2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 40
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|I’m not real good with titles but when I got into chapter 11, I realized that he’s going to now take us into a real intense study on the “Danger of Spiritual Deception.”|
The Heart of a true teacher – Part 1 (2 Cor 11:1-3)
Today we start a brand new chapter. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 11. You know, I told you that I was going to call it “Poise in the Face of Persecution” and would be the theme for the whole rest of the book. Well, I changed my mind. I’m not real good with titles but when I got into chapter 11, I realized that he’s going to now take us into a real intense study on the “Danger of Spiritual Deception.” And so I want to title this next series that we’re facing here in 2 Corinthians “The Danger of Spiritual Deception.” And today what I want to talk about is “The Heart of a True Teacher.” We’re going to go through verse 3. I’ve tried to get to verse 6 and I can’t do it.
You’re going to wonder why I’m only going to get to one point until I finish the message. Then you’ll realize I couldn’t have gone any further. Let me get you into this. The heart of a true teacher of the Word is a precious thing to observe, and we’re going to see this in verses 1-12 before he actually gets into the aspects of false teachers and false apostles he talks about the aspects of his own life: a true teacher, a true apostle. We’re going to see this lived out in Paul’s life. A true teacher will preach and teach whether it be in the pulpit or wherever, a true teacher will preach and teach God’s Word at any expense to himself for the spiritual health of the body of Christ that he loves.
You see, the greatest enemy to God’s people is doctrinal deception. I think maybe I want to say that again. The greatest enemy to God’s people is doctrinal deception. Doctrine is so, so important. You see, once error gets into a person’s mind then it becomes a stronghold that controls his behavior. This is what happened when we studied Galatians, remember? How they turned from living under the freedom of grace, under the bondage to the Law and Paul wrote to them, “O foolish Galatians,” and what happened was it divided the whole church. There were factions everywhere. Why? Because of the change in their belief system; they began to think differently and they began to act differently.
This was what was going on when Paul warned the Colossians and they were facing the Gnostic heresy and he was saying, “People, please, Jesus is the treasure house of knowledge.” All the beautiful things he says in Colossians. Christ in you is the hope of glory. This is what was going on with the Thessalonians. In 1 Thessalonians they didn’t know what happened to the body when it died. They understood the spirit went to be with the Lord. What happened to the body? And they were grieved over this. It was causing a lot of concern in the church and Paul had to write correcting that. In 2 Thessalonians they thought the day of the Lord had come, of all things. And so Paul had to straighten it out because believing wrongly had changed their behavior. This was the warning Paul gave to the church at Ephesus when he met with the Ephesian elders on the island of Militias and he says, “As soon as I’m gone, woes are going to rise up among you.” And he’s talking about the false teachers and how they’re going to pervert thinking and therefore the behavior of the church.
This was what was threatening the church of Corinth. And so the stronghold of thinking is so important. That’s why truth, God’s Word, has to be preached and has to be taught. God’s Word is truth and when truth is preached it sets a person free; but false doctrine will cripple his life and put him into a bondage that is very hard, if it even can be broken. It cannot be broken outside of the Word of God.
Sin, no matter what shape or form that it takes, stems from a lie that a person has believed. And as we enter into chapter 11 we see the heart of our true teacher, the apostle Paul. He’s going to unveil himself before the church of Corinth. Paul begins by saying in verse 1, “I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me.” Now that phrase, “I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness” needs to be understood in light of the context. Remember, context always rules. That’s why I do so much review.
We have just seen in chapter 10 how the false apostles in Corinth and their followers walked according to the flesh. Now what does that mean? What is their behavior like? Their whole message was a lie and their lifestyle was all about the flesh and pleasing its needs. As a result there was no spiritual discernment at all. Remember, they looked on the outside; they didn’t look on the heart. They had no spiritual assurance whatsoever. They had to somehow assert themselves. They had no spiritual identity. They were so fake and so false that they had to tear Paul down to build themselves up. They commended themselves as apostles who had great credentials, but here’s the interesting thing: there was no spiritual life in them. All they taught, all they preached was death to the people. They bragged on the work that others had done as if it was their own. They boasted of themselves instead of boasting in the Lord Jesus Christ. Their whole life and their whole ministry was all about them. It wasn’t about Jesus.
