Pure and Simple Devotion to Christ

By Jim Olsen

Key Verse
2 Cor 11:3 “I am afraid, however, that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may be led astray from your simple and pure (hagnos) devotion to Christ.”

A trap awaits almost every believer. It’s been built into our natural DNA, so subtle that unless you are aware of it, you’ve probably fallen into it. It’s a religious trap: The idea that you can please God by obeying rules, or worse, thinking that you may have lost your faith because you’ve failed at that obedience. We’ll look at a subject so important that it made the Apostle Paul afraid. It’s a method used by a cunning serpent to lead us astray.


Simplicity is at the center of a Christian life. Consider how the kingdom of God works. We cast our cares and our anxieties on him. Jesus said a little child shall be our leader and that the least among us is the greatest. Reformed sinners are now in the census of the saints, with beggars and former prostitutes honored in our sacred writings. We’ll look at three topics surrounding how we can lose the simplicity of our faith: Devotion, deception and the redemption God has given us, restoring us to be his holy and pure bride.


We’ll begin by reading this session’s key verse, 2 Cor 11:3 carefully. Paul begins by expressing fear for people in the church. The fear was based in reality, because there is a cunning serpent that tries to destroy our faith. He uses a method that leads our minds astray, away from simplicity, away from pure devotion. He gets us to look at ourselves, our own success and failures as a judgement line for our lives, rather than receiving grace from God. Paul uses the Greek word hagnos, translated pure, with a root word meaning holy, set apart. Whenever you read the words holy, sanctified and set apart, you’ll probably be encountering a derivative of hagnos.


2 Cor 11:3 “I am afraid, however, that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may be led astray from your simple and pure (hagnos) devotion to Christ.”


Since Paul has mentioned it and it’s a topic that brought him fear, let’s go back to the Garden of Eden and see how the serpent, the devil, tempted Eve. The creation story tells of how man fell from a position of walking, talking, seeing and being an intimate friend of God to becoming someone who can’t seem to help himself: He’s got an uncontrollable tendency  to do exactly the opposite of what God wants because he’s predominately blind to God’s presence.


The devil tempted Eve much the same way he does today: He opens our minds to judge good and evil. Since the first commandment ever given by God was disobeyed, all of Adam and Eve’s offspring disobey. It’s in every man and woman’s DNA: your purity and fellowship with God was broken because sin was passed down to your generation from your forefathers.  As we’ll see later, this temptation is the big sin: the mind that is set on religiously looking at their lives as a series of good and bad actions. It’s what gives disobedience its power. The following verse tells how the serpent deceived Adam and Eve.


Gen 3:5 “For God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”


You probably haven’t heard too much teaching about sin in your church, for good reason: It isn’t good to concentrate on what’s been forgiven and forgotten. Instead, church should be teaching you that you are forgiven. So, let’s take a deeper look at what sin is, since sin affects your simple and pure devotion to Christ.


When Paul discusses sin, he classifies it in two contexts. There’s the action of sin. That’s where we live: Paul clearly taught “all have sinned, all have fallen short of God’s glory” (Rom 3:23). Sin is the actions that come primarily from our five senses that Paul referred to as ‘flesh’ or ‘body.’ These actions are wrong in God’s sight. Try as we will, sin always bears bad fruit. We can tell ourselves over and over, “I’m OK,” but there’s an unseen part in every person that lets us know we’re not OK, in spite of what we think; our conscience, otherwise known as our inner spirit man tells us we’ve failed.


Paul also talked about what gives sin its power: the law. Think about this: As soon as you learn something is wrong, your conscience is seared, it’s hurt. That guilt brings with it condemnation from the serpent. Accusation leads us down a path to cover up, deny or hide. In all three cases, we’ve fallen from faith. Paul summed it up by saying “the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Cor 15:56). This is why we are all prone to turn away from our simple devotion to Christ; we get overly concerned with right and wrong, and ignore the truth: God’s love cleanses us from all sin.


Rom 7:9 “Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 So I discovered that the very commandment that was meant to bring life actually brought death.  11 For sin, seizing its opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through the commandment put me to death.”


We all need to go back to the beginning: Receiving Jesus as Lord, repenting, recognizing our sinful nature, turning away from it and receiving forgiveness for it. Throughout this series, I contrast sin and grace. Sin is the awful taskmaster making your life miserable. Grace is that welcoming presence; the joyful and sweet Spirit of God. Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God views us as completely free from sin. Paul talks about us as being Christ’s own bride, a pure, hagnos, spotless virgin. Let him cleanse you from the inside as you read this next verse.


2Cor 11:2 “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. For I promised you to one husband, to present you as a pure (hagnos) virgin to Christ.”


Answers to the sin dilemma; ways to recover from the serpent’s cunning attack, can be found by looking up where the word hagnos is used in the Bible. We’ll go through three examples here; there are many more. Understand, the answers are not easy, they are humanly impossible. The whole point of the gospel is that God does we can’t do. Expect Christ’s help to slay the serpent’s schemes.


The primary way to get the sin problem under control is to let the Lord renew your mind. In Philippians, Paul gave us a proactive list of things we should be thinking on. Letting Christ train your mind is an important first step. It means partnering with him; skipping the TV, not participating in things with bad influences. It particularly means that when you do sin, as all of us have, you immediately get into the presence of God; recognize his goodness is all around you. This verse states who you have become in Christ: a person of truth, righteousness, purity who is lovely and to be admired, because you’re part of his family. Come to the table and partake of the truth of this verse.


Phil 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure (hagnos) , whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.”


This is the truth: Because of this free gift of salvation, I am truthful, I am full of honor, I am righteous, I am pure and holy, I am his lovely bride, an admirable work of God. Even angels are going to wonder at what a great, excellent and praiseworthy salvation Christ has achieved for us. It all comes from looking at Jesus. The serpent’s tactic is to get us to look at our failures and then join him in an accusation party. But we are precious in his sight, a beloved bride. Consider what the Apostle John said about how hope, the hope that comes from our relationship with God, purifies us with a purity only God can provide; it is not our own.


1 Jo 3:2 “Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.  3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies (hagnizo) himself, just as Christ is pure (hagnos).”


Here’s a list of things to watch out for; things you can let the Lord purify, wash and save you from. It’s found in 1 Cor 6:9-10. Paul talked about how Jesus gives people new lives. He frees people from the chains of sexual sin, adultery, sodomy. He transforms thieves, greedy people, addicts, drunkards, verbal abusers, swindlers and more from a rotten, miserable life. He frees them and gives them his life forever. Remember the message of grace. Grace is the sweet, free, gracious, joyous place God has for you, a place totally welcoming and free. Every sin in this list is a cruel, hard taskmaster. Chains are broken by the power of Jesus. He gives us new life, one that pleases him and us.


1 Cor 6:11 “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified (hagiazo), you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”