Reducing God to Man-Made Traditions

You invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
—Matthew 15:6

Have you ever said, “I may have trouble on most of the Ten Commandments, but the Second Commandment is one I’m not guilty of. I’m okay on this one. I’ve never made a graven image and I don’t worship statues. This really isn’t my thing.”

I have news for you: we’re all guilty at one time or another of breaking the Second Commandment.

The Second Commandment says: Don’t reduce God. Don’t downsize God. I suggest to you that all of us from time to time are guilty of downsizing God.

First of all, we downsize the glory of God through images used in worship. To use any kind of image as a means or an aid to worship is prohibited in this commandment. Now the problem with images is that images appeal to the sensual rather than to the spiritual. And there is a very fine line between the sensual and the spiritual—or perhaps I should say, between the sentimental and the spiritual.

A lot of Christians get confused between sentimentality and spirituality. Those two are vastly different. For example, any time I see the movie Old Yeller I mist up. When I hear “The Star Spangled Banner” I get a lump in my throat and goose bumps. But neither of those is spirituality. That’s sentimentality. Now, there are a lot of people who reduce worship to how they feel. They’ll come to church and say, “I just didn’t feel anything today.” Or, “Man, I felt great.” How you feel is not the issue in worship; it’s how you act. What you do after worship is the real measure of worship. True worship occurs when a child of God having heard the Word of God submits to the Holy Spirit of God in order to obey the will of God. That’s the kind of worship God likes. Truthfully, God doesn’t care that much how you feel. He cares what you do. Do you obey Him or not? Images used in worship don’t appeal to that which is spiritual; they appeal to that which is sentimental.

Second, we reduce God when we define Him by our traditions of worship. I know a pastor who came to a new church, but he had to leave that church because he decided to remove the pulpit that had been in the same spot for more than one hundred years. Those people were convinced that God could not speak to them unless it was from behind a wooden pulpit. They thought if you remove the pulpit, you remove the authority of God. Now, I preach with a pulpit because in Nehemiah 8 Ezra stood behind a pulpit as he preached the word to God’s people. But I think that’s descriptive. I don’t think it’s prescriptive. I don’t think you have to have a pulpit to speak God’s Word; that’s just a tradition we’ve adopted. Traditions are wonderful things. I love traditions. But we need to make sure that we don’t define God, reduce Him, to our traditions and say God can only act this way or this way. That was the mistake that the Pharisees made. In Matthew 23:13 Jesus gave His most scathing rebuke to the Pharisees, who elevated their traditions to the authority of God’s Word. And Jesus said about them, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” They had come up with so many rules and regulations that it was impossible for anyone to follow. What God is saying is make sure you don’t reduce His glory to the traditions of men, the traditions of worship.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Danger of Downsizing” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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