The first Cretans to be saved were Jews who had gone to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:11). Eventually, the Apostle Paul visited the island and left Titus to care for the believers. Later, Paul wrote to him warning of potential influences that could damage the believers and the assembly. A major part of their protection was to recognize their liabilities and weak spots.
None of us today have an air-tight lid protecting us from negative spiritual influences either. We too, must sensitize ourselves to the pressures on our hearts and lives.
Danger #1: Following Frauds
Sheep like to follow. Cretan sheep were no exceptions. Some “deceivers” had moved into Crete and in no time had spiritual “groupies.” Even whole families fell for these spiritual scam artists who were flying in the face of authority (unruly) and fleecing the people of their money (shameful gain). With flowery preaching these frauds blinded the Cretans from seeing that these men were all “talk” and no “walk” (Titus 1:16).
It would be easy to say, “That would never happen to us.” However, pleasant personalities and dynamic delivery even today can be cover-ups for self-serving beliefs and behaviors. The only way we can avoid following frauds is to compare their teaching and lives with the Word of God.
Danger #2: Liking Laws
Water goes the easiest route and so do Christians. The easiest way to control a Christian is to regulate by rules. You just program the “rules” into his life, and robot-like, he then crosses his “t’s” and dots his “i’s” while others applaud.
Titus had his hands full because these men in Crete belonged to the “circumcision,” Jewish believers who loved adding rules to true Christianity. Sounding wise, they would pull ceremonial laws from the Old Testament and apply them to New Testament believers. Then they heaped on additional “commandments of men” until soon, spirituality was defined by outward characteristics in believer’s bodies (circumcision), schedules (Sabbath keeping), and diets (no pork).
Believers naturally lean toward laws and these men took advantage of that tendency. In the end, they left them limited rather than liberated and dry rather than devoted. We, too, must be on guard with the standard of Scripture to avoid falling into mechanical “rule-keeping” Christianity.
Danger #3: Fooled by Feelings
The “holy” hucksters that arrived in Crete stunned the people with their use of Scripture. Perhaps from genealogies, they told stories (Jewish fables) that “explained everything.” These fantastic explanations justified their teachings and left the Cretans rushing headlong like Gadarene pigs into the sea of emotional decisions.
Fanciful explanations can stir our emotions making us believe and behave in ways that are not Biblical. We must recognize that we too can be duped into emotionalism based on fiction dressed up as fact.
Danger #4: Conforming to Culture
Community and culture are constant pressures on every believer. Paul reminded the Cretans of Epimedes, an island poet, who once said that Cretans were “slow bellies and liars.” Laziness and lying were culturally normal in Crete. Paul called them to judge their culture by Scripture. We too, must identify the liabilities in our culture which make us more conformed to the world rather than Scripture.
So, how do we deal with false teaching and influences? Personally, we must “cling to the faithful Word” (Titus 1:9 Darby). We must recognize our potential for disaster and be like the Bereans who, “received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Paul also instructed Timothy to “Silence them!” (whose mouth must be stopped). He was to rebuke them sharply (Titus 1:11) and not give them the microphone again. May God help us to also have the courage to give “instruction in sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9 ESV) and kindly but clearly maintain a zero-tolerance policy on evil influence in our lives.