Don't Be Distracted
Don’t Be Distracted
Distraction is the diversion of attention of an individual or group from the chosen object of attention onto the source of distraction. Distraction is caused by one of the following: lack of ability to pay attention; lack of interest in the object of attention; greater interest in something other than the object of attention; or the great intensity, novelty or attractiveness of something other than the object of attention. Distractions come from both external sources (physical stimulus through the five senses), or internal sources (thought, emotion, daydreams, physical urges). Divided attention, as in multi-tasking could also be considered as distraction in situations requiring full attention on a single object (e.g., sports, academic tests, performance). Distraction is a major cause of procrastination. Distraction is also a television game show hosted by Jimmy Carr both in the UK and the US.
11 ways of staying focused
June 21st, 2006 by Dave Cheong
Each of us have our busy lives and in this world of constant distractions, how can we stay focused on our goals? This article discusses several techniques I have found to work.
For me, there are always several things constantly competing for my time - articles to write, business opportunities to explore, links to follow up, my daily work, personal commitments etc. In my experience whenever I try to work on many things at the same time, none of them actually gets done.
In response, I’ve incorporated the following techniques for staying focused into my work patterns:
- Having well defined goals. I can’t stress the importance of this too much. Having goals which are well defined along good guidelines is key. I’ve found writing my goals down really helps. Whenever I get distracted, I read my goals and I’m reminded of what I am trying to do and why.
- Breaking things into bite sized chunks. Having broad high level goals are good but having an actionable plan is essential. A plan can identify how you can get from where you are to where you want go. Breaking goals into smaller actionable chunks (tasks) is great - it gives me motivation to start and allows me to get things done in one sitting.
- Prioritising constantly. To figure out which task I should be working on, I prioritise constantly. Some tasks are more important than others. Some tasks are more urgent than others. I’ve found that working on urgent tasks followed by tasks which have the greatest impact to work well for me - urgent tasks allow me to get things done on time and important tasks allow me to maximise the benefits I receive.
- Tracking progress vigorously. Each of us wants to improve our lives. However, it is easy to start with good intentions but more difficult to sustain commitment. I’ve found that by tracking my progress, I have more visibility on what I’ve done and can better gauge how much effort is left.
- Planning ahead without fail. Concentrating on the remaining effort can help reinforce commitment. Some might think they’ll get discouraged, however I haven’t found this to be the case because my tasks are bite sized and easy to finish. I’ve found it really helps to look at my goals and task lists periodically, so I can assess how much time it’ll take to do something and determine the best time to sit down and work on it.
- Rewarding myself when warranted. By all means focus on what’s outstanding, but also take stock of what’s done. I always reflect on what I’ve done, whether it is reading a post I did awhile ago or looking at the ticks I’ve made alongside my task lists. Whenever I accomplish a logical piece of work, I always reward myself. It really does help with maintaining motivation.
- Having positive patterns in my routine. I’ve found having good habits and positive patterns to be instrumental. At the moment, I can consistently get more done. As these patterns continue to establish into a routine, I’m finding that I can better judge the periods of the day in which I really need to focus and work.
- Removing distractions as best I can. The best way not to give in to temptation is not to have the option to. What seems to work for me is making the distractions difficult or inconvenient to access. Because it takes too much effort to indulge in the distraction, I find it is less likely for me to give in.
- Blocking out some time. In a previous post I wrote about waking up early and consistently. You don’t necessarily have to do this but I’ve found that having quiet time, set aside specifically for accomplishing a given task, to be very productive. I also tend to be more focused in the morning after a restful night.
- Keeping the results clear in mind. Instead of concentrating too much on the task at hand, sometimes I put some attention on the feelings I ultimately wish to experience. By focusing on the results, it is easier for me to maintain my motivation especially when working on things that I am not by nature motivated by.
- Enlisting my family and friends for help. I communicate with my family and friends about my goals all the time. Not only have they been helpful with gentle reminders whenever they see my behaviour is not consistent with my goals, but they also give me constant incentives to work at my goals and succeed.
