I want to turn to 2 Corinthians 11:3 to frame a discussion on something Paul knew the early church needed to hear–and that I have found is very applicable in all my years as a Christian. I am grateful for the opportunity I had recently to discuss this with some college students attending Cru.
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
If we are to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength… then this verse certainly applies to us! Our minds must be set on Him, on knowing what He has revealed about Himself, rather than being free and easily deceived. John 17:3 was Jesus’ prayer; He wants us to know Him. But our knowledge of Him is on His terms.
We Come to Him…
Eve was responsible for her sin–for her choice to eat the fruit. She ate in an attempt to obtain the knowledge of good and evil so as not to have to depend on God any more… yet, the Spirit also inspired these words–God recognizes Eve was deceived. Both Eve and the father of lies are responsible for their own separate acts.
As Eve was deceived, so Paul fears that others will be. As Eve wanted to know things apart from depending on God, so we run into the same temptation on an almost daily basis. Independence from God runs deep in our old self; we must crucify this notion daily. We even compartmentalize which parts of the Universe we need knowledge from God, and which parts we can study on our own. He is the Source, and all our endeavors apart from Him are vanity, chasing after the wind.
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”John 5:39-40
In the book of Titus, we find the most concise statement of who we all were apart from Christ, in 3:3 “For we all once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.”
Yikes! We were deceived. If Paul…then us also. And perhaps blissfully unaware of the deception found in the earthly wisdom offered to us in so many places.
Thus, Paul was burdened for the church at Corinth, he did not want them to be led astray from simple, pure devotion to Christ. The church in every generation since has needed this warning from the man who said (in the same chapter) that he may have been unskilled in speech, yet not so in knowledge.
We’re going to look into a few texts to see what sort of devotion Paul encouraged in two of his closest disciples, Timothy and Titus.
But first a rabbit trail…Paul exemplified the love we ought to have for one another in the Body of Christ. He left a beautiful wide open door for ministry, because he needed to find Titus (click here). And “thanks be to God who always gives us the victory…” Paul knew the value of true fellowship, and that his desire to be near a brother in Christ would not somehow wreck all of God’s plans for His Kingdom! (2 Corinthians 2:12-13)
Back on track…what did Paul teach Timothy and Titus to help them be (and remain) devoted to Christ? Both Timothy and Titus were often with Paul, were both sent on separate missions. They were both Paul’s sons in the faith–but considered friends, co-workers. He taught them:
What to believe and cling to, what to talk about and with whom, what to guard.
2 Timothy 3:13-17
13 But evil people and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work.
1 Timothy 4:1-8, 11-15
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3 who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. 6 In pointing out these things to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the good doctrine which you have been following. 7 But stay away from worthless stories that are typical of old women. Rather, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; 8 for bodily training is just slightly beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come… 11 Prescribe and teach these things. 12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13 Until I come, give your attention to the public reading, to exhortation, and teaching. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was granted to you through words of prophecy with the laying on of hands by the [d]council of elders. 15 Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.
Concerning Titus, much of the message of this epistle is centered on sound doctrine: believe it, teach it, live it out, refute opposition; but also 3:9–But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are useless and worthless.
To keep ourselves from being led astray from the “simplicity and devotion to Christ” there are conversations you must bow out of, and for us this is most online conversations about doctrine! Too much said in type that ought to be said face to face.
Finally, 2 Timothy 1:13-14
13 Hold on to the example of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 Protect, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
What is this treasure?
One repetitive sin that seems to be behind much of Israel’s problems in the OT narrative is their forgetfulness–forgetting God’s words, actions on their behalf, and His character… We guard against this by answering Jesus’ call to abide. This treasure is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (if you have time, spend much time in 2 Corinthians 4!).
Three simple ways to think of this:
1 Abide in His Word, and be constantly nourished on the words.
2 Bow out of unfruitful conversations, or baited conversations
3 Guard what has been entrusted to you, rather than forgetting!
Points to Ponder:
What sorts of ideas are circulating right now that could easily lead us astray?
Fear and doubt are a normal part of the Christian life. How can they be handled in such a way that they won’t lead you astray?
Finally, what are some things you do to guard what God has entrusted to you?
And yes, this is one of the key passages discussed in the introduction of “Deep Simplicity: Meditations on Abiding in Christ.” See here for more info!