Misunderstandings between people happen so easily. Sometimes it is the fault of the person sending the message and sometimes it is the fault of the person interpreting that message. What we considered with yesterday's devotional was Jesus' disciples misinterpreting the message due to what they were preoccupied with. Their current worries and fears acted as a filter so they missed what was being said to them. This morning I want us to consider the actual lesson Jesus gave them.
As the disciples sailed across the lake with Jesus, worrying about their lack of provisions, Jesus gave them this warning:
“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6)
We understand that yeast is used in baking. It spreads throughout the dough and causes the dough to expand by introducing air. It is not that the dough is increased but only that it is puffed up with air. We should consider that this teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees does the same thing; spreading and puffing up. They did not contribute anything of any substance to the relationship with Jehovah but instead the teachings spread like wild fire and caused people to become puffed up with nothing.
The Pharisees were only concerned with appearance and the outward ceremonies. There was not substance to it for them as their hearts were as sinful as any other persons. However, they insisted on forcing people to do as they did. Jesus pointed out their attitude in needing to be more religious than any other person. They made sure that everyone saw them being religious with their prayers and attendance at ceremonies. We know that the Scribes added volumes of interpretations to the law and the Pharisees were there to put them into action. This led to a religious pride that caused their hearts to be cold to Jesus, to the point where they denied him as Messiah even though it was plain to see.
The Apostle Paul referred to this group as the "circumcision group". Wherever he went preaching grace this group followed behind to enslave people back into law. They could not find it in themselves to accept that Jesus would do for us what we could not do through the law.The law is perfect but sinful man could not live the perfect law. This was the struggle of Paul's age, to move from our outward appearance to the inward condition. It is still our struggle today and one of the reasons why the Catholic church is the way it is. We find it much easier to earn salvation than to accept God's free gift. It is a matter of pride. However, we need to open our eyes because many of us are going the way of the Catholic church.
We may not have all the trappings of idols and false teachings on penance but we still run the risk of the yeast of the Pharisees. Many people act as if attending church, paying tithe, reading their Bible, doing good deeds, and saying grace is an indication of their salvation. They lean heavily upon these activities while harbouring sin in their heart. Their relationship with Jesus is non-existant but they go through all the motions as if the motions is what will save them. In all honesty, they are no better than the Pharisees who Jesus often corrected and scolded for leading the people into such misery.
Jesus taught us many times, as did the writers of the epistles, that the Kingdom of God is a matter of the heart. It is from the heart that good and bad pour out into actions and words. It is from the heart that we give authentic worship to our God. It is from a Christ-filled heart that we are able to love and be loved. It is from a heart knowledge of grace that we are able to show grace to others. Jesus taught so much on the heart and of the fruit that grows from the heart. It should be plain to us that baptism and communion will not save us. Reciting the Lord's Prayer will not save us. Lifting our hands in worship will not save us. Selling all that we have and giving it to the poor will not save us. Neither will attending church, paying our tithe and giving our testimony. Only Jesus Christ saves. It is only his act on the cross that makes it possible. The only act that is acceptable from us is to bend our knee, confess our condition, ask for forgiveness and receive his free gift of salvation. After this our heart begins to affect our words, actions, and attitudes, and from us flows the love of Jesus in power and boldness.
Look to your attitude. Are you trusting anything else for salvation? We cannot save ourselves. Only Jesus saves. It is easy to lose our way and fall into that religious spirit. Confess it today and be free of it. Allow Jesus to establish the true Kingdom of God in you today and heed his warning against the yeast of the Pharisees.