Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Do you need to keep up to date on all the evil in the world today? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: God never intended that we should taste of the knowledge of evil, that we should know it for ourselves. We were supposed to take God’s word for it—this is good; this is evil. Satan says, “Taste for yourself. You decide what’s good, what’s evil. You need to explore this. You need to learn more about this.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, February 2.

Last week Nancy began a helpful series on deception. We looked at harmful messages that come from outside and inside the church. Now, do you really need to familiarize yourself with all these messages to understand them? Well, that’s one of the topics Nancy will touch on, continuing in the series Discerning Truth in a World of Deception.

Nancy: As I was preparing for this session this morning, I came across a quote from Walter Martin’s book, The Kingdom of the Cults. He makes the observation of how many of the cults have been founded by women. In many cases, as you know, the majority of cult followers are typically women, and it raises the question: “Why is it that women are particularly vulnerable or prone to deception? Or are they particularly vulnerable and prone to deception?”

I think we see in the Scripture some evidence to believe that, as women, we have a particular need in the area of discernment. Eve, for sure, lacked discernment when she was deceived by the serpent.

The Scripture says in the New Testament that Adam was not deceived (1 Timothy 2:14). He sinned with knowledge, but the woman was deceived, and I think from that day to this, there is a sense in which—I don’t want to make a huge case of this, because the Scripture doesn’t say a lot about it—but I think there is a sense in which, as women, we are more vulnerable to lack discernment when it comes to doctrinal truth.

That is one of the reasons, by the way, that I believe God has given to men the primary responsibility for the doctrinal oversight of the church. God has equipped the men to do that. It doesn’t mean women shouldn’t think straight theologically—we should; we should be doctrinally astute—but there are areas where, perhaps, we are more vulnerable to deception.

We see this concept as we go back to the passage we were in in the last session—2 Timothy chapter 3. We started in verse 1, where we saw that in the last days there will be difficult or perilous times. People will be lovers of self, lovers of money, lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God. They will have the appearance or the form of godliness but deny its power, and then in verse 6, Paul says to Timothy, “Among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women.”

I’ve wanted for years to teach on this passage because I’ve wanted to dive into it and understand it better. We’re not going to do a whole series on it, but I do want to make some comments about it because I think it’s a fascinating progression we see here about how deception worms its way into women’s lives and homes and captures them.

We see that the enemy targets women. It doesn’t mean Satan doesn’t tempt men—he does—but I think when it comes to deception and the need for discernment, women are a particular target of the enemy. I will get some mail for having said that, but we like mail at Revive Our Hearts, so write and tell us if you disagree, but take us to the Word to make your point.

In this passage, 2 Timothy 3, verses 6 and 7, we see five characteristics of the kind of women that the enemy targets for deception. Let me read the passage, and then we’ll comment on each of these five characteristics.

First of all, they are “weak women,” then they are “burdened with sins” (verse 6). Number three, “led astray by various passions” (verse 6). Number four, “always learning,” and number five, “never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (verse 7). Now, let’s unpack that a little bit.

First of all, we see that these women are weak, or as some of your translations say, “weak-willed” (NIV). The word weak here, weak women, actually, is a compound Greek word. I’m not going to try and pronounce it, but it’s the only place it’s used in the New Testament, so it’s hard for us to know exactly what it means because we don’t have other context to compare it to. But the word literally means “little women.”

The King James translates it “silly women.” “Weak-willed” is the NIV. The New King James says “gullible women.” This is a foolish woman. She is gullible. She is susceptible to input that is false. She is spiritually little, spiritually immature. These women are unstable spiritually. They are not grounded biblically in their thinking and in their responses and in their lifestyles; so as a result, they are susceptible to false teaching and false teachers.

What we see about so many women today, and I think it’s pictured in this passage, is women who are always seeking new, exciting experiences, but they lack spiritual insight, so they’re easily overcome, easily dominated. Remember, we said in the last session that the goal of these teachers is to capture these weak women. It’s to gain control over these women, as the NIV says.

