People are fond of customs. They get attached to them and are enthused by the importance they project. They suppose customs give certain identity and pour fervor into their way of existence. There are many customs in this world as many as there are cultures. They make people curious about the way people live. Few are understandable because they emit some form of importance, but others are not, as they mean little sense. Yet, they are all there and bind people to a certain way of life. One of the customs we see in the Bible is of the Jews. “Now there were six stone water pots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each” (John 2:6). Jews are a very traditional people observing every custom handed down by their fathers. Many of them they observe without needing to know the real purpose for them. Customs can surely bring out good if they have true purpose in them.
The Jews were highly focused on purification. To them it is something that made them distinct from the rest of the world. They would deliberately wash their hands and feet before they entered homes. It signified cleanliness, something the Lord Jesus required of all for their hearts in its true sense. The Jewish custom of purification served as a shadow to the true form of purification the Lord desires. The Jews were required to be pure in every way by the Law as well. Yet, they did not keep the true substance of it, but rather did the outward things that signify inner purity. Over time purification remained a custom with no true substance, yet one that is required. The Law could not bring them to its true sense, because they did not show inclination toward it.
Just as the Jews practiced a purification method on a daily basis, the followers of Jesus ought to practice one that is not of water, but by the Holy Spirit. There were six water pots with twenty or thirty gallons of water in each at a wedding ceremony in Cana of Galilee. It signifies how important the act of purification was to them. Yet, it only proved to be purity in the flesh. It meant that its importance is for the flesh and anything of and for the flesh is passing. But, the purification of the Spirit is inwardly and is forever. The moment we seek purification of the Spirit our inner man is cleansed of any uncleanness and we are on course for the will of God. As long as we live in the flesh the act of seeking purification from the Lord through the Spirit is essential, since the flesh is a magnetic device to the worldly things. The flesh always gives sin the ability to encroach our spiritual space. And, if it intrudes it in various ways, we become brittle in the spirit. This is true, for when purification by the Spirit is not attained on a daily basis it leads to becoming weak in the spirit. Our direction will be against God’s desire. Unceasingly cleansing our hearts helps keep the newness of being born again. The joy of knowing the Lord remains in us.
There are customs by which purification of the heart is sustained and if they are with us on a daily basis, we become much more presentable to our host, the Lord.
- The custom of being sinless. Paul said, “How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised” (4:10). Being sinless has nothing to do with the flesh or with its works. It is by the Lord crediting our faith in Him and in His call as righteousness to us. It should also be a continuous process, if we are to thrive as the new born race. Becoming sinless apart from works has tremendous outcome in that it allows the Lord to shower blessings upon us in untold ways. Abraham believed in the Lord and he was made sinless, i.e. righteousness was credited to him. He continued to believe and God sustained righteousness in him. Generally speaking and sadly also, many church-goers have begun with works and many more are being made to begin with them. Such is a spiritual disaster about to happen.
- The custom of steadfastness. Christians of the former days practiced it sincerely. Paul said of them – “For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ” (2:5). It takes particular discipline in the spirit to remain faithful to the Lord. When we are being responsible toward Him with no one’s supervision, we are practicing good spiritual discipline. It means we are disciplining our bodies to conform to Him. Such discipline enhances the chances for greater stability of faith in Him. And, the Holy Spirit gives confidence of our sincerity in Him to those who taught us; many doubts and fears are destroyed.
- The custom of being orderly. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing” (3:16). If we make it our ambition in the Spirit to stay away from jealousy and selfish ambition, we can have immeasurable joy, peace and comfort in life. Those wicked qualities destroy us on the inside. One of the things we can do to avoid jealousy is to know how to rejoice in the things God gave us. Then, we cannot be jealous of others. Jealousy resists the joy God planned for us. Selfish ambition rejects God’s ways. It destroys relationships with brethren by leading us to place hurdles in their path. In avoiding both we enjoy the things God has reserved for us; they put us in the places of honor.
- The custom of being the first fruits. There is certain distinctiveness in being created new in Christ. We ought to keep it until the end. It is mentioned in the following. “These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb” (14:4). First fruits is the fruit that is ripened to perfection and with true taste. The moment the farmer tastes it he knows it to be the best.
- The custom of doing the right things. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (4:8). When righteousness is sustained in us, we get to understand the right things. We do not assume them, but know them in the Spirit. Everything the Lord wants us to do is known from the Spirit. Seeking the Lord to lead us to them should be a priority. The Lord purifies us to execute them.
- The custom of being just. Jesus said, “If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath?” (John 7:23). The moment we are being unjust we know we are becoming spiritually brittle. There is a degree of justice to be carried in every matter. Training our heart to consciously be just in the Spirit is a custom we must have.