Matthew 15:6-9

There was a survey in NorthCountryNow last week that asked the question,

"Do you attend a house of worship regularly in St. Lawrence County?"

The results were almost 50-50. (50.2% -- No 49.8%-- Yes) I was surprised by the results as I think that there are a lot more people who don't go to church than there are that go. But I suppose that church going people are more apt to reply to a survey like that so I believe that explains the results. But the comments were interesting. One person wrote,

"Yes in my own house."

Another wrote,

"If you count going to the woods as a house of worship."

Another comment was similar,

"I find divine spirit out in the woods, or in my canoe."

Another combined this sentiment with a criticism of the church. He wrote,

"Yes in the woods behind my house, there's a lot more of God's work there than you'll find in any church these days."

It's certainly true that the beauty of nature displays God's glory and we can praise Him when we're in the woods. But if anyone thinks that takes the place of public worship, either they don't know anything about what the Bible teaches or they choose to ignore it's teachings.

Indeed, what was most characteristic about the comments was that they put their judgment up as the ultimate spiritual authority. Either through ignorance or through willful rejection they dismissed the Bible's authority and teaching. One person wrote,

"I do not participate in organized religion. I was raised Catholic but the church is too judgmental for my taste. I believe everyone has the right to their own spiritual path but that does not mean your way is the only way. I have a right to believe what I feel is right in my heart, and so do you. I also do not feel it is right to 'push' your religion onto others. Just because I do not belong to a church does not mean I am spiritless. I am not evil. I both have and stand by my morals and values."

He believed he and others had the right to make their own spiritual paths and that these paths might be different. Another said,

"I have faith - deep faith, but not in organized religions, which do little more than herd people to some other person's set of morals and civic ethics."

He has faith, but in what? Apparently whatever he believes wants to.

Another was concerned about money. He wrote,

"I have no interest in giving my money to a bunch of old men so that they can continue to brainwash today's youth along with the continued brainwashing of the ignorant and emotionally needy. Any God can be worshiped properly without all the [stuff] that goes along with modern organized religions, and all the fees and tithes that go along with them."

Still another expressed concern about the hypocrisy in churches. He wrote,

"Organized religions are so different in beliefs and most are over the top with too much religious talk. One only needs to be a good person, be honest, have good work ethics, treat others and have good morals. A non-church going person can be just as good as someone who goes to church regularly. In my lifetime I have known several people who preach religion, go to church regularly and are not the most honest people and treat others with disrespect and downright rudeness. I also think that religions are a cult since cults are groups of people who are dictated to as to what to believe."

It's true that hypocrisy is bad. Jesus speaks against it in out text. One of the points He makes here is that our worship must be sincere, and we are going to get to that in a moment. But where that person gets it wrong is that he places his preferences, as far as what is good is concerned, as the ultimate truth.

But Jesus tells us something different. He said, (Matthew 15:6–9)

"for the sake of your tradition
you have made void the word of God.
You hypocrites!
Well did Isaiah prophesy of you,
when he said:
'This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines
the commandments of men."

Our text this morning is the second installment of our series on the purpose of the church. We're continuing to look at worship. There are two main lessons I want to draw from our text.

First of all, Jesus makes it clear that

true worship is sincere, it is spiritual.

He quoted from Isaiah 29:13 and tells us that we dare not honor God with our lips and not our hearts. His language is very severe. He called the Pharisees and teachers of the law hypocrites. He's basically saying,

"You pretenders! You fakers!"

It conveys the idea of an actor behind a mask. (Lenski). Jesus calls them out for evading the laws demands. Their hearts weren't really in it. They worship wasn't spiritual.

There are rules in the worship of God. These rules come to us from God. For example, in John 4:23-24, Jesus told the woman at the well,

"a time is coming and has now come
when the true worshipers
will worship the Father in spirit and truth,
for they are the kind of worshipers
the Father seeks.
God is spirit,
and his worshipers must worship
in spirit and in truth."

Worship that is spiritual is from the Holy Spirit. It involves the heart as well as the lips and the mind. Eric Alexander writes, (Our Great Savior and God, p. 133)

"Of all divorces, this is the most fatal – the divorce of the lips from the heart in worship."

John Calvin says, (on John 4:23)

"The worship of God is said to consist in the Spirit because it is only the inward faith of the heart that produces prayer and purity of conscience and denial of ourselves, that we may be given up to obedience of God as holy sacrifices."

Jesus told the Pharisees that their heart wasn't right in their worship. The example that He used with them was their practice of korban which they used to evade the commandment to look after their parents. They taught that if one vowed property or finance to the temple, that that freed them from the duty of caring for their parents with that money—even though they could continue to use it for their benefit during their lifetime.

The hypocrites. They honored God with their lips but their hearts were not engaged. They did not love God.

William Hendriksen, (Matthew, p. 614)

"Pharisees and scribes were constantly honoring God with their lips, that is, outwardly… while inwardly they were corrupt, their heart being far removed from the very One whom they were praising with their lips."


"The substance of what our Lord states on this subject is, that, since the worship of God is spiritual, and as nothing pleases him that is not accompanied by the inward sincerity of the heart, they who make holiness to consist in outward display are hypocrites."

What this means for you is that you have to honor God with your heart.

Do you honor God with your heart?

Why do you come to church? To be well thought of by other people? Why do you sing the hymns heartily? So that people will look at you and think that you're a fine Christian?