But the apostle Paul and the way he lived, the way he preached, the way he taught, was astonishingly different in contrast to these false teachers. He boasted in Christ alone. He didn’t point to himself; he always pointed to Christ. In fact, even if the people didn’t understand the difference, they could see it. They knew there was a difference in the two people, the false apostles and Paul. Paul refrained from commending himself. He said in verse 12, “For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.”
Paul did not dare enter the arena of having to justify himself and his work based on the false standards of the false apostles. He said, “I’m not going there.” He did not dare speak of anything except that which God had said to him or that which God had ordered in his life. Do you realize, and we brought it out last time, make sure you understand, Paul had authority as an apostle. We don’t have apostles like Paul today. He had authority, not just over the Corinthian church but over all of the Gentile churches.
You see, Peter was given the apostolic authority over the circumcised, Israel, but Paul was given the apostolic authority over all of the Gentile world. In fact, if he were a fake apostle, which he was being accused of by these false apostles, there would be no Corinthian church. The fact that they existed showed that he was who he said he was. And Paul’s heart was for the Corinthians, to see them separate themselves from the false teachers and the false doctrine that they were listening to and to grow up spiritually. “Come out of the nursery,” he says in his first epistle to them. And he said, “I want you to become a base of mature believers so that from this base we can have a missions outreach to the whole world, the regions beyond you that have never heard the gospel of Christ.”
But until they matured they could not become that base. Missions only can flow out of hearts that are living the message they want others to hear. Paul’s heart was to see them come away and stand with him for the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul did not boast of himself; he only boasted of Christ. It says in verse 17 and 18, “But he who boasts, let him boast in the Lord. For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.” Paul only wanted Christ to commend him and he refused to commend himself.
“Wayne, why are you going through this?” Because you have to understand that about the apostle Paul to understand his statement in 11:1. This is why it’s so difficult for him to do what he’s about to do. He’s about to talk about himself. He doesn’t like to do that. He begins with the words, “I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness.” The word “wish” is an interesting word. It’s the word ophelon, and it means a wish, but it’s like asking somebody to do something that is hard to do, it’s difficult to do. It’s like a sigh: “Oh that you would bear with me;” or saying “would that you would bear with me in a little foolishness.”
The word “foolishness” is the word aphrosune, which means a lack of sense. Paul could hardly bring himself to do what he’s about to do. He thinks it’s foolish but he sees the need to do it. He’s got to show them the comparison of himself and the comparison of the false teachers. It’s very distasteful for him to do what he’s about to do. And by the way, he does it several times in the next few chapters and every time he does it, he apologizes for it. He doesn’t like it because he doesn’t want to commend himself. He only wants Christ to commend him. But he’s willing to sacrifice his own dignity here. He’s willing to suffer embarrassment here to do for the people what will help them, even though he feels uncomfortable in doing it.
I love this: Paul’s identity was in Christ, it was not in who he was and it wasn’t his title, it wasn’t what he did, it was in Christ. That’s a good thing for us to remember in the 21st century. My identity is not in being a pastor. My identity is not in my name. My identity is in Jesus Christ and so is yours. So whatever else is just fluff. But what my identity is, and what your identity is, we find it in the Lord. It was said of a great man, “He never remembered his identity until others forgot it.” That’s the only time it came up. He didn’t live having to have people say that to him.
So he humbly asked, “Would you do what I feel foolish in asking of you? Bear with me. Indulge me if you would.” “I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me.” He knew that they would, but he just felt foolish in asking them. Paul so loved the Corinthian believers. I hope you can see this. He was willing to say hard things to them, he was willing to embarrass himself to say this to them because he wanted to help them come back to truth, that truth might be the stronghold in their mind.
His heart really comes out in verse 2. He says, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.” Now the word “jealous” there is the word zelos. It is a Greek word that actually describes a pot of water that is boiling. It’s about to boil over. It’s a lot of zeal in it. It can be a good word; it can be a bad word. If it’s used in the wrong context it can be bad. Here it’s good.
He adds to it, “with a godly jealousy.” There is a godly jealousy. Zelos, then in this context, seems to me to desire something for someone that you love so much with a zeal that is intense. That’s a good word to use, “for I betrothed you to one husband.” This is his desire; he’s beginning to frame what his heart is here: “for I betrothed you to one husband.” The word “betrothed” in the phrase is the word harmozo. It was used of a father giving his daughter away in marriage. It could be understood in the context of Jewish marriage.
