Updated: Mar 31, 2022
Adaptation from Pastor John Odukoya's Message
The commandment of God vis-à-vis the tradition of men: This has been an age-old battle since the fall of man in the garden of Eden. It is in the nature of man to choose the traditions of men over the commandments of God. It was evident then, as it is in this present age, that people take the traditions of men and make them into doctrines, imprisoning themselves while abandoning the life-giving commandments of God.
This was no different in Jesus’s days on earth, and He was quick to speak against it when He was confronted by the Pharisees about why His disciples did not comply with their traditions (see Matthew 15:1-20).
The problem with humanity and the un-regenerated heart is that it is so stubborn to change. Ever since the fall, the heart of man has become so hardened that it fails to realize he is working not only against God, his maker, but also against himself; against the purpose God has for him. And yet, every day, we struggle and strive for higher levels in life, aiming to be better than we were. Sadly, this cannot be achieved while we remain stuck and imprisoned in cages called the traditions of men. The only way we can become who we are really meant to be and experience true freedom is when we truly embrace real change.
Real change is the state of the heart. It is a change in the way we feel about things and the way we see ourselves and life as a whole. We can see this in the life of Joshua, who, after the death of his mentor, Moses, is left confused, afraid, and unsure of how to lead the thousands of God’s children in his custody into the promised land. But with assurance from God, this once timid and scared man rises to the occasion and leads the children of Israel in defeating their enemies and possessing the promised land. How did he do it? Change! He believed in his heart what God had said about him and the assurance of victory. He also believed in himself.
A man’s external actions have their root in his heart. For him to get what he wants, he must prepare himself by building a strong conviction from within. This is what Joshua did by building God’s word in his heart (Joshua 1).
The way a person thinks, combined with what he thinks about, produces the conditions and activities that are seen externally. What people see in you is a result of what is within you.
Take, for example, fruits. You may not see or know what the seed of a certain fruit is like, but it is that hidden seed that produces the outward flesh of what you see. That is exactly what the heart is. The heart will only produce its kind. As the Book of Proverbs 23:7 says, "As a man thinks in his heart, so he is." The outward manifestation of a person is a result of the state of their heart. So, when Jesus says that it is what proceeds from a person’s heart that makes the person unclean, He alludes to the state of that heart as being unclean. We can then be right to say that a re-generated heart will only bring forth the fruit of the Spirit, being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control... (Galatians 5:22–23). By now we must be familiar with the saying, "By their fruits you shall know them." Isn't it then true that the behavior of a person is determined by the type of heart (seed) that is producing it?
So, for us to experience real change, we must first desire it. We must long for real change. We must turn away from our hard-heartedness and sincerely seek to follow and please God. Interestingly, God, in His sovereignty and mercy, can lead us in that direction when we tend to want to self-destruct. The Book of 1 Kings 8:35–39 illustrates how God works with people using situations and illustrations that must affect them, causing them to turn back to Him.
Indeed, He wants a change of heart and direction to occur in our lives. It is our hard-heartedness that could force Him to shake us with different things so that we can get to a place of conviction and readiness to turn from our erring ways, return to Him and be saved from harm.
As we look inward today, I pray that God, by His word, will illuminate your eyes and paths to turn away from the traditions of men that lead to nowhere but destruction and to follow the commandments of God, which will bring the real needed change in your life, in Jesus name.