There are two types of leaven: Physical and Spiritual.
Physical leaven is an agent like yeast that is introduced into a lump of dough. The yeast produces bubbles of gas in the process called fermentation. These bubbles spread throughout the entire lump of dough causing the dough to rise. This is how a typical loaf of bread is made.
Spiritual leaven is anything we allow into our lives contrary to the word of God. Allowing spiritual leaven into our lives can lead to SINFUL BEHAVIOR.
So, when the Apostle Paul says in Gal 5:9, "A little leaven leavens the whole lump,' what is he saying to the Galatians and to us?
He's saying that a little bit of 'untruth,' a little bit of 'false teaching,' a little bit of 'impure thoughts' is leaven that can affect and transform the whole person.
Leaven is allowed in through the mind (thoughts), then seeps into the heart, creating a desire. That desire, if strong enough, can
lead to a sinful action. A sinful action, in turn, can eventually destroy a person's walk with Christ ... even a person's life. And from where does this leaven come? From the enemy of our souls! (Enemy > Leaven > Mind > Heart > Desire > Sinful Action > Consequences)
So, the bottom line is: SPIRITUAL LEAVEN permeates through our spirit man causing a desire often leading to SINFUL ACTIONS - contrary to the word of God.
Isn't this why God's word instructs us:
-- In 2 Cor 10:5, "... bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of
-- In Phil 4:8, " Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things."
-- In Prov 23:7, "For as he (a man) thinks in his heart, so is he." (What this implies is that the emotions within our heart will be made manifest, eventually.)
Next, what's the definition of SIN? The dictionary definition of sin is:
'A deliberate act of transgression against Divine Law.' It's behavior contrary to the word of God.
So, if God's word says not to do something, and we do it ... or, if His word says to do something and we don't do it ... IT'S SIN.
And the leaven we allow in spreads like a cancer: First into our mind, then our heart, then into our will, causing a sinful action that could destroy our life because of our disobedience.
Some Examples of 'a little leaven' that can negatively impact a person's life:
(ex1) God, having made Adam and Eve in his own image, placed them in paradise (Garden of Eden), giving them complete freedom except for one restriction:
“You may eat from any tree in the garden but do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve knew of this restriction because God told them directly. Adam and Eve didn't hear of God's command through a prophet or read it in scripture. God told them directly because He walked with them in the Garden.
But then Satan came to Eve as a serpent placing 'a little leaven of doubt' into her mind causing her to question God's restriction. Satan asked Eve: "Are you sure God said He didn't want you to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?' "Did God really mean that?"
So, Eve allowed the leaven of doubt to circulate from mind to heart, creating a strong desire to eat the apple God commanded her not to do. She then convinced Adam to eat, which he did, by offering him a piece of her leaven of doubt.
And what were the consequences of Eve allowing that 'little bit' of leaven into her mind, which then seeped into her heart, which created the desire, which then caused a sinful action that also affected Adam?
That 'little bit of leaven of doubt' caused both Adam and Eve to be expelled from the Garden by God Himself. Additional consequences were from then on, generation to generation, men would be required to till the field for food; and women would suffer pain during child-birth. Disobedience to God and to His word is leaven to the soul! "A little leaven leavens the whole lump."
Many times, the ancients also doubted the Truth written in God's word, which led to sinful disobedience which, in turn, led to catastrophic consequences. In 1 Cor 10:5-10, when Paul was speaking about the Israelite's after being freed from Egyptian captivity:
"But with most of them God was not well-pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness." "Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted." "And do not become idolaters as were some of them" ... "Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained,and were destroyed by the destroyer." Doubt is leaven sent by the enemy.
(ex2) What about looking at 'just a little' pornography. "It's just one magazine with pictures of naked women (or men)." "But, hey, the articles are interesting and some even educational." "What's the harm?"
Those pictures begin to seep into that person's thoughts and imagination, then into the heart evoking desire. If intense enough, that desire can lead to sinful actions contrary to God's word. 'What kind of sinful actions?' How about fornication, adultery, molestation or even pedophilia.
And if the action taken is extreme, consequences may be severe such as jail time or death at the hand of a jealous spouse! "A little leaven leavens the whole lump."