You know, Paul was steeped into the Jewish heritage. He was a Jew and he met Jesus on the Damascus Road. He understood Jewish culture and Jewish thinking. And the idea of us being the bride and Jesus being the Bridegroom is very natural to a person who understands Scripture. In Isaiah 54:5 God said to the prophet Isaiah, “For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the Lord of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth.” Isaiah 62:5, “For as a young man marries a virgin, so your sons will marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you.” That comparison has been made many times in Scripture and so it was natural for Paul to use the metaphor of marriage and to think of the Corinthian church as the bride to the Bridegroom who is the Lord Jesus Christ.
We’re part of that bride, by the way. Paul brings that out in other epistles. So at a Jewish wedding there were two people that were very important. They were called the friends of the bridegroom. Now one of them represented the bridegroom and one of them represented the bride. They had many duties. They acted as liaisons between the two because there was not to be a lot of contact between the two: the bride and the bridegroom. They carried invitations to the guests. But you know what their specific responsibility was? Their specific responsibility was guaranteeing the chastity of the bride so that she would be a pure virgin when she came to meet with her husband and to consummate that marriage.
Now this could be Paul’s thought here and probably is. In the marriage of Jesus Christ and the Corinthian church, the future marriage, Paul is the friend of the bridegroom who is the Lord Jesus Christ. Now it’s his responsibility to guarantee the chastity of the bride, and he’ll do everything he can do to keep the Corinthian church doctrinally pure and morally pure and a fit bride for the bridegroom for that wedding feast. Paul was their spiritual father with a heart to protect their purity as the bride of Christ.
Now the false teachers that came into play here, the false teachers were those adulterers who claimed themselves as apostles, who were out to destroy the purity of the bride of Christ, just like they are today. But Paul knew that even though they knew the Word of God, even enough to deceive the people, there was a difference in Paul. Paul knew the God of the Word. That’s a big difference. They knew enough of the Word to confuse, but Paul knew the God of the Word. Not only did he know the Word of God, he knew the God of the Word. Paul had the upper hand. And that’s why he’s doing what he’s doing here in trying to help the Corinthian church be salvaged from the false doctrine that is invading their territory.
The story is told of a group of people dining out together and in that was a professional actor, sitting next to an older man. And at a certain time they asked the actor to stand up and give a speech. So he chose rather to quote Psalms 23 and he stood up and quoted it with great voice, with great oratory skills, with great professionalism. And when he finished, they all clapped. They had been entertained. He sat down beside the old man and asked the old man, “Would you like to do the same thing?” And he said, “Sure.” He stood up and he finished and when he finished, though his voice had been shaky, less than professional, there was a hush. Nobody clapped when he sat down; just a holy hush. And the actor who was so professional and so good at what he did, looked at the old man and said, “Sir, I know the Psalm, but you definitely know the Shepherd.” That was the difference between Paul and the false teachers at Corinth.
As their spiritual father, as their spiritual shepherd, he cared about the church of Corinth and he wanted their freedom in Christ to remain pure. He wanted them, that day when we all go to the marriage supper of the Lamb, he wanted to be presented, he wanted to present them as a pure virgin and it means that in spiritual terms. It’s a doctrinal purity which means a morally pure life because what you think determines how you live.
Well, that’s a long introduction. That’s why I’ve only gotten to one point today but I think it’s necessary to understand the heartbeat of a true teacher of God’s Word. Why he will not compromise the Word of God. No matter what it cost him, and no matter what people think or like or don’t like, he will not do it. He’ll say the hard things when he needs to. Why? He’s trying to protect the church from spiritual adultery which will lead to that kind of behavior and will be an impure bride when they’re presented to the Bridegroom.
A true teacher wants to protect God’s flock
Now look with me at Paul’s heart, as we’ve seen already, the way it beats. Let’s just look some more now. What makes up a true teacher? What’s the heart of a true teacher? Only one point: A true teacher, and we’ve said it already, wants to protect God’s flock. You see, Jesus kept saying to Peter, “Feed My sheep, feed My sheep, tend My lambs.” As a shepherd, a teacher will do three things that are very clear.
