Well, I'm back. We had four meetings, in the same church, and I got to do something I don't get to do very often, I preached a series. Four different messages, interconnected, and their one common denominator was Jesus. I even met someone that reads the blog!
We stayed in someone's home, since they were away for the weekend, and it was in a lovely area, surrounded by mountains, and nothing but lots and lots of quiet. I even got to see a herd of elk, but the novelty wore off after a couple hours. I didn't realize how much I needed some quiet time until I was there with nothing to do but read and meditate. So, we made it back, safe and sound, with all limbs still in place. Thank you all for your prayers, for our safety.
Matthew 16:6, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
I am often stunned at how readily the modern day churches are able to dismiss the warnings of Jesus. Because so many are no longer willing to spend time in the presence of God, to be fed and nourished of the Holy Spirit, to receive their inspiration from a divine source, we have adopted this lemming mentality wherein we will mimic anyone and anything that the world might deem as successful. Why spend time in prayer and supplication, why study the word of God, when for an annual fee of some three hundred dollars, you can have your Sunday sermon delivered to you via e-mail, every week of every month? Why take the time to grow in Jesus, to mature as a Christian, to stand for truth, to preach the Word, when a pre-sermon joke, a catchy mantra, and a thinly veiled spiritualized humanism are enough to get you the biggest church in the country?
That whole idea about spending ten hours in prayer before preaching for ten minutes is antiquated anyway, and if you do spend time in prayer, chances are the sermon God puts on your heart isn’t really what the crowd wants to hear, even though it is most assuredly what they need to hear.
Any rational person with an ounce of objectivity can readily surmise that much of what we call the church today is nothing more than old leaven in new molds. We talk like the world, act like the world, live like the world, want what the world has, and revel in their acceptance, but still manage to keep a straight face when we call ourselves children of God, elect, redeemed, and sanctified.
When Jesus warned us to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, He knew of what He was speaking. He recognized the dangers of just a little leaven, and its ability to spoil the whole lump, and so was adamant in the gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke to warn against our indifference to it.
There are three primary types of leaven that I would like to discuss today, and I believe all three are equally dangerous for the body of Christ.
First is the leaven of the Pharisees, or what I like to call the outwardly alive, but inwardly dead condition. There was no one better than the Pharisee at external religiosity. These were men who knew the scriptures, who tithed, who fasted, who prayed, who by all outwardly appearances were upright men of character and integrity, righteous by earthly standards. I believe one of the reasons they hated Jesus so, is that He was able to see past the façade, He was able to see past their exterior shell, and when He peered inwardly, when He searched their hearts, he found them to be unclean and hypocritical.
If they saying that you can fool some of the people some of the time has any veracity if applied to humanity, Jesus was the exception that proved the rule. You cannot fool Jesus!
Jesus saw the wretched condition of their hearts, and had no qualms about speaking His mind, calling them whitewashed tombs, hypocrites, and warning those who truly desired to know God’s grace and mercy, to experience the love and beauty that is a relationship with Him, to stay away, and beware of their leaven.
It is easy to fall into formality, into a systematic ceremonial tradition of sorts, absent of true fruits of righteousness and repentance. “If I just say a certain prayer a certain amount of times, if I just memorize so many Bible verses, if I just give something up for forty days a year, than I’m alright!” This is the definition of the leaven of the Pharisees that can pollute the heart of man, and keep him from discovering Christ in all His glory.
The second form of leaven I want to discuss is the leaven of the Sadducees. Yes, the leaven of the Sadducees is different than that of the Pharisees. The leaven of the Sadducees is often referred to as the leaven of false teaching, or false doctrine.
Of the three, the leaven of the Sadducees is most prevalent in the American church today. The Sadducees believed only what they could see with their eyes, and touch with their hands. They did not believe in the resurrection, they did not believe in angels, because these were things that they had never witnessed for themselves. We have, in our modern age, reduced the gospel, the cross, the Christ, and the blood, to nothing more than means by which we obtain possessions and material excesses. If we can’t see it in the form of a new car, more money, a new house, or a boat, then we consider it irrelevant. I submit to you, that the most important things in this life are things not seen by the eyes of men. They cannot be touched, they must simply be believed.
Last but not least, we have the leaven of Herod. This particular leaven can also be called the leaven of using worldly methods, and worldly means.
Yes, the leaven of Herod is mentioned in the Bible, and it is something I believe Judas suffered from. The leaven of Herod leads one to believe that one can blend the power of this world, and the power of God, the kingdom of this world, and the kingdom of God, in order to achieve a certain objective.
Judas believed that Jesus would march on Jerusalem, and become the physical king. So blinded was Judas by the leaven of Herod, that He betrayed his Lord and Master in the hope that he could force Jesus into taking action, and becoming king.
Mark 8:15, “Then He charged them, saying, ‘Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
During the time of Jesus, there was a group known as the Herodites, who had spiritual authority but used it in a worldly manner. It was the Herodites that supported Herod, and the Roman powers of the time. One could say that they had political influence, and they wielded it to impose themselves on the people. Because their influence became more important to them than their worship of God, they compromised their beliefs, they compromised their standards, and they did whatever it took to maintain their political power.
If we are true followers of Christ, than the idea of achieving our objectives by any means necessary, must be stricken from our consciousness. If we are no longer of the world, then we cannot behave as the world, we cannot adopt the same principles and methods of the world.
“Well it worked for the world, why don’t we try it?” This is the first chink in the armor, the first thought that will lead to compromise, and to an inevitable ruination of our principles. There are examples of this leaven, even in our modern era, but since this is not about politics but about Jesus, I will refrain.
The message is clear and straightforward, to those who still have ears to hear. We must at all cost keep away from the leaven of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the leaven of Herod. Even a little will spoil the entire lump.
1 Corinthians 5:7, “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.