They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. (Titus 1:6, ESV)

When we are sound in our faith, our lifestyle will align with God’s Word and agree with our spiritual talk. Sound doctrine has no fellowship with worldly tolerance.

Has anyone ever misled, deceived, or taken advantage of you? It doesn’t feel good, does it? When you discovered what happened, you probably felt hurt, vulnerable, foolish, and even angry!

In today’s reading, Paul cautions us against spiritual imposters who would deceive and mislead us. He uses harsh words to reveal these would-be Christian “teachers”:

  • Insubordinate – unruly, undisciplined, rebellious, disobedient
  • Empty Talkers – foolish, unlearned, mischievous
  • Deceivers – persuasive seducers, mind-misleaders

In Paul’s day, these deceivers were peddling a mixture of Judaism and Christianity – inserting works required by the Mosaic Law into Christ’s gospel of salvation through faith by God’s grace. They were misleading believers with their silky-smooth words – yet inaccurate doctrine. Spiritual deception and decay occur when we rebelliously question, presumptuously add to, or lazily avoid God’s Word. Paul’s advice is to quiet such deceivers quickly with a sharp rebuke – “HUSH!”

Religious Legalism and Worldly Tolerance

Our present day deception comes in the form of two equally damaging threats – religious legalism and worldly tolerance. Religious legalism is that rigid spiritual mindset whereby we feel we earn or deserve salvation through our high moral code and sanctimonious works (similar to the Pharisees). When people don’t measure up to our standards, we judge them and may even question their salvation. Worldly tolerance is that slow seepage into Christians lives – where we dress, smell, tattoo, pierce, and behave just like the world. When believers question our worldly imitation, we call them intolerant holy-rollers or fanatics.

In reality, God calls believers to a much higher realm – one where we lovingly perform our Christian service as a result of our salvation through faith by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) and as evidence of true spiritual fruit in our life (Matthew 7:16-20). God wants His children to: live distinctly different from the world (2 Corinthians 6:17), be genuine and sound in our faith (Colossians 1:23; Titus 1:13), bear Him much fruit (John 15:8), and demonstrate the fruit of His Spirit in our lifestyle (Galatians 5:22-23).

When we do this, it will not only be difficult to spiritually mislead or deceive us, but we’ll recognize a spiritual con artist a mile away.

Discussion Questions
  1. What are some subtle ways believers can become “legalistic” and judgmental in their faith?
  2. How firm are you in your Christian faith – can you explain why you believe what you do?
  3. What are you doing to ensure your lifestyle matches your spiritual “talk”?
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