In Jesus' day some people used to do their good works so that others would think well of them. Jesus said, (Matthew 6:5)

"And when you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
for they love to pray standing in the
synagogues and on the street corners
to be seen by men.
I tell you the truth, they have
received their reward in full."

Now there are some things you have to do in the presence of other people. Public worship is one of them. But in doing our public acts of worship we need to examine our motives and if they are incorrect we need to change them. This is only something that you can do. No one else can see into your heart. But you need to look there and see if your heart is focused on God, on worshiping Him. John Calvin tells us that true holiness,

"consists in sincere uprightness of heart;"

But what does it mean if we worship God from the heart, with true love for God?

It means that He will be the focus of your worship. It will be all about Him, about His honor, about His will, about His Word. It will be about submission, about humility and serving and pleasing Him. He will be the focus. Worship is about God, celebrating His character, His perfections and His work. The worship scenes in Revelation 4 and 5 make that clear. It's all about God. The 24 elders cast their crowns before the throne of God.

Yesterday was Valentine's Day. On Valentine's Day it's normal for people to go out to restaurants. It was probably too cold for some of you to do that. But if a guy is taking his valentine out and he loves her, unless it's a surprise—he's going to ask her which restaurant she wants to go to.

In the same way—our worship of God is to be from our hearts and is to be focused on Him, on His character, on His will. R.C.H. Lenski writes,

"The very first requirement of his Word which is also fundamental for all true worship of God is genuine sincerity toward him and his Word."

Notice how Lenski stresses that we have to gave genuine sincerity toward God and his Word. John Calvin says,

"there is no reasonable worship of God but what is directed by the rule of his word."

This leads us to our second point.

Our worship must be based on God's Word.

Jesus accused the Pharisees and teachers of the law of, (verse 6, ESV)

"void the Word of God."

They nullified the Word of God.

It's the same today. The Word of God is what is left out of most discussions of worship today. There were some Christians who left comments on the NorthCountryNow survey and God's Word was mentioned—but most people thought they could worship whatever way they wanted—in the woods, out on the river, following their own mind for what was right and good.

Jesus said that if you do that your worship is futile. He said,

"in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines
the commandments of men."

People today are doing precisely what the Pharisees had done so long ago—supplanted the commandments of God with human rules.

But if you truly worship God, you must obey Him. In John 14:15 Jesus said,

"If you love me,
you will obey what I command."

And in 1 John 5:2–5 the apostle John wrote,

"This is how we know that
we love the children of God:
by loving God and
carrying out his commands.
This is love for God:
to obey his commands.
And his commands are not burdensome,
for everyone born of God
overcomes the world.
This is the victory
that has overcome the world, even our faith.
Who is it that overcomes the world?
Only he who believes that
Jesus is the Son of God."

And 1 John 2:3 says,

"We know that we have come
to know him if we obey his commands."

If you don't obey God your worship is in vain. It's that simple. It's as clear as can be.

By and large the world today is taking it's morals from the world.

I've mentioned before that I read the results of a study that said that most churches are only about 7 years behind the world in approving and practicing it's morals. If the world says that homosexuality is good, it only takes 7 years for many churches to do the same thing. If the world says that gay marriage is okay, then seven years later many churches adopt that attitude.

They get their morals from the world. That's so ridiculous. In Pilgrim's Progress what did John Bunyan call the world and it's practices? The world was the City of Destruction, or Vanity Fair. Both were doomed. Both were places that you had to get away from.

But many church today take their morals from the world. If the Bible clearly says that the practices they're adopting is wrong, they will say that the Bible is irrelevant or that it doesn't mean what it so clearly says, that the church has misunderstood it for 2000 years. They will say that the world has it right and that in 2000 years of studying the Bible the church has it wrong.

How foolish. In 1 John the apostle warned us against Antichrists and their teaching. He told us to test the spirits. He told us to beware of the world. In 1 John 2:15–17 he said,

"Do not love the world
or anything in the world.
If anyone loves the world,
the love of the Father is not in him.
For everything in the world—
the cravings of sinful man,
the lust of his eyes and the boasting
of what he has and does—
comes not from the Father
but from the world.
The world and its desires pass away,
but the man who
does the will of God lives forever."

Donald A. Hagner writes, (Matthew 14–28, WBC 33B; p. 432)

"Jesus' accusation is precisely that the Pharisees have supplanted the commandment of God with human commandments…"

That's what we're seeing today. Christians, don't buy into it. Jesus is your Lord. Love Him with all your heart. Serve Him. Delight in His character, in His will, in His holiness.

Lastly, if you're not a Christian,

don't listen to the world today.

The world tells you that you're all right. It tells you that you can basically do whatever you want as long as it doesn't hurt other people. It tells you that you're going to be okay.

It's a lie. If you're going to be right with God you need to repent of your sins. You need to turn from them and turn to God. Many churches today are telling you that you don't need to turn from your sin to turn to God. But that's as false as it can be. Hebrews 12:14 says,

"without holiness
no one will see the Lord."

We are not saved by our works, by our holiness. We are saved by Jesus and His work. But repentance goes with faith. It has to. As the apostle John told us in 1 John 1:6–7,

"If we claim to have fellowship with him
yet walk in the darkness,
we lie and do not live by the truth.
But if we walk in the light,
as he is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, his Son,
purifies us from all sin."

You need to repent and go to Jesus. Do so today.