Distractions as a whole are a huge drain on every aspect of who we are. It takes our focus away from what we should be doing - our tasks, goals and purpose. This is why we have to eliminate them from our lives if possible! Personally, I find if I was to indulge in a distraction, a hour could go by and before I know it, I’d blow away an entire time box. Generally, this makes me feel drained and disappointed, not just in myself for having been weak but also about the lost opportunities and productive time I could have spent working on an article or researching a business venture.
Rest Your Soul in "the Simplicity and Purity of Devotion to Christ"
In the early morning dim of March 29, 1849, a sympathetic storekeeper in Richmond, Virginia nailed the lid on a crate containing a slave. A two-hundred pound man had folded himself into a wooden box just three feet, one inch long, two feet wide, and two-and-a-half feet deep. Cramped in a suffocating darkness, the slave endured—often upside down—a grueling three hundred and fifty mile shipment via railroad freight car, steamboat, and wagon. Twenty-seven hours later in a Philadelphia abolitionist's office, Henry "Box" Brown emerged from his coffinlike confinement to begin life as a free man. The news of his stunning appearance encouraged the hopes of freedom in countless slaves.
Everyone is born a slave of sin. Jesus Christ said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin" (John 8:34). We cannot free ourselves from this oppressive master, for no one can live without sinning against God. But the sinless Jesus—not for His own sake, but for others—came from Heaven to deliver His people. Jesus allowed godless men to nail Him to a Roman cross, and three days later rose from the dead so that "we should no longer be slaves of sin" (Romans 6:6). And all those who trust in His work (and not their own) as the way to freedom will find emancipation from sin. "Therefore," declared Jesus, "if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).
I wonder if Henry Brown ever suffered nightmares of being back in his box? I do know that Christians—though freed from the penalty of all sin and declared righteous in God's sight—sometimes feel a spiritual claustrophobia. It's almost as though they've returned to the bondage that enslaved them before they knew Jesus. Sinful choices and activities can cause God's forgiven people to feel this way. But there are other reasons why believers may not be breathing the sweet air of spiritual freedom.
If you feel boxed-in spiritually, perhaps it's because you've experienced what the Apostle Paul feared for the souls of some: "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" (2 Corinthians 11:3, NASB). Paul's readers had been distracted by the message of "another Jesus" (verse 4). In other words, men had come preaching about Jesus, but spoke of Him differently than the Apostle Paul. Many think that false teachers had told them about Christ in a way that caused them to look less to Jesus and more to their own good deeds and spirituality. As they did so, they were "led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ."
Whenever this happens to a Christian, his spiritual life soon becomes burdensome. He feels "back in the box" of slavery to duties that bring no joy. Instead of refreshing and ravishing his soul with the love of Christ, his spirituality seems complicated, unfulfilling, and feels like just "one more thing to do" in an overbusy life. And so, if you recognize yourself in this bondage, rest your soul afresh in "the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." Look to Him to be the satisfaction of what God requires from you. Rediscover your spiritual practices as means of experiencing and enjoying Christ, and not a mere checklist of requirements to keep.
But other readers who feel boxed-in spiritually, so far as they know their own hearts, havekept their eyes on Christ alone, not only to make them right with God, but also to keep them right with God. And yet the responsibilities of life have become so overwhelming that even the habits of their spirituality only seem to add to the burden and complexity of their weary existence. Spiritually they're as dry and rootless as a tumbleweed. If this is you, it's my prayer that as you turn these pages, your devotion to Christ will become more simple and pure. And as it does, may you feel the refreshing return of the gentleness and love of Christ in your soul.
From Donald S. Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2003).
Copyright © 2002, Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved.
Remember, It's About Jesus
Why pray when it appears that your prayers go unanswered? Why keep on reading the Bible when it seems like you're getting little from it? Why continue worshiping God privately when you feel no spiritual refreshment? Why persist in keeping a journal when writing your entries bores you? Why engage in fasting, silence and solitude, serving, and other spiritual disciplines when you sense meager benefits from doing so?
It's easy to forget the real purpose of anything that's as habitual as the activities of the spiritual life. And purposeless spiritual practices soon become dry routines that shrivel our souls.
The apostle Paul wrote of his concern that something like this would happen to the Christians at Corinth: "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" (2 Corinthians 11:3, NASB). Notice that the direction of devotion is to be "to Christ." Spirituality is not an end in itself; it's about Jesus.
