Mark 7:1-37

"Turn in your Bibles if you would to Mark chapter 7. Let's say one more word of prayer as we read God's Word and look at God's Word together. 'Father we know your Word goes out and it doesn't return void. So give us hearts to receive your Word. Give us ears to hear. Give us understanding God, I pray, in Jesus name. And please speak to us Lord, and for those that maybe have never heard your voice before, I pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit that they would clearly hear you this morning. But Lord, thank you, and just please Holy Spirit move amongst us, speak to us. We certainly desperately need you. We pray this in Jesus name, Amen.'

I was speaking with a Calvary Chapel pastor recently, and this particular pastor pastors a large church, and he was sharing with me just his heart, how he feels so unworthy to do what he does. Not that being a pastor is necessarily anything special. But he was just explaining how he feels very unworthy. And expressing concern with some ministers, at least from his perspective, but best that he can tell, that they don't seem to, well they, they seem to think anyway, by the way they appear, that they deserve the blessing of God and that they deserve or they've accomplished with their church or something. And he says, "You know, I feel so unworthy. And I'm just concerned for these other folks who don't really seem that way." And you know in my life there's times where God just reminds me how unworthy I am, just of His love and of His blessing. I really haven't accomplished anything good in and of myself. I don't deserve anything. Yet God for some reason, all because of his love has blessed my life, and certainly our lives here this morning.

I've been reading through the book of Exodus, and you know, you come, as you're reading through the book of Exodus, you come with the Israelites from Egypt and through the Red Sea and you come into the wilderness. And early on God begins to set up his methods of dealing with his people. He set these people apart, the Israelites. And early on in the wilderness, it's only been a short time, God appears to them in Mount Sinai and he is showing the people that he is the true and living God. So he appears, and there is smoke and there's fire, and there's thundering on top of this Mount Sinai, and the people are in the wilderness below and they are in great fear as you remember the story. They even say to Moses, "Hey, Moses. We don't want to have God speak to us directly, because it's fearful to even hear his voice. We want you to speak with him, and we want you to come and tell us all the things he's told you." We also see there that Moses goes up and spends some time with God, and God begins to just give him the Law, and this is right in the very beginning, just a few weeks out of the Red Sea.

