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Lesson for April 19th, 2014

Christ and Religious Tradition

Scripture Focus

Matthew 5:17-20; 15:1-6, 8, 9; 23:1-7; Isaiah 29:13; Romans 10:3


In human zeal, there is a danger that the spiritual focus will shift from God’s Word to human tradition.

Materials Needed

A box, paper, pens, a printout of the lyrics to the song “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof, whiteboard, markers

Connecting with the Scripture Topic

  1. When you were a child, what one thing bugged you most about adults? Did you ever say, “I’ll never do that!”? Do you do it now?
  2. When was the last time you broke the letter of the law to keep the spirit of the law? Explain.

Sharing and Receiving Scripture

  1. Think “outside the box.” Grab two slips of paper. On one slip, write a traditional spiritual activity that doesn’t seem relevant to you. On the other slip, write a more relevant activity that teaches the same spiritual lesson. Place your first paper inside the box and your second paper outside the box. Your facilitator will read the papers for you to discuss briefly.

  2. Thought Questions

Read Matthew 23:1-7. When you see a religious phony, what do you want to do?

  1. Turn off the TV.
  2. Expose this person’s hypocrisy to others.
  3. Take this person aside and quietly let him or her know what you are observing.
  4. Take a spiritual inventory of your own life to see where you may be inauthentic.
  5. Immediately reject whatever this person is selling.
  6. Other...

In Matthew 15:1-6, it appears that Jesus selected Option #2 (refer to the previous question). Why do you think that is?

  1. Exposing the Pharisees publicly sent a warning to others not to be fooled by them.
  2. This was a good opportunity to show the validity of Scripture by quoting Isaiah 29:13.
  3. The Pharisees started it by trying to embarrass Jesus publicly (v. 2).
  4. Jesus was wise enough to know when to speak publicly and when to address an issue privately.
  5. People easily recognize hypocrisy anyway, so this pulls away the façade.
  6. Other…

In Matthew 5:17-20, what do you think Jesus meant by “our righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees”?

  1. People in the twenty-first century have more temptations than the Pharisees did.
  2. We must be consistent in our speech and practice. By their inconsistent actions, the Pharisees inadvertently taught others to break the commandments.
  3. The Pharisees never accepted Christ’s righteousness, but we must.
  4. This was a “backdoor” way for Jesus to tell the Pharisees that they weren’t entering the kingdom of heaven.
  5. It is imperative that we live by the spirit of the law, since the letter of the law saves no one.
  6. Other…

In what ways do you see people exhibiting the condition described in Romans 10:3?

  1. When people make minor lifestyle issues into major requirements for salvation
  2. When people turn from biblical teachings to worldly philosophy and personal opinions
  3. When people embrace cheap grace and don’t allow the Holy Spirit to transform their characters
  4. I don’t look at other people—I personally struggle with this myself.
  5. In every belief system outside of Christianity, salvation is based on personal merit.
  6. Other…

Applying the Message of Scripture

Gather in groups of two or three. Choose one of the following options and work on a solution. Report back to your group when your facilitator says time is up.

  • Option 1: Read through the lyrics to the song “Tradition.” What can you agree with in the song? What things rub you the wrong way? In what ways do you see tradition both helping and damaging the lives of everyday people?
  • Option 2: Look through the “outside the box” slips of paper. Choose one and outline a strategy to make it happen. Write your plans on the whiteboard.
  • Option 3: Suppose an acquaintance who knows little or nothing of Scripture asks you about the tradition of foot-washing during the communion service. How would you explain this to a secular-minded person in a way that makes it relevant to him or her?

Valuing Scripture in Your Life

  1. Personally consider the role of tradition in your life. What habits or traditions enhance your walk with Jesus? Are there any rituals in your life that you should discard?
  2. Are you by nature more structured or unstructured? Are you free to be this way in your home? At work? In your church? How does this tendency affect your worship life?

Next Week's Scripture Focus

Matthew 5:17-48; Luke 16:16; Romans 7:24

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