One of them is that he’ll guard the sheep: the shepherd guards the sheep. A shepherd will guide the sheep and the shepherd with graze the sheep. He guards with God’s truth, he guides with God’s truth of the Word and he grazes with God’s truth, which is the Word. Now Paul makes a comparison in verse 3. It’s very interesting. He goes back to the Old Testament and he picks out Eve in the Garden of Eden and how she was deceived, seduced, by the devil himself. And he compares that on one side with the Corinthian church being the bride of Christ and the false teachers seeking to deceive them.
He says in verse 3, “But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” That’s quite a mouthful and it’ll take us the rest of the message to work it out. The word “afraid” in the phrase, “I am afraid,” is the word phobeo. It means to “become fearful” and it even has the idea of being terrified. I’m terrified. Now, the interesting thing is that it’s in the middle voice. A lot of people miss this.
A middle voice in Greek—we don’t have a middle voice in English and it needs to be explained—the middle voice has very similar action to it as the active voice. I’m doing something. But it also has a passive meaning with it. It’s like a deponent verb. It’s like a middle passive verb. But the middle voice always carries that idea. Yes, I’m afraid, but it’s because of something. And Paul is saying, “I am afraid for you, I am terrified, but there’s a reason I’m terrified, because of what I know is going on in Corinth,” as he was even writing that letter. It brought it out.
You see, Paul sees deception as a horrible thing. Now there was a legend—and understand when I say “legend” I mean legend, and it wasn’t about Adam’s sin and Eve being deceived—but it was a legend that the Jews believed at the time Paul was writing this, and he could have been referring to, I don’t know, that said that Satan actually seduced Eve. There was a violation of her, physically, and Cain was the illegitimate child, the illicit child. Now some Jews chose to believe that. Paul didn’t believe that. However, if you look at the germ thought of that legend that someone violated an innocent one and as a result of violation there was a birth of illicit behavior, the apostle Paul to me could have been saying, “These deceivers are like rapists, they’re like violators and they want to come in on the bride of Christ and they want to infiltrate their minds.” They want to impregnate them with wrong thoughts and they want to give birth to the illicit behavior so that the apostle Paul could not present the church as a pure virgin that day to the Bridegroom.
Pretty good thought. In fact, we don’t know, that’s just a thought that I threw out that was going on at that time. However, it’s got a point to it. It’s a great illustration of what false doctrine is. Next time you catch yourself listening to it and think it’s not bothering you, be real careful. Would you listen to somebody who wanted to violate you? I don’t think so. But you see what we do? We just let the world just continue to infiltrate our minds with that which is going to change our paradigm of thinking and as a result is going to change our behavior.
Well, whatever he had in mind, we do know that he’s referring to the actual event of what happened in the Garden of Eden, of the fall of mankind in the sin of Adam. And he compares the fact that Eve was deceived by the serpent. Revelation 20:2 describes the serpent as the devil and Satan. It says, “And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” Eve was led astray to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.
Now her deception so affected Adam that he wasn’t deceived, he chose; because God had told him face to face, he chose to sin against God’s command which had caused all mankind to be born into sin. Just think about that for a second. What the deception of one human being, the cost of that to the rest that were born after. Eve’s deception led Adam to sin and to the fall of all mankind. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
The word “deceived” there in verse 3 is the word exapatao, which means to so deceive that it results in the change in one’s thinking which is radical and it changes their behavior. That’s deception. You have to understand deception, folks. It’s not something you play with. It’s something you give your life to. In the end times when the antichrist is on this earth, he’s going to deceive people and I’m talking about a true deception to where it changes the way you think and the way that you live.
I saw this on film. There was an experiment years ago in a classroom. The instructor got up and brought in an iron that you’d iron clothes with, and in front of people plugged it into a wall socket and then turned the iron on in front of all the people that were there. And he sat it down. Then for the next 30 to 40 minutes he explained how hot an iron can get. He explained what would happen if you put the hot iron against the skin and how it would sizzle and all the different gory things that would happen if you left the iron on the skin. And then at the end of it he called up someone and he said, “Come here, I want to show you something.”
The young man walked up, he said, “Roll your sleeves up.” And he took the iron, immediately grabbed his arm and stuck it on his arm. Well, the class was horrified that a teacher would do that and the young man screamed in excruciating pain. And then the teacher calmed everybody down and he said, “Now I want to tell you something. That socket is a dead socket. This iron is not hot. This iron is cold.” But the young man had been visibly affected. Why? Because of that which he falsely believed.