When we realize just who this God-Man—this Jesus who is called the Christ—is, we understand why the spiritual life is about Him: "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence" (Colossians 1:18). So, "in all things," including our spirituality, Jesus should "have the preeminence."
That's why God inspired Paul to tell us, "Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness" [that is, Christlikeness] (1 Timothy 4:7, NASB). All our spiritual disciplines should be practiced in pursuit of Christlikeness. We pursue outward conformity to Christlikeness as we practice the same disciplines He practiced. More importantly, we pursue intimacy with Jesus and the inner transformation to Christlikeness when we look to Him through the spiritual disciplines.
So when we go to the Bible, we should look preeminently for what Jesus says to us in it, for what it tells us about Jesus, for how we are to respond to Jesus, for what we are to do for Jesus, and so forth. When we pray, we want to pray in Jesus' name (see John 14:13-14); that is, we should come in the righteousness of Jesus (and not our own), and to pray what we believe Jesus would pray in our circumstances. Our perennial purpose for practicing any and all of the spiritual disciplines should be a Christ-centered purpose. Authentic Christ-ian spirituality is about Jesus Christ.
From Donald S. Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2003).
Copyright © 2002, Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved.
Copyright Disclaimer: All the information contained on the Center for Biblical Spirituality website is copyrighted by Donald S. Whitney. Permission granted to copy this material in its complete text only for not-for-profit use (sharing with a friend, church, school, Bible study, etc.) and including all copyright information. No portion of this website may be sold, distributed, published, edited, altered, changed, broadcast, or commercially exploited without the prior written permission from Donald S. Whitney.
subtilty—the utter foe of the “simplicity” which is intent on one object, Jesus, and seeks none “other,” and no “other” and different Spirit (2Co 11:4); but loves him with tender singleness of affection. Where Eve first gave way, was in mentally harboring for a moment the possibility insinuated by the serpent, of God not having her truest interests at heart, and of this “other” professing friend being more concerned for her than God.
corrupted—so as to lose their virgin purity through seducers (2Co 11:4). The same Greek stands for “minds” as for “thoughts” (2Co 10:5, also see on 2Co 10:5); intents of the will, or mind. The oldest manuscripts after “simplicity,” add, “and the purity” or “chastity.”
in Christ—rather, “that is towards Christ.”
11:3 The second reason for Paul’s playing the fool was his fear that the saints might be deceived and their minds might be corrupted from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. Here simplicity means singlehearted ness. He wanted them to be devoted to the Lord Jesus alone, and not to allow their hearts’ affections to be drawn away by anyone else. Then, too, he wanted them to be unspotted in their devotedness to the Lord.
The apostle remembers how the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness. He did it with an appeal to her mind or intellect. That is exactly what the false teachers were doing in Corinth. Paul would have the heart of the Corinthian virgin to be undivided and unspotted.
Note that Paul treats the account of Eve and the serpent as fact, not myth.
3. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
The apostle sticks to his metaphor. Though they were betrothed to Christ, he feared that their affections might be seduced from him and fixed on some other object. Men are not jealous until their apprehensions are excited. They must have some reason, either real or imaginary, for suspecting the faithfulness of those they love. The ground of the apostle’s jealousy was his fear. They had not yet turned aside, but there was great danger that they might yield to the seductions to which they were exposed. There was one standing example and warning both of the inconstancy of the human heart and of the fearful consequences of forsaking God. Eve was created holy; she stood in paradise in the perfection of her nature, with every conceivable motive to secure her faithfulness. Yet by the cunning of Satan, she fell. What reason we have, then, to fear—we who are exposed to the machinations of the same great seducer!
As Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning. That is, by Satan in the form of a serpent. The serpent is the well-known serpent of which Moses speaks. The New Testament writers thus assume, and thereby sanction, the historical truth of the Old Testament record. The account of the temptation as recorded in Genesis is regarded by the inspired writers of the New Testament not as a myth or as an allegory, but as a true story. Compare 1 Timothy 2:14; Revelation 12:9, 15.
