Devotion or Deception

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INTRODUCTION

“Yes, you may marry my daughter, Susan!” The young man, Brian, breathed a sigh of relief and a huge smile filled his face. Susan’s father shook Brian’s hand and promised to take care of her until presenting her to him on their wedding day.

The next day, the dad noticed his daughter all dressed up and heading for the front door. “Celebrating with Brian?” he asked. “No, not tonight. This really nice guy at college asked me to go to a party this evening.” Susan’s dad slammed the door shut. “Are you mad?” her father protested, “You just got engaged to Brian.” An argument ensued about how unreasonable her dad was being, but he stood his ground and wouldn’t let her leave.

A week or so later, just when everything seemed to be settling down again, Susan came home late. She was all dressed up and her dad could smell alcohol on her breath. As dad opened his mouth to speak, Susan pre-empted him, saying, “Before you ask, Dad, no I was not with Brian. I was at a beach barbecue with all the other students in my class. We all agreed not to take our boyfriends and girlfriends along.” Susan’s dad was apoplectic at this point. “What are you playing at. I promised you to Brian. You can’t go around partying without your fiancé when you’re engaged.”

The next few weeks were a stressful game of cat and mouse as Susan tried to outwit her dad and her dad tried to protect her for Brian. He wanted to get Susan to the wedding day and to give her away with a clear conscience. He was perplexed at how gullible his daughter was and how susceptible she was to malign influences that were threatening her relationship with Brian. “How can I protect Susan so I can present her to Brian with joy?” he worried.

Christians can have similar concerns to Susan’s dad. We see people who are betrothed to Jesus, yet they are tempted into engaging in actions and relationships which are endangering their relationship to Jesus. How can we defend against the dangers of deception?

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BACKGROUND

Christians can have similar concerns to Susan’s dad. We see people who are betrothed to Jesus, yet they are tempted into engaging in actions and relationships which are endangering their relationship to Jesus. How can we defend against the dangers of deception?

In 2 Corinthians, Paul was facing a similar situation. He was the dad, the Corinthians were Susan, Jesus was Brian, and false apostles were the deceptive partygoers. Paul had the same question: “How can I protect these Christians from the danger of deception?”

What’s the best way to protect our relationship to Christ?

1. CULTIVATE DEVOTION TO CHRIST

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For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2-3).

I betrothed you to one husband

Paul’s the father of the bride, the one who brought the Corinthians Christians to Christ. They engaged themselves to Christ and Paul promised to ensure the Corinthians’ continued faithfulness to Christ. But, like Susan’s father, Paul had his work cut out because the Corinthians kept running off with false teachers. His passion was to see Christ’s passionate commitment to the Corinthians matched by their passionate commitment to Christ.

I will present you as a pure virgin to Christ

Paul worked constantly to ensure the Corinthians’ singular and exclusive devotion to Jesus as long as they lived or the world continued. His aim was that when they died, or the world ended, he would be able to present them to Christ as having faithfully kept their commitments to him during their engagement to him so that they could enjoy eternal marriage to Christ in his heavenly home.

I have a divine jealousy for you.

As the protector of Christ’s bride, he was passionately committed to protecting and providing for the bride. He had divine jealousy, meaning that he would fight for the Corinthians relationship to Christ as passionately as if he were the divine bridegroom. As such, this jealousy was a virtue and not a vice. It arose out of his desire for the glory and honor of God. He would do anything to protect Christ’s bride from whatever might damage, divert, or diminish their relationship to Christ.

I want to increase your devotion

If the Christian is engaged to Christ, and if the Christian is to be presented as a pure virgin to Christ, what kind of life should the Christian be leading? A life characterized by a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

CHANGING OUR STORIES WITH GOD’S STORY

Are you engaged to Christ yet? Has he won your heart? What more does he need to do to attract you?

Are you devoted to Christ still? What does “a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” look like? The 11111 (5×1) Plan.

  • Listening to his voice in his Word: Minimum of one minute a day every day.
  • Speaking to him in prayer: Minimum of one minute a day every day.
  • Sharing about him with others: Minimum of one share a day every day.
  • Studying about him: Minimum of one page of a Christian book a day.
  • Praising him: Sing at least one worship song a day every day.

DEFEND YOUR SOUL
WITH DEVOTION TO CHRIST

Why is this so important? What’s so dangerous?

2. BEWARE DECEPTION BY THE DEVIL

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The serpent deceived eve

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning (3).

  • He disguised himself: Did not not appear with horned head and forked tail
  • He targeted the isolated: Eve was on her own
  • He initiated dialogue: “Let’s talk about this, think about this…”
  • He appealed to reason: He reasoned her into sin and reasoned away guilt after sin
  • He lessened the place of the word of God in the life
  • He promised a prize: “Look what you will gain!”
  • He pointed to others as good examples: “You will be as gods.” You will be like others.

The devil is so cunning, so crooked, so subtle, so sneaky, compared with the simplicity, clarity, and sincerity of Christ. He doesn’t come with horns, a scary face, a three-pronged fork, cloven hooves and a tail. He looks and sounds angelic, uses religious language, and flatters us (14).

The serpent’s servants can deceive you.

For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough (3-4).

If the devil can’t lead us astray by evil lies apart from Christ, he will lead us astray with evil lies that are associated with Christ. His agents may use all the right religious vocabulary, but they mean exactly the opposite and have the opposite aims. If he can’t get us to embrace falsehood, he’ll get us to tolerate it. As the senior Devil advised the junior devil in The Screwtape Letters, “Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

Paul had resisted and condemned boasting again and again. But now he says, “Although this is so foolish, if you really want me to compete with the false teachers, I can boast better than the best of them, and I’ll do it if that’s what it takes to recover you from deception. I’ll play the fool to expose the foolishness of my opponents” (1, 5-12).

CHANGING OUR STORIES WITH GOD’S STORY

Beware deception: There’s one simple way to know if we are being deceived by the serpent and his servants. Our daily devotion to Christ is reducing.

Beat deception: The only way to beat deception is daily devotion to Christ, a daily walk with Christ that is centered on the Gospel and that works out into every area of life.

SUMMARY

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A NEW CHAPTER

  • Gospel: Christ is offering you himself. He wants to engage with you and be engaged to you. Are you rejecting his advances, his courtship? For what? What’s better that’s Jesus?
  • Jesus: What a marvel of grace that Jesus engages himself to us and is faithful to his promises and commitments, no matter what we do.
  • Devotion: The dictionary defines ‘devotion’ as ‘love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause.’ It’s more than a legalistic formality. It engages the heart and affections. How’s your engagement to Christ going? Are you being faithful to your promises to Christ or are you living as though you are still single and unattached?
  • Discipleship: Let’s ask one another this question: How is God working in your life today?
  • Monday: Start the 11111 Plan and it will become a 22222 Plan, then 33333 Plan, etc. The smaller the barrier to beginning the more likely you are to stick at it.
  • Prayer: Loving God, thank you for loving us enough to engage us to marriage. Protect us from the dangerous deception of the devil with sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. How has the devil managed to deceive you in the past?

2. Who do you know that’s in danger of deception How can you help them?

3. How does this passage affect your sense of identity as a Christian?

4. How and when will you implement the 11111 Plan?

5. Where do you see the devil and his servants most at work today?

6. How can you disciple someone to more devotion to Christ?

PDF OF SERMON NOTES