In another article (177) we raised this question: If God has spoken and the Bible is His Word, of what value is religion that is disobedient to the Bible?
The sad fact is that most religion that claims to be Christian is selectively obedient to the Bible. The vast majority of the churches that call themselves Christian are crusted over with an enormous load of traditions that seemed to be a good idea when they were introduced, but have become diametrically opposed to Christ since they have become hardened into religion. But this raises a question: How do we tell what is tradition and what is obedience?
The answer is not easy. It begins with a summons to the Bible as the Word of God. But this summons cannot be the typical reading of the Bible. The typical reading of the Bible is nothing more than looking into a mirror and seeing what we already knew we would see. In other words, we take our traditions and practices into our meditations in the Scriptures when we read (IF we read at all--most people don't). This blinds us to what is there because we see what we already believe and do not see what contradicts us. Thus, we never learn the truth and we always come away reinforced in our belief that our traditions are truth. For this cause, many religious people NEVER know God. His Word is used by them as only a mirror of their own thinking. His Word is not His Word anymore, it is theirs. So, the solution to the problem of tradition is not easy because we only see what we want to see.
Second, it continues with a summons to the Bible as the Word of God. This may sound like the first part of the answer, but in that part I was writing of coming to the Bible as a book of information to be read. Now, however, I write of coming to the Bible as the expression of God's mind. There is an enormous difference. Knowing about God and knowing God are two different things altogether. Obviously, knowing God requires knowing about God, but we can know much about God and never know Him at all. That is the problem of tradition: it freezes God into some kind of stone image that cannot express itself, nor can it really take part in our lives. Traditions are extraordinarily dangerous because, though they may have met a real need in a real way when they were put in place, they have a tendency to replace the Word of God and codify our knowledge of Him so that we never know Him. The only solution to this problem is to seek God in our reading of the Bible. And, since it takes a heart of integrity to really want to know God, this is not an easy task. It is easier to be religious than it is to be Christian.
Thus, we are summoned to the Bible to find out information about God so that we can know Him. But, He sees our hearts as we pick up His Word and He knows if we really want Him or if we only want to maintain our religion. This is the difference between tradition and reality: tradition lets us be smug in our religious practice, whereas God strips away our self-righteousness and reveals Himself so that we are changed by the meeting. When was the last time He changed you?