Beware of the Leaven of the Pharisees Matthew l6:6...'Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.' We find that today there are an increasing number of different denominations who look at the Gospel promises and look at their own lives and the churches they pastor who come away from that with a deep despair. The Gospel is the promise unto salvation.

Why do we see such powerless and weak people around us? Why do so many ministers experience powerlessness if indeed the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation? Jesus said that He was the bread of life and if we eat from Him and if we eat of Him that we would never hunger and thirst again? People go through life and continue to cry out that we are hungry and we are thirsty.

What is this? What's happened to the bite of the Gospel? What has happened to the power of the Gospel and the longing of the Gospel? It hasn't always been this way. I would say that within the last 70 years of church history, something has been wrong within the churches.

It hasn't always been like this. There's been something wrong in the results of the preaching of the Gospel. I am more then suggesting that we have not been heeding this admonition of Jesus. We have not been watching out and Bewaring of the Leaven of the Pharisees.

This is one of the most intense warnings that Jesus gave. 'Watch Out!' 'Beware!' And, then to describe the teachings of the Pharisees as leaven and then to describe this evil as leaven among the Jewish people and today the church.

You would think that Jesus would have warned to watch out for the prostitutes and sinners but He didn't. In fact, He felt more comfortable sitting in amongst the prostitutes, thieves, and sinners. The things Jesus warned about were not the usual things that the church was warning about. He seemed to have tremendous assurance in' His own love' that could overcome selfishness. He seemed to have tremendous 'Faith in the Light that He was that could overcome Darkness'. And, the warning He gave then and for us today is, 'Watch Out and Beware of the Leaven of the Pharisees'.

So, what was wrong with the Pharisees? We've almost lost the real meaning today of the Pharisees.

Today, if you speak of the Pharisees, you would almost think something was wrong about them and that they were very bad. However, the fact is that they would probably get into our churches today quite easily.

Have you ever studied the Pharisees? They were tremendous people. Their love for the study of scripture far surpasses any in the modern world. If you were born into a Pharisee family, I'm sorry ladies but you didn't count in those days, they would take a male child of around two years of age and they would take the Torah and spread it with honey and have him lick the scroll. So, from the earliest memories, that child would learn that the Torah is like honey to his mouth. At 4 years old, he would begin learning the Book of Leviticus. By the time that he was l2 years old, he would have memorized the Books of Genesis through Deuteronomy. And, then, he would have to go to the temple where he was examined by the rabbis and every answer had to come from the scriptures of the Torah. And, then, as he entered his teenage years, he would start memorizing the Prophets and the Psalms and, then, would be added all the discussion between the teachers and the rabbis. Not Bad!

These people were immersed in the scripture. You'd have to say their first love was the scripture and the discussions about the scripture. Part of the initiation was that they had to 'take upon themselves the yoke of the law...the Torah'. That was your first promise. You know how you would yoke the animals together so they would do a better job? They said they would yoke themselves to the law of God. And, you could not become a Pharisee unless you publicly confess that you would take on the yoke of God's law.

They kept set hours of prayer...didn't matter where they were in a crowd, it didn't matter..when the set hour had come, they would stand and pray and they would pray for a long time. They didn't care what people thought. They fasted twice a week. Not Bad!

They were fanatic tithers. In fact, they just didn't tithe on money. They tithed on everything. Some of you would like to have church members like that...tithers!!!

And, holiness...that is a possible meaning of the word 'Pharisee'...the separated ones. Separated onto holiness and separated unto God's law, separated to the people who kept God's law. Everything was carefully written out how they were to please God's law and everything you must avoid in case God would be displeased. They were man made laws called 'fence laws'. They were laws that fenced off the law of God. There whole life was how do I keep from breaking God's law.

Did you know the Pharisees went all over the Roman Empire as evangelists? They would go around to different synogogues and preach to bring others under the 'yoke of the law'. They were looking for others to become as fanatical as they were trying to please God. Can you fault a man for trying so hard to please God?

As you read the Gospels, however, you will see that they were aggressively at war against Jesus. It becomes interesting here because here are a group of people immersed in the scripture. And, yet, when Jesus came among them, everything He taught, everything He did, everything He said enraged them. They were vehemently opposed to His mission. Here were people instilled in prayer, evangelizing, fasting, studying and strongly opposed to everything Jesus was doing. And, did you notice Jesus singled them out. And, if you study the scriptures, you will find that it was all out war between Jesus and the Pharisees. He singled them out as the greatest enemies of truth. He described them as the most offensive sinners to God.