I was reading this last week in the part of the Law, that first experience with Moses up on Mount Sinai with God where God even begins to institute the sacrifices, you know, the sacrifices of the lambs, and the bulls--all these sacrifices, and even makes a comment that they're going to be a continual thing forever with his people, of course pointing ultimately to Jesus Christ. You know, I was reading that, and as you do sometimes, you like--'man this is gory stuff'--and it seems kind of bizarre sometimes. You read, you know, here's the worship of God, and here's all this blood and all these dead animals. I was thinking about the priests, all they had to go through, all these days of just going in and taking these animals and killing them and pulling out their insides as God had commanded, and taking the fat off from the liver and fat from different parts and burning it. And I was like, 'That's just gory, you know.' Maybe you would think the same, I don't know. Maybe you enjoy that stuff. I thought it was gory. You know, worship for us is a lot different. On the other side of the Cross we come and sit comfortably with air conditioning, bagels and coffee upstairs, and great worship songs to worship God with. And there's a reason for that. But you know, you ask, 'Why such the gory scene, why the gory sacrifices?' And as you think about that and you read that, you're like, 'Wow.' It really speaks of the holiness of God--how holy God is. In order for him to set apart these Israelites as his people it required that all these bulls, all these animals continuously to be sacrificed because of their sin. God is just so far above them, he is so holy, yet they're sinners, we are sinners. And, as you read through that you consider that you're just like in awe of what was required, fellowshipping with God. Now when God had communion with the people of Israel, they still had the veil. You know the last song we sang this morning, 'God, we want to enter the Holy of Holies.' We want to go right through, past that veil, right to your presence, past the brazen altar. But you read, with the people of Israel, they weren't able to do that. Only the priests could do that. But God was so Holy and he was showing them how Holy he was, and how far they were from that, just the distance between God and man, and what was required temporarily, to have that type of relationship with him, ultimately pointing to the Cross--and the work that ultimately God had to do for you and I to have a relationship with him. And, you know, I was reading that, and I was like, 'Lord, I'm just so unworthy. I see all the gore, I see all the blood, and I know that's required for me too, just the blood of your Son because of who I am and what I've done. You're a Holy God, a Holy and awesome God.' You know, there's a passage that's repeated multiple times in the Bible. Whenever something is repeated multiple times, God is emphasizing a truth he wants us to know. His truth, of course, is throughout the Bible. But these specific words are repeated three times, summarized another time, in Psalm 14, Psalm 53, I don't know if you've noticed--it's like the same psalm. You're like 'Wait a minute here. Did someone just copy this Psalm a second time?' Almost verbatim, I think they are the same Psalm. And then Paul quotes that, those Psalms written by David. He quotes that in Romans chapter 3, he says, "There is none righteous, no not one. There is none righteous, not a single one. There is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside, they have all together become unprofitable. There is none who does good, no not one." The Bible says very clearly, there's not a man or a woman, child that has ever lived that has ever done good, because of our condition. And you read through the book of Exodus, and you see the gore and the blood and that just says that God is Holy, and we are far from that. We are so unworthy as people. Now I'm not trying to make you feel guilty. But there is a truth as we go to Mark chapter seven that we will see. Solomon declared the same. He said "And there's not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin." There's not a just man, we are all unworthy before a Holy and Righteous God. You know, you read through the book of Exodus, you consider all this, but then you look at America today [this sermon given 07.11.99], you look even at the church today in America. It seems there is a very different attitude, there's a very different understanding. I'm amazed to see how highly people think of themselves, especially in America as we stand on our successes and our achievements and our wealth, as if we've achieved something, as if we have some kind of favor before God, as if we've something special. I think we need to consider the Psalmist in Psalm chapter 49. The Psalmist wrote this. "Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him, for the redemption of the souls is costly." He says, 'You know, the rich, those that have all this accomplishment, those that trust in their own works, and their accomplishment, what are they going to do about the grave?'--is what the psalmist says. What are they going to do to redeem their own soul or soul of their brother. They can't do anything, because it's too costly for any man to pay for that, to redeem the soul from the grave. Today, many people boast of wealth and accomplishment, but you know, the grave is still right around the corner, still waiting. Not a whole lot they can do about the grave, not a whole lot man can do about the grave. "Who can pay the price to redeem their own soul or their brother's soul?"--the Psalmist says. He says, "No one, it's too costly." Well then, the Psalmist goes a little bit further. He says, "This is the way of those who are foolish, and of their posterity who approve their sayings." The N.I.V. says "This is the way of those that trust in themselves. Like sheep they've laid in the grave. Death shall feed on them. The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning, and their beauty shall be consumed in the grave far from their dwelling." He says, 'That's where it's going.' All those that trust in themselves today that look one way, the grave is still there, just waiting, waiting for them. I was, a couple weeks ago, was in a graveyard, as I was invited to go to a funeral in New York. And I went to this funeral service, and this service was in a church of course. And there was a good crowd of people, and at the end of that--I had to run to the boys room, and I went to the boys room--and all of the cars had left to go to the graveside, you know, the little service there in the cemetery. And because I had to make that special little trip I was left behind and I went on my own to go to the cemetery, and got there late. And you know how cemeteries are, they got the little tote-road that goes through it, and with all the cars that went, that little road was backed up for quite a ways. So I had to park behind a long line of cars quite a ways from the graveside. And you know funerals, they kind of get you thinking about things, about the reality of the situation. So I was walking through this cemetery looking at these tombstones and reading the names, some of the dates. Some of the dates were old, some weren't so old. Some had the birth date and didn't have the death date, evidently because the person hadn't died yet. And just considering that, and on the way back I was able to do the same, as they buried this person. As I was walking I was just thinking, you know, "Lord, this is where I'm going if Jesus tarries, if he tarries for another X-number of years, this is where I'm going, as far as life today the way I know it." I know I have eternal life in Christ. But as far as the body, this George right here today, this is where I'm going, I'm returning to dust. I'm going to be seen, basically, if Jesus tarries, as just a name on a tombstone. In some cases the tombstones say a little bit more about the individual and in some cases they don't. And as I was walking and thinking that, I just said a prayer, a prayer I've said before. I said, 'You know Lord, I don't want to be remembered for something foolish that I've done, I don't want to be remembered for worldly achievements. There's only one thing that matters, and it's serving you, you're the only thing that matters. This is clear, look at the tombstones. The only thing that matters in life is God. I want to be remembered as a man--if anybody does remember me, if there's anything extra on the tombstone--as a man that walked with you, that was used in your hand as an instrument.' But that's the reality of the situation, isn't it? That's where we're all going. Not to many people have gotten out of that one yet. If Jesus tarries much longer that's where we all go, every one of us, to the grave, to the tomb. And what are we gonna live for? What are we going to do with our lives? What are we going to be remembered for? You know, time is short, it's so short.

