ACTS 4 1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
We find an age old story - Tradition confronting and confining the Contemporary. The apostles were preaching an unprecedented message. They were following a man who excelled at the extraordinary and new. Jesus went into temple, into fields, into homes and did the unexpected and unknown every day! Each thing Jesus did was new and unknown. In the time of Jesus the Word of God was precious and rarely given. Moreover, the Sadducees and Pharisees of the day had "cornered the market", so to speak. They had the laws of Moses down to a science and performed rituals with precision. In the traditional sense of having "church" (if I may be so bold), they were so religious that let anything new and spectacular (contemporary) come in, and we see sudden chaos. Never mind the fact that thousands of people not so steeped in the traditions were converted and saved, traditionalists of the day could not handle the fact that they had not initiated the program, nor had control over its outcome. In fact it was quite a smack in their collective faces that such a revival happened without their approval or direction! Peter answered tradition in v8.
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
He rebuked the tradition of the temple as being the killer of the new Word - Jesus Christ. This new foundation and the breaking with tradition was in the Root of Jesse. The growth that was destined to shake this world came through newness of life! But what about our "ancient landmarks"? What about the need for tradition to hold our path?
DEUT. 19:14 Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it.
Clearly, then, something is to be said for having landmarks. We need markers of our past to keep us steady, show us progress, and help us keep to certain precepts needed for stable growth. But we're not talking about that today. We're talking about a church that lives in a cemetary. We're talking about people who build houses by the markers of the past and refuse to move on. Exploring what lay beyond the landmarks is the best way to determine whether the marker was properly located in the first place. Oftentimes the landmark becomes an anchor that limits our growth, rather than a marker for it. God's blessing is new everyday. His work then was totally and radically different than the temple-ites had come to expect and even REspect. Their handling of the message became stagnant, and immobile. Tradition always seeks to maintain the status quo on some level.
16 Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.
Some of this "new" will be accepted as God-given. But not too far. The traditionalists will still want to lock down on the spread of the new. Punishment followed the admission that God had done something. Tradition rose up and smacked contemporary out of fear. And there is the key. Fear holds so many of our churches down. Fear spreads faster than revival! Want proof? Look at any church which has recently changed pastors. When you watch their services, more often than not you will see them performing services the same way they did with the previous pastor. The program will be the same, the music will be the same, the services times, everything will be the same but the preacher in the pulpit. Why? Because the church is living in a cemetary. Tradition has taken hold over life. Movement is forbidden through the fear of the familiar slipping away; the loss of the old landmarks.
Friends, nothing can be further from God's desire. A new pastor means a new vision. Even though the pastor may have been "voted in", he/she is still that person that God selected and infused with his own spirit! Making them perform as an employee of the church kills the church. Holding to tradition in this case will invariably lead to dissolution. You will begin to see those who adhered to the traditional view slip away if new things are chosen, and those looking for life slip away if tradition is maintained. Tradition cannot stand if it is rooted in false doctrine or stagnant truth!
ISA 42:9 Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.
Truth and liberty are always forward moving and never stagnant! Jesus came to bring a new life and new vision. Peter confirmed it. Tradition is well and good if it is a good tradition that provides stable growth and acts as a measuring stick of success. But never confuse tradition with God's favor. He knocked the Saduccees and Pharisees out of the equation - calling them "whited sepluchers", and pointing out that their day had come and gone. A new thing was done, with the Old Testament still in effect and supporting the New. We pray today that you will consider this if you or your church is struggling. Are you stuck in the "old" ways, or holding to a prior vision, when God wants to introduce something new to your life? Are you hooked to the landmarks, or using them as a memorial of great things gone by, helping to mold the future? An old vision with new workers never works. Decline and destruction are the result. Let God do a new thing in your life! Let God bring you life and you will value the traditions you hold, but not let them hold you back!
Elders Mark and Dana Neddeau