Deceived. All seduction is by means of deception. Sin is in its nature deceit. The imagination is filled with false images, and the foolish heart is darkened. Eve was thus deceived by Satan. She was made to disbelieve what was true and to believe what was false. Man’s belief, to a very large extent, is determined by his feelings. The heart controls the understanding. The good believe what is true; the evil believe what is untrue. This is the reason why people are accountable for their faith, and why the wicked are led captive by Satan into all manner of error. Eve was deceived by stirring up unholy feelings in her heart. Paul’s apprehension was lest the Corinthians, surrounded by false teachers, the ministers of Satan, should be similarly beguiled. What he feared was that their minds might somehow be led astray. It was a moral perversion or corruption that he feared.
Your minds. The Greek word means first “thought,” then that which thinks, the understanding, and then the affections or dispositions. See Philippians 4:7. Our translation, your minds, includes the idea both of thought and feeling and is the most appropriate rendering.
Led astray from. Corrupted so as to turn from.
Your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. “Singleness of mind toward Christ.” That is, the undivided affection and devotion to Christ that is due from a bride to her spouse. The allusion to the marriage relationship is maintained. Paul had compared the Corinthians to a virgin promised to one husband, and he feared lest their affections might be seduced from Christ and transferred to another.
Devotion. “[To drift away] from the sincerity and the purity that is toward Christ.” Paul’s purpose in supplying the illustration about Eve’s deception is to emphasize the necessity of unblemished spiritual fidelity to God. As Satan perverted Eve’s guileless faith in God, so the false apostles attempt to persuade the Corinthians to abandon their single-hearted faithfulness to Christ. Seeing the servants of Satan at work among the members of the Corinthian church, Paul sounds the alarm and seeks to preserve their spiritual sincerity and purity. The word sincerity means simplicity, which effectively rules out every trace of duplicity. It signifies being exclusively devoted to one person or cause with respect to thinking, speaking, and doing. The term purity refers to moral blamelessness.
Acting as the friend of the bridegroom (Christ), Paul keeps the bride (the church) pure and blameless. He is unable to do this unless the entire membership of the local church is alerted to the impending danger. Not only for the Christians in Corinth, but for every believer, the watchword is alertness. The attacks of the evil one occur relentlessly to the end of time. Philip Edgcumbe Hughes notes, “The enmity between the seed of the serpent and the Seed of the woman continues unremittingly until the day of judgment, and mankind will continue to suffer from and be threatened by the evil effects of the first sin of the first woman until, at Christ’s coming, the new creation is fully realized and the former things are passed away.”
The word translated “simplicity” in 2 Corinthians 11:3 means “sincerity, singleness of devotion.” A divided heart leads to a defiled life and a destroyed relationship.
The image of love and marriage, and the need for faithfulness, is often used in the Bible. The Prophet Jeremiah saw the people of Judah losing their love for God, and he warned them. “Thus saith the Lord; ‘I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals’ ” (Jer. 2:2). The nation of Judah had lost its “honeymoon love” and was guilty of worshiping idols. Jesus used the same image when He warned the church at Ephesus: “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Rev. 2:4).
The person behind the peril was Satan, pictured here as the serpent. The reference is to Genesis 3. It is worth noting that Paul had a great deal to say about our adversary, the devil, when he wrote this letter to the Corinthians. He warned that Satan had several devices for attacking believers. He can burden the consciences of believers who have sinned (2 Cor. 2:10–11), blind the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4) or beguile the minds of believers (2 Cor. 11:3), and even buffet the bodies of God’s ministers (2 Cor. 12:7).
The focus here is on the mind, for Satan is a liar and tries to get us to listen to his lies, ponder them, and then believe them. This is what he did with Eve. First, he questioned God’s word (“Yea, hath God said?”), then he denied God’s word (“Ye shall not surely die!”), and then he substituted his own lie (“Ye shall be as gods”) (see Gen. 3:1, 4–5).
Satan, of course, is crafty. He knows that believers will not immediately accept a lie, so the enemy has to “bait the hook” and make it easy for us to accept what he has to offer. Basically, Satan is an imitator: he copies what God does and then tries to convince us that his offer is better than God’s. How does he do this? By using counterfeit ministers who pretend to serve God, but who are really the servants of Satan.
