Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Yeast of My Faith

Matthew 13:33

When my children were growing up, I loved to bake for them.  Mountains of cookies and tins of pies and cakes always adorned the countertops.  Their lunch bags rarely held a store-bought dessert, but contained homemade goodies, instead.   But what drew them the most to the kitchen was the aroma of freshly baked bread.  It was a common practice of mine to bake several loaves each week.  A old recipe given to me by a friend provided enough dough for seven loaves and often I would use some of it for cinnamon rolls - a favorite among the men in the household.  When just dinner rolls or cinnamon rolls were in order, I would turn to a sweet roll dough recipe given to me by an Aunt whose baking and cooking skills were touted in our extended family.

Baking a successful loaf of bread requires much diligent practice and adherence to the recipe.  The first time I made cinnamon rolls for my new husband, I unknowingly killed the yeast.  This means that the water I used to activate the yeast was too hot and prevented the dough from rising.  The result was a pan of rolls resembling hockey pucks.  However, my husband ate them, and I am sure he did so just to make me feel better about my unsuccessful attempt to please him.  I was more careful the next time and more determined that I learn everything necessary to make a good batch of dough.

As I mentioned earlier, it is the aroma of bread being prepared that sticks most in my mind.  If you have ever made your own bread, you know that without yeast, salt, and sugar the dough is tasteless and smells like bland flour paste.  It is the added ingredients that give it that wonderfully pungent aroma and delicious flavor.  And it is the yeast’s essence that drew my family into the kitchen where they would wait for that first warm, golden brown slice smothered in butter and jam.

My Mom once told me that, as she was growing up, her mother would heat fat in a pan, pull small lumps of freshly made dough from the ball, and fry them in the fat.  She called them “dough gods”; crispy, golden brown on the outside and warm and fluffy on the inside.  It was a treat in an otherwise poor household that her family looked forward to with delight.

The most amazing process of bread baking is in the reaction of the ingredients.  One of the most essential parts is the yeast for, without it, the result would resemble my failed cinnamon rolls, or a flat and unleavened type of bread.  The word "yeast" in Scripture is often applied as a symbol of sin.  Just as a little yeast in a bowl of flour will cause it to grow into a larger amount, a little sin in a person’s life will also increase and eventually ruin it (Lev. 2:11; Matt 16:12).

However, yeast is also used as a positive symbol of growth.  The leaven that Jesus describes in Matthew 13:33 depicts an agent that is necessary in growing His kingdom.  The yeast, which can be substituted for His Word, was first viewed as insignificant, only affecting a few.  But as it permeated the whole batch, it began to enlarge and spread out and eventually impacted the entire world.

Just as the improper application of yeast in bread making can ruin the whole batch, the wrong use of it in our lives can create a very unpleasant stench to our Lord’s keen sense of smell.  Even our smallest sins will carry a sour and unpalatable aroma to heaven.  We may think that just a little will not hurt.  But in reality, it will seep into every grain of our makeup until it overpowers us, and the result is nothing more than a worthless lump of tasteless and discarded dough.

The aroma that drew my family to the kitchen is the same one I desire to present to the Lord.  I want the yeast of my faith to be a “fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Phil 4:18).

It is imperative that we carefully follow the instructions we are given in the recipe for successful witness.  If I inadvertently, or even intentionally, overheat the water I use to activate the yeast with which I am attempting to leaven others, the result could be disastrous.  If I fail to add the salt of faith , or the sweetness of Truth that flavors the dough, my hearer will be left with a bad taste in his mouth.  God's Word of Truth, His recipe for forgiveness and salvation, cannot be altered or suited to fit the world's perception of the Gospel.  It must be retained in its original purity in order for the aroma of its message to be pleasing to the Lord.   By attempting to add foreign or offensive ingredients, or remove a necessary one, the perfection of the loaf is damaged and He will find it inedible.

If I obediently follow God's recipe for success, as I kneed the flour and break down its components, the texture will become pliable, yielding to the Hands that hold my own and that gently shape it into loaves worthy of His palate.  The yeast of my faith will be proven in the final product.  And as they are placed on His cupboard, their aroma will draw others to do the same, until His pantry is full and His children are fed.

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