Well, I considered these things, I considered 'Lord, you've blessed my life so much, I don't deserve a single thing I have. I am so unworthy. I considered the things that I've done, the sin that I've committed all through my life, what I get and I've gotten from you God I just don't deserve. What I deserve I'm very glad I don't get, that you're not giving it to me some of the things I deserve for what I've done.' But I am unworthy. You know, if I got what I deserved, I would be there in that graveyard in that cemetery that I was in a couple weeks ago--I would be there in fear, considering what was ahead of me. But fortunately because of the grace of God... You know, Psalm 49 that Psalmist continues and I can shout out with the Psalmist in Psalm 49:15, he says, all that about those who trust in themselves and then he says, "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave...for he shall receive me." That's what he says. He says, "And God shall redeem my soul from the power of the grave." And that is the only way any of us are gonna get beyond the grave, by the power of God. You look in Exodus, you read about the sacrifices, you see a Holy God and you see a sinful man. But the Psalmist cries out, 'Im gonna get past the grave because of God.' And so, I can say that this morning, and so can many of us here. You know, we're going to be reminded a little bit later in Mark chapter 10, verse 45, "For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life a ransom for many." You know the Psalmist in Psalm 49 says, you know, 'Who can pay the ransom?' Nobody can pay the ransom for themselves. But Jesus came and he paid that price to redeem us. He paid that ransom, we were captive. He came to set us free, captive to the grave. All that says to you and I, God is a God of incredible love. The height to God, the depth to us, the distance between the two is so great. God is a God of incredible love, incredible compassion, incredible mercy, incredible grace. Truly understanding his love, truly understanding that has an effect on our attitude. Understanding how God loves me, understanding how far he had to go to save me. And Paul says something about that attitude that you and I should have in Philippeans chapter 2, he says, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit. But in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. But each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God [cf. John 1:1-11] did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to the death, even the death of the cross."

We're going to see in Mark chapter 7, as we look this week, and this is kind of the backdrop for these things that I've talked about. Mark 7:1-24. "Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, 'Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?' 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.'

For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men--washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.' And He said to them, 'All to well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' 'But you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban (that is, dedicated to the temple)'; 'and you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.'

And when he had called the multitude to Him, He said to them, 'Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 'There is nothing that enters a man from the outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!'

And when He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, 'Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from the outside cannot defile him. Because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods.' And He said, 'What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.'"


Two types of people come to God with two different attitudes. And you're going to see how God receives these people with different attitudes. But Paul exhorts us, 'May this attitude be in you'--and that's the attitude of who you really are, and in that understanding, incredible love and understanding of God, it's an attitude, a mind of humility, as Christ was. But the two attitudes, these two groups come to God, one of them experiences the power of God and one of them misses out on the power of God. And we're going to look at that in Mark 7. Let's begin with verse 1. "Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to him having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels and couches. And the Pharisees and scribes asked him, 'Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?'" Here you see the group of religious leaders that have come to check out Jesus, and they've come quite a ways. They've come from Jerusalem. Maybe they're sent out as a delegation from the mother church, you know, the temple back in Jerusalem, and they're gonna check out Jesus to see what this guy's really about. You see the perspective that they come with, they come to inspect, they come to determine the legitimacy of this ministry of Jesus. Now, in their eyes, in these men's eyes, in the eyes of many in the world today, these men would be seen as those accurately able to determine the spirituality of another. These guys are the religious pro's. They're the guys that are well trained in the Law and spiritual matters. Certainly in the eyes of many men, these men could determine who's a fake, who's not legit', who's a phony and who's the real thing. They could determine that. So these guys come to inspect. 'We're gonna see if this guy's really all he's about, if he really is a religious man.' They watch Jesus intently and they are amazed. I would say they are even horrified by what they see. As you read there they see Jesus' disciples eating bread, partaking in food without going through a certain process of washing their hands. Now what does that mean? Well, obviously it's important for you and I to wash our hands before we eat, that's not a bad idea. I was actually reading in "Our Daily Bread" this week by Martin D. Han, you know that little devotional, he has a devotional in there for one of the days of this week--he told of a health teacher that wanted to teach his students the importance of washing their hands before they eat, so he had them take a little instrument and had them scrape their fingers and scrape under their nails and they put it in an environment that would cultivate any bacteria. I guess it was a little petrie dish or something, and they put it in there and they came back a couple days later, and these students were horrified at what they saw. They saw these little critters that grow off their fingernails and off their hands. He was showing them, you know, you wash your hands because if you don't there's things there that potentially can make you sick. So it's important to wash our hands.