Satan has a counterfeit gospel (Gal. 1:6–12) that involves a different savior and a different spirit. Unfortunately, the Corinthians had “welcomed” this “new gospel,” which was a mixture of Law and grace and not a true gospel at all. There is only one Gospel and, therefore, there can be only one Saviour (1 Cor. 15:1ff). When you trust the Saviour, you receive the Holy Spirit of God within, and there is only one Holy Spirit.
The preachers of this false gospel (and they are with us yet today) are described in 2 Corinthians 11:13–15. They claimed to have divine authority as God’s servants, but their authority was bogus. They claimed that the true servants of God were all impostors; in Paul’s day, they said this about him. They even claimed to be “super-apostles,” on a much higher level than Paul. With their clever oratory, they mesmerized the ignorant believers, while at the same time they pointed out that Paul was not a very gifted speaker (2 Cor. 11:6; 10:10). How tragic it is when unstable believers are swayed by the “fair speech” of Satan’s ministers, instead of standing firm on the basic truths of the Gospel taught to them by faithful pastors and teachers.
your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
Paul focuses on the “minds” (νόημα, noēma) of the Corinthians as the location of deception. This is now the last of five uses of this word in 2 Corinthians. The only other use in the NT is also by Paul in Phil 4:7. This word depicts the sphere in which people make decisions, design strategies, plan for the future. If this focal point of Christian influence is captured by an errant notion, particularly in reference to Christ and the gospel, it has huge ramifications for the integrity of their Christian lifestyle as well as the reality of their salvation. Paul presumes that the schemers have already made an impact and have taken some out of the true Christian fold. That’s why he writes this letter, to dislodge the influence of the outsiders from the church and particularly those who have already been victimized by them.
Paul reminds the Corinthians of their vows of commitment to Christ as one might counsel a woman who is tempted to betray her husband. He uses the synonyms “sincere” (ἁπλότης, haplotēs) and “pure” (ἁγνότης, hagnotēs). The first emphasizes the simplicity of devotion to something or someone, uncomplicated by other ideas or notions. The second, like its related word in 11:2, emphasizes 100% commitment, no mixed motives, no second thoughts. Remaining true to Christ through all the ups and downs of life, in the face of conflicting philosophies and moral principles, is no easy task in any generation. But this is what the unblemished bride Christ deserves.
Someone has come to Corinth and is successfully depriving Christ of a loyalty that is rightfully his. It is likely that only a small number have become prey to the intruders’ ploys at the time Paul writes. But there is the real danger that the church as a whole may be carried along, as Paul’s use of the second-person plural pronoun makes clear (hymoµn, v. 3).
The Genesis 3 account of how the serpent deceived Eve into eating the forbidden fruit serves as a ready illustration of what Paul fears is going on at Corinth: just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning. Deceived translates a compound verb that has the intensified meaning “thoroughly” or “utterly deceived” (exeµpateµsen). Eve’s thorough deception is attributed to the serpent’s cunning. The basic meaning of the noun panourgia is “capable of all work” (pan + ergon). In the New Testament it refers to someone who uses his ability unscrupulously and resorts to trickery and slyness.
In the case of the Corinthians, the deception is of a corrupting kind. The niv and RSV’s led astray is not really the sense. The verb phtheiroµ means “to destroy,” “to seduce” or “to ruin.” A corrupting influence that leads to intellectual and spiritual ruin is most likely the idea (Martin 1986:333). Some think that Paul is drawing on a current Jewish legend that Satan had sexually seduced Eve (as in 2 Enoch 31:6). But the focus in these verses is on a seducing of the mind (ta noeµmata), not a corrupting of the will. Paul’s fear is that as Eve was led astray by the cunning argumentation of the serpent, the minds of his converts may be similarly seduced by the trickery of his rivals.
The intruders’ goal is to divert the Corinthians from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ (v. 3). The Greek is literally “a whole-heartedness toward Christ” (apo teµs haploteµtos teµs eis ton Christon*; compare 1:12; 8:2, 9–11, 13). Haploteµs (“sincere”) in the New Testament denotes personal wholeness or undividedness. As the bride-to-be is wholly focused on her intended spouse, so the church is to be wholly undivided in its devotion to Christ. If kai teµs hagnoteµtos (set off by square brackets in the Greek text) is part of the original text, then the church’s devotion is to be marked not only by undividedness but also by “purity.” Paul used the noun earlier of the moral blamelessness that is to characterize the life of the gospel preacher (6:6). Here it most likely signifies the kind of circumspect or chaste behavior that is to mark the life of the church.