(ex3) What about smoking 'just a couple cigarettes' per day. Over time, a 'couple of cigarettes' may turn into to smoking more cigarettes, which cost more money to purchase them, which may bite into the budget to purchase food or pay bills. But, "Hey, what's a couple of cigarettes?"
Over time, cigarette smoking can lead to chronic bronchitis, or emphysema, lung cancer, or even death. "A little leaven leavens the whole lump."
(4) Doubting God's promises as written in scripture is also leaven. We all doubt from time to time: 'Will God really answer my prayers'? If we are uncertain about a matter, what do we do? Do we go to our pastor for the answer each time we have a question? Is this the pastor's job to answer our every spiritual concern? No, it's our job to seek out the answers in scripture as did the Bereans. So, what does the Bible have to say about doubting God's promises to us?
--Paul tells us in 1Tim 2:8, "I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting ..."
--And in James 1:6-8, we read: "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." "For let
not that man suppose he will receive anything from the Lord."
Q: Could it be that some of our prayers go unanswered because we doubt God will actually answer us?
(ex5) What about Unbelief
as a form of leaven? 'Unbelief' and 'Unbelieving' is mentioned 22 times in Strong's concordance. These are just two scriptures of what God's word tells us regarding the leaven of unbelief:
1). When God told Abraham at age 100 he would become the father of many nations, Rom 4:20-21 says, "He (Abraham) did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He (God) had promised, He (God) was also able to perform." Abraham didn't let the leaven of unbelief into his mind.
2). And in Heb 3:7-12, "Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: 'Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, and saw My works forty years.' 'Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.' 'So I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest.' "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God."
They witnessed all of God's miracles, yet they still did not believe God through an evil heart of unbelief.
Q: God would not allow the Israelites to enter into His rest, the Promised Land, due to an evil heart of unbelief. What is God's rest for us? It's heaven. Will He allow us to enter His rest if we, too, are found to have an evil heart of unbelief?
Heb 13:8 tells us "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever."
Q. What are some antidotes to unbelief?
1. FAITH. And how do we obtain such faith even as small as a mustard seed? Ask God and He will give it to us: "Ask and you shall receive." Think of all the things God has done for you; His goodness and faithfulness.
2. REALIZE that worldly wisdom is a cause of unbelief because it teaches us to question God: 'It's impossible!' 'That can't possibly be done!' 'Heal the sick; raise the dead?' 'Place a staff on the ground and it turns into a snake that eats two other snakes?' 'Impossible!'
We must reject 'worldly wisdom' if it's in conflict with God's word. The bible teaches us in 1Cor 3:19, "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God."
For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their own craftiness.' "
Regardless of what the world says, the believer says: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” and "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
(ex6) And lastly, what about fear? Is letting in the leaven of fear a sin? What does the bible tell us about fear? We are told not to fear 366 times in scripture. If we are instructed 366 times not to fear, and we still allow fear in, are we sinning?
a. Fear is an evil spirit sent by the Devil himself. It attempts to convince us to take fearful thoughts into our mind. But the bible tells us to take all of our thoughts captive. The leaven of fear tries to convince us that 'all is lost' to take away our hope and joy. If fear is allowed to steal our joy, it then steals our strength because in Neh 8:10,it says: 'For the joy of the Lord is your strength.'
b. God's word tells us in 2Tim 1:7, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
One of the most telling examples of fear in scripture relates to Peter. Peter became so fearful for his life after Jesus was taken prisoner, he denied knowing Jesus three times! The Lord Jesus, with whom Peter spent three years of his life!
Some biblical scholars are of the opinion Peter would have brought a curse upon himself because of his denials. Which is perhaps why Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him, breaking the potential curse. If Peter would have been cursed, what might have happened to the church? Jesus told Peter in Matt 16:18,
"Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” "A little leaven leavens the whole lump."
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
1. We must be keenly aware of the spiritual leaven we allow into our lives.
2. We must remember the enemies' leaven enters through our mind, then into our heart where desire is born. Through desire come sinful actions in direct disobedience to God's word.
3. We must pray for discernment so we can know when the enemy is attacking our thoughts with his evil leaven.
4. And we must never forget that, "A little leaven leavens the whole lump."