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What did Jesus call the Pharisees for their religious pretense?   See Mat 15:7.  The Greek word for hypocrite means literally an actor; in what way is this a good description of those whose religious profession is not sincere?  In the day of judgment, will God judge men on the basis of their acting ability, or on the basis of who they really are?  See Mat 23:33.  In the day of judgment, will the Lord find that we were great actors when attending church or in the company of others, but that wasn’t who we really were in our thoughts and motives and in the privacy of our homes?  What key word in Isaiah’s prophecy that Jesus quotes in Mat 15:8 illustrates the substance of true religion, and what words illustrate the substance of false religion?  In what way are these also descriptive in contrasting those who have the nature and character of God with those who have the nature and character of Satan?  Cf. Mat 3:7-9, 2Co 11:3,13-15, 1Ti 1:5, 2Pe 2:18-19.  How does Jesus in Mat 15:9 describe the worship of God by those whose faith is not sincere?  What does He mean that their worship is “in vain”?  Think first: what does it really mean to truly worship God?  See Rom 12:1-2.  Then think: those who serve God in pretense suppose that their carnal religious efforts will be rewarded (see Mat 7:22); what does “in vain” indicate about their supposed reward?  See Mat 7:23.  Why does Jesus through Isaiah say that their worship of God is in vain?  See Mat 15:9b, cf. Mar 7:7-9.

What other examples are mentioned in Scripture that also illustrate traditions that degenerated into the “precepts of men” and a mere outward show of religion?  Cf. Mark’s additional narrative of this same account in Mar 7:3-4, and see again Col 2:16-17,20-23 as well as Act 15:1, Gal 4:9-10, 6:12-15.  What great commandment does the judging of other Christians on the basis of such traditions set aside?  See Rom 14, esp. Rom 14:15; cf. Jam 4:11-12.  On the basis of what other traditions have Christians been guilty of judging others?

In what way have the following Christian practices often degenerated into the traditions or precepts of men and an outward show of religion?  Worshiping on a particular day of the week; worshiping with a particular type of music; holding to a particular order of worship; dressing up for church; “going” to church, i.e., equating church with a time or place, especially a building (instead of understanding the church as a holy people; the Greek word for church, ekklesia, means “called out”, i.e, called out of the world); holding to the necessity of a traditional church building; equating a “decision” for Christ with salvation; the weekly offering; paid clergy, i.e., the pastor as the paid professional distinct from the laity; etc…  In spite of the hypocrisy into which these practices have often degenerated, are such traditions in and of themselves necessarily wrong?  What makes them wrong, and what makes them right?  What is the overriding principle that makes a tradition right or wrong?  See Rom 12:9, 13:8-10, 1Co 13 in the context of the many traditional practices of the Corinthians Paul was addressing in 1Co 7-14, Eph 4:1-3, Eph 5:1-2.

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