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Feb 04, 2009

The Drug of Tradition

I believe God is the one who originally created tradition because it was a way to supply His people with a temporary synthetic power until Christ came. In Old Testament times, God could not live inside of His people because their sin had not been atoned, so He gave them the law and tradition. Many people from other cultures had tradition at that time, but only the Israelites were given God's law, coupled with tradition. There is a power in "right tradition" that would serve the people well and keep them safe until the time came for the indwelling of God's Spirit.

Like that cheap donut-tire they give us now as a spare, "right tradition" was put in place as a temporary power force and guide until we made it to the next town. It was not a dose that was meant to be used forever. It was much like a narcotic pain killer which, if taken properly, will mask the pain with little side effects. If taken improperly, however,it provides a high that is addictive and extremely difficult to break free from. Competent doctors are careful to prescribe only enough for the patient until the pain subsides.

To this day, there is something strangely alluring about the Old Testament "right traditions." Because we are long past the time where we would need this power, its effects are compelling to the soul and downright addictive. Our dabbling with the power of tradition in the New Testament times is like popping Vicodin long after the pain has left; it gives us an intoxicating buzz.

Almost any day of the week, I can switch on Christian television and someone is retracing the Old Testament temple traditions with an excited gleam in their eye. I can literally see the high they're receiving, as they giddily move from one priestly tradition to the next. Over and over, they'll recount, retrace,  retell and relive those soul-tingling traditions, and each time they do, there is another high awaiting them. Some people have actually devoted their entire ministry to studying the traditions of the Old Testament times. 

I believe this drug of old is so intoxicating that it has infiltrated most of modern-day Christian thinking. The moment something powerful and beautifully intimate happens between God and one of us, we immediately begin popping our Old Testament Vicodin. We surround that sincere event with a step-by-step formula that will explain why it happened and ensure it will happen again. We create a template, then practice and rehearse over and over until we start feeling spiritually inebriated. The tradition template never produces that move of God we originally experienced, but we usually don't notice because we're too loaded from doing the formula dance steps. This same pattern can be seen one way or another in almost every Christian belief and practice in the church today. From worship and prayer to giving and fasting, we have exchanged the natural course of these things for a template that promises results. Many of us have become addicted to the template over the actual results. 

Following that recipe becomes a way of life for many. It thrills us. It's not about what comes of it all; it's about the thrill of adding each ingredient. Church services are almost always formed from the same template. Worship, followed by announcements, more worship and then the offering. The sermon followed by the altar call and then the benediction. Week in and week out, we follow this same traditional blueprint and we evenDarin Hufford trad go as far as to attribute the recipe to God Himself. Pastors all over America say, "This is God's plan for Church," irrespective of the fact that nowhere in all of scripture is our modern day church template found. The tradition is what keeps us coming back for more. We're addicted to it. To the rest of the world, we look like the lazy sluggard who drives around town with the donut spare tire on their car like it was made for it.

We become so devoted to the template of tradition that we'll even fudge the truth at times if that's what it takes to make it all fit together. We become accomplished story-tellers and masters of fitting square pegs into round holes. And we do it all for the sake of the formula we love so much. If something takes place in our life that is unique and personal, we immediately try to match a tradition template with it, and unless we can find the match, we won't even consider believing that what took place was authentic. Finally, we find a template that looks somewhat similar and so we bend and stretch the edges a bit and before we know it, it fits snugly together.

God knew that when the time came to wean the Israelites from their "right tradition" addiction, He would have to do it with something consistent with law, yet completely incompatible with it. Where there was once law and tradition, God replaced it with GRACE and TRUTH. Grace frustrates tradition's power, because grace does not follow the recipe. It moves according to flavor and taste. Truth hides itself from the eyes of people drunk with tradition.

When tradition was created, it was intended for the carnal, because the people's hearts were dead. At the resurrection, however, hearts came to life. When that occurred, grace and truth were there with open arms. Today, tradition tingles the mind of the carnal and oppresses the heart of the spiritual. To the spiritually-minded person, grace is both the heartbeat and the breath of life, but to the carnal-minded person, it is as useless and ineffective as a stone. People who live from their heads instead of their hearts, can't stand the concept of grace because grace requires us to take our hands off the steering wheel and allow ourselves to be driven. The thrill of being the driver is taken away.

