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The Doctrine of a Disciple

Discipled to Disciple

Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." - Matthew 16:5-6

Forgetfulness is a common problem. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to go all the way home from work because I forgot my laptop or my phone. We try to keep up with appointments and meetings on our calendars but sometimes we forget to write them down or we misplace lists or forget to check them. Our forgetfulness makes us wonder if we are following God as we ought.

The story of the disciples forgetting to bring bread is a great comfort for forgetful people. Their forgetfulness was of no concern to Jesus. He could easily provide the bread they had forgotten to bring. Mistakes we make in the material world can be easily overcome through His help. The problem of inattention to spiritual matters goes much deeper. We must be aware of the dangers that surround us.

As with many aspects of discipleship the problem is a matter of focus and priority. Because the world focuses on material things and physical needs, it is tempting for the believer to fall in line and develop the same priorities. When we talk about being “well-off” or planning for the future, we tend to focus on finances, houses, cars and the various amenities of life. Rarely do we consider where we would like to be in terms of spiritual maturity next year or five years from now, nor do we consider the growth in ministry we would like to see happen.

In the sermon on the mount Jesus summed the concepts of priority and focus up in one short verse. Most of us know it by heart! “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Sound doctrine forms the foundation for seeking these realities. It describes the Kingdom of God and what it means to seek it. It expresses righteousness and how it may be attained.

Human substitutes for the truth of sound doctrine infiltrate our minds and change our priorities and focus. Jesus referred to this teaching as yeast that permeates the dough and radically changes its nature. We are tempted to adopt it because it is human reasoning that appeals to our flesh. In every instance it elevates outward performance that never addresses the core problem of the sinful heart.

Jesus told His disciples to beware of three kinds of “yeast,” that of the Pharisees, the Sadducees and Herod. These doctrines shift the focus from the kingdom of God and what only He can do and the kingdom of man and what man is able to do. They strip spiritual life of its vitality and power. They provide systems that give the allusion of spiritual reality but leave the sinner dead in his sin.

The Pharisees taught that by keeping their interpretation of the law, the sinner could be made righteous. It was works salvation all the way that denied Jesus’ core teachings of grace. The Sadducees taught that this world is all there is. Religion is the attempt to find the higher moral qualities in people and through these to better the lot of mankind. It denies the power of the gospel because it denies the reality of sin. The teaching of Herod took the approach that the greatest power on earth is political power. Strong government is the only hope for righting the wrongs in this world. The problem is, of course, that government does not address the problems of the heart and is only as effective as the flawed people who are in power.

All of these systems are yet vying for the hearts and minds of God’s people. They run rampant in our churches. Yet they are easy to unmask. All it takes is continual exposure to the truth of God’s word, watchfulness and the willingness to expose the lies. The light will expose the darkness as long as we purpose to walk in the light.

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