So these women are easily overcome; they’re easily dominated by unscrupulous people—people who love self; they love pleasure; they love financial gain more than they love God. They’re not out for the interests of these women. They’re out for their own interests, and these weak women, these little women, these gullible women fall prey to these teachers and their teachings.

These weak-willed women are easily deceived; they’re prone to temptation. It doesn’t mean they’re intellectually weak. They may be very smart, but they’re morally weak. They lack wisdom. They’re weak in discernment.

So there’s a pattern here. Satan attacks women in the area of discernment. If the women are not girded up in the Word, if they’re not spiritually strong, if they have not grounded their lives, their minds and hearts in the Word, then they’re going to be weak and susceptible to this temptation, this deception that will worm its way into their homes. So they are weak or weak-willed women. That’s number one.

The second characteristic is that they are burdened with sins, or if you’re using the New International Version, it says “loaded down with sins.” This is a graphic word in the Greek. It means "to heap up together," to just pile it on, to heap it up.

These are women, as one commentator said, who are “overwhelmed with the weight of their sins.”1 They have sins in their past, sins in their present, sins throughout their life that have just heaped themselves up in their lives. They’ve not dealt with their sin God’s way, and as a result, they’re overwhelmed; they’re pressed down with guilt.

If this is not a description of so many women today, I don’t know what is. As I’ve talked with women, they are heaped up with sin. They are burdened down. They are overwhelmed with sins. They’re carrying around baggage, guilt, shame—all this baggage piled up.

As I was studying this passage, meditating on it, I was traveling over the past week, and I pictured some people in airports. Now this isn’t as true as it used to be now that you’re having to pay for luggage and have to limit your carry-ons. But you can just get a picture of somebody in an airport with this great big luggage cart, and it’s all piled up. They look like they’re going away for six months—it’s really just a weekend, but piled up, just heaped up, and it’s hard to get around that way. It’s hard to navigate. It slows you down to have that much baggage when you’re traveling.

It slows you down in life to have the baggage of sin that’s been heaped up, piled up, and you haven’t dealt with it God’s way. So what happens is that the cumulative weight of sin, as one commentator says, “has become so unbearable that any solution offered is clutched at.”2

These women are vulnerable. They’re weak, and they’re weak-willed because they’re loaded down with sins. They’re guilty. They’re ashamed. They’re burdened. They’re overwhelmed. It’s heaped up. And anything that promises some relief, they go for it. They feel the weight and the guilt of their sin. They’re looking for relief, so they’re vulnerable to doctrinal error. They’re vulnerable to temptation. One writer described it as passive helplessness caused by the heaping up of their sins.

In his commentary on 2 Timothy, John MacArthur says, “Just as wrong doctrine leads to wrong living,”—we know that’s true—“so can their wrong living easily lead to embracing wrong doctrine.”3 I think that’s a description of what has happened to so many women even within our churches. They’ve not dealt with their sins God’s way.

God never intended us to be walking around the airport of life carrying all that baggage. God wants to set us free from that baggage, and through Christ, we can be set free from that baggage. But if you’re carrying around the guilt of unresolved, unconfessed, unrepentant sin from your past—maybe you haven’t even identified it as sin; maybe you’re still blaming others—but if you haven’t identified, confessed, and repented of sin, it will heap up one atop of the other, and you’ll find yourself being vulnerable to false teachings that make you think they will offer you some relief. So that’s the second characteristic—they’re burdened or loaded down with sins.

Now the third characteristic is that they’re led astray by various passions. Weak women, burdened with sins, and led astray by various passions. That word passions, I think if you’re using the New American Standard, it’s translated “impulses.” It’s a word that in the Scripture is often translated as lusts or desires—passions, lusts, desires. These people, as NIV says, “are swayed by all kinds of evil desires” (verse 7).

This word for desires or passions or lusts, it’s a word that means a strong desire of any kind. It’s not necessarily, if you see this word, it isn’t always evil desires, but mostly it talks about desires that are carnal or fleshly desires. It’s a lust for power, for knowledge, for control, for male attention. That’s a passion that drives so many women. It leads them astray, this drive for male attention, for sexual fulfillment, for happiness.