Making the decision to break free from the tradition templates and live in the wild requires confidence and good old-fashioned guts. It's difficult to stand up and declare what happened to you when it clearly doesn't match up with any religious templates the church currently has. The "heretic cannons" begin firing almost immediately and before you know it, you end up looking like the crazy camper who claims to have been abducted by a UFO. Your credibility gets shot to hell and if you're not careful, you'll even find yourself questioning the authenticity of your experience.

I've found that being a Free Believer is like exiting the drug world. You literally have to end all associations with the people who use and sell the drug you were addicted to. It's a lonely world and takes a bold resolve to endure. Much of the time in the wild is spent detoxing from the drug of tradition and learning to live without the synthetic high you were once addicted to. I have found that the rest of the time in the wild is spent healing from thought patterns that constantly attempt to build tradition around anything authentic. Learning to live by grace and truth alone is a process. The longer we do it, the better we become.

Darin Hufford


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  1. Gravatar

    Hey Darin,
    Have you noticed that this addiction is also prevalent in some "house" church groups? My husband and I were a part of one such group where the leader felt that because he changed the order of "service" that that separated this group from the typical IC. However, that was not the case. What I found to be the same in both places is whenever I began to question the leader about what we were doing; in the IC we were removed from our leadership position and in the "HC" the leader changed the location from our home to someone else's. As you have so aptly stated, it is a lonely place; however, it is awesome to live in the liberty that our Father has given us and I am thankful that Father has room for all of us that choose to be liberated.

  2. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    I think it's prevalent in home groups as well as in the minds of individuals. Tradition was created for the flesh. Something inside all of us is constantly compelled towards the direction of tradition.

  3. Gravatar

    Thanks Darin for the "WORDS" that bring the feelings and thoughts to the paper. I agree and believe it completely. However, it does give Fuel to "THOSE" who would say--"See it just isolates people more!" I'm OK with that and am sure that Jesus and the disciples were perceived to be isolated at times also. I hope feeling alone and alienated from IC doesn't make people give up.

  4. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    You're right Lonnie. People will see it that way, but that's ok. :)

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    Actually, the point that got my attention initially and has been an issue with me for decades is the way that most christians are far and away more comfortable with living their lives by way of the rules of tradition/law/legalism, etc. etc. than Grace. People seem to have the most difficult time transitioning to grace. Somehow we want to earn it - establish a box, get in the box, learn all the rules of the box and try our darndest to perform all. Then, be angry and judgemental at ourselves and others for not obeying "All". We act like we really don't need God/Grace - we want to do it ourselves - be in control - be gods. I think we are honestly afraid of "knowing" God because of whom we have been taught God is. "Thank you, God, for being so persistant at revealing your truth to us".

  6. Gravatar

    That makes sense, the early Jewish believers must have experienced similar feelings of isolation when they left the temple traditions and became pioneers in their own time. Before the temple stuff, there were other periods in history when people had to forsake the old systems too.

    I wonder if 2,000 years from now people will be trying to break free from traditions that get started by the offspring of us 'freebelievers'?

  7. Gravatar

    I think for me Traditions were like the Golden Calf that the Israelites just had to have after being freed. Traditions produce works and works make you feel pride filled emotions (touch not,taste not handle not.) It was hard for the Israelites to worship an unseen God and traditions become that Golden Calf of slavery they were used to. It's much easier to be a slave because you just do what is required, nothing more. What I found I was doing was exactly what Jesus said about traditions of men. I honored him with my lips..but my heart was far from him. Stripping away the traditions was a painful and lonely process. It's like you said an addiction. You almost need a rehab after it happens. It was well worth it for me...because he could finally get to the heart of me.

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    I am reminded of what AW Tozer once said. The Bible is the road. One doesn't camp out on the road, one follows it to the destination. And of course when one reaches the destination, one no longer needs the road. Tradition is a great thing to show us the Way. But once we have found it, there is no use for it. Kudos.