That’s the way deception works, like that. It is so real in your mind that it becomes real in your experience. The devil was so convincing to Eve that he was able to lead her to question God’s Word and as a result to disobey God’s command. He disguised himself as a serpent. I don’t know what a serpent looked like before the fall, I know they crawled after the fall. Somebody said, “What does it look like?” I don’t know. I wasn’t there. When we get to heaven I’ll ask and find out, but I don’t know what it looked like. Evidently it was pretty presentable and it talked. I just get a kick out of thinking what it might look like.
But the serpent came to her, and it was the devil disguised as a serpent and talking to her. You see, God had given Adam a specific command. Here’s the serpent disguising himself trying to get her away from that which God had said. And a specific command was Genesis 2:16-17, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.’” Well, the devil deceives Eve and causes her to question God’s Word.
Some say that maybe Adam failed to tell her what God had told him, and if it’s typical of most men it’s probably right. We don’t know that for sure, that’s just a great way of looking at it. But at any rate, in Genesis 3:1-6, this is what he’s referencing. He’s comparing now the serpent deceiving Eve with the false teachers deceiving the bride of Christ at Corinth. Look at this, verse 1, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said, “You shall not eat from any tree of the garden”?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the tress of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which in the middle of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.”’”
Now God didn’t say anything about touching it. He just said don’t eat from it. But that’s okay, she’s close enough. “And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” Now there’s an aspect of truth to that. When they did they immediately saw what evil was about. They didn’t know what it was about before and now they saw each other’s nakedness and you know the story goes downhill from there. The devil only tells truth or partial truth when it serves his purpose. “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise,” you know the devil only has three parts of a game plan, “she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate,” deliberately, under no deception ate. And that was the sin that cast them out of the garden and that was the sin of Adam of which we’re all born into when we’re born into this world.
So Paul was referring to this as we continue in verse 3. And look at the consequences of a person’s deception. Look how far it goes. No man is an island. You don’t do anything by yourself. When you sin and I sin it always affects others in some way, shape, or form. The false apostles had deceived the Corinthians to question Paul’s apostleship and thus the instructions he had given to them. Do you realize we don’t have apostles like Paul today? Paul was writing the New Testament as he pinned these epistles to these churches under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. In our day to question the authority of an apostle, you can’t do that because you don’t have any. But what it would be like today would be questioning the very Word of God that the prophets and the apostles gave to us.
When we start questioning, “Did God really say that?” “Well, you have to look at it this way.” “Well, actually,…” immediately it sets up in your mind that this Book is not your authority and from that point on your behavior is going to fall down and grow decrepit as a result.
Well, the word “craftiness,” “he deceived Eve by his craftiness” in verse 3, is the word panourgia, which means “to be crafty, cunning, shrewd.” A crafty person like the false apostles of Corinth will use any means. You know these false teachers that came in a seduced the minds, they didn’t do it overnight. It was a slow thing; it was alluring and a wooing and getting them to listen to them and like them and etc. But its end was to deceive.
The other day we had huddle time. We have that once a month for our staff. For the devotion Terry brought some fishing lures. He said, “Listen, you know what these lures are for? They’re deceivers and their purpose is to catch a fish that’s too stupid to know the difference.” And you know, there were different kinds of lure, there were different colors, different shapes, because you know not every fish is fooled by the same lure. Because everybody has a weakness, it’s a little bit different, and you’ve got to match the hatch with the catch. But you’ve got to match the two together.
I thought, man, that is exactly what’s going on in 2 Corinthians 11. They knew how to get to these people. I guarantee you they knew how to do it. False doctrine is nothing but lures to bait one’s fleshly appetite with the goal to trap it, to catch it and to bring death. But its danger is that when false doctrine is believed, here is what we have to look at from chapter 10, it establishes strongholds in one’s mind. And those strongholds will determine how a person thinks, how he reacts, how he behaves. That’s the danger. The more I listen to the false things of the world and not to the true things of God’s Word, the more I become like the world because that’s what I’m listening to. That’s what’s determining how I think. And Paul says, “Can’t you see it?”
