Genuine Spirituality

An exposition of Matthew 15:1-20. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, August 8, 2010.

Do you consider yourself to be a “spiritual” person?  If so, what would you offer as proof?  What is it that makes a person spiritual?  I’m asking because spirituality is a hot topic today.  It is in vogue.  It is trendy to be spiritual.  But what does that mean?  And is that a good thing?  If you were to walk the streets of Tulsa and ask people to define what it means to be “spiritual” you might be shocked by what you hear.  But isn’t it a good thing that people are seeking?  Isn’t it encouraging that they are desiring spiritual things?  Yes and no.  Yes it is encouraging that they sense there must be more to life.  It is a starting point.  But no, in a world that equally values all opinions – it’s not all that encouraging.  I’m afraid that even within the church there is little understanding about true or genuine spirituality.  Webster defines genuine as, “actually produced by or proceeding from the alleged source or author; something that is free from hypocrisy or pretense.”  So if we are talking about genuine spirituality we are talking about that which flows from and is produced by the Spirit of God.  We are talking about true or authentic faith.  “That’s all very interesting Mr. Dictionary – but what does it mean?”  It means that when we seek to define spirituality from a biblical perspective we must use biblical categories.  We must use biblical standards.

“Yeah, so?”  So, the problem is when people define spirituality from a Christian perspective they most often give a list.  It means to attend church.  Read the Bible.  Pray.  Regularly share your faith.  Do good to others.  Don’t go to movies.  Don’t cuss or chew and don’t have nothin’ to do with girls that do!  They define spirituality in terms of what you do or don’t do.  Spirituality is reduced to behavior.  But is that a biblical perspective?  Is genuine spirituality to be measured by what we do or is there something more?  To answer that question let’s turn again to Matthew’s Gospel and consider the opening verses of the 15th chapter.

Text: Matthew 15:1-20
The contrast between Jesus and the religious establishment is becoming more pronounced.  The gap is widening and the division sharper.  As our text opens an “official” delegation arrives from Jerusalem.  We already know they are determined to bring an end to the ministry of this meddlesome troublemaker.

They waste no time in bringing an accusation.
A dispute follows in which we learn something about genuine spirituality.

Form this exchange we learn that:
Thesis:  Genuine spirituality does not consist of conformity to outward acts and ritual but of a fundamental transformation of the character and essence of the individual.

In other words genuine spirituality is not a shallow, simplistic thing!
Spirituality is not merely a matter of a change in your outlook on life.
It is not a simple matter of a change in your routine.

This is why Jesus said, “You must be born again.”
If all it took was to see life differently and to clean up your act – then determination could accomplish it.

If it is just a matter of doing the right thing – all you would need is a list.

But that is not it!
Listen to Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
Note the “beatitudes”.
Matthew 5 is not about what you do – it is about who you are!
This same truth is dramatically portrayed in this text.

There are three things I want us to note.

  1. Genuine spirituality has little use for “mere” external conformity to rules.  (15:1-9)
  2. Genuine spirituality has no tolerance for self-proclaimed experts.  (15:12-14)
  3. Genuine spirituality is a matter of character.  (15:10-11; 15-20)

Are you a spiritual person?
Don’t give me your list – tell me who you are.
Tell me about your conversion.
By the way that is why we talk about conversion and not decisions.
You can make a decision without ever being changed – our church roll is proof of that.

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