Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Leavening Agent of Hypocrisy

“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.” (Luke 12:1 ESV)

Jesus opens chapter twelve with an extremely potent and penetrating warning to his disciples in regards to the Pharisees. If you remember Jesus had been invited to dine with a Pharisee. The Pharisee became very indignant when he observed that Jesus did not perform the customary ritual of washing his hands prior to eating.

Of course you remember the scathing indictment that Jesus directed at his host. Knowing his hosts most inner thoughts he accused him of cleaning the outside of his “cup” while leaving the inside full of greed and wickedness. Jesus continued with his condemnation by pointing out the hypocritical and strained accuracy of tithing mint along with every herb while ignoring the much weightier matters such as justice or the love of God. If that wasn’t enough he accused the Pharisee, his host, of being nothing more than an unmarked grave that contaminated common people as they unknowingly walked across them.

This indignant invective proved too much for a lawyer who was in attendance. He advised Jesus that by charging the Pharisees with these accusations, he was also insulting the lawyers. This was one time this lawyer should not have given up the right to remain silent. Jesus turned and with righteous indignation lambasted the lawyers. He characterized them as those who load up the common people with rules and regulations that they don’t even keep themselves.

Naturally after this dinner party turned painfully strained, the Pharisees and lawyers joined forces in an attempt to provoke Jesus into some form of condemning speech. This leads us to the events contained in verse one of chapter twelve.

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. We don’t have to wait very long to discover what Jesus meant by “leaven.” Jesus warned the disciples and any of those in the crowd who might be listening to guard against hypocrisy.

It is so easy to put on a mask and present one version of ourselves to our friends or family while “hiding” another version behind the mask. Listen to J.C. Ryle:

“Sound protestant and evangelical doctrine is useless if it is not accompanied by a holy life. It is worse than useless: it does positive harm. It is despised by keen sighted and shrewd men of the world, as an unreal and hollow thing, and brings religion into contempt.”

Let me share five things with you, if I may that will help each of us guard our heart against the sin of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

1. The principles of hypocrisy are deeply rooted in our human nature. The roots sprout from our hearts. They must be watched for at all times and even violently ripped from our hearts. We must develop a defense that includes a constant reminder to ourselves of this ever present danger.

2. We must develop a heart to treasure our walk with God that supersedes the deceitfulness of sin. We cannot merely sweep the house, put things in its place by developing religious attitudes or actions. We must by God’s grace desire him more that those things that would supplant him in our affections.

3. We must develop a fear – a deep, holy, and reverential adoration for God that is greater than our desire for the accolades of men. Fearing God comes at a great price: denial of self, death of self, and the continuous following of our Lord.

4. We must remember that leaven is a very small agent and it takes very little to do its job. Leaven, like hypocrisy works from within, secretly and silently by releasing waste by-products that actually “flavor” products such as bread. For example, In sourdough breads, the flavor is further enhanced by various lactic acid bacteria (lactobacilli) or acetic acid bacteria (acetobacilli). A very tiny agent of hypocrisy can work silently and secretly within our lives by “flavoring” our attitudes and actions by the “waste by-products” left behind.

5. We need to constantly be on guard and regularly ask God to make us aware of any hypocrisy at work in our lives. We need to immediately confess this great sin to our Lord, agreeing with God that hypocrisy is sin, express a desire for absolute forgiveness, and claim by faith His absolute forgiveness based on the finished work of atonement of His Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

May we by God’s grace declare 2010 a hypocrisy free zone!

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