If you are familiar with my recently published book, Deep Simplicity: Meditations on Abiding in Christ, then you know I return over and over to the passage in 2 Corinthians 11 in which Paul (who also loves run on sentences) expresses his concern that the church is being led astray from “the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” If you too are home from church due to snow, reading through that chapter (and surrounding chapters) will be time well spent.
True Christians are devoted. Sinclair Ferguson has two books out on this topic, and lately I’m midway through “Devoted to God’s Church.” A timely book, encouraging, one most Christians would benefit from.
Devotion and Embrace
One of my favorite meditations on devotion is John 20:17. The quick back story: Mary Magdelene is crushed by Jesus’ death–she was forgiven much and loved much, and her grief is all encompassing. Thankfully there were no “well meaning” friends telling her to forget about Jesus’ body, there being no reason to go to the tomb. No one rushed her through her grief. Mary followed Him in life, and remains faithful even after He is crucified. So she and a few other women went to the tomb. She is one of the first to see Him risen from the dead!
As she meets Him He has to tell her to stop clinging. Pause for a moment and reflect on Mary’s reaction to seeing Jesus risen from the dead. Embrace. Clinging. On this the day she simply wanted to hold on and never let go. She had to be told to let go, but that did not end the devotion.
Jesus gave her a special task, she must go tell the others! He tells her what she needs to hear, enabling her to walk in that command: that He must go to “My Father and your Father, My God and your God.” Jesus reminds her of their unending relationship to the Father, to “Our Father.” He is not ashamed to be her Brother, and our Brother as well. Jesus wants her to keep living rather than staying stuck in that moment, knowing that nothing can separate her from His love.
He will never leave you
He remained physically present for 40 days. He taught, answered questions, gave orders, shared meals and life. He promised to be with His people always–abiding, unbroken fellowship. He is devoted to His people, and as we bask in His love, His hesed, knowing He loved us first, we too become devoted.
We cling. We do not dabble in “Christianity” as in a hobby, or make discipleship part of a bucket list (“well, did that part, check. Studied that epistle, check. Moving on…”). We are devoted–in heart, mind, and soul.
Growing, Unceasing, Devotion
Returning to the “Simplicity and Purity of devotion to Christ,” 2 Corinthians 11:3. Paul feared that the Corinthians would be led astray from this devotion by their lack of knowledge. He emphasizes the fact that though he is not an eloquent speaker (most modern mega churches would not book him for their services or conferences, he wouldn’t bring in the crowds) yet he is skilled in knowledge.
Everywhere Paul went, he was raising up disciples–fulfilling Jesus’ command to make disciples. Learners, knowing Jesus and growing ever more skilled in knowledge. Disciples are continually growing, they are devoted.
There are some in every generation who misunderstand how “knowledge puffs up” and they mistakenly add to it “so get out of here with your books and your studies and your Sunday School lessons and your spiritual disciplines!” Reading through 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus will show you that Paul does not share this attitude. You must not interpret this verse apart from the rest of 1 Corinthians 6; and really, it belongs in the context of the entire epistle (especially with chapter 13).
Knowledge of the truth, without caring that my weaker brother does not yet understand what I do, can lead me to act selfishly. Knowledge that frees you to eat meat offered to idols without considering the fact that you are not free to eat that meat if it causes your brother to stumble–that is the danger. Knowledge is not the danger. Knowledge divorced from love, or believing you can separate heart and mind, that is the danger. Believing that an action of another cannot be judged as ‘wrong’ without knowing his motives–that too is a danger; whatever my motives are, if I cause my brother to stumble in his walk with the LORD, I have sinned.
We who are in union with Christ are called to judge with righteous judgment, and to be eager to grow in grace and knowledge (John 7:24; 2 Peter 3:18).
Jesus praised those who wanted to come to Him and learn. He invites us all to come and learn from Him–and we would do well to pay heed to the prophetic Word made more sure…(Matthew 11:29; 2 Peter 1:12-21).
Attitude, Motivation, Desire
We do not merely come to the Scriptures and treat them as a text book (Read John 5: 39-47) or as a magic book (magic books ought to be burned, Acts 19:11-20). We come humbly to the throne of grace, we sit at His feet eager to learn. We come to Jesus that we might have life!
There will be wheat and tares in every congregation. The wheat are devoted, whereas the tares are either merely attending, or coming and going and choosing new congregations every few years, but the tares are not actual Christians. They may, as weeds are similar in appearance to a healthy wheat crop, look like Christians outwardly. But God is not fooled, He knows the heart. He knows those who take refuge in Him, who have faith.
Those devoted to Him are also devoted to His church that He is building. It would be a very fruitful meditation to spend time journaling, meditating on, and even memorizing these passages:
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42, see also Acts 1:14
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…devoted to prayer… Romans 12:9-13; see also Colossians 4:2 (The word is translated “devoted” in NASB, but “continue steadfastly” “be constant in” or something similar in ESV”)
How can you today, and as a spiritual discipline, be devoted to the apostles’ teaching? (Without adding to it of course!). How can you be devoted to the local body He has drawn you into?