Remember the context of chapter 10, we talked about strongholds and how it changes the behavior, but the whole key is not the behavior. That’s symptomatic; it’s where a person is coming from that causes him to behave the way he behaves. So in Corinth the devil, the old serpent himself, disguised himself as an apostle. He didn’t come in as a serpent talking to Eve. He came in as an apostle and sought to deceive the believers who would listen.
The fabric of his deceptive garments was made up of luring fleshly characteristics such as professional polish. I guarantee you if he lived today he’d have Power Point, hi-def screen, he’d have all the tools. He’d have everything to wow, to lure the people and disarm them. He had worldly credentials, had all the résumés you needed, impressive résumés, honey-tongued speech, but every bit of it was just to impress the people who were so gullible they didn’t know the difference, into believing a lie. He wanted to seduce the bride of Christ and make them impure before the Bridegroom.
They were good at their deception, folks. And many had already bought into it hook, line, and sinker, and the apostle Paul is trying to warn the rest. Verse 3, “But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” What a mouthful. The word “minds” here could be several words, but it’s the word noema, and it refers to the part of the mind that gives us the ability to understand, to perceive, so that your understanding of what the Christian life really is, that your perception of a single-minded devotion to Christ would somehow be led astray. And you don’t see it like you used to see it.
The word “simplicity” itself is the Greek word haplotes, which means “a single-mindedness.” A single focus, not a double-mindedness; deception leads one’s understanding away from the simplicity of devotion to Christ. How important this is to all of us. The word “purity” is the word hagnotes, and it’s the word that means “sincerity” and it has a lot to do with the body and its pure way in which it lives in this world. Do you see how wrong thinking leads a person’s whole understanding of excitement about Jesus and focus upon Him and His Word off the track?
Let me ask you this question: how many of you have been there in your Christian walk when you started listening, not paying attention to God’s Word and all of a sudden that fervor and that excitement to walk with Him, that joy of waking up every morning and knowing that He’s your life, the joy of being in His Word and the revelation He only brings to you when you’re there emptied of self wanting to hear Him, and He just pulls you away from to where your Christian life just gets cold and mechanical and it’s not real anymore? Anybody besides me been there in your Christian walk? You see what he’s saying?
It’s incredible if we would just think it out. It’s simple. If a person’s got a problem, “I don’t know about church anymore,” well, what in the world led you off the path? Where’s that excitement you used to have to share Christ with somebody? Where’s that excitement you used to have to get into the Word? What happened to you? And you can easily find out. Something led you astray. Something messed up your understanding that it’s the only way to live the Christian life. Jesus, if He’s not Lord of all, then He’s not Lord at all in your life.
And people just don’t get it. They think that’s radical. If you want radical, go back and study the Gospels. That’s radical. Jesus preached the hard things. They walked away and never would return to hear Him again. You see, Christianity is not this game we play; it’s the life that we live. And it’s moment by moment. Is it perfection? No! It’s predictability; and the more you know when you’re wrong, you come back to where you departed. When you shoot across the road and there’s no cars coming, you go back to where you departed and you deal with it. That’s the Christian life. You always can know when you’re out here in left field or right field because Jesus is just not as meaningful to you and His Word not authoritative enough in your life anymore. Something has led you astray.
Well, the word for “devotion” there is not in the Greek text. It’s implied. Purity towards, I mean, it’s all there; he just adds devotion to help you keep the continuity of thought. You say, “I’m struggling with what you’re saying. Put it together for me in simple terms that I can understand it.” I’m going to try. I may miss it, but I’m going to try. Let’s go back to what I said a moment ago. Someone says, “I don’t feel as closes to the Lord as I once did.” Well, what or who led you astray? What has taken Christ’s place that used to satisfy you in your heart?
What has disturbed your devotion only to Christ? Where have you sought satisfaction apart from Him? See, this is where a lot of religions mess up. We’re not a religion, we’re a relationship, but they think it’s all in the church. No, sir, it’s in Christ. And you can’t ever find it outside of Him. Someone says, “I love the message of grace because now I can do anything I want to and it’s okay.” Who has led you astray? Grace does not mean the freedom to do as you please. Where in the world does it come from? Grace is the power in Jesus Christ that lives within us to do as we should. Who has led you astray?
