Posts Tagged ‘yeast’

Matthew 16:5-12
The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

For those of us who are die-hard Clemson fans, the touchdown on the kickoff return by Alabama did not come entirely as a surprise. For all the good things that have happened on offense and defense during the Tigers run to the championship, special teams have been where we have held our breath, particularly kick-off coverage. Every time, Clemson kicked off this year, we fans prayed that the kickoff would go deep into the end zone so that there would be no return. Why? Because, if the Tigers had a fatal flaw this year it was kickoff coverage. Twice before the championship game, we had given up two touchdowns on kickoff returns and we had given up several high yardage returns during the year. Although they covered well for most of the kickoffs Monday night, the weakness was bound to be exposed. The Tigers could have survived all the other mistakes made in Monday night’s game, but this season-long weakness was the one thing that was the dagger to the heart. In championship games that are tightly contested as Monday’s game was, if you have a flaw as team if will come out and it will cause you to lose. Without that kickoff return for a touchdown, Clemson may have had the opportunity to climb back into the game the way they were moving the ball on offense. The kickoff return just made the mountain too big given the time remaining the game. The fatal flaw all season ultimately undoes a championship season. It is like back in the day in the 80’s and 90’s, University of Houston and University of Nevada-Las Vegas had some of the greatest college basketball teams ever assembled but they could have won more championships than they did because each had one fatal flaw to their games – foul shooting. Each of those teams could make you look like a little league basketball team when they played you, but if you could get them into a tight game where foul shots matters, they would lose. Fatal flaws of sports team. Blind spots that prevent us from being all that we can be. It is these minor things that can become major things when are allowed to go unchecked. If I fault the Tiger coaches for anything this year, it was the lack of improvement in kickoff coverage over the course of the season. All other areas of the team improved a great deal over the course of the season but not this one and it became the difference between 14-1 and 15-0.

The reason that I use my favorite college football team as an illustration again today because their weak spot got exposed and it caused them to lose. Are we often not the same way when it comes to sins that we enjoy and refuse to repent of? They did not have college football back in days of Jesus’ earthly ministry so he used the metaphor of yeast and dough, something we can still relate to today. Just a little bit of yeast changes dough into the basis for bread. Just a little bit of dough will permeate through the dough and make it into something that we can bake and call bread. Jesus seized the discussion of bread to make a point to us all. Let’s read Matthew 16:5-12 together:

 

5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 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.” 12 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.

 
Clemson’s poor kickoff coverage and yeast in dough reminds of unchecked things that can turn into bigger things. Sin is that way for us. The religious elite of the first century Jewish society were more concerned with appearances of religious compliance than they were about seeking after God. They would rather keep a good public image than seek holiness. They were greedy men who lusted after power. Their faith became about what people see on the outside rather than what’s in the heart. They would shun people for not keeping in compliance with the letter of God’s law rather than seeking to teach people about holiness. This attitude thus permeated throughout society. If you broke the religious regulations, you were shunned. Once a sinner always a sinner. There was no forgiveness or compassion. It all started at the top with the religious leaders. They were not seeking after God’s heart so the Jewish faith became about rules and not about relationship with God. The law was intended to point us to our need for repentance before God and to seek his forgiveness for our flaws. It had become a mallet to beat people into despair with in the hands of the religious elite. Their sins of pride, arrogance, and greed became the yeast that permeated the dough of Jewish society.

Are not our own sins that way, especially the ones that we want to keep on participating in? We hide them in our dough. But our unrepented and active sins that go unchecked can become greater and greater problems to us that consume us. Just think of the person who entertains lust in his heart for a woman who is not his wife. He entertains it and enjoys the thoughts and fantasies. They become a preoccupation. The thoughts lead to flirting. Flirting leads to touching. Touching leads to kissing and you get the picture. It all started with entertaining the sin in the mind. The same is true with other sins as well. Greed starts out small. Say a salesmen starts becoming preoccupied with getting all he can get in life so it starts with fudging on an expense report. If that goes well, lying to a client is deemed ok. Until one day, this salesmen can’t remember what telling the truth feels like. Lying has become such a part of his life that he feels no remorse ever for telling a lie to make more money. And, then, there’s the just a little porn is ok guy. A little fantasy becomes an obsession over time and leads a man to think of women differently and even pursue immoral sexual relationships through porn-related websites and ultimately loses his wife and kids over porn. These are just a couple of examples of how a sin can start small and if you want to keep on participating in it, you keep it hidden. Who is it hurting anyway? But, the sin when unconfessed and worked on to overcome can become bigger and bigger parts of our lives until they consume our whole existence. The enjoyment of the sin and the covering it up become our reason for being. Sin is like yeast. It can start small but ultimately can consume us if it goes unchecked. It changes us from what we were into something totally different. It can cause our life to come crashing down when we allow it to fester and permeate our lives. The maintenance of the sin becomes the most important thing in our lives and ultimately becomes our god instead of God himself. Justification, concealment, preoccupation, all of it gets in the way of our relationship with God.

