“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 NLT
“Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.”
James 4:8 NLT
Remember Daniel's interpreting the king's dream of the statue with the clay and iron feet? We can read about it in chapter 2. In verse 43, we hear Daniel explain that the blending of theses two materials makes both weak. They do not mix at all, so it is just a whole mass of seams that work like perforations: highlighting weaknesses to be attacked. When I think about Christians trying to absorb the values and lifestyle of their culture, I think about iron and clay. What God offers is strong and perfect, like iron. The baked clay of human tradition is less so, by a lot. And they do not blend. We can try to comfort ourselves thinking that if we are attacked that the weak clay will be the only thing to crumble and the iron will survive any smashing. But picture it: what will the iron be after being crushed? Raw material, twisted remnants that cut and injure. The spaces that the clay occupied will leave gaping holes that separate the iron, leaving it strewn about without a form or a function.
These are just my ponderings, though. The Christian life was never compared to iron and clay in the Bible.
Jesus went further.
Matthew 16:6-12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1.
Jesus warns us to beware the yeast of Pharisees. What does that mean? Is it the people who are Pharisees? I do not think so, because Paul was a Pharisee, as was Nicodemus. Jesus ate in the homes of Pharisees. Jesus also talked with, taught, and healed at least one roman's servant. He is not against people. He came specifically to save them.
But he did scold people. Why? For their practices and teachings! He does not like sin and really does not like people in authority leading others into sin. Jesus took special interest in Pharisees teaching and practicing laws that were added to Moses' laws delivered by God. Luke 11:46, mark 7:7 ff.
So, the yeast we must beware of is the teachings of the Pharisees. False teachings that do not blend with the Truth of God.
One problem with man-made traditions is that they seem so harmless. More than that, they often seem good and wise. Just thinking about a new rule that will eliminate confusion brings sighs of peace. Men are pretty smart. We are creative. This is no surprise, since we are made in God's image. So our traditions often make a lot of sense! We go along because it is a well-worn path. And often, there is no conflict to our consciences in doing so. So, what's the problem? There isn't one; until we are lulled into trusting the ways of men. Have you ever heard anyone say, 'I do not know why we do it that way; it's just how we have always done it.'
That leads us to the other problem with man-made traditions: we cannot serve two masters. There is a point when there will be disagreement, and you have to choose what or who is supreme. Sadly, we realize this after following along so blindly and so easily for so long, our minds are asleep to the conflict.
In Galatians, Paul affirms Jesus' assertions to avoid the yeast that would re-enslave us after Jesus' work that freed us. He speaks specifically about circumcision, but I believe it is reasonable to apply it to any false teaching. “For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you.” Galatians 5:6-10 NLT
Yeast. It is a leavener that permeates every iota of dough to which it is added. There is no compartmentalizing. Remember those feet made of iron and clay? While not strong, and not blended, we can physically point to what is iron and what is clay. It is obvious. In a blend with yeast, however, there is no distinction. Yeast touches everything. You cannot make a loaf with yeast and find a piece of that bread without it.
So, when we try to blend the world with the Way, we have a real problem. Jesus said beware. False teaching comes in and touches everything. It is messy. And once in, it is hard to identify. It blends so smoothly.
I would like to end with Psalm 101 by King David. It is easy to dismiss the idea of living this zealously because it talks about hating people and ridding the city of evil. Since The work of the Messiah, we are not to hate any people, and none of us has servants of any caliber. But does that mean we cannot internalize this Psalm for our own lives in Christ? Do we really want to be this focused on living for God? Listen to all the 'I will's. Will you?
“I will sing of your love and justice, LORD.
I will praise you with songs.
I will be careful to live a blameless life— when will you come to help me?
I will lead a life of integrity in my own home.
I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar.
I hate all who deal crookedly;
I will have nothing to do with them.
I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil.
I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors.
I will not endure conceit and pride.
I will search for faithful people to be my companions. Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me.
I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house, and liars will not stay in my presence. My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked and free the city of the LORD from their grip.” Psalms 101:1-8 NLT