Sunday service 7 February 2021 – Beware of the leaven

We greet you in the name of our Lord and thank Him that we may hear His word. To the overseas listeners, may the Lord be with you in a very special way. This message is available internationally, and it is amazing from which countries people are listening such as Saudi Arabia. May the Lord be with and grant you all that you need.

A word of caution – the COVID-19 pandemic is not over; the danger is not past, although statistics indicate the rate of infection is on the decline. We have lost so many people whom we knew. Remember the three things: wear masks, sanitise hands, keep socially distanced. Funerals are high risk events because people do not keep socially distant, they comfort the bereaved and contract COVID-19 there which results in further grief when more loved ones also pass away. Above all, let us put our trust in the Lord and call to Him for mercy and grace. Our hope is in Him.

May the Lord be merciful to us that we will yearn after God and have a zeal for Him and His word. Do you make time for God’s word? Do you spend time in prayer with God’s word, pleading that He would speak with you? It is amazing how God speaks through His word. If we give Him that opportunity, we will hear Him speak. If you take God’s word and read it prayerfully, God will speak to you. Do not read it like an ordinary book, magazine, or newspaper? Read it as God’s word and He will speak in accordance with our requests.

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16:5 – 12

In this text we see the Lord Jesus’ approach and the perception of the disciples. How often did it not happen that when Jesus spoke those who were supposed to be close to Him, misunderstood Him?

The Lord Jesus speaks about two categories of people, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and about leaven. He clearly warned His disciples to beware of these people. However, the disciples jumped to conclusions and misunderstood what He was saying. Their minds were on food and bread because they had served food during the amazing miracle Jesus had performed with the fish and loaves. Now on the other side of lake, they realised that they had forgotten to take any bread along.

Jesus wanted to spend time alone with His disciples. There is much we can learn from Him. Although He was so busy and there was such great need, Jesus saw the importance of time spent alone with His disciples. There was something that He wanted to speak to them about. Take care, child of God, there is something I have learnt from this: one cannot speak about anything to anybody. There are times when things you say pertain only to a particular group of people. Some people fail to discern. They speak about anything in front of anybody. They do not consider whether the topic is too heavy for a child? Learn from the Lord Jesus - certain things pertain to certain people - those who have the strength to carry it.

The disciples were not yet sufficiently trained. They still spoke rashly. They still misunderstood what the Lord Jesus said. He required time with them to train them. Child of God, you need to learn from this. You may also speak quickly and rashly, without following the direction things are going. Your words may also be inappropriate and cut across everything and in the end you make a mistake and sin. When someone speaks, you jump to conclusions about the speaker’s motives, when it is not at all like that.

The Lord Jesus wanted to be alone with His disciples and gauge where they stood. The Lord Jesus often spent time alone in prayer before God and He gained so much during those times. The Lord wanted to warn His disciples of a real danger to the spread of the gospel. He warned them regarding a category of people who are a threat to the gospel - Pharisees and Sadducees. He highlighted these people. He said that through their speech and teaching they will deceive many and lead them astray. There is a grave danger in speaking a half-truth and not the whole truth. The Lord Jesus noticed this danger and influence among those who had just put their faith in Him, it was a dangerous influence that could lead them astray. Brethren, we should be alert and take note of the things and people who pose a threat to the work of God. The unconverted are no problem because they can still be won over to the Lord but the danger is those who say they have met the Lord and are believers but are wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.

In Luke 12, we are warned to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy. This is something which we must be wide awake to. The outside looks like the genuine article. Their lips drip honey but the poison of asps, wasps and scorpions is hidden there. They approach as if they want to assist. They seem so concerned but when they speak, there is a hidden sting in their words which churns within and eventually kills. They leave a person for dead. When they come, they are not labelled, they mingle with others, but they have their own hidden agenda.

When the Pharisees came to Jesus, they were pious as if they wanted to learn from Him and gain heavenly mysteries. Pharisees speak the same language. They want miracles and signs. They want the kingdom of heaven. They want the gospel. But they have a hidden agenda and leave you in danger. Jesus, who saw their hearts, warned His disciples against them. He knew that they were liars and deceivers cloaked in piety. The fact that they said they want to learn about heaven did not deceive Jesus.