But that is not the reason why these men have come and now are upset, to what Jesus is doing and the fact these disciples of Jesus are eating with dirty hands. That has nothing to do with it. They're concerned because the disciples are not abiding by a tradition, a ceremony that had been established by the religious leaders. In the Old Testament God specifically laid out to the Jews [Israelites] how they could be ceremonially clean. He laid out how they could be defiled if they did certain things and also how they could become clean again. He made it very clear. But over the years the Pharisees, the Sadducees, these religious leaders began to interpret that [those ceremonial laws of God], and add on other types and ways that you could become defiled ceremonially, other ways you could get clean again. Initially, the heart of that, as you read the Mishna and things, that the heart of that was in a sense to build a fence around the Word of God, it was to protect the Word of God. But over the centuries these men's teachings began to be elevated, and elevated. In time it was elevated above the Word of God. And people began to seek man's wisdom, man's tradition, man's religion, and that's what we see here. They had gone pretty far with it. They believed that even the dust from the road that a Gentile past over, just the dust, if it got on you--you know somebody yesterday walked down the road, got some dust on him, a Gentile, and you walked out and that dust got on you--that you would be defiled. They taught that. Now that is really, you really got to work hard to not get defiled under that teaching, I mean, just dust from somebody else, you know. As you read here, it talks about the marketplace that they, as they went out in the marketplace and they would come back they would wash for that reason. Maybe you touched a coin that a Gentile had used. They also went further, they got a little bizarre. Some taught the demon Shibna, whoever that is, sounds like a guy in a cartoon, but Shibna, would often come and sit on a man's hands as he slept, making your hands therefore unclean, I mean you have a demon sitting on your hands. You'd better do something about that. That's what they taught. So you go to bed, your hands open, you got this demon hangin' out on your hand, you know. If you later eat with these hands the demon could enter through the food and take control of you. That's what they taught. They had people in bondage with this teaching. So they had this ceremony they instituted where you would wash your hands. The way you would do that, before every course of every meal you had to do this. You put your hands like this, you'd take an eggshell and a half of water and pour it down your finger and it would drip down your hands and then off your wrists. It was important to drip off your wrists. Then you would take your hands and put your hands like this and would take an eggshell and a half of water and pour it down your hands and off your fingertips. And then you would take one of the hands, put it over the fist like that and you would rub it and then you would reverse that and go like that. You would do that before every course of every meal, to be ceremonially clean. Nothing to do with bacteria, all to do with what they considered clean. If you didn't do that you were eating with defiled hands. They got pretty radical. They would teach that if a rabbi was ever caught eating bread and hadn't gone through that, he would be excommunicated. There is a story of one particular rabbi that was imprisoned by the Roman government. And he nearly died and the reason why he nearly died was because they gave him a ration of water every day, but instead of drinking the water, he would use it to do this, so he would be undefiled. I mean, being in a prison cell with rats would be considered being defiled, so he made sure he was cleansed every day from his glass of water rather than drinking it to stay alive. [And the Romans probably gave him just enough water to do one or the other, knowing the Jewish customs, out of a sick sense of humor, to see if they could get devout Jews to kill themselves.] That's how far this got with these people, how far they were from the truth and the heart of God.

With all that, the scribes and Pharisees are disturbed. Jesus' disciples were eating bread and they didn't do that. So they are disturbed, they come to question him on that matter. You know, Jesus' answer to them is to anybody with that type of heart. But you know it's amazing, as you go back to the book of Exodus, you see man where he's at, you see God where he's at, a Holy God, an unholy man, that we would even begin to think that there's things we can do in and of ourselves to make ourselves clean before God. I remember hearing a psychologist once talk about a person that had committed a sin. I don't remember what the sin was, but this behavior happens now and then because of our guilt. But this one particular individual this psychologist was counseling, because of repeatedly, all day long, he would wash his hands. He felt dirty, he committed a sin. And the very strange way, I mean he almost rubbed the flesh off his hands--wash his hands all the time, trying to get them