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  • Writer's pictureDr. Roger D Duke

Who Influences You?

Who Influences You?

Please enjoy the Gospel as found in the “Leather Journal” of Pastor Phil Newton. He is the pastor of the South Woods Baptist Church Memphis, TN.

“And He was giving orders to them, saying, ‘Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod’” (Mark 8:14–21).

We can see and hear truths while ignoring them or failing to understand them. Our hearts can be dulled by the influential voices and images around us to such an extent, that we miss even the most amazing truths the Lord shows us. On this particular occasion, the disciples had witnessed Jesus multiplying the seven loaves of bread and a few fish to feed a multitude of four thousand. They had been involved in the attesting miracle by watching food multiply, serving, and distributing the meal in the wilderness, then gathering up seven baskets full of leftovers. Perhaps we think that had we witnessed such an extraordinary work at the hands of Jesus that our faith would be strong and minds keen to Him as the Messianic King.

Perhaps so. Yet the disciples got into the boat to cross the Sea of Galilee with Jesus in the boat, and realized that in their rush, none of them brought along ample bread for the several hours long trip. One loaf would only make them want more. As they sized up the situation, they seemed oblivious to the Lord of life who created the world sitting in the boat with them! Jesus was telling them—even ordering, so as to call their attention to an area of obedience in which they must pay attention to observe: “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” While that set their minds on the yeast (leaven) used to make the bread which they forgot to take along, they missed Jesus’ command and warning. He corrected their short-sighted minds and dull hearts, for forgetting who was in the boat with them and what kind of power He had already exercised in their presence. They had eyes but didn’t see, ears but didn’t hear, minds that didn’t remember, and hearts that hardened to understanding. All this affected faith, obedience, and devotion to Him (vv. 17–18). Here’s the danger. We can be around, and even, participate in the most wonderful spiritual occasions. Truths can be proclaimed; evidences of Christ’s power can be manifested; and yet it may not affect us. We can be dulled by the influences around us impacting our hearts more than the living Lord Jesus Christ.

That’s what Jesus warned of. The “leaven of the Pharisees” referred to their influence. How did they influence spiritual thinking? They gave attention to external things but not the inner life (Mark 7:1–23). They looked pious by the traditions observed while paying no attention to sin ruling in their hearts. Do we think it suffices as long as we’re doing what others consider to be spiritual (or what we’re convinced is spiritual) by attending worship, doing acts of service, giving money, going on mission trips, etc.? How about our hearts? Do we guard attitudes, confess and repent of sins, humbly worship and learn with the body, and work on cultivating devotion to Christ? The Pharisees mastered the external while neglecting the inner life.

“The leaven of Herod,” his influence, was one who “enjoyed” listening to John the Baptist, eager to see some supernatural work by Christ, but never got serious about repentance (6:20). He was enthusiastic without a heart turned to take up his cross and follow Jesus. He didn’t let the gospel of the kingdom go beyond the ears to affect the heart. Jesus warned the disciples: you can be around Him, see Him, hear Him, but actually ignore Him, all the while satisfying yourselves on the externals or showing enthusiasm for what interests you. Instead, Jesus calls us to hear Him, trust Him, and follow Him. Beware the influences that move us away from a heart for Christ.

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