In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known. 3Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. Luke 12:1

Jesus knew what was dangerous to the gospel. The Pharisees were known for their hypocrisy. They seemed to be following the Lord Jesus and the disciples, but they were an evil influence. What havoc their influence wrecks on the church! You may have been influenced by this leaven. You listen to people who say, “Have you heard? What do you think it means?” You have no discernment. You swallow everything and you are left confused. How many people are confused because of things they have heard? You have been swallowed by things that mean nothing. There were things that you used to be very careful about but today you embrace them and there is nothing wrong with those things. The people who warned you previously have become your enemies. You are now an enemy of the gospel. You used to love the gospel. It used to be precious to you and you were unashamed of it, but today you compromise with the world in your dress and oppose the gospel. Before this leaven influenced your life, you dressed modestly but now you wear the pants the girls in the world wear. You are ashamed of the things that were decent and displayed good values and holiness of the gospel. Why?

In Jeremiah 2:21 we read, Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine? What has gone wrong? Child of God, we cannot be like the world. We should not want to blend into the world. No! We are a chosen nation of God. People ought to notice that we are different. Whether we are at home, at work, in the city or on the beach, we ought to respect our bodies so that people will recognise that we are children of God. Where are you today?

And Jesus warned His disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees, calling them wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). Are you still established in the Gospel you received? Are those values still precious to you or are you critical saying, “This was meant for us, that was not meant for us.” You should know that if you do this, you have lost the way. Let us accept God’s word exactly as it was written and not say that it is not meant for this time. God’s word always remains new.

As Jesus did His work, He noticed which things were a danger to the work of God. Young people, you are especially instrumental in this because you are quickly influenced by Pharisees and then you sow doubt in your parents. Because of your unbelief and worldliness, you have brought the spirit of the Pharisee and compromise into your home which is why many parents and households are doubting the Gospel, if they have not already lost it. You have your arguments. You point at others who are also Christians but do not do things like you do. The fact is that those people have not received the same light of the Gospel and the same standards of the revival that you have received. Jesus said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known. 3Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. Luke 12:1-3 If you have influenced your parents against the Gospel even that which you have whispered to them behind closed doors will be shouted from the rooftops. It will become obvious that it was your fault.

Jesus says that we should beware of the speech and deeds of the Pharisees. They are so evil that Jesus places them on the level of fornicators. They are evil and wicked, no better than fornicators, worse than prostitutes. There is still hope for repentance for a prostitute, but people who say they believe but live the life that they do, are much worse than that. If you follow these people, eating and drinking with them and enjoying their company, where do you stand? What is it that you seek? If you are sitting on the fence, decide in which camp you want to be. May it be the camp that God is pleased with. If you are in the camp of the Pharisees, you are in the group of believers who have not only become lukewarm, but are dead. On Judgement day you will have to give an account of those you have led astray.

Are you confused that they come to your meetings and name the name of Jesus? Can you not discern? Jesus says they are evil people. Their evil influence spreads and works through believers like yeast. You say that you just chat with them - about what? Business? You will find yourself involved in Satan’s business. The people who truly serve God will eventually become a nuisance to you. You will no longer see things the way they see things and feel about them. They infiltrate like a little bit of yeast. You do not need much yeast to spread throughout the lump. It is the same in your life. A small sin will spoil everything and destroy God’s work. You send text messages to and fro. What do you have in common with them? What fellowship do you have with them? They are different to you. The leaven has not just infiltrated, you are already sour because of it. You can hear the sounds the yeast makes as it rises and works through the dough. These are the signs of leaven! The dough rises because of the leaven. Beware - this could be the reason for your pride and anger and that you can no longer listen to anyone – the leaven of the Pharisees. Do you see the work of sin that has entered? A person no longer wants to be told or corrected. They cannot be told anything. If one tries to help them, they always know better. They will leave one wounded.

What confuses you? The fact that they are Pharisees? That they carry the Bible? That they fight for the laws of Moses? What has confused you and allowed their leaven into your life? You say, “Well, we were such close friends. Yes, he has left but we were so close. We were always in contact. I have to keep up the contact.” You might be drowning in a whirlpool but act as if you are laughing. Nobody helps you because they may fall into the same danger you are in, be sucked down and die.

