And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. - http://www.ihopnetwork.com/index.php/2014/04/15/the-religious-spirit/Mark 8:15
Twice in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32), Moses commanded the people to neither add to, nor take away from what He had said. There is always the trend among religious folk to do this, as it was then, so it is today, amongst men.
Many see the admonition to not take away anything from the law. This is the purpose of the law, to restrain bad behavior. Doing so, one then has no boundary against wrong-doing and one transgresses the law, hence being a law-breaker. Whether the person who removes the portion of the law is the one who transgresses or not is not the issue. Simply removing portions of the law leave a ‘hole in the fence’, as it were, and someone will stumble through it.
On the other hand, however, is that of adding to the law. This is, in fact, what many of the Scribes did in Jesus’ day. They added to the law their own oral tradition, such as the washing of cups and hands, declaring things ‘Corban’ (See Mark 7:11), and many other such things Jesus said they did. The problem was that they added to the weight of the law, and unduly added rules and yokes to the people, yokes that could not even be borne!
But, consider this. We understand from Luke 12:1, that the leaven of the Pharisees was ‘hypocrisy’. As it is commonly understood, the leaven of Herod was legalism. In a way, we could look at the operation of the religious spirit in the same way in Mark 8, above.
On either side of the road is a ditch. In between the ditch is a strip of pavement called the road, and, in this case, it’s obedience. No matter how broken the walk that Jesus is attempting to amend, He says that there something called obedience, that every child of God comprehends.
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
John 14:23 NIV
That obedience, at whatever level we have been given, always looks like obeying His Word–from the Sermon on the Mount, to the commands to love another in the discourses of John, to the Epistles of Paul. We are called to obey, and that from a new heart, a heart of love that He has given us.
Yet, today again, the urge in the heart of man is to somehow ‘lessen’ the commands. Or, on top of that, to add to it.
This is the work of the religious, and precisely the types of leaven Jesus warned about, after a fashion. On the one hand, some would attempt to say nothing matters at all anymore. This is lawlessness at its height. Paul said that those who lived after their flesh, writing to the brothers, would die (Romans 8:13). Yet, right on top of it, you find all sorts of people who want to add to what Jesus wrote, and this is what Paul wrote about in Colossians 2, saying it was useless to live by “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch”.
Of course, this leaves us in a quandary, a dilemma, it seems. We know on the one hand, that the Law was not able to be kept. On the other, we see that the Sermon on the Mount would be harder to keep than that. Yet, even in the same way that those who are not born again cannot see the Kingdom (John 3:3), so, the solution is absolutely invisible who don’t know it.
The answer is the new birth. The way is living by the Spirit. As Paul wrote, if by the Spirit we put to death the misdeeds of the flesh, we will live. Of course, if we stumble along the way, we have an advocate, a lawyer, on our side, taking up our case. Legitimate mistakes are what they are. They are wrong, and yet, the blood of Jesus washes our sins, and we are pure.
We are not left to our own devices. The religious spirit is just that. It always wants to add to or take away from what Jesus said, and yet, what He said was sufficient. But, more than that, it wants you to do it on your own effort and ability.
This is exactly what prompted Paul to write what he did in Galatians and Colossians. We are born again, made new, and clean. We have a new heart, with our sinful nature destroyed. This is the good news. Yet, when man rebels against God’s plan, has sin and unforgiveness in his heart, he is snagged by the world and what it does.
These are the reasons people get snagged, because of unforgiveness, bitterness, and rebellion.
But, the pure in heart see God. There is no want to those who seek Him.
When we harbor things, it leaves us vulnerable to the workings of the flesh, and deceptions. A little off of here, a little added there. Perhaps we don’t like the restrictions, or, perhaps, we figure we can do a little better if we “help” things out.
But, both destroy the work of faith in our lives.
It is not that the life of faith does not have laws, by any means. But, they are the laws of the Spirit who gives life (Romans 8:2).
These are the workings of the things of God. Beyond simply a knowledge, and past the page of the book, they are who He is, and how and why He does things. These are the things of His heart.