What is your pet sin? What is mine? What is that one thing that can potentially bring our world crashing down? What is that fatal flaw? What sins are we not confessing because we want to continue to enjoy them? What is getting in the way of your relationship with God through unrepentant sin? What is that fatal flaw that you refuse to admit? What is your Clemson special teams? That one thing that you are not working on because you don’t think it matters because the rest of your life is so good? The Tigers’ fatal flaw was discounting kickoff coverage teams as important because the offense and defense were as good as any out there. They never placed importance on analyzing the flaws in the kickoff coverage team even they were meticulous about details everywhere else. It was a blind spot. What is yours? What is going to prevent you from having a full and complete relationship with God? What is going to prevent you from being a champion of God? What is preventing you and me from being and seeking holiness before God? What are our pet sins that we do not want to give up?

Let us take some time over the next month or so to really examine who we are and the sins we entertain. Let us examine our areas of life that we do not pay attention to as being fatal flaws. I remember after the NC State game where Clemson gave up a touchdown on a kickoff return and had several returns that were bigger than they should’ve been, the message boards of Clemson football were full of comments that this kickoff coverage problem would come back to bite us one day and cause us to lose a ball game. It did and it was on the biggest stage – the national championship game. Yet, throughout the season, the Tigers seemed never to make any improvement in preventing one or more big returns each game. There was turning of a blind eye to the flaws. What sin do you justify? What sin do I ignore? What sin have we left unchecked? We are to seek holiness by being more like Christ each day. We cannot be holy when we have sins that we are not examining. We cannot be holy if we are not looking for each spiritual flaw we have and confessing it and working on it. Holiness is honesty about our flaws. Holiness is confession. Holiness is seeking God’s help in overcoming our flaws. Holiness is seeking to please God as the primary motivation of our lives and if that means looking at our flaws honestly and committing them to God and praying for His help in cleaning our closets out. Let us be willing to identify where we have unrepented sins and lay them before God in honesty and being the journey to holiness.

Amen and Amen.

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Luke 22:14-30 — Have you ever done something so many times that it has become mindless to you. Like for example, taking my shower each day. There is the initial rinse. The lathering up your body with soap. The second rinse. Then, there’s the washing of the hair and the third rinse. Have you ever been in the shower and just finished one of these steps so mindlessly that within seconds you can’t remember whether you have done it or not. Sometimes, we take one of the Jesus-commanded ordinances of the church in this way.

The Lord’s Supper. One of only two Christ-commanded ordinances of the His church, baptism being the other. Therefore, it must be really important. But for the most part, many of us miss its significance. We go through the motions. We know about the ways that we do the bread. Sometimes it’s wafers. Sometimes it tiny squares of bread. Sometimes we tear bits of bread from a loaf. We know about the wine. Some churches use real wine. Some use red grape juice. Some churches give you miniature glasses of wine or juice from a silver tray specifically designed for this purpose with little cut-out circles to hold the wine or juice miniature glasses. The miniature glasses are just large enough for what we call a swig in the South. Some church will have a chalice in which the wine or juice is contained and participants dip their torn-off piece of bread in it as you pass by the pastor or priest. Some churches have modern-day disposable communion packets. It is a plastic container of grape juice with a prepackaged wafer of bread sealed on top of the tear open seal for the container of juice. We all know the ways we participate in the Lord’s Supper. But do we understand its significance? Do we really understand its significance. We have done it so much in our past that it may have become repetition to us. Like forgetting whether or not you shampooed or not seconds after you did it, we may have lost the beauty and importance of this most important ritual.

There is such beauty in the Lord’s Supper. And there are things we should understand about the meal that are important to the everyday life of a Christ-follower. esus instituted the Lord’s Supper at his last meal with his disciples as part of the Jewish Passover (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:14-20). Unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine were part of the meal. Jesus indicated that the bread was symbolic of his body and the fruit of the vine symbolic of his blood.

