus came to expose. He came to confront it, to show people what it really is and to tell them, "This is not the Father's will."

Tradition can be seen as the product of our effort to do things, which will build spiritual equity with God to make Him happy with us. But as we can see from the Word, it is something which makes the Word of God of no effect.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines tradition as "a mode of thought or behavior followed by a people continuously from generation to generation."

As it relates to our pursuit of God, that "mode" comes to us principally from religion, or our effort to do things to appease God, rather than from our hearts.

Shape Shifter
He answered and 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. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."
(Mark 7:6-7)
Tradition takes two different shapes. It can take the shape of a doctrine. Or it can be a commandment of man which is being taught as a doctrine of God but which cannot be found in the Word of God.

For example, infant baptism is not found in the Bible; it is a commandment of men taught as a doctrine of God. The idea that you can be sprinkled as an infant and have the assurance of eternity in heaven is absolutely ludicrous. It is not in the Word of God anywhere.

You have to wonder how many countless millions of people have gone to hell because they grew up thinking, I was sprinkled when I was a baby. I do not need this "born again" stuff.

This is one of the ways tradition robs the Word of God of its effectiveness: You are raised hearing a doctrine validated by the organization you are a part of and you are taught that it is true; then you close your mind to the Word of God in that area.

Do not believe what you hear from any pastor, rabbi, priest or minister—including this one—unless you can confirm it in the Word of God. That is the only way to be sure you are not engaging in a commandment of man.

However, a ministry which preaches the Word is not going to be holding on to the commandments of men, so that is not normally how tradition can enter. Those people are more susceptible to the other shape which tradition takes.

Jesus describes it in verse 6: "This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me."

I am convinced this is one of the reasons many people never experience the provision, blessing and power of God. Even though they go through the motions, they are doing it to please their spouses or a distant God whom they do not yet know.

They feel guilt or condemnation, or they want to keep up appearances. They are not honoring God because the desire to do so burns in their hearts. They are doing it because it is doctrine, not desire.

Activate Your Faith
Nothing comes to us except by faith. It is only faith that bridges those impossible gaps and moves mountains. Only faith pleases God, and faith only comes by the Word of God, not by tradition.

The way you solve the problem of tradition is by aligning the desires of your heart with God's Word.

If you do not like raising your hands, paying your tithes and giving offerings, coming to church, working in the ministry or sharing your faith, then you can change.

You can cause a desire to be born in your heart, which propels you up the path of God's will to obey the Word from your heart.

Out of the Pit
One of the most undervalued and under-utilized ways to follow God's will involves the desires of your heart. We find this truth articulated in the following familiar passage from the book of Psalms:
Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.
(Ps. 37:3-5)
The first instruction the psalmist gives is to trust in the Lord and do good. I believe the word trust in the Old Testament is a synonym for the word faith in the New Testament.

The foundation of trust, or faith, must be laid. Once you make the irreversible decision to trust God, then provision will be made for your life.

Next, the psalmist says to delight yourself also in the Lord. You must not stop with faith. You have to add delight to your faith because this is how the Lord begins to shape the desire, which motivates behavior.

Then you take the final step: Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. You cannot commit your way fully to the Lord until you have taken care of the desire issue. You have to lead with your heart.

Faith is the foundation. Then we delight ourselves in the Lord, and He begins to change our desires. Then our way can be committed to Him, and He will bring to pass the desires He has given us.

Source: The Last Millenium by Mac Hammond
Excerpt permission granted by Harrison House Publishers

Author Biography

Mac Hammond
Web site: Mac Hammond
 
Mac Hammond is senior pastor of Living Word Christian Center, a large and growing church in Brooklyn Park (a suburb of Minneapolis), Minnesota. He is the host of the Winner’s Minute, which is seen locally in the Minneapolis area and can also be viewed at winnersminute.com. He is also the host of the Winner’s Way broadcast and author of several internationally distributed books. Mac is broadly acclaimed for his ability to apply the principles of the Bible to practical situations and the challenges of daily living.
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