Eve represents innocence and purity. This passage compares the serpent’s temptation to the temptation of the false teachers’ enticing message. The Corinthians had begun their Christian walk with a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. But false teachers were luring Corinthian believers away from the truth. Paul didn’t want the believers’ single-minded love for Christ to be corrupted. The Greek word Paul used for “led astray” actually means “to ruin.” The Corinthians weren’t merely wandering slightly from the path; they were soiling their purity.
Although some commentators see an allusion in this passage to the sexual immorality that may have persisted in the Corinthian church (see 1 Corinthians 6:9–20), the focus here is on the Corinthians’ thoughts. Sin begins with thoughts. The serpent first tried to convince Eve that God’s law was not the best for her, that the advantages of disobeying God outweighed the advantage of obeying him. The serpent’s deception was primarily directed against what Eve thought about God and his instructions (Genesis 3:1–6). Satan knew that once the mind was convinced, actions would soon follow. Eve was persuaded by Satan’s lies and subsequently reached out to pluck the forbidden fruit. In the same way, the false teachers were Satan’s servants, deceiving the Corinthians to abandon their wholehearted devotion to Christ (see 11:14–15). Paul knew that thoughts are the primary battleground for spiritual warfare (see 10:5). That is why he took these false teachers so seriously. Paul equated the false teachers’ success with Satan’s victory in the spiritual war that was being waged in the Corinthian church.
Paul compared the danger facing the Corinthian church to Eve’s deception by Satan. He feared the Corinthians, like Eve, would fall prey to satanic lies and have their minds corrupted. The tragic result would be the abandonment of their simple devotion to Christ in favor of the sophisticated error of the false apostles. Paul’s allusion to Gen. 3 implies that the false apostles were Satan’s emissaries—a truth that he later made explicit (vv. 13–15).
Christians need to think about what they are being taught rather than being impressed by who is teaching them, however winsome he or she may be.
. The best antidote to his influence is to focus on Christ, the light that exposes the darkness.
Every generation must deal with its own “false prophets,” those who come to the historic church with their own version of Christianity. And what is so confusing to many sincere church members is that propagators of a false gospel can sound so spiritual and so sure of themselves that without even being aware of what’s happening they are taken in. A gospel of love and forgiveness and freedom can so subtly be replaced with a gospel of fear and suspicion and guilt and conformity. Instead of being prized and loved and ministered to under this different gospel, the people can be manipulated to meet the ego needs of the leader. What I have described can take place in any church where great care is not taken to preserve the pure gospel of Christ.
Eve was completely deceived by Satan’s cunning (cf. 1 Timothy 2:14). When Eve fell, it was not because she was beaten into submission by Satan, but by his encircling her soul with sequential coils of deception as he promised Eve things he could not deliver.
So it was with the betrothed Corinthian community as they were susceptible to Satan’s cunning as he led them away from Christ into the promise of a more triumphant, victorious, prosperous Christianity—a Christianity that was dismissive of taking up the cross and weakness and suffering. Indeed, Satan was so cunning that he had convinced many of the Corinthians that it was Paul who was the cunning one (cf. 12:16). D. A. Carson applies the text:
From the time of the Fall to the present day, men and women have frequently succumbed to the deceptive devices of the devil. Christians are especially open to the kind of cunning deceit that combines the language of faith and religion with the content of self-interest and flattery. We like to be told how special we are, how wise, how blessed.… We like to have our Christianity shaped less by the cross than by triumphalism or rules or charismatic leaders or subjective experience. And if this shaping can be coated with assurances of orthodoxy, complete with cliché, we may not detect the presence of the arch-deceiver, nor see that we are being weaned away from “sincere and pure devotion to Christ” to a “different gospel.”
The wolves in the church that devour sheep do not howl and bare their teeth. They come in sheep’s clothing, smiling, reciting Scripture, full of understanding, promising something more than Christ.