clean, trying to get clean of his sin, rid himself of his sin, and he couldn't do it. And day in and day out washing his hands, washing his hands. So they were trying to counsel this guy because he was just going crazy, washing his hands. And you know we read in the Scripture Pontius Pilate tried to do that with Jesus, wash my hands, take some water, rid myself of that. But you know, we're so far from a Holy God, what is a little handwashing gonna do for our sin in our heart? Not a whole lot. Well, Jesus, he doesn't like where these guys are at. You see his response. He answers them, verse 6, and he says to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'These people 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.'" He says, 'You guys are hypocrites and God cannot stand a hypocrite.' You know, people today don't come to church because they say the church is hypocritical. And you know, if people can't stand hypocrites, God really can't stand hypocrites. But we're all hypocrites to one degree or another. You know, a hypocrite, that word originates with the Greek, the Greek actors would go do their plays and they would put on a different mask to do a different part, so they are called hypocrites, you know, you'd be somebody you're not. And that's what Jesus says, 'You guys are just actors man, you're acting like one thing, coming to inspect me as a spiritual little delegation here that knows what you're doing. But you guys are hypocrites.' He says, 'Isaiah, what Isaiah said about people, he said about you for sure.' He says, "These people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain they worship me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men." He's talking about vain worship. He's saying that you can worship and go through ceremonies and be religious and be zealous, but be doing something that is completely in vain because it's just missing the mark. And that's what God says, and that's what Jesus says of these people. Jesus has no patience when it comes to the religion of man, he has no interest, zero interest in the religious observances of man. I, when I went to Israel, I was watching the Orthodox Jews, it was interesting being on the plane for a day and seeing as the sun rose on the plane, that these Orthodox Jews would get up, they would put on their prayer shawls, and they would go right at it. It was interesting, I would just kind of watch them there on the plane, both times. Coming back they did the same thing. Sun rose, they got up, even though they've only had a half hour's sleep on the plane, they'd get up and they'd stand there right in the aisle, they'd start bobbing up and down and start doing the little things with their phylacteries, right there in the aisle, on the plane--just watching them do it. And then going around Jerusalem, going to the Wailing Wall, you know, this place that's pretty intense to go to. But just watching these guys. And I guess there's some kind of correlation, the faster you bob up and down, the more energy you do that with, truly determines there's more faith in his prayer. So you go up to the Wall and they're going really fast, really jerking, and they do it for awhile. And it's like a really intense prayer. And ultimately, I don't know their hearts, so I'm not trying to belittle them, but that does say to me a picture of vain worship. Because you may be doing this really fast bobbing up and down, and people are like, this person is really praying. But your heart is far from it. Your heart isn't there at all. And that's what Isaiah said, Isaiah said, 'You people, you go through this worship, you go through all this ritual, all this ceremony, all this praying (as we're gonna see in other Scriptures), and yet your heart is far from me. It's in vain. Well, can God say to you, that your heart is far from him? Can God say to you, maybe even today, that you're worship often is just in vain because there's no heart. God is concerned about the heart. He's not concerned about the clothes you wear to church or how you pray or what you say. He's concerned mostly about your heart. He sees the heart, and that's what Jesus gets at. God desires a people who love him. God desires a people who love him. You can usually tell when somebody's putting on an act, you know. You get insecure around those kind of people. 'Oh, this person says they love you.' But I question if they do. And God just can't stand it. But God wants people that love him, love him with all their heart, all their soul. David said, "Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, my ears you have opened, for an offering and sin offering you do not require." And God instituted that and then David saying, 'You don't require that.' "Then I said, 'Behold I come, in the Scroll of the Book it is written of me, 'I delight to do your will O my God, and your law is within my heart.'" David said, 'I delight to do your will.' Can God say that of you, or can you say that? 'I delight to do the will of God. I delight to do his will.' Can you say too that God's law is within your heart?--in your heart?--not just on the bookshelf at home--you pull it out for Sunday morning. It's got to be in your heart, man, deep in your heart, his law.

