The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough. Matthew 13:33
Kim Joo Il was a soldier in the North Korean army for eight years, serving the dictates of the “Great Leader,” Kim Il Sung. As he recalled, a third of his studies in school had been about the Great Leader. In the army he was beaten once a day, hungry 24 hours a day, subject to constant dehumanizing humiliations. Yet he felt honored to be in the army in a country that he thought was paradise. He could not believe the news that arrived one day of the Great Leader’s death. He and other soldiers cried for days on end that the immortal leader had died.
One day, while stationed on the border with China, Kim slipped past guards, quietly entered a river, and swam to freedom. Eventually he found his way to Britain where he gained an important insight: “I realized that we’d been brainwashed.”
Ideas can be powerfully subversive, or life-giving, depending on their truthfulness. Ideas go deep and shape us from the inside out. We can end up living in the middle of a lie, or flourishing in the truth.
Jesus gave us a picture of the reign of God that is like yeast that utterly transforms a 60-pound lump of dough. The yeast is put into the dough and is hidden. But then it ferments the sugars, producing small bubbles of gas that make the dough large and puffy—and soon, delicious! This is the way it is with the kingdom of God, Jesus said. It is small, but it pervades (i.e., it affects the whole of the dough), and it transforms (changes the shape).
In the Old Testament, yeast is a symbol of evil because sinful ideas can be just as pervasive as the truth of God. The North Korean soldier was brainwashed by lies about the complete sovereignty of one evil man. But we can be transformed for the good by the truth of God’s sovereign reign in Jesus—the kingdom that really matters. This is not brainwashing but revelation.
The benevolent reigning of God through Jesus is a life-giving truth for us as individuals, but it is also true in large people groups and even nations. We may not see it, but like yeast, it is there. And transformation is happening.
PONDER: Can you think of a time when you were surprised to discover the work of God somewhere you were not expecting?
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• TRANSFORMED BY TRUTH •
From a missionary serving in North Africa…
I’ve rarely been in a position where Jesus truly was all I had. I met a local young man yesterday for whom this was a true statement.
This young man has been walking with Jesus now for a little over two years. He came from a very wealthy and influential family. He lived in one of three homes owned by his family and received a monthly allowance from his dad that was four to five times the average salary for a middle-class worker. When he chose to follow Jesus, he immediately told his family with joy, and, with equal swiftness, he was disowned—kicked out of the house and cut off entirely financially. When he lost his nice house and money, he lost nearly all his friends too, even some who were believers. Now he literally spends many nights on the streets—either for lack of options or for a desire not to impose on others. Two months ago he was robbed and beaten by four extremists who knew about his faith in Jesus. They took all his valuables from him and beat him to the point he later required surgery for a blood clot in his kidney. They arrested the men, but he asked that the charges be dropped. The judge was incredulous. “Why?” he asked. The man said, “Because I follow Jesus and he has forgiven me so much more than this.”
He is now looking for work in a very difficult employment environment and hopes one day to travel around the country sharing about Jesus or even to be sent to another nation to share as well. When I expressed concern about his situation, he replied, “It’s all right. I have my place in eternity with my heavenly Father. What more could I want?”
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The moment we give our lives over to Jesus, everything changes. Slowly our patterns and actions begin to change. As we continue to follow Jesus, day by day we are transformed more into his likeness, becoming more capable of spreading the news of God’s kingdom to those around us. We become a light in the darkness, and the light spreads.
Read Matthew 13:33, Romans 12:2, and Matthew 5:14-16. How do each of these verses help us understand the life change we go through when we accept Jesus? What are ways you are becoming more like Jesus? Would others be able to see God working in your life? What would they notice?