The Pharisees called people 'sinners', you know that? If we call people 'sinners', we got that from the Pharisees. Jesus called them 'lost'...'lost sheep' actually. He called the Pharisees snakes and vipers.

Here were people as far away from religion as possible and Jesus called them 'precious lost sheep'. And, he called those so involved in religion as snakes and vipers. He deliberately breaks their made-made 'fence laws'. And, Jesus did it right under their nose. And, He said to the crowds, “Those people, I Am not!” “In light of that...this I Am!” if to cause a great rift between who He was, what He said, about His Mission and what they understood.

'Beware...Watch Out for Their Teaching!'

Tragically, that's exactly what did happen. The Leaven of the Pharisees, so early, got into the message of the Gospel. You can see it throughout the Book of Acts. That is the battle that raged between Paul and the Dear Brothers in Jerusalem. Paul saw it. Even Peter had a problem with it. Why Paul saw it so clearly was that he was an ex-Pharisee, you see. In Galatia, Paul told the people, “Oh, how I love you but how stupid you are that you've fallen for this nonsense.” It was their leaven that got mixed with the Gospel and created something else.

How could that have happened? Because they couldn't see the Gospel in all it's clarity and they thought this could be added.

The teaching of the Pharisees...What's wrong with it? Here is something more destructive then sitting down with prostitutes. It was more dangerous then hanging out with the tax collectors. The philosophy of the sinners isn't as dangerous as this...What is this? What did this turn the Gospel into then it really wasn't?

The Yeast of the Pharisees turns the Gospel into 'just another religion'. One more dreary religion.

You might want to look at your own church. It takes over before you even realize it.

You know all religions are the same. If you travel around the world, you may come to the same conclusion that all religions go to the same seminary. I'd like to say, 'You tell me your Good News and I'll tell you my Good News.' Try to convert me. It's everywhere...Religion presupposes separation.

Religion was born at the base of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil when man was divorced and severed from God. A great gulf is fixed between man and fact between man and man. Religion presumes that by works it can build a bridge across. And every religion in the world born of man drawing up what seems right unto man as a proper way to approach God. And, every where you go, it's the same...Man trying to build the bridge across to God. It seems right unto man because man invented it but it only leads to death.

In religion, God is only up there or over there. You see. There is always a separation. We are always trying to get God who is over there to come over here. Religion...the God who is separated from me.

Then, we try to build a bridge to God by our performance. A Pharisee's heart is no more than performance for God. I'll do this but I won't do that. I will have things to do with that person but not that person. I must wear this but I can't wear that. I must eat this but I must not eat that...outward performance. The Pharisees say, “Now, that will build a bridge to God.” And, in doing so, they had to suppress what God had given them in the Old Testament.

A person of religion does not worship God by the Holy Spirit. They worship God after their own image. Pharisees worshiped to the Great Pharisee in the sky. They saw God as a God who had a master plan of sins and taboos who despised anyone who didn't keep the list. If they had only seen their own sin, they would understand you could never change their sin by changing clothes or following a man made agenda. You cannot do these man made rules unless you fit God into your concept.

You know you don't keep the list...even the one you made up. Pharisees perceived everybody else as worthless except themselves. They overcame their worthlessness by their performances. And, they loved to sneer at others and say to themselves, “I'm glad I'm not like you.”

When the real God appeared among them and walked and lived among them , they hated Him because they said, “This isn't the God we worship!” This one talks about 'LOVE' and 'ACCEPTANCE' and He doesn't talk call anybody worthless. In fact, they are of such 'Value'...just one of them is worth more than all the world. And,' He was manifesting the very character of His Father's love amongst His own'.

From the very beginning, this is what they neglected and suppressed. I'm not going to fault all their practices of fasting and praying and their performances. By the most part they are Biblical. But, this performance that says that you have to perform to build the bridge, it turns what was meant to be Biblical into something else all together.

Prayer became not a relationship with God; but, how long did you pray today, Brother? My prayers are longer then your prayers. Immerse themselves in the scripture...Yes! But, they had long since lost an intimate relationship with the author of the scripture.