You know, in Exodus we see that God is so Holy. We see that man is so sinful. That gap is so high, that's how far God had to go to redeem us, to pay that ransom through Christ. Our ceremonial cleansings, our little baths that we try to take, our little procedures we like to go through, don't mean anything if there's no heart. They don't mean a thing to God, because of that gap, we can't bridge it on our own. We just can't. It is impossible. Sadly, today, you look in the church, the history of the church, and it's gotten focussed on the outside, on the ceremony, on the religion, on the conduct, on the appearance, and neglected the heart. [i.e. concentrating on outward forms of worship instead of substance--nothing can spiritually kill, starve a congregation to death faster than setting your priorities on outward forms of worship rather than the substance of sound teaching and preaching of the Word of God. Promoting outward forms of worship and ceremonies in place of instituting the sound teaching of the Word of God is like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic--you're still going down.] It [outward ceremony] is a big priority in church today.

You know, I was looking in Exodus 33, at the priest in the Old Testament, and he has this beautiful garment, all the different things that God commanded them to make, and use the finest, as so many parts of the clothing was in gold, and then he even had the priest set aside, had to be bathed and actually had sacrifices, bulls and things, to be done for them, just to set them apart to be priests. All the things they had to go through. And I was looking at that, and it says in Exodus 33 that it's beautiful to God, the priests, his garments and the gold, it was all done, the beauty of that was to show that a man set apart, holiness, a holy life is beautiful before God. But unfortunately, so many get wrapped up in the garments, you know. They look at their clothing, and they stay right there and forget what God is trying to say, it's that a holy life is beautiful to God, someone set apart for the Lord. Unfortunately some get caught up in the turban and the belt and how it looks. And that's because they want to look a certain way, and they miss the whole truth of the matter. Maybe this morning you put your trust in the garments of religion. You put your trust in that, and you can do pretty good at it, getting people to think you're pretty religious. These Pharisees and scribes man, people think as they come to Jesus, 'These guys are the top dogs.' You can look pretty good in front of people if you want. You can put your trust in the tradition of man and his teaching and look good in front of man, and miss the whole truth of the matter. And as we're gonna see, God, as we already read, sees these people very differently than they think. Well Jesus continues, "For laying aside the commandment of God" he says, I mean, they even lay aside the commandment of God, "you hold the tradition of men, the washing of pitchers and cups and many other such things you do." He said to them, "all too well you reject the commandment of God that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said 'honor your father and your mother, and he who curses father and mother let him be put to death.' But you say if a man says to his father or mother 'Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban, that is, a gift to God', then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do. When he had called the multitudes to himself he said to them, 'Hear me everyone and understand, there is nothing which enters a man from the outside which can defile him, but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.' When he had entered a house away from the crowd his disciples asked him concerning the parable, so he said to them, 'Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from the outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach and is eliminated thus purifying all foods.' And he said, 'What comes out of a man, that defiles a man for from within, out of the heart of man proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness, all these evil things come from within and defile a man.'" (Mark 7:8-23.) Jesus set the matter straight. He said, 'You guys have these traditions above the Word of God. You've even put the Word of God aside to hold these traditions.' And he gives us one example. He says there's many but as an example he says, 'You've got this Corban tradition where a young man can say 'All my things are Corban, devoted as a gift to God' and when he says that, now when Mom and Dad comes to him later and says 'Hey, you know, we're getting old, our social security is run out and we need a place to stay.' He says, 'Hey, I've devoted all my stuff to God, sorry, it's his, you can't have it.' And Jesus says, 'That is just hypocritical, God's Word said, one of the Big Ten, Honor your father and mother. If you don't, whoever curses his father or mother will be put to death.' And you've come up with this handy little tradition.' In fact it did allow the young man to use some of it for himself. But no way could Mom and Dad have access to that. He says, 'You come up with these little extra ceremonies, just to sidestep the Law of God. And you know the church does that today. There's many examples we've come up with. "Well, you know, God says that, but hey listen, we've learned a little bit more with our science and we've learned a little bit more with this, and there's exceptions to the rule." Or, "Hey, you know, this is acceptable in our culture today. It wasn't acceptable then, but it's acceptable today, it's no problem with God." We come up with all these exceptions to just the simple law of God. And, you know, I think of tithing, and I hardly ever teach on tithing but I feel I can say this. I don't know what you guys give. You guys give a lot. Well some people will say, "I don't need to tithe because I give my time." Things like that, "I'm not going to give to God financially because, well, I can't afford it, and I give all my time." But that's not the same. Read the book of Malachi if you think that's the same. God wants the firstfruits, the giving of all of our life, the giving from our finances, the giving from our time, he wants the firstfruits of it all. He deserves it. I mean, look what he's done in your life to save you. Yet some will say, "Hey, I give my time, I give my time. That's good enough." I wonder what God thinks. Now I don't know what you guys give, I don't teach on tithing, rarely. But that's just an example, today, where we come with exceptions to the rule, to meet our own, what we form as our standard of righteousness and not the standard that God has.

Well, verse 15, God says, 'Nothing that enters a man from the outside could defile him, what defiles him comes out of his heart.' When he said that it was like a, you know, like some of those big fireworks that went off last week at the lake, somebody had some serious bucks and bought some serious fireworks. I'm sure the police were hunting this guy down, but he was making some serious explosions. And that was kind of what this was like when Jesus said this, because up to this point, there's a certain religious understanding that the people have now gotten to. And he just completely blew it out of the water. They had a certain understanding that "Well, we have to clean up the outside." "We have to look good on the outside in order to be godly holy people"--and Jesus says "No, what's going on in your heart, that is what defiles you." Maybe your buddy doesn't know your thoughts, maybe you neighbor doesn't know what you're doing in the dark, but that is what defiles you, that is what defiles you before God. Not the fact that you can wash your hands and take a bath or whatever it might be. He completely changes it, what's on the inside is what's important not what's on the outside. Now that doesn't mean we don't monitor what comes from the outside. We have to monitor what comes from the outside too, because sometimes what comes from the outside can effect what's on the inside. So sometimes we can tell that what's coming from the outside that's spiritually harmful, defiling is based on what's going from the inside out. You follow what I'm saying? There are some things [influences, pornography for example] I don't know if I said it right, but if you struggle with gluttony you need to monitor what you eat. If you don't, maybe you don't need to monitor it as closely. If something that is coming from without is gonna stumble you from within, you need to monitor it. But, what causes me to be defiled is right here, right here in my head.

He says in verses 18-23, he says 'Evil thoughts, those are what defile a man.' You know, I was thinking about that. You know, we can play such a good game, look so religious, but just be a cesspool between our ears. You really can be. And you look at the priests in the Old Testament, the priests were given this garment, and on part of the garment they were given a gold plate. I thought this was real interesting, it was inscribed--God is instructing this to Moses--'take this gold plate and write on it "Holiness to the Lord", and have them attach it to the front of their turban, and have that plate rest on their forehead.' So when the priest was going about the temple and tabernacle business he had it right there, "Holiness to the Lord", "Holiness to the Lord", just to remind him that his mind and his heart was to be focussed on God, and God is very Holy. Everything is focussed on God, it's not so much on the ritual, it's God and he's Holy. But also just there on the forehead it's a holiness thing through and through. It's not just the garment and the practice. And you know, to be honest with you, I read that and I was like, 'God, man give me a holy mind.' I wrote in my journal, I said, "God, a holy mind means a holy life. And that is powerful living." A holy mind, a plate, "Holiness to the Lord", my thoughts focussed on God, that's gonna produce a holy life. And that is powerful living. [Look up Exodus 28:36 and 39:30 to see where this command about the gold plate "Holiness to the Lord" appears.]

