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Avoiding Empty Religion – Matt.15:1-20

Updated: Dec 24, 2019


INTRODUCTION – Our theme this year – “Your Kingdom Come”

The reality of two kingdoms

One aspect of the kingdom of darkness is obvious – that being – those who out and out reject Christ and Christianity. But another is not so obvious = those who claim to know God/be Christians, but whose worship is empty and man focused and thus not acceptable to God, and who seek to win other adherents to their hypocrisy.

Today’s passage will help us sort through the confusion Six Danger Signs or Tell Tale signs of Empty Religion 1. Too concerned about error in other camps (vs. 1,2) These Pharisees and scribes came all the way from Jerusalem to deliver this rebuke. They had a radar perception of anyone who didn’t zealously follow all the religious rules that they did; and they were quick to pounce on any such offender.

Folks who are stuck in empty religion or even empty or diluted Christianity will have a fixation with the supposed or accused errors of others; and those errors will not be disobedience to clear commands of God; but rather the lack of emphasizing the things they emphasize. If you are truly following the King and seeking His kingdom, you will have little time to worry about the faults of others – unless the issue is obvious rebellion against the clear commands of God in His word – commands that are validated by the new Testament I might add.

2. Too concerned about external rituals instead of internal righteousness (vs. 2) The old testament never commands the washing of hands before eating bread. But the elders determined this was necessary. People who are devoted to religion – – who are not giving proper attention to their own growth in godliness, which requires the constant transformation of their hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit of God – – will replace the time and energy that would be needed in that pursuit with something that instead deals with surface or external things.

3. More concerned about heeding the teachings and interpretations of man instead of the clear commandments of God. (vs. 3,4) Many people who start out following Christ, end up following the teachings of men. Tis one of the greatest dangers to the church. Our flesh prefers tangible rituals or practices that we can follow in our own human strength. Jesus Christ is not visible to the naked eye most of the time; and He requires of His disciples – that we humble ourselves and admit our sin and our need of His cleansing purifying blood. We men especially would prefer often to just follow a bunch of rules that we can control, than build a relationship that requires us to give up control.

“Hey have you read so and so’s book? Oh man, you gotta read it…..”

4. Inclined to justify the disobedience of clear commands of God by hiding behind the teachings of man. (vs. 5,6)

The real motive of these people appealing to the “Korban” principle is greed, not giving to the church. Religions or versions of Christianity that allow me to live life the way I want to, and hold on to my rights, and continue to allow life to revolve around me are a great attraction to many.

Beware of any version of Christianity that allows you to take lightly the many commands of the word of God regarding the family. Know that religion will always end up attacking the family in one way or another. Because the author or the one who inspires false religion or deluded Christanity is the father of lies, and hater of families himself.

The kingdom of God – that is – people who have entered and are seeking and pursuing the kingdom or rule of God in their lives will always have a desire and commitment to build relationships and fulfill responsibilities with their families and clans. Because that is very close to the heart of the King, who rules this kingdom.

5. State of their hearts is not in keeping with the words of their mouths (vs. 7-9) They sing the same songs and may even mouth the same words as we do; but their hearts are cold towards the Lord Jesus Christ. They, like Judas, are offended and put off with people who speak or act in affectionate or passionate ways towards our Lord. They do not love the word of God. Rather they love the words of men, who claim to represent Him.

Definition of Worship: “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” William Temple

6. Unwillingness to accept what God says about the state of our hearts, how to watch over it, and what the real source of evil is or where it originates (vs. 15-20) The Pharisees and Scribes knew the O.T. scriptures backwards and forwards. They of all people should have known the primacy of the heart in knowing and pleasing God. Especially the following five principles re: the heart. a. God flooded the earth because of the wickedness of the heart of man: Gen 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

b. Many times in the O.T. God communicated through His prophets that the only way to find Him or really get close with Him is to seek Him with your whole heart: Deu 4:29 “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.

c. God longed to bless and fulfill and satisfy those who loved Him with a whole heart: Deut. 5:29 ‘Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!

d. Moses gave the commandment that Jesus Christ later said was the greatest of all commandments: Deu 6:5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

e. This is why King david prayed that God would give him a clean heart. Clean and pure hearts must be cultivated:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Six Concrete Ways to Avoid Empty Religion: 1. staying in the scriptures daily until there is some kind of a heart response

2. staying in prayer until my will begins to be in submission to His

3. staying in books that tug at my heart strings – David Br. Last night – p. 316 – 2nd para.

4. Staying in fellowship with others that stir me on to more than going through the motions – – this wed. in Nipomo

How to deal with those who are caught in man made and man focused religion: 1. Focus on those who are hungry (vs. 10)

2. After speaking the truth to the deceived, leave them alone. Do not waste time with them in their unrepentant state (vs. 11-14) If the state of our hearts and the maintenance of our hearts is so important in the kingdom of God; then the last thing we want to do is hang around with people who claim to be in His kingdom, but who focus on merely external things and ignore the state of their hearts.

CONCLUSION – As we prepare our hearts to come to the Lord’s table – – I’d like to ask that some of you either read scriptures that speak of the heart – – or pray some prayers for our hearts


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