Read Matthew 15:1-20.Here the Pharisees are hanging onto and calling down the disciples over a tradition that man had made, not God. Setting aside the fact that it was better hygene to be washing before eating, the Pharisees had made this tradition a basis for righteousness even though it was not even a biblical mandate.
"'They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'" NIV
Every denomination has manmade rules that they expect their congregations to adhere to. But they are simply that -- manmade. God didn't put those things into being. They are not biblical -- just man's idea of how to achieve a Christ-like life. Some are good practices, even if they are not biblical mandates. But they do not add or take away from our righteousness. That is of the heart.
Jesus contradicts all of what the Pharisees are commanding by saying that our cleanliness is not in having clean food going into us, but have cleanliness come out of our mouth for those are the things of our heart. Rightousness is not rooted in our actions or inactions, but in our heart. The actions we do - which do show the fruit of our lives - are based on doing them out of a love (heart) for God and His laws, not out of duty (manmade rules). Therefore, God's laws are to be followed, but manmade laws are not part of our righteousness.
Now, I say all that with this addedum. One of God's laws is to respect the authority over you. The political authorities over where you live are to be respected and followed. If you can't submit, move. If you have aligned yourself with a particular denomination, you are under God's law to respect their authority and follow the mandates they lay down. If you cannot follow those, then don't be a part of that organization. The body of Christ is much bigger than any one organization.
God sees our heart and desires that the righteousness He places within us is what shines in our actions. If we just keep it simple -- follow God's laws, remain pure in heart, love others with His love -- we will be following the only rules we need for our lives.
- Read through some of the Old Testament laws. What were some of the laws that God established? What did Jesus say about the laws? (Not the tradition of the elders.) See Matthew 5:17-20 and associated post.
- What kinds of "laws" are you following right now that are manmade and have nothing to do with your salvation? Why do you follow them? If you think it increases your holiness, know that it doesn't. If you follow them out of respect for authority over you, then continue and be obedient to God's laws in doing so.
- Is there anything in your heart that is contrary to God's ways? Really think about that and ask Him to reveal to you any that may be there. If there are, ask His forgiveness and surrender those things to Him. They are only contrary to Christ and have no business in our lives. (See vs. 19)