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    Rachel Liegghio

    Bravo Darin! It made me think. I have been around and dealt with addiction so much in my life. Such a good analogy. It made me think about the fact that the first step in the recovery process is taking personal responsibility. In the analogy of your sermon "Into the Wild", I don't think many of us were shot with tranquilizers and drug into the cage of institutionalism. Most of us were baited and we took the bait and we grew accustomed to the comfortableness.. the "tradition" of it. So, I have to take personal responsibility for that and make the choice not to be numbed by it and to desire "His love that is better than wine (or Vicodin,whatever) more than my own comfort and predictability in God. I'm glad your credibility got shot to hell cause that makes you more authentic in my book

  10. Gravatar

    Wow !!! right on the mark !

  11. Gravatar

    I like what Rich said below. Jesus said beware of the will leaven the whole lump. I have seen it happen in some of the Home groups I was involved in.

  12. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Yea, I've seen home groups become nothing more than a smaller version of the IC. I, personally feel that this is ten times more dangerous because it's impossible to hide from anyone like you can in a bigger IC. The control factor in situations like that is almost deadly.

  13. Gravatar

    Excellent my man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Gravatar

    Excellent, Darin! Within the spiritual, Tradition = Religion, which is the antithesis of Relationship.
    Traditions with the context of Religion squelches and dis-enables Relationship and Love.

  15. Gravatar

    David---I love your quote of Tozer, It fits perfectly. THANKS

  16. Gravatar

    What if all the Moses' traditions were given just because all the Israelites were just so fleshy that it was the best for them? What if all the weird Old Testament laws that look so heartless today were the only way to keep those people safe? What if their hearts were so fleshy that the only way God could protect them was those laws, even though he knew that it was a devastating tradition, but He loved them so much that He rather chose that than watch them fall into destruction? What if He desired relationship ever since man sinned and He just couldn't wait when the best time comes to restore it? What if God would have sent Jesus much earlier if the people were ready? What if God is really a GOOD God? And what if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us?

  17. Gravatar

    Great, Darin. Please give us more, I'm sure there's a book about this somewhere within you. SO much more to say about it!
    It seems that tradition also eradicates creativity, as I've noticed that when people try to break from, say, the usual pattern of a service you mentioned, they then find it hard to come up with a different way of going about it. Tradition is so ingrained that we do need a detox from the Father, in order to break the chains. It takes the power of the Cross to do it; nothing else 'proves' grace like that.
    Thanks Darin.

  18. Gravatar

    Darin, what if it wasn't sin at all in the days of Moses? what if, that is ("our") believing tradition of today? What if it has "always" been about God wanting relationship with people and Isreal was to show the world? What if it was their "pagan" beliefs(that they brought with them from Egypt) that kept them from a loving Father and turned away from Him wanting only Moses to give them what they "didn't" want to recieve for themselves? I believe God always wanted people to drop their own mindsets for a relationship with Him to see Him in each other, to believe we are all connected with Him, but along the way people pick up their own (fleshly) mindset of who god is. Religion and ego are best at doing this and are at the root of all violence in our minds and with each other.

  19. Gravatar

    I don't think your point is well made here Darin. The immature require external structures based on principles to guide them to maturity. The mature have internalized the principles and from there walk without the structure. This is what makes them mature. And this is why Paul says the law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. This was the era from the OT to Jesus. From there we see a reinstitution of structure attempting to built around Christ. Since the gospel spread beyond the borders of those who went through that historic maturation (israel) to all who knew not that history (gentiles), men felt compelled to install a structure that trained or conditioned the immature. But unfortunately these were not based on the "type and shadows" of the OT. They only had an empty form to them.

  20. Gravatar

    Many customs, traditions, rituals or structure today pay homage to an unknown history. The principles of attempting to build Christ in us are long gone. And we are left with new reasons why they stay in place -- community, safety, accountability, etc. I generalize here as there are many different rituals in churches. I don't know people are addicted to them, as much as they know no better and are perpetually in a state of immaturity (therefore need the structure). And we shouldn't confuse religious structure with logistic structure. I'm sure there are many good drivers out there, but without roads (structure) a morning commute would look like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

  21. Gravatar
    Kathy Moss

    Hummmmm. I'm going to have to disagree with Brian on this one. I thought this made a very clear and easy to understand point. I'm really not sure what point Brian is making to be honest. Brian.....this post shows me why people continue to run back to Old Testament laws and why they can't understand grace. I'm not entirely sure what point you are trying to make aside from that. Can you explain?