Someone says, “I don’t have to confess sin. I’m already forgiven.” Who has led you astray? First John 1:9 says, “If you confess your sins He’s faithful and just to forgive you of all unrighteousness.” That’s in the present tense, not in the aorist as if that was a salvation verse. But he said to continue to confess, continue to confess. Well, the forgiveness is already there but the key that unlocks the door and lets you experience that forgiveness in your daily walk and be cleansed by His blood is by the willingness to confess it. “Lord, I agree with You. You told me if I obeyed my flesh I’d be in this mess. You are right and I’m sick of it and I want to repent of it.”
And you know what? God is the greatest psychologist if I can use that carefully. You understand my thinking. Because He knows how much we need to confess sin because He wants to continually remind us of how desperate we are for Him to do in our life what we cannot do. And every time I confess my sin, I agree with Him one more time. Lord, it is depraved, it is sick, and it is getting worse. It’ll lie to a game warden knowing all the truth that it knows.
Well, someone sings, “You are worthy, oh Lord,” and it sounds so good in church and everybody claps. We walk out those doors and all week long we don’t give God the time of day and we don’t give His Word the time of day. Who has led you astray? “I surrender all.” Right. Many of us today have been deceived, haven’t we? We’ve lost the joy of our salvation. Someone asked Vance Havner, “What’s wrong with the church today.” His response: “We’ve lost the wonder of our salvation.”
Is that right? Why? Because we’ve been deceived. Why is it that people would run out of a church that preaches the Word of God? Why would they leave? Because people don’t want to have their thinking changed, which is going to change the way they live. John 3:19-20, “The light has come into the world; people will not come into the light because they don’t want their deeds to be exposed.” “A” is here: oh God, I’m desperate. “B” is here: I want the joy in my life; I want to enjoy you. But in between A and B is a cross, and nobody seems to be willing to tell the people the bad news. It’s good, but it’s bad. You’ve got to die in order to enjoy what’s on the other side.
Who has led us astray? Church is just not fun enough for me anymore. Oh, my friend, you get filled up with Jesus, walk into this church, and joy will fill this place. Fun, entertainment, that’s not the church. Listen, we’ve got some teachers here that I tell you what, if God takes me home to heaven one day, you could put any of them right here in this pulpit. Why? Because they love God and love His Word and they’re just as committed as I am standing right here. You know why? Because we don’t want people to think wrongly because it’s going to end up causing them to live wrongly. That’s what bad doctrine does. It’s a seduction, it’s a violation of a spiritual mindset of an individual and it bursts a wrong lifestyle in the long run.
Where are you today in your devotion only to Christ? Just like it was when you got saved; you had no question about it, you knew. Where has it gone today? A true teacher wants to protect the flock with God’s Word from being deceived no matter what it costs him and no matter what embarrassment he has to go through. He doesn’t want them to be led astray from their single-minded devotion to Christ.
Well, a false teacher is scary. A false teacher doesn’t tell you the whole message at the same time. He eases it in. I’m not preaching from 2 Peter or Genesis 3. There are a lot of things I could have said that I haven’t said. I’m just trying to get us out of 2 Corinthians which is where we are. But a false teacher will come in and put error right beside the truth and you don’t know it because he’s so polished and everybody loves the way he says it rather than listening to what he’s saying. And after awhile he puts a little more error and a little less truth and after awhile a whole lot more error and after awhile it is all error. But there’s spiritual death, not in the sense of eternal spiritual death but a spiritual dying of a congregation when they don’t hear God’s Word. It starves them to death when you don’t give them that.
An old farmer had a mule, and that mule ate oats. And the farmer was buying the oats and finally one day he said, “These oats are getting too high priced.” He looked at the dry oat and said it looked like a piece of sawdust. So he started getting some sawdust and he’d put just a little bit at a time. Several weeks went by. After awhile it was more sawdust that it was oats. And finally one day it was all sawdust. And that mule came in starving to death, ate and ate and ate. “Look, saved me all that money. He’s still doing good.” The mule finished eating, looked at the farmer miserably, and fell over dead.
I can’t forgive my brother? Who’s led you astray? I’ve got some gripes. Who’s led you astray? Why are you behaving like you’re behaving. Something has gotten in here and changed the way you think. And that’s the way it happens. The only solution, verse by verse, word for word, God’s Word will disarm error. It’ll get the sawdust out back to where it’s pure oats. And that’s what salvages the church any day, but particularly in our day.