Friday, February 7, 2014

Coal or Diamond - Part 9

image used under Creative Commons license, courtesy of Wikipedia
Matthew 16:6 (KJV)  Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. 

Galatians 5:9 (KJV)  A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. 

Several events, this week highlighted those verses for me.  Or, more precisely, the need for the reverse of those.  What we need is not always what we get. Consider the title of the series.  If we're searching for diamonds, there's also coal that pressure hasn't transformed to diamonds.  In fact, we're more likely to find coal and no diamonds.  In contrast, if we're looking for coal because we need to cook or heat, we may find a vein of coal ore that has a lot of air pockets, That would give is coal that burns up too quickly.  The spiritual realm is similar to those two possibilities.  Take a look.

We're warned, in Matthew 16:6, against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Unless we've studied the Bible or know something about cooking, that might go right over our heads.  Galatians 5:9 brings the problem more into focus, but some of us may still be wondering what's being talked about.

Almost all of us know what yeast is, probably in a preventive sense.  It keeps cake or bread from being thin and pretty flat.  It's a leaven.  It doesn't take much yeast to make bread or a cake rise. And what happens?  It creates air pockets.  So, how many of us can live on a lot of air pockets? And remember what we said about coal with air pockets.

Compare that bread or cake to a Catholic communion wafer or to a taco shell or any other unleavened bread.  Raised bread looks good and nutritious.  But the volume includes air, which has no nutrition.  The Israelites were told to use unleavened bread for their rituals.  For a tribe on the move, that gave them a food that was unadulterated by bad ingredients or diminished in nutrition by air space, and it took up less space to carry.  In the spiritual realm, that has a similar impact. Leaven brings in unnecessary extras that poison the content of the soul with toxic things that have nothing to do with God's way.  It also fills the spiritual "stomach" with fluff, things that aren't nutritious, even though they may not be harmful.

The Pharisees and Sadducees took the Ten Commandments and bloated then with over 600 more man made regulations, then baked it into a loaf of spiritually non-nutritious mess.  There was little (if any) of God in what they added.  And a lot of demonic hot air.

As we've gone through this semi-autobiographical series, there are two points that ought to be clear as threads running throughout.  One is external influences.  The other is decision making.  It might seem clear that I was floundering on both.  But that was actually only the tip of the iceberg.

Looking for "cool", I had too many distractions in public school and didn't do well.  As a result, I was transferred to a Catholic boarding school in the hopes of getting me in academic shape in a disciplined atmosphere.  Which worked, to a point.  As long as there was external enforcement, I did really well.  But I wasn't developing any personal discipline.  Some of that was the school's fault. There was an underlying assumption was that we all were going to end up in Catholic colleges, which still had some level of external enforcement.  So, they may have been 30% at fault, but I was also 100% at fault.  I know.  The percentages don't add up.  But they give some idea of the reality.

Looking back, there were things that happened in my summer jobs and my relationships with people that should have been indicators that I was lacking some of the maturity that should have been there.  I was good at faking the externals, but I was still a kid inside.  So, heading to one of the better eastern colleges got me a semester and a half before my self indulgence and lack of discipline got me tossed out as wasting space and an academic disaster.

I drifted away from the whole Zen thing in Catholic high school and back to it, afterwards.  That was also part of the whole lack of discipline thing.  After high school, there was no faking that I wasn't indulging the flesh, although I was still pretty good at putting on an external front.  And that highlights a real truth about spirituality.

Yes, it matters what direction your spirituality is going.  But, in another sense, it doesn't.  Whether we have wrong spirituality or none, there's a lot of air space resulting from the leaven.  The difference is that a lack of spirituality is all without substance to latch onto, whereas wrong spirituality can be redirected in the right direction.  I suspect that the problem with the Pharisees wasn't wrong spirituality, but that they had none and were self serving instead of serving anything outside themselves.  Their legalism was built to give them power and recognition.  

For awhile, that was me.  A non-Christian Pharisee, bent on self satisfaction.  There was more leaven than substance in my life.  Or, to fit our series example, there was much more coal than diamonds and the coal had a lot of air pockets.  So, even that was pretty useless.  

I said there were two events that brought these thoughts to a head.  The first was someone online whose posts were involved in accusing others of having wrong influences, being wrong influences, and having evil motives.  That included ranting about a variety of English Bible translations.  He was so busy with that, that I wondered if he had any time to let Jesus into his life.  Lots of leaven, little substance.

The other event was a review of the first of my two published devotionals.  That's here:  It was written in such a way that it got me thinking about why I had written them.  And those thoughts fit today's subject matter.  William James said, "Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.".  My intent, with this blog, my booklet, and my devotionals, has been to draw people to God, so they could experience the same joy He's given me.  That puts a spotlight on a great reality.  If we don't communicate the right things with ourselves, we'll never be able to share them with others.  The leaven and its results need to be out of the way.

Think about the leaven.  Is there so much that there isn't much room for Jesus?  Or are we like Job's description of scales on a beast, in Job 41:16 (KJV), "One is so near to another, that no air can come between them."?  No air from leaven and no leaven?

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