So many women are seeking sensational experiences, and then they end up doing things that they would not have done if these drives, these passions, these impulses had not led them astray. So instead of the Spirit of God leading them, they’re being led, and being led in the wrong direction, led astray, they’re being governed by these passions and desires. They do what their flesh wants to do. They do what their impulses told them to do. We have this drive to get those desires fulfilled, and so Satan goes after us at that very point where we have a desire.

I’ve never been tempted, not even once in my whole life, to rob a bank. That’s not a temptation for me. It’s probably not a temptation for you. But there are things that I’m tempted to do over, and over, and over again. You see, the enemy knows where I have a desire, where I have a lust, where I have an impulse, a passion, and he tempts me at precisely that point, to lead me into sin.

It’s what you read in James chapter 1: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (verses 14–15).

So we have the passion, we have the desire, we don’t fulfill it in legitimate ways, the enemy tempts us to fulfill what may be a legitimate desire in illegitimate ways. Sexual desire is not inherently sinful, but Satan says, “You can have it now. You can have it here. You can have it with this person other than your mate.”

Satan tempts us to fulfill legitimate desires in illegitimate ways. He knows what our passions are. He knows what our peculiar lusts are, our own individual drives and impulses, and he tempts us at those points, and when we give in, we’re led astray into sin and ultimately spiritual death.

This has to do with what our hearts are drawn towards. We are swayed, as women, by evil desires. What captures our affections, our impulses, our desires? What is attractive to us? If we’re not fulfilling that in legitimate ways, then we will be led astray by those passions.

You see this same concept just one chapter later, chapter 4, verse 3, in 2 Timothy. "People will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions”—people who will fuel their passions, people who will further their passions, people who will promise to fulfill their passions. And as a result, verse 4, they “will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

This is such a description of the era in which we live, and Paul said this is what will happen in the last times. We are clearly living in the last days. These are perilous times, and we see weak-willed women who are burdened or loaded down with sins who are being led astray by various passions, and as a result, they turn away from listening to the truth. They wander off into myths.

There’s a fourth characteristic that we see of these women who are vulnerable—back in chapter 3, now, moving to verse 7. They are always learning—always learning. One paraphrase says they are “forever getting information.” Another commentator says, “In their restless quest for the new and novel they turn to every new doctrine that comes to their attention.”4

They always have to have something new. They always have to have something novel. This generation loves novelty. We don’t like it if it’s traditional. If we’ve heard it before, we’re not so interested. “Yes, I’ve heard that; I’ve been there, seen that, know that. I want something new. I want something fresh. I want something exciting.” So they’re always learning.

It reminds me of the men of Athens who are described in Acts chapter 17. It says, “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there”—this is a pagan Greek culture—“would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (verse 21).

Isn’t that descriptive of our culture? The apostle Paul came into that culture preaching Jesus and the resurrection, and this passage says they took hold of him and said to him, “What [is] this new teaching . . . that you are presenting?” (verse 19). Initially they were drawn to it because it was new, but then they were going to be on to something else. They didn’t want to settle into, lock into, ground themselves into something that would be firm and unchanging. They always wanted some new teaching.

Today we have a culture that is deeply interested in spirituality. People are curious about religion. They want to check it out, so in a lot of your major bookstore chains, you’ll find huge sections of books on religion and spirituality, and they may do it not just through books, but through television—watching Oprah, watching Dr. Phil—always learning—gotta find something new, some new teacher, some new program, some new diet fad, some new philosophy, some new way at looking at life, some new self-help method.

It goes back again to Genesis chapter 3, as so many things do, where Eve was tempted by—which tree?—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You say, “What’s wrong with that? Isn’t knowledge a good thing?” It’s good to know what is good, but God never intended that we should know what is false or evil from experience. Now that really runs into the face of modern-day thinking.

God never intended that we should taste of the knowledge of evil, that we should know it for ourselves. We were supposed to take God’s word for it—this is good; this is evil. Satan says, “Taste for yourself. You decide what’s good, what’s evil. You need to explore this. You need to learn more about this.”