You can read the scripture and study the scripture until your knowledge is greater than the Pharisees; but, unless the Holy Spirit brings you the person who is in the scripture who is bigger then the scripture, then what good is it? Taste and see that the Lord is good. Taste of the 'Living Lord Jesus Christ'.

“You search the scriptures,” said Jesus to the Pharisees, “because, in them, you feel you have eternal life.” “But, it is these very scriptures that testify of Me and 'you won't come to me'. And, they did it in their tithing and rituals and it all became 'a dead end'. It was not the celebration of LOVE to God!

I fasted two days. That gives me so many brownie points. It just became a form and when it goes out of form, it is dead. It is meaningless...just another dead religion.
Instead of 'life', it is just a form of currency that may get me favor with God, a business of ritual and form instead of 'light' and 'life'.

Evangelism is no more a message of God's love because I have forgotten that God loves and wants me to show His love to others walking in His very character upon the earth. Evangelism has become how many scalps can I hang on my belt. How many people can I present the master sin list to? How many people can I bring under the yoke of the law?

The yeast of the Pharisees totally missed the goal.

What is the real law? Isn't it 'LOVE'? The law is settled in two main lines...”Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength; and you are to love one another as you love yourself.” The Pharisee couldn't love a God who loved because the Pharisee didn't know of a God who loved. We loved because He first loved us. How can you love worthless people?

Other people were just meaningless interruptions in their effort to please God. Can't you see I'm studying the scriptures? I'm leaving for a Bible Study. Don't interrupt me now. People were there to be separated from. I only want my own kind and we can't study scripture without one another.

Separate me. Separate me. That really got into the church. The Yeast of the's with us today.

The pastor says, “Bring all your unsaved friends.” You never find a believer with unsaved friends.

We're too spiritual for that.

You ever thought of this? Jesus...the total opposite. Jesus never talked about His love for God but it was so obvious by His actions. Why did Jesus pray all night? So, He could love and be with people all day. To Jesus loving God the Father was expressed in loving people. You see it's totally possible to keep all the forms but be devoid of the 'real thing'. And, it's not the human kind of love that reaches out to some but it's the God kind of love that reaches out to all people.

The Pharisee kind of love knows that he can't do it. It's impossible to him. So, it produces another kind of love which is by dress and code and law. It's just empty, meaningless rituals of religion.

And, if you go to the right places, do the right things, you're in. And, it's all right to tear everyone else to pieces because you're in.

But, if my works are from God, they will be from God and unto God working through love as His humble servant given over to the Master's use. His very love will flow through our veins.

Pharisees always need an audience. They do I appear to an outsider? Their identity was...

How do I appear to others? They were a mess. Their only identity was, 'How do I look to others?'

They would pray out in public just to try to impress others. They are so self conscious.

True aliveness is the spontaneous love of God.

When they sin, they have a sense of worthlessness. They live for the applause of the crowd and yet they know they are wretched, poor, blind, and naked. “I may be bad but I'm not as bad as him”, they'd say. “ I only have the right kind of people in my circle.”

Jesus cries out to people who have such and tremendous value. Jesus loved everybody while the Pharisees could not and would not.

To the world who thought these people to be so best, they were just empty shells.

The very sin of Phariseeism was their lack of love for God and for others.

Phariseeism eclipses the cross because either Jesus did it all or I'm just having a good time.

In Christ Jesus, God has done everything. To take us from sin and put us into Himself by the indwelling Holy Spirit that lives within our hearts. Christ has accomplished all and He is now all in all.

He came to me. He announced He lives and He has accomplished all in me and all who will receive.

Jesus is not the boss of your life. Jesus is Lord. He has finished it. It is done.

He has come down to us to take us to where He is as His Bride. All the religions say, “You do.” The Gospel said, “He did!” I'm not worthless. I am of such value that He shed His blood for me.

Faith is always present tense. Phariseeism is always future tense. Faith always is now.

The Gospel is called the Obedience of Faith. We need to repent of all our good works. We can do nothing. I can't do anything to please God. What a relief. And, to realize that He did everything.

It is...Christ in us the hope of Glory! Christ lives in Me. Christ can live through you if you will simply ask His forgiveness of your sins and ask Him into your life. Where there was one; now, there will be two.