  22. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    Brian, you are assuming that "maturity" is what brought people to Christ. The term "schoolmaster" did not mean "teacher". A schoolmaster didn't teach and slowly mature people so they could find Christ. A schoolmaster was someone who watched over a child and made sure he got places safely. Other translations say the law was "put in charge" like a babysitter until the time of Christ. It didn't teach and mature us so we could grasp Christ. The very fact that the gentiles "got it" is proof that "maturity" had nothing to do with it. If the purpose of tradition was to slowly mature the people so they would eventually be grown up enough to find Christ; BOTH THE TEACHER AND GOD FAILED MISERABLY because the entire alumni ultimately rejected Christ. It was THE immature children who "got it."

  23. Gravatar
    Darin Hufford

    In fact I'll even say that what you are suggesting Brian is exactly what I'm speaking AGAINST in this article. It's a mentality that believes tradition and law can actually bring us closer to Christ. This line of reasoning is precisely why people are compelled to run after tradition. When the Jewish Christians were asked what to do with the gentile believers who had no background, they did NOT respond by giving them traditions or requiring them to study the OT. They simply said don't eat food sacrificed to idols and avoid sexual immorality. Beyond that, they said "Farewell." They made a point not to burden them with structure because they knew it's effects on the heart. Remember Brian, God kept it hidden from the wise and learned and revealed it to little children.

  24. Gravatar

    Brian - any principle, practice, custom, tradition, etc. that we 'use' to bring us closer to God, or to be more mature in Christ is totally and completely a deception. There is only ONE WAY to relationship with the Father and that is through the SON. You either receive it by grace, or you pretend with your traditions.

    Darin - preach it! Amen! Woo-hoo! OMG! This was awesome. I love this quote...."Today, tradition tingles the mind of the carnal and oppresses the heart of the spiritual." You hit the nail on the head. I loved it! :-)

  25. Gravatar
    Brian Cragin

    Interesting. I think you are assuming I am arguing for tradition and law. Which in fact I am not. In your first paragraph you argue the same points I have made here. I am merely stating an extremely abbreviated version of history interlaced with what I believe to be some generalized principles of maturation. The exception though is that I do not boil down peoples need for tradition now to a simile of drug addiction. I break it back down to the principle of immaturity. People lean now too much on tradition as they are like little children that always require the parent to help them walk. Of course the law doesn't create maturity, it just got Israel to a certain point in time when Christ (Maturity) could come. But since Christ, men have felt that new structures had to be in place, instead ..

  26. Gravatar

    ...of Christ. They could not control the internals of people, where God lives, so they created externals to do this. Essentially recreating the forms of immaturity. By the way you will also note that I said your point was not well made. I didn't say it was wrong.

  27. Gravatar

    When I read what Cynthia wrote, I felt like something in me say, That's it! I think God has always wanted a relationship with us, but mankind has wanted their own go-betweens. Like when the people told Moses to go speak to God for them because they were afraid of him, or when God said to Samuel, they haven't rejected you, they've rejected me and then they ended up with King Saul.
    Tradition perhaps has been mankind's attempt all along to know God on it's own terms rather than on God's and maybe tradition has never been God's idea at all. Just thinking outside the box.

  28. Gravatar
    John Fincher

    It was tradition that led me to leave my church. It was deadening. Like you said, each and every service was the same damn thing every week.

    It was the beginning of the end for me when my Pastor aaid we couldn't start a small-group study on Sunday night because it would "take too many people out of the service."

    I guess my heart left then.

  29. Gravatar
    Eric Coleman

    Darin man, thank you for deleting Race-Finisher's comment. I hate seeing rude people when I'm online. Especially rude "so called" Christians. I spend most of my life answering for guys like that. It's embarrassing. I think the world looks at people like that and just laughs.

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