The Danger of Misguided Faith
The Danger of Misguided Faith
“But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
With the prevalence of information on the internet, it is easy to become distracted in our worship and our view of God. While we may have a negative idea of the Pharisees and scribes of Jesus’ day, the one thing we cannot criticize them for is a lack of zeal and passion for their beliefs. The Pharisees were passionate about their faith and their understanding of God’s commandments. They were intensely spiritual, with a deep conviction about God and how a person is to live rightly in light of God’s requirements. They were fervent in their desire to be in complete obedience to the Law God had given Moses on Mt. Sinai. Of all the criticisms that we could place upon them, a lack of passion and zeal is not one of them.
The problem with the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day was that their passion and zeal were misplaced. In their desire to uphold the Mosaic Law, they had reduced their faith to a series of rules and regulations. For them, religion and spirituality were not found in surrendering the heart and will to God but in performing the rules they had established to ensure that the law was not broken. They errored in two specific areas. First, the way to avoid breaking God’s moral law was to establish a set of rules and regulations designed to prevent one from crossing the law, which required a person to avoid becoming unclean by touching what was forbidden. Second, in establishing the rules and regulations, faith became an external act rather than an inward heart condition. By focusing only on the rituals and external actions, they neglected the most crucial aspect of the law, and that was the complete surrender of the will and life to God and experiencing the inward transformation that God desired to accomplish. God gave the law to remind us of our need to seek his forgiveness, grace, and complete transformation. In their legalism, the Jews failed miserably. Instead of surrendering the will to God, they only gave lip service through their external acts. Their faith was shallow and non-transforming. They were doing all the right things but for the wrong reasons. When our focus shifts to external actions, we become driven by people's opinions. Rather than the Scriptures defining right and wrong, we look to the views of people.
In response, Christ condemns them and challenges them to reorient their life. Christ points to the necessity for inward transformation in which we surrender to the will and purpose of God. Spirituality is not a feeling or religious activity; it is the transformation of the heart, will, desires, and thoughts that come through a life of surrender to God. The challenge of authentic faith is to humbly surrender to the word of God and live in complete obedience to him. This obedience is not done as a means of obtaining salvation but as an act of faith in which we acknowledge God’s supremacy in our lives. Instead of following the opinions and doctrine of man, we walk in obedience to the moral and spiritual law revealed in God’s word. Instead of turning to the precepts and teachings of people and the morality of our culture, we turn to the pages of scripture in its entirety.
The tragedy is that there are many people today who are like the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They are fervent in their faith and passionate in their religion but misguided in their focus. Instead of surrendering to the will of God, they distort and deconstruct the Bible to fit the prevalent views of our culture. When our faith becomes misguided and distorted, it becomes powerless to save us from sin and its consequences. It is not the fervor of faith that keeps us but the object of our faith. Genuine faith requires a complete surrender to the will of God and humble submission to his word. The most important question we must ask is not do I have faith, but do I have faith in the person of Christ and am I being transformed by his word?