Monday, March 8, 2010

Ray Stedman on 2 Cor. 11:3

This is quoted from Ray Stedman's expository teaching series, on the verse 2 Corinthians 11:3 =

"I fear lest you be led astray in your thoughts as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ." (2 Cor. 11:3)

"(Literally it is, "from the simplicity and purity which is in Christ." Some manuscripts even leave out the word "purity," so it becomes basically, "that you might be led astray from the simplicity that is in Christ.") This is one of the most important phrases of the Bible because there is nothing more important than to maintain the simplicity that is in Christ.

I have often quoted this to you, but it will not hurt to quote again the saying, "The main thing about being a Christian is to see that the main thing remains the main thing." That is what Paul is saying. The "main thing" is that at the heart and center of your life is the "simplicity that is in Christ," a simple thing. I have noticed, over many years of observation, that when religion becomes complicated it is always a sign that it is drifting away from the realities and centralities of faith. The world around us is getting increasingly complex, and it is because it is drifting farther and farther from God. Look around at the world of nature and you can see the simplicity of God's design everywhere. He builds the year around four seasons which repeat themselves endlessly and never fail. We are entering upon the most beautiful time of all perhaps, springtime, when everyone delights in the new life that surges on all sides. Yet that simple pattern of four seasons contains within it all the possible variations of weather. Look at a flower and see how simple the pattern of its makeup is, and yet what an infinite variety God produces in a field of flowers. You can see this everywhere. God basically is simple. When religion becomes complex it is a sign that it is departing from Christ. Let me quote something here that is very helpful and confirming about this. The old medieval saint, Thomas 'a Kempis, has gathered this idea up. (Perhaps he got it from this very verse.)

By two wings man is lifted from the things of earth -- simplicity and purity.

And Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says:

As life in general becomes more and more complex, so religion tends to be affected in the same way. It seems to be assumed that if the affairs of men are so difficult and complicated, the affairs of God should be still more complicated, because they are still greater. Hence there comes a tendency to increase ceremony and ritual, and to multiply organizations and activities ... the argument is that it is ridiculous to assert that the vast problems of life today can be solved in an apparently simple manner suggested by those who preach the gospel in the old evangelical manner... The fact is, that as we get further away from God life becomes more complicated and involved. We see this not only in the Bible, but also in subsequent history. The Protestant Reformation simplified not only religion, but the whole of life and living in general... The truly religious life is always the simple life.

That is what Paul is concerned about here. When you ask yourself just what is that simplicity that he is talking about, the answer from everywhere in the Word of God is: The daily companionship of the Lord Jesus. How many of you sense that Christ is yours all day long? How many of you reckon upon that, think about that, live out of that relationship and out of that sense of the expectation of his presence? We often say, and rightly so, that Christianity is not a creed, it is a relationship; it is living with a Person. That is the simplicity that is in Christ. The danger that we constantly face, even in a church like this where the Word of God is taught, is that we get involved in the things about Christ and fail to live in a relationship with Christ. That is what Paul is deeply concerned about. That is why he is jealous to maintain "that simplicity that is in Christ." The first Corinthian letter starts on that very note. Paul says in Verse 9 of Chapter 1:

God is faithful who has called us into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9 RSV)

When your Christianity begins to cool down and you find yourself getting complicated it is a definite sign that you are being threatened in this area of understanding the relationship you have with the Lord Jesus. He is a living Lord -- he is not dead. He is not for Sundays only. He is for all the moments of life. In Philippians, Paul says: "To me to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21) -- everything, he fills my moments. Though he had one of the busiest lives ever recorded, a life of constant activity, yet he said at the heart of it lay this quiet reckoning upon the presence of the living Lord, the realization that he was with him to do everything that was to be done. That is the simplicity that he is talking about."

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