When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I decided I wanted long nails. So, I got out my school paper (because it was the only paper I had; you know, the kind with lines), traced both my hands on it, and proceeded to draw "long" nails on my sketched fingers, taking great care to measure each thumb, pinky, ring-finger, etc. accurately so each "nail" would fit just right.
After tediously cutting and trimming, forming each nail to the correct size and shape, I carefully fitted them to each finger (not without mistakes, mind you, and several "re-cuts"). Finally, I got out the Elmer's Glue, and glued each paper nail to my chewed up ones, adjusting the paper so it would look like a perfectly formed nail. Once the glue was dry, I got out my peach-colored nail polish. It took three or four layers of that stuff to semi-hide the lines on the paper. By the time I was done (two or three hours later), I held my hands out in front of me and proudly displayed my long, beautiful, peach nails with unwanted stripes, and blew on the polish to help it dry.
"Sandi, time to mow the lawn!" Mom called from upstairs.
"But I just painted my nails!" I ran upstairs to show her the amazing artwork I painstakingly designed on my hands.
No amount of showing off, whining, or begging could convince her to let me forego mowing the lawn. So, I dragged the lawnmower out of the shed, taking care not to bump or snag my new nails on the bag, handle or doors.
So far, so good.
I started up the lawnmower and AWAY . . . WE . . . WENT, lawnmower, grass clippings, NAILS and all! Several manicured nails fluttered on the wind amongst the greenery, and tears filled my eyes from all that wasted hard work. Nails and grass flailed about me as I shoved the lawnmower along, stomping along, crying and shouting at the peach artistry sticking to my hair, the mower, and the grass---sticking to everything but where they belonged. To my dismay, some of those pieces of art got sucked up into the lawnmower, others scattered about the dying grass, and I scurried to retrieve them all, desperately trying to salvage what I could among the green shards.
Have you ever experienced a moment like this? Where, no matter how hard you worked, everything came undone? As if a gale of wind swept down on your well-laid plans and wreaked a tornado of havoc in your otherwise secure life?
It’s amazing how the problems of this world can provide great examples or comparisons to our spiritual lives. Jesus used this world (through parables) regularly to convey an important spiritual message. Just as in the Paper Nail story (which, believe it or not, DID happen; I’m sure this incredible story caused some to doubt its authenticity). Okay, let me start over because the following point is important . . .
Just as in the Paper Nail story, the same thing can happen with our faith if we don’t stick firmly to the Word. We read our Bibles, listen to the preacher, turn on our evangelical TV and radio stations, read Chrisitan blogs, anything we can find to guide us on the right track to Christianity. But then Someone comes along and shakes that foundation of our beliefs, our hard-earned faith that no one has a right to touch, let alone “critique” or question. We grasp at what we know (or believe) to be true, only to discover that what we’ve been doing or believing all our lives is not based on scripture, but based on the dreaded “traditions of men.”
Jesus once warned the Pharisees and scribes that they were neglecting the commandments of God and clinging to traditions of men. These were men highly honored and respected by the people (or themselves) as the elite of religion.
And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
Could there be a Pharisee or scribe in all of us? Clearly, this was included in the Bible for a reason. I don’t know about you, but I’ve stumbled upon spiritual truths that have awakened me from my stupor of pious religion. Spiritual truths as numerous as the grass clippings in my backyard! From microscopic details of “how to love my neighbor (husband, siblings, children, friends, etc)” to “how to love God.” I've found myself sometimes clinging to traditions of men (a.k.a. my own ideas), just like I tried to cling to those flailing nails, because I didn't want to change or accept the truth that was set before me. But my attempts were futile, and I'm sure I appeared to God as foolish as I did when chasing my paper nails. Sometimes I detested the truth, hated it with a passion. Yet, Truth stood before me, staring me straight in the face, and finally I had to accept it, accept my fate. I let go of those paper-nails and let them fly away or tossed what was left in the trashcan, resigned to loving God and His word, rather than the traditions of men. And somehow it's brought me unfathomable . . . JOY. TRUTH, by far, is more powerful than men's traditions, just like our real nails are more powerful than paper ones. Silly comparison, isn't it? And yet, this is how foolish we become when we can't "let go."
How in the world could we become like Pharisees and scribes when we are striving so hard to love our heavenly Father? Jesus answers that question in the verse quoted above. We “neglect the commandments of God,” which ultimately is Truth.
Where are the commandments of God found?
Where are the commandments of God found?
In His Word.
Here are some warnings from His Word:
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the TRADITION OF MEN, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (emphasis mine).
Are we like those paper nails, not clinging to the foundation, not standing on the chief cornerstone, (Matt. 21:33-45), and being carried about by every wind of doctrine? Are we even aware that this might be happening in our spiritual walk?
Jesus warns in Matthew 7: 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
Let me just say, Satan is good at what he does. He’s been around a lot longer than any of us. He knows what makes us tick and how to push our buttons. Remember, he’s known as the great deceiver, out to deceive “the whole world” (Rev. 12:9). And He even appears as an angel of light.
2 Corinthians 11: 14-15
. . . for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
Now that I’ve thoroughly frightened us all, how can we be careful that we don’t become like the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus’ day?
Let’s allow the Word to answer that question in the upcoming posts. But I’ll leave you with this hint:
2 Timothy 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the WORD OF TRUTH (emphasis mine).
Is there a time in your life where you had a "wake-up call" that involved your faith? If you're comfortable, please feel free to share it.