READ: Mark 7:1-23
THINK: Serious problems arise when rules, rituals and routines get in the way of a person's relationship with God. In the case of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, physical cleanliness was not the problem. It was the fact that traditions took priority over true worship. Rules and routines have a place, and Christians should still live by the moral and ethical principles of God's law. But following these will not help anyone gain God's favor or attain spiritual salvation, which is not possible apart from faith in Christ. Following God's commands and living by His standards is something we should do out of love and gratitude to Him. But we can only do this with His help.
RESPOND: What seemed to be the Pharisees' main concern and why? How did their attitudes cause their hearts to be far from God? (See 7:6 note.) How would you describe "legalism"? In what ways can human traditions get in the way of true worship? (See 7:8 note.) In what ways can religious people sometimes substitute outward acts for proper inner attitudes? How do people's traditions differ from God's commands? What kinds of things can come from within a person, making him or her spiritually "unclean."? (See 7:18 note.) How do these things get inside a person's heart or mind to begin with? (See 7:20-23 note.) Why is the issue of what goes into our physical bodies vastly different than what goes into our minds? (See 7:18 note.)
PRAY: Ask God to help you (1) follow His commands out of love and gratitude, (2) keep spiritual routines from taking priority over true worship and godly living, and (3) help you guard what goes into and comes out of your mind and heart.
ACT: If any of your activities or routines--good or bad--have taken priority over true godly living, make a distinct change. Be sure that you are doing things out of sincere love for God and not for the sake of appearance only. If you have been doing or viewing anything that fills your mind with spiritual impurity, stop it immediately.
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