The unleavened bread symbolizes the purity of Christ, for he was without sin (Hebrews 4:15) and thus his body was an unblemished sacrifice for our sins. Leavened bread has yeast in it and just a dab of yeast mixed in bread dough and kneaded with spread throughout the dough. Sin is that way for us as mankind. Many think that if we just do more good that bad then we will be ok and get into heaven. Ask anyone who knows anything about baking bread from scratch. You cannot remove yeast from bread once it is mixed in it. The form and structure of the dough is forever changed by the presence of the yeast. Sin with the first one committed changes us our form to be a distortion of the image in which we are made and disqualifies us from being in the presence of God for eternity. Thus we need to replace our damaged dough with the purity of the unleavened bread of Christ. When we eat the bread of the Communion, it does not somehow transform and give us salvation. It is symbolic of that which has taken place already. It reminds us of the fact that Jesus was pure and spotless and his body was given for us on the cross to make us pure and right with God once again. His purity becomes our purity. The symbolism of ingesting the bread of communion is that at the moment of salvation we take on the purity of Christ. At the moment of salvation, we become part of the body of Christ. When we take the bread of communion into our bodies, it represents our unity with the pure and spotless one, Jesus Christ.

The juice from crushed grapes symbolizes the blood that Christ shed for us. In Old Testament (OT) times, God agreed to forgive people’s sins if they would bring animals to the priests to sacrifice. When the OT system was inaugurated, the covenant between God and His people was sealed with the blood of animals (Ex. 24:8). But animal blood in and of itself did not remove sin (only God’s forgiveness can do that). As such, animal sacrifices had to be repeated day after day and year after year. Jesus completed the covenant and called it a new one. Jesus would die in the place of all sinners for all time. Unlike the blood of animals where it was imperfect and had to be repeated, Jesus’ sacrifice finished and completed the OT system and established the new covenant. His sacrifice of blood, because He is God in the flesh, was perfect and final and need not be repeated again. It would be good for all eternity. Thus, when we see the wine or grape juice, it is symbolic of the blood of the slain, sacrificial Lamb, Jesus Christ. His blood was shed on the cross to atone for our sins. For this is what God said the purpose of the cross is. The OT sacrificial system was practice for recognizing what Jesus was to do at the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, he spilled His blood for us. He sacrificed his life so that the penalty of the law would pass over us. We are made imperfect by our sin. Like a drop of flavored water enhancer into a bottle of water forever changes the contents of the water and stains it, we are so stained by sin. We are not pure clear water any one. One drop changes the color of the water just as much as multiple drops. We are sin. God is sinless perfection. Sin cannot exist, any one sin, cannot exist in His presence. We would be destroyed. We need help to turn us back into pure clear water. Jesus’ was the perfect solution and completion of the OT sacrificial system. His sacrifice, the once and for all sacrifice, seals our purity through His blood. All you have to do is to believe that Jesus was indeed the Son of God and did this for you at the cross because you and I are sinners and are incapable on our own of making ourselves right with God. At that moment, you are saved. So when you drink the wine or grape juice at the Lord’s Supper, be forever reminded that it is a symbol of what Christ has done for you at the cross. The Christ follower should be humbled by the drinking the wine or grape juice. Jesus Christ, friend of sinners, loved you so very much that He willingly shed His blood at the cross as the atonement for your sins so that you could be made right and pure before God. Think on that when you drink the symbolic wine or juice.

Just because these things are symbols of Christ does not mean that they in and of themselves are insignificant. They are important because of their divine origin. They are not human creations but given by God to assist us in declaring and sharing the gospel (1 Corinthians 11:26) and motivating us to live the Christian life (1 Corinthians 10:16-33; 11:29). Because of the significance, there is great debate among believers as to whether nonbelievers should participate in the Lord’s Supper. However, with it being symbolic of what Christ has done for us, it is my opinion that non-believers should respect the symbolism and wait until they become believers to participate in this symbolic act. Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 that we have in partaking of the Lord’s Supper we are symbolically showing our fellowship, our participation, our communion with Christ. As with baptism, we are declaring our communion with Christ, our oneness with Christ. Thus, honor should be given to it by the Christ followers who participate in and respect should be bestowed upon it by non-believers by not participating in it until they, themselves, become believers. That in and of itself should push us toward evangelism and sharing the gospel of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. We take baths robotically and mechanically and mindlessly. So much so, we sometimes forget whether we did all the steps in the process. Did I really wash my hair five minutes ago when i was in the shower? Let us never robotically, mechanically, and mindlessly participate in the Lord’s Supper. It is so beautiful. It is so remindful. It is so symbolic of what our Lord and Savior did for us at the cross. Let us approach communion with honor, with humility, with remembrance, with thanksgiving and most of all with the highest of praise. We should walk out of church on the days that the Lord Supper is offered shouting to the heavens in thankfulness and honor for what were just a part of! Amen and amen.