In this sermon, Pastor Neil preaches on legalism. The sermon is entitled, “What Pollutes Your Soul.” Here are some excerpts:
The Pharisees reduced the God-honoring life to an almost endless series of external actions. They complained to Jesus about eating without washing hands. It’s true that washing your hands before you eat – washing your hands often and thoroughly – is a good idea. I can say with confidence that Jesus is not against it; He is absolutely for it, COVID or no COVID. But there is something more important to Jesus than clean hands. He is more concerned with clean hearts. The Pharisees were preoccupied with ritual and the way things look on the outside. What mattered to Jesus – what matters to Jesus – is the inside … and the meaning of the rituals or traditions we choose to follow.
The traditions of the Pharisees got in the way of their relationship with God. Don’t be like them… Don’t let your personal preferences for worship or church activities get in the way of your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ or with your sisters and brothers in Christ. And do not allow yourself to become a prisoner to any tradition that, when it takes on too much importance, will get in the way of your spiritual growth in Christ and heart-obedience to Him.
I hope it is intuitively obvious to you that our greatest need – the greatest need of humankind – is not cleaner hands. Better personal hygiene is not our greatest need. Our greatest need is for changed hearts.
I will end with this. More than 150 years ago, J.C. Ryle wrote in his commentary on Matthew: “What is the first thing we need to be Christians? A new heart. What is the sacrifice God asks us to bring to Him? A broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). What is the true circumcision? The circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:29). What is genuine obedience? To obey from the heart. What is saving faith? To believe with the heart. Where ought Christ to dwell? In our hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17)” (Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew, 126).
Your heart matters to God. Only God can change our hearts and make us right with Him. No obsession with obedience to laws and traditions can do that. Only God. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 15:57).
Pastor Neil has a lot more to say about this topic. Please click on the link below to hear this sermon in its entirety.