Jesus said that the Pharisees wanted signs from heaven. (Matthew 16:1-4) Some are confused because they seek heaven and signs from heaven. Why are they not on the right track – they also want heaven? Jesus instructs you to have your eyes washed with heavenly soap after which you will see things correctly.

Jesus said when people asked to see miracles, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. John 6:26 Jesus said that those are blessed whose goal is not bread but whose desire goes beyond it. Blessed are those who do not follow Jesus because they see miracles and signs, but their faith goes beyond bread.

The Pharisees came to Jesus very piously and asked Him so humbly that one would think that they were really seeking the truth, but do not be confused, they had a different agenda. What did they want on top of what Jesus had already done and spoken? What more did they want? Jesus did things that no man had ever done before. Why were they dissatisfied with that? Why did they still want Him to prove that He was from heaven? They saw how Jesus fed the multitudes when there was no bread, and Jesus did much more than that, but they wanted another sign from heaven. Jesus was in their midst speaking of the kingdom of heaven, but they do not believe Him.

You have heard Jesus speaking. You have seen what He has done. Do you want more? Do you want a more powerful sign? Is that why you are associating with the Pharisees? Jesus saw how they approached and said, “I will not throw pearls before the pigs. They will not believe me.” Jesus said, “I will not do another sign for them because even if they see they will not believe.” The reason they did not believe was not because they had seen no miracles but because they had hardened their hearts. My friend, the crux of the matter lies with the heart. If you have shut up your heart, Jesus cannot enter. You must open your heart. 20Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 Open your heart to the Lord so that Jesus can do a complete work. He can save and cleanse you from your sin which you allowed, and which has caused so much destruction. You are now so stubborn. No-one can approach you to assist you. If they do, you respond by biting back like a dog caught in a trap that bites the hand that tries to free it.

The leaven has brought about so much harm. Are you going to leave it like that? You find yourself in a group of gossipers, in the company of the Pharisees. Do you enjoy being that group, being dead? Young people, you have WhatsApp groups which are known for gossip. The fruit of that is evil.

We need to take to heart what the Lord Jesus says - beware, beware, beware of the leaven. If we are not watchful, we will die with those who are dead in their sins. That which they say is full of poison. Open your heart, soften your heart, and invite the Lord to enter and do His work in your heart. Allow Him to get rid of the poison. Jesus, who knows what is in us and who does not need to be told anything about us said, “I will not do any more miracles. They do not ask because they want to believe but because of their own agenda.” Allow Jesus to do His work in your life. Separate from the Pharisees which are a great danger because they too say they are fighting for the faith and the law, but they are fighting against the One who has brought them something better - life from heaven.

Dietmar Joosten

What a wonderful and clear word. The Lord had just performed a miracle which man had never seen before and people were fed from nothing. Jesus was in the forefront. He was connected to the father and knew that He had to do that then. The disciples accepted the leading of God. But look at the sign of the Pharisee: Lord, look at me. Look at my request. Lord, just do a miracle so that we can say, “Look at what the Lord has done.” So spiritual. This is what a Pharisee is like. He is not satisfied with what God has done and whom He has used. They want to be seen and spoken about. Although they humbly say that they do not want to be seen, listen to their speech. They prescribe to the Lord how to do it.

Today it is the same. The Lord uses His servant. He blesses His servant and does miracles through His servant but at the end of the day, it seems as if it is I have started it. No-one does anything without my blessing and without me nodding my head. No-one lifts a foot unless I have nodded my head. That is a Pharisee. They are a clique of their own. They have money. They are not poor fishermen like the disciples. If the Pharisees had had the chance they might have gone to the Lord and said, “Lord, here is a million Euros, please do this and that.” Today money rules and does things. The Lord is not there, He is with the poor who have nothing. The sign of a Pharisee who loves money is: he will attack someone who has done something with money.

Lord, you have done Your miracles, we understand, but now – do this. The Lord responded, “I am not doing that. I have come for the sick and downtrodden, for those who need a doctor. Not those who know how to ask and do things.”

Money today is a terrible yeast. They say that money straightens what is crooked and money talks. A man once said, “I’m a crooked stick but I hit straight.” This is the pride of the Pharisees and this is how they work. Woe to the one who opposes them. A Pharisee does not want to be acquainted with those who have nothing.

Friends let us open our hearts to the Lord. It is not easy to recognise the Lord at work.