“Hand-me-down Christianity”

by The Mad Preacher

When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”…

How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:5-6, 11-12)

What were the teachings, or yeast, of the Pharisees and Sadducees; and why did Jesus give such a grave warning? First, here’s a bit of information about these two religious sects.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices―mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law―justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” — Jesus (Matthew 23:23)

The Pharisees were determined to separate themselves from anything, or anyone, that they considered impure, both morally and doctrinally. And because of their strict interpretation of the Levitical law [the Torah—the five Books of Moses Pharisees and Sadducees[1], they became legalistic and prideful. Jesus condemned them for being lawyers instead of lovers, for having their emphasis solely on observing the legalistic requirements of the law rather than on meeting the needs of others. They were condemned not so much for what they did but for what they didn’t do. They neglected what Jesus called, “…the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.”

So, Jesus was warning us about the yeast of empty legalism. God called us to be lovers, not lawyers.

How about the Sadducees? Unlike the Pharisees, they gave no credence to what was called “the oral law,” that is the traditional teachings, or the scriptural commentary of the elders as laid down in the Torah. They considered the written law alone to be the only divine authority. That was a good approach to God’s word. However, they embraced a very liberal view of the scripture. For instance, they effectively denied anything supernatural. They didn’t believe in the resurrection of the body, the immortality of the soul or the existence of spirits or angels. Because of this approach toward the law, they were constantly at odds with the Pharisees.

However, the Pharisees and Sadducees did have something in common. Each thought they were right and everyone else was wrong. Plus, they were also hypocrites.

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them…Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”        — Jesus (Matthew 23:2-4, 13)

Sadly, much of contemporary Christianity is saturated with the yeast, or the teachings, of the Pharisees and Sadducees. It is blended throughout their theology and church tradition. Jesus strongly warned us to “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” The effects of their teaching are widespread and devastating to the Body of Christ.

He [Jesus] replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men…Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” (Mark 7:6-8, 13)

The effects of hand-me-down traditions of man, or rules taught by men, are that they drain God’s Word of power in the life of the one who embraces them. Baseless legalism binds us with empty traditions and liberalism denies a God of powerful displays in our lives. You see, when we remove the “super” from “supernatural” all we have left is merely the natural—that done only in the flesh. Consequently, we end up trying to do the ministry in the flesh rather than in the power of the Holy Spirit. Eventually we end up defeated, cold and void of true direction.

How about you? Has this kind of yeast been folded into your life? Jesus knows how deadly this yeast can be. So, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Nobody knew His secret ambition Nobody knew His claim to fame He broke the old rules steeped in tradition He tore the Holy Veil away Questioning those in powerful position Running to those who called His name (But) Nobody knew His secret ambition Was to give His life away [2]

See a video of this message on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzLI6A7U8Gk

Look for new posts from The Mad Preacher on Saturdays. 

[1] For more info go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torah

[2] Secret Ambition by Michael W. Smith from his album, I 2 (eye) ©1988, Reunion Records

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