Paul feared that through satanic deception the Corinthians would fall to three delusions: “another Jesus,” “a different spirit,” and “a different gospel.” In fact, he says sarcastically, “you put up with it readily enough” (v. 4b). The triplet of Jesus, spirit (the Holy Spirit), and gospel all suffered distortion at the hands of the false apostles who conflated the Judaizers’ demands that the Gentiles keep the old covenant with a promise of more of the Spirit and the health and wealth and ecstasies of the heaven now of over-realized eschatology. “In terms of the imagery of our text, the opponents claimed to be married to Christ already, whereas Paul saw the church as betrothed but still waiting for her wedding day” (Hafemann). Thus Paul’s enemies were preaching another Jesus and a false understanding of the work of the Spirit—which meant a different gospel.
This was all first-century reality in Corinth just a handful of years after Paul had planted the church. Many really were beginning to follow a Jesus and a spirit and a gospel that did not exist. And that is still the real danger today. The mantra-like use of the name Jesus is used today by false apostles as well as by true. The question is, is this the Jesus of the Bible or the Jesus of another gospel?
Here in our passage, the intensity of Paul’s fearful feelings, his jealousy to keep the church pure, to protect his people from Satan’s cunning to keep them following the real Jesus and Spirit and gospel—all of these things were why Paul would condescend to boast in his ministry and why the Corinthians were asked to put up with such foolishness.
The simplicity. The apostles always insisted on this virtue, but especially St. Paul, in whose Epistles the word (ἁπλότης) occurs seven times. That is in Christ; rather, that is towards (literally, into) Christ; as Cranmer rendered it, “The perfect fidelity which looks to him above.”
Paul cautioned the Corinthians that Satan, the father of all lies (John 8:44), would seek to distract them from the simplicity of the gospel. Satan would attempt to deceive them with complicated and persuasive arguments, just as he had once deceived Eve (Gen. 3:13; see 1 Tim. 2:14). The teachings of the false apostles sounded good, but in actuality they “corrupted” the Christian message (2 Cor. 11:3). The false apostles promoted a spirit of human wisdom and gnosis (2 Cor. 10:5; see 1 Cor. 2:12; 2 Cor. 1:12), a spirit of bondage to legalistic requirements (2 Cor. 3:6), and a spirit of compromise (2 Cor. 6:14–7:1; 12:21). This spirit was different than the spirit of liberty (2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 2:4; 5:1), the spirit of love, joy, and peace (Rom. 14:17; Gal. 5:22), and the spirit of power (Eph. 3:20; Col. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:7; ) that Paul preached.
Cults: A Fraudulent Faith
A “cult” is a religious group that has been established upon a special message not found in the Bible. Most cultic leaders testify of visions, revelations, spirit guides, or audible voices from heaven that have revealed truth to them alone. Their messages are characteristically apocalyptic and are often presented as “inspired.”
Cultic leaders are nearly always authoritarian. They typically encourage their followers to adopt a legalistic lifestyle and persecution mentality, leading to an exclusivistic outlook for the group.
Many people have suffered from the brainwashing and other fraudulent tactics of cults. Grievances include the lack of full disclosure when luring potential members into the cult through extortion, poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, auditory bombardment, as well as far more severe instances of slavery, physical abuse, and sexual exploitation. Cults tend to entice followers with what appear to be generous expressions of concern and a desire to meet the deep needs of people who are confused, suffering, dejected, or searching for meaning in life. In the minds of many Christian leaders, the increase in cult membership worldwide is a direct indicator of the church’s failure to meet these needs genuinely and fully.
See also John 1:4, note; Gal. 1:6–9; notes on Heresies (1 Cor. 1); Paganism (Jer. 7)
The related terms seduction, seduce, seducer and seductress provide a composite image of seduction. Seduction images in Scripture portray people being tempted by someone or something to stray from the course they should follow. The wrong course promises pleasures and rewards (physical or spiritual) that are otherwise denied. Closely tied to the image of seduction is indirectness of the appeal. The one seduced is lured along a path and incrementally turns away from where loyalty should be placed. People may betray loyalties because of threats, by following the herd or as a simple transaction to gain money or power, but all of these are more deliberate or sudden than the path of seduction. Words used in various versions of the Bible to express the idea of seduction (entice, beguile, lure, deceive, lead astray) suggest both its attractive and deceptive aspects.