Well, you read the last verses, I don't know if you're guilty of any of those. I could check off a couple of them anyway. And if you really look at the spirit of what's being said, not necessarily the act, I'm sure I could check off every one, 'cause I've committed every possible sin in my heart [mind], and that's what's important. We are defiled as men. Our methods, our ceremonies, ain't gonna make a difference because of who we are. We can't just wash here or there or do this or that and think it's gonna make a difference before a Holy and Righteous and Awesome God. There's only one way to get clean, only one way. And that's what the Psalmist said. Let's look in Isaiah chapter 1. [But first in] Psalm 49 he said, "God, you've redeemed me from the grave." Mark chapter 10, verse 45 'He came to serve, Jesus did, and to be a ransom for many.' 1 Timothy, the same thing, "to be a ransom for all". Isaiah chapter 1, God says to the people of Israel a long time later, he says this to them many times. He says it to you and I, too, he says--Isaiah 1, verse 11, "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me?' says the Lord. 'I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls or lamb or goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required this from your hand to trample my courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices. Incense is an abomination to me. The new moons and the sabbaths and the calling of assemblies, I cannot endure iniquity in the sacred meeting. Your new moons and appointed feasts my soul hates. They're a trouble to me. I'm weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands I will hide my eyes from you. Even though you will make many prayers I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean. Put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice to rebuke the oppressor, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. 'Come now and let us reason together' says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you're willing and obedient you shall eat the good of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword.'" He says to them, 'You know, I gave you all this to show you that I'm a Holy God and I want your heart and what I have to do to even commune with you--ultimately pointing to what he was going to have to do on the cross--Jesus Christ. But they got all wrapped up in being religious and saying, "Hey, look at the good we're doing, look how pompous and religious I am." They come to the feasts and they come to the church [or in their time, the synagogues] with this attitude that they've accomplished something and he says 'You know, it just doesn't mean anything to me, it's completely vain the way you go about it, your heart is so far from me.' [And in Isaiah, the Lord was referring to sacrifices and Holy Day observances he had commanded in the book of the law, the Torah, not the added washings Jesus was referring to. The Torah law wasn't bad, but what the Lord is pointing out in Isaiah was that their worship even while doing what the Lord commanded with these days and sacrifices was purely vain because of what was going on between their ears and in their lives, pure and simple.] And then he says, in the real truth of why, he says [in Isaiah] 'Wash yourselves, yourselves, you guys are defiled. You're dirty. You look religious, but look at the things that you think. You look religious, but look at the things you do. You look religious, but look at the things you say, to your spouse or to your children in private.' He says, 'You come and you want to look a certain way. You come acting as if you're on top of it, spiritually, but you're so far from it...' He says, 'Learn to do what's right, cease to do the evil.' 'If you're really a person after my heart, that's gonna by your heart, to just turn away from evil and turn to what is right.' And then he says, 'Come now, let us reason together. You are just stained in your sin, but I have the power to make you as white as snow.' And of course, we know that's through the Cross and through Jesus Christ and through the salvation he's given to us.

I'm gonna go through to the end of this fairly quickly, 'cause we finished it in the first service...Mark 7:24-30. "And from there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. But Jesus said to her, 'Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs.' And she answered and said to Him, 'Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children's crumbs.' Then He said to her, 'For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.' And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed." You know, Jesus said to these hypocrites that trusted in their own ways, he said, 'Man, you guys are hypocrites. I don't even want to be around you.' But now, you see a very different person. The religious leaders looked good to the people, but they looked a very different way to God. Here is the exact opposite. Here's a lady, she was born probably in the land of Canaan, so she's a Syro-Phoenician by birth, but she's a Greek, so she's a part of the Greek culture. She knows the Greek language, she's living in the Greek culture as the Greek empire was large at one time [and spanned across the Middle East all the way to the border of India]. So that is who she is, and she represents a lot in that because the Greeks would despise her because she's a woman, the Jews to the south--Jesus had just gone outside of the kingdom of Israel, 20 miles to Tyre and Sidon--the Jews would also despise this lady, for one, she's a woman, and in their religion they said a dog was better than a woman. You know, you remember the prayer. A [Jewish] man would get up and say "Thank God that I'm not a woman or a dog, Lord, a Gentile, a dog or a woman Lord." That's what he would say when he got up in the morning. Now I don't say I believe that. And that's just twisted, that's just the heart of man. But that's how one of these scribes would see this lady. She's a Gentile and she's a woman. I mean, she was just a low-life in the eyes of one of these religious leaders. But how does God see this lady? A lot differently than the people do. She comes, and man does she come to the feet of Jesus with just a desperate heart. In Matthew we read, she says, "Lord, son of David, I have this daughter that's demon possessed." She cries that out, she says repeatedly, "Lord, son of David." Now the Pharisees never said "Son of David", they just thought he was out-to-lunch. They were threatened by him. But here's this Greek lady saying, "Lord, son of David", saying that he's the Messiah, the Messiah the Jews were supposed to seek after. And then she said, "Lord, help me", and Jesus is ignoring her. In fact, in Matthew, the disciples come to her and say, "Hey, listen, get out of here. You're bothering Jesus." They come to Jesus and say, "This lady's bothering us, let's get rid of her." She kept saying, "Lord help me, Lord son of David, I have this little girl that's demon possessed, Lord help me.' Well, Jesus knows this lady's heart, and does faith ever please God, so he just takes this little jewel of faith and he's gonna show us the depth of her faith, and he tests her, so you and I can read about it. But he says to her, well, finally, ignoring her for awhile, finally he says, 'Let the children be filled first Mame, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs.' Now, the Jewish children when they eat, a Jewish person, they would, they didn't have handkerchiefs and napkins. They would eat, but at the end they would save one piece of bread to clean their hands with. They would wash the oils and the particles of food with a piece of bread, and then they would just toss it to the dog. And that seems to be what Jesus is referring to here, and he's trying to get at a point. The little dog did get some bread, but it was the left-over bread, thrown to the little puppies. And Jesus is just so blessed by her answer. She says, "Yes Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." 'Yeah, you say that children should get the bread first, but those little puppies, man, they get some crumbs. They get some left-over that's thrown down to them.' And with that, Jesus says, "Woman, for this saying, go your way, the demon has gone out of your daughter." Now that's a beautiful heart. Let's look at Psalm 51. Psalm 51, verse 5. You know, as I was studying, it's amazing if you teach the Word, and whenever you do, that God just leads you. And everywhere I went this Psalm 51:5 was before me, in my commentaries and my journal. And this is what the Lord wants to say to us, "Behold," David says, "I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold you desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part you will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness that the bones you have broken may rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners shall be converted to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth your praise. For you do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; you do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifice of a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart--these O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:5-17).

