Revealing the SIMPLICITY that’s in Christ

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Guarding against religious deception, the first part

My intent for these lessons, just like it was the intent of Paul, Peter, John and any of the guys who wrote the New Testament, is not for you to focus on deception, but on the contrary, it’s for you to focus on Jesus and the truth of the gospel! I’ll keep saying this because it’s true, that much of the New Testament letters were written to address and correct people’s misunderstandings and false doctrine. Look at what Paul said in 2 Cor 11:3-4 — “(3) But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (4) For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with them (so why can’t you put up with simple me?)” I remember the old TV game show that aired over 40 years ago called, “To Tell the Truth”. In the show, the contestants would interview the 3 people who would claim to be the real character in question. During the interview, questions were asked from the contestants to the 3 different people, and then from the questions, each contestant would have to figure out who the real person was among the other 2 counterfeits. At the end of the show, the announcer would say, “Will the real ______ please stand up.”, and the contestant that guessed right would win. This illustrates what Paul is doing here in 2 Cor 11. The old game of “To Tell the Truth” that was about the real God is over, because through Christ, He has stood up!

So the REAL Jesus, His spirit and gospel is made true! So if it’s not simply about the unconditional love of the Father that’s seen in Christ’s Redemptive work for us, it’s a counterfeit!

Look at what John said in 2 John 1:8 — “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that you all may receive a full reward.” This is my intent also with these lessons — that you receive (not work for, but receive) your full reward in Christ! I want to expose the real arsenal of the enemy and what he has been using in robbing believers, and it’s called RELIGION. The enemy has been using the arsenal of religion to keep believers from growing up into Christ and receiving their full reward.

some examples of religion

- Religion is what someone gets when he takes law-keeping verses from the Old Testament and mixes them together with the grace of the New Testament (A great example is the tithe).

- Religion takes Jesus and His Redemptive work out of the spiritual equation (For example grace says, “Jesus + nothing = success”, but religion says, “Jesus + your works = success”).

- Religion is anything that you have to work for in order to get its results in return — it works off of the law of sowing and reaping, which law, works great from a natural point of view, but when it comes to God’s kingdom, it’s to no avail. Everything in God’s kingdom works by grace through faith, see Eph 2:8-9.

- Religion is a lot like someone who snores while he’s sleeping. But when asked about it, denies it. Why? He doesn’t really know that he’s involved in snoring, because at the time, he’s sleeping, see Eph 5:13-16 for Paul’s analogy of this same thing.

- Religion’s goal for one’s life is either to make him a “workaholic”, who feels guilty all of the time for not doing enough to get the job done in earning God’s blessings and favor, or to make him feel hopeless by thinking, “What’s the use of doing any more work? It’s not working for me”. Do you see the underlining factor of condemnation, frustration and confusion that religion gives people?

Look at Col 2:8 — “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Look at the 2 elements of what cheats believers from their full reward: philosophy and empty deceit. Philosophy and religion are twin sisters, because they both describe one’s quest for knowledge. Like Paul said about it in 2 Tim 3:7, “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Both, philosophy and religion, have the goal of offering help — philosophy describes the mental side of empty deceit, as religion describes the spiritual side of empty deceit. This kind of empty deceit that philosophy and religion provide are lies disguised as being the truth (like my picture above shows). As that picture shows, religion has an outward appearance of being godly and spot on, but if you could hold a magnifying glass up to it, you’ll see that it’s infiltrated with lies.

it’s all about right motives

I want to show you 4 verses that address this kind of empty deceit of religion and from each one, from the flipside of what’s said, we will see the right motives in being able to receive the truth of Jesus Christ. My hope is that through these scriptures, you’ll be able to see the real arsenal of the enemy called religion, by beholding the truth of Jesus Christ.

Right motive #1 — walking in unconditional love and staying free from greed. Let’s look at 2 Cor 2:17 — “For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.” There are 2 things that I want us to look at from this verse about Paul’s ministry as it pertains to our study. First of all, he said that “we are not peddling the word of God”. To get the full meaning of where he’s coming from in this phrase, look at what he just said in v.14 — “(God) through us diffuses the fragrance of His (Christ’s) knowledge in every place.” So we gather from this verse, that the “word of God” that he’s talking about in v.17 is not the Bible per se, but Christ’s knowledge of Redemption (Nobody can teach it to you like the one who went through it for you!). Most of the time when someone says, “the word of God”, we tend to think of our Bibles, but Paul is saying that he did not PEDDLE the revelation of Christ. The KJV uses the word “corrupt” here, which is a good rendering of the Greek word, pointing to the result of what takes place.

To peddle something is to try to sell it for profit. It’s using what was freely given — in this case, by Jesus — and trying to make a profit from it.