The Bible portrays people lured into a variety of wrong behaviors, among them the worship of false gods (Deut 11:16), illicit sex (Job 31:9), theft and violence (Prov 1:10), and treason (Judg 16:5). The agents of seduction vary. The serpent (Gen 3:1), heavenly bodies (Deut 4:19; see Sun, Moon and Stars), a woman (Eccles 7:26), family members (Deut 13:6), bad company (Prov 1:10–19), the promise of wealth (Job 36:18), false prophets or teachers (Ezek 13:10)—all may deceive and lead astray.
The temptation in the Garden (Gen 3:1–6) indicates the various avenues by which temptation may penetrate the soul. The appeal may be to the senses (the forbidden fruit is pleasing to the eye) or the appetites (the fruit looks good for food) or the intellect (the fruit seems desirable for gaining wisdom). But the chief force effecting this fall is the cunning argument of the serpent. Most often in Scripture it is words—persuasive, deceptive, insinuating words—that are the weapons of a seducer. Deuteronomy warns that a relative or friend may “secretly entice you, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’ ” (Deut 13:6 NIV). Delilah, a famous temptress in the OT, nags and cajoles until Samson divulges the secret of his strength. The adulteress of Proverbs seduces her victims with “persuasive words” (Prov 7:21 NIV; see Adultery) and “speech … smoother than oil” (Prov 5:3 NIV). Ezekiel accuses the false prophets of leading the people astray by “saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace” (Ezek 13:10 NIV).
Like the OT prophets, the NT epistle writers warn believers against being seduced by false teachers. Through “smooth talk and flattery they [can] deceive the minds of naive people” (Rom 16:18 NIV) and take them “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy” (Col 2:8 NIV). Peter describes false teachers thus: “They mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error” (2 Pet 2:18).
The NT often pictures people being led astray by their own sinful desires, which are personified as a seductive force that works against God’s saving grace in the individual. Paul speaks of our old selves being corrupted by “deceitful desires” (Eph 4:22 NIV). James uses imagery of sexual seduction to show how our desires insidiously pull us in the wrong direction: “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (Jas 1:14–15 NIV).
Here James echoes a truth demonstrated all through the Bible: succumbing to the seduction of sin ultimately leads to disaster.
Simplicity—that which is in its purest form
A. Necessary in:
Prayer Matt. 6:5–15
Dress 1 Pet. 3:3–5
Conduct 2 Cor. 1:12
Giving Rom. 12:8
Preaching 1 Thess. 2:3–7
B. Purposes of, to:
Avoid outward display Matt. 6:1–4
Defeat Satan 2 Cor. 11:3, 4
Remain pure in an evil world Rom. 16:19
1. Is opposed to fleshly wisdom. 2Co 1:12.
2. Necessity for. Mt 18:2,3.
3. Should be exhibited
a. In preaching the gospel. 1Th 2:3-7.
b. In acts of benevolence. Ro 12:8.
c. In all our conduct. 2Co 1:12.
d. Concerning our own wisdom. 1Co 3:18.
e. Concerning evil. Ro 16:19.
f. Concerning malice. 1Co 14:20.
4. Exhortation to. Ro 16:19; 1Pe 2:2.
5. They who have the grace of
a. Are made wise by God. Mt 11:25.
b. Are made wise by the word of God. Ps 19:7; 119:130.
c. Are preserved by God. Ps 116:6.
d. Made circumspect by instruction. Pr 1:4.
e. Profit by the correction of others. Pr 19:25; 21:11.
6. Beware of being corrupted from that, which is in Christ. 2Co 11:3.
7. Illustrated. Mt 6:22.
a. David. Ps 131:1,2.
b. Jeremiah. Jer 1:6.
c. The Christians. Ac 2:46; 4:32.
d. Paul. 2Co 1:12.
Ancient Letters On Modern Paper
Many intelligent people possess amazingly credulous natures. Michael Charles, the famous 19th-century French mathematician and Sorbonne professor was trapped into buying a total of 27,340 letters for $30,000.
The letters were allegedly written by the resurrected Lazarus to Peter, Mary Magdalene to a Burgundian King, and a Gallic doctor to Jesus Christ. But the surprise is, the letters were all written in modern French and on contemporary paper!
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