You have those that come to Jesus in Mark chapter 7, and come with the ceremonies and religious clout and he doesn't want anything to do with it, he doesn't desire it. But this lady comes with a broken and desperate heart on her knees, 'Jesus, help me, Jesus, help me', and Jesus says, 'That's a jewel of faith.' 'You go home, your daughter is well, the demon has left her.' Can this be said in your heart too? You know, you look at this lady's faith, faith in action, she knows that Jesus is the only way to help her daughter's condition. She's persistent in her cries, she's persistent in her pleas, she's not gonna leave until Jesus answers [and this is how we should pray: ask--keep on asking; seek--keep on seeking; knock--keep on knocking.] and that is beautiful desperate faith. And that's the heart that God wants, that's the heart God wants when we come here on Sunday mornings, in reverence of God, in desperate need of him, for we're not worthy for wanting his power and love in our life. In desperation when we get up, every day in his Word and in prayer, 'God, please help me, God son of David, please bless me, God son of David, please lead me.' That is the heart that God will not despise. That is the life that God would bless. Can that be said of your heart today? Can that be said of my heart today?--is the question.

Well, as we read the very end of chapter 7 of Mark--Mark 7:31-37. "And again, departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon, He came through the midst of the region of Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee. Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him. And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue. Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, 'He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.'" Once more Jesus has come back from Tyre and Sidon, he's come back to the area of Israel, this time on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, the Decapolis region. This was the region where the man with the demon Legion was cast out of him. And the people, if you remember, in that community said, 'Hey, Jesus, get outa here.' But Jesus had told this man, 'Go and tell people.' [The only guy he's told to do this at this point.] 'Go and tell people the great thing that God has done in your life.' Everyone else he's quieted, but evidently that man was faithful in doing it, did a pretty good job, because now Jesus comes back and there's a multitude around him as you read in Matthew 15. And in this multitude there's this one particular guy who's deaf and he can't speak. So Jesus does something a little different this time. Possibly because the guy can't hear him as to why he does it, to give him a point of contact for his faith. He puts his fingers in his ears and actually puts siliva on his tongue. And with that the man is healed. And that just says to you and I, there's no method in the Work of God. God just uses whatever way he chooses to use, you know. You can't make a method out of siliva and putting fingers in people's ears. Jesus doesn't do it that way every time. He does it differently. But just to make note as we conclude, they begged him to put his hand on him, again they came desperate, 'Please touch this man, please touch this man, I know you can do it Jesus, I know you can heal him.' And he did. I was talking to someone after the first service, this particular gentleman, has just been struggling for a long time, in bondage. And sometimes the enemy can get a real deep hook in you. And I just kept reminding him and telling him--Jesus is the answer. You can try all sorts of methods, all sorts of things, but when you get to the point where you know--if I keep grabbing onto Jesus--maybe I'll stumble today, maybe I'll struggle tomorrow, but if I keep getting up and grabbing onto him, he is my answer--he will deliver me, he will set me free and he will do the work in my life. And there's no doubt that Jesus wants to do that in all our lives."