Again I’m not judging anyone who does this, for sadly, there are many, but what I’m pointing out here is how greed becomes involved in their life and when greed becomes involved in one’s heart, it messes up what he receives from the Lord about Christ (Because the knowledge that he does receive will always be tainted with that greed of profit).

The second phrase that I want to bring out from this verse is the interesting phrase, “we speak in the sight of God in Christ”. The words, “in the sight of”, is like saying that the sports team was IN THE SIGHT OF winning the championship — and in this case, Paul refers to being in a position where he’s able to get something from the source Himself. This makes more sense when we realize that God is love, see 1 John 4:8 and 16. So this is being in a “love-position”, where the knowledge that one receives is clarified by God’s love. It was God’s love that motivated and inspired the life and ministry of Paul, never greed, see 2 Cor 5:14!

Right motive 2 — driven by God’s mercy in Christ by putting others first. Now let’s look at what Paul said a few verses later to these same believers in 2 Cor 4:1-2 — “Therefore, since we have this ministry (being changed from glory to glory), as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart (become discouraged). (2) But (instead) we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.” Notice the phrase again that we just looked at, “in the sight of God” at the end of v.2. Paul’s still referring to realizing God’s love that’s inspiring him! Notice the 3 things that he “renounced” through the revelation of God’s mercy that’s seen in Christ: the hidden things of shame (fleshly things that were hidden from others); not walking in craftiness (not walking in his own wits); not handling the word of God deceitfully (not using the word to his own viewpoint or advantage). All of these things creep into one’s life as a result of “losing heart”, or becoming discouraged.

Then Paul makes a great statement in the words, “but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God”. He didn’t just say “manifestation of truth”, but “manifestation of THE truth” — it’s THE truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ! What inspired him to do? It was by putting people before himself, seen in the words, “commending ourselves to every man”! Paul was in the ministry of putting people first, because that’s the way that Jesus is! Paul was compassionate driven!

Right motive 3 — becoming obsessed in growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Now we come to Peter and what he said in 2 Pet 2:3 — “By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.” In modern English, we call this kind of person a “smooth-talker” — someone who uses words in getting what he wants. When I think of this kind of person, I think of what Daniel prophesied years ago in Dan 11:32 — “Those who do wickedly against the covenant he (the antichrist) shall corrupt with flattery”. The antichrist is not just an end time figure, but it’s a spiritual influence that is ANTI, or “against” Christ. So what Peter is talking about are those who are trying to bring harm to believers and lead them away from Christ (A great example of the antichrist spirit is mainstream media). Even though these kind of men may be seen as blatant evil, over the centuries, some of their teachings and/or traditions have deceptively infiltrated into main teachings of the Church. Paul called this, “deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” in 2 Tim 4:1.

Why do I bring this out and what does it have to do with one’s correct motives in delivering the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ? I’ll let Peter be the one to answer that question, because in this same letter, look at how he closed it in 3:17-18 — “(17) You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; (18) but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The BUT in v.18 is there for a specific reason.

The answer to not being led away with the error of the wicked is not for you to focus on it and the men that deliver it, but for you to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ!

Grace, simply put, is God’s gift to you that teaches you “to take your hands off and stop working, so He can put His hands on it and start working it in and for you!” And the knowledge of Jesus is letting Him give you His knowledge of what He did for you. This is what we are to be obsessed in growing in!

Right motive 4 — standing strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now we want to see what Jude said about this. Look at Jude 1:3-4 — “(3) I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (4) For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” I could almost said a big “DITTO” (“saying the same”) from what I just said in motive 3, but Jude brings out a different facet about the believer’s motive in not being led astray by the lying spirits and doctrines of demons — which is “earnestly contending for the faith”. Jude said the faith — not one’s own faith, but THE faith — which is the faith of Jesus. The same faith that He used in obtaining your salvation! That makes a big difference, because one’s faith (what he believes in) can be numerous, but when you talk about the faith of Jesus, you’re talking about what He has accomplished in His Redemptive work! The words, “earnestly contend”, refer to standing strong in grace against the resisting forces of darkness, see Eph 6:10-13.

In v.4, I want you to notice the 2 primary things of false doctrine: 1) turning, or PERVERTING, the grace of our God into lewdness (which is nothing more than being “fleshy”) and denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. How does one turn the grace of God into something of the flesh? Either it’s by the legalism of law-keeping from scriptures in the Old Testament, or it’s by using their liberty as an occasion for their flesh. But either way, one is leaning on self, rather than Christ. This is what is meant in the phrase of denying God and Jesus.

Next week, we’ll look at the second part of this from another perspective. Stay tuned!

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