One of the things that I have been very intentional about in my 50 years of living, my 45 years of walking with the Lord, I have made a very concentrated effort, insofar as possible, not to taste of the knowledge of evil. Now there’s plenty of it in my own heart; there’s plenty of it everywhere. You can’t escape it totally, but I don’t want to intentionally taste of it. I want to guard my heart. I want to take God’s Word. God’s Word tells me what is good and what is evil, and that’s where I want to get my knowledge. That’s where I want to do my learning. I don’t want to partake of that which is evil or false for myself.

There’s such a curiosity today. People want to know. The Scripture says these women are ever learning, and that’s why they’re susceptible, because their minds are always open—so open that anything can get into it.

I just want to tell you this: In some senses, I don’t think it’s a good thing to have an open mind. In some senses, our minds ought to be very narrow. In some senses, of course, it’s good to have an open mind, but we don’t want a mind that is open to falsehood or open to that which is not true.

So these women are always learning, and then we see the fifth characteristic. They’re never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth—always learning, but they never come to the one kind of knowledge that really matters. That’s the knowledge of the truth.

They have knowledge, but they don’t know the truth, and the fact is they don’t really want the truth. They prefer something that suits them better, and that’s what we read about in 2 Timothy chapter 4. “[They] will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (verses 3–4). They don’t want to stick with the truth. They want to wander off. They want to go and explore these other ways of thinking.

So these are women who are morally weak, emotionally unstable, always exploring, delving into religious fads. They don’t know how to discern or distinguish truth from error, and they never find the truth.

What we need to be doing as women is fortifying our hearts and our homes against being taken captive by error, captive by false teachers or false teaching. So instead of being weak-willed women, we need to purpose to become strong in the grace of God, spiritually mature, wise, and discerning women.

Instead of being burdened down with sins, we need to do what Hebrews 12 says, and that is, “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” (verse 1). Get rid of it. Repent. Confess. Receive God’s grace and His forgiveness.

Instead of being led astray by various passions, we want to be led by the Spirit so that all our passions, all our desires are under His control, and these various passions that have been driving us become superseded by a passion for Christ, for holiness, for goodness, and for truth.

Instead of being like these weak-willed women who are always learning but never arriving at the knowledge of the truth, we want to avoid the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and seek to learn only that which is good by cultivating an appetite, a heart for sound teaching. Get to know Christ. Get to know His Word.

If I spend every waking moment for the rest of my life delving into this Book, the Word of God, meditating on it, studying it, memorizing it, ten lifetimes will not be long enough to get all that there is that I want to know of this truth. Why take time filling our minds with other things that point us in directions that are not truthful? Get to know Christ. Get to know His Word. Come to a knowledge of the truth. Plant your heart in the truth, and then let God use you as a woman who will lead other women in the truth.

Lord, we confess that far too often we ourselves have been among these women described in this passage—weak-willed, spiritually unstable, emotionally immature, burdened with sins, led astray by various passions, always learning but never able to arrive at the knowledge of the truth.

So, Lord, I pray that You would point us toward the truth. Capture our hearts with Your Word, with the loveliness of Christ and with the wonder of the gospel and the precious love of God for fallen sinners displayed at the cross.

Oh, God, may these truths ravage our hearts and our minds and fill us and satisfy us. Lead us into truth. Sanctify us by Your truth. Make us godly, mature, stable, strong women, strong in truth, strong in grace, strong in the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been encouraging us as women to faithfully understand the truth and say no to error. It’s part of the series called Discerning Truth in a World of Deception.

If you missed any of the series last week, listen to the archives at ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com. Nancy explains why the issue of discernment matters so much.

Nancy: Today’s topic is so important because you need to learn how to discern for yourself between what is true and what is false. There’s always going to be some new fad, some new hit TV program or best-selling book, and you need to learn how to make discerning choices on these kinds of issues.

There’s a book by Tim Challies that I found so helpful as I worked on this series. It’s called The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. This book will help you learn how to identify false messages. Then when you’re confronted by one of these new fads, you won’t need to wait for a radio program or an article on it. You will be able to discern whether it’s something you should accept or reject.

We’ll send this book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, when you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. Just ask for Tim’s book on discernment when you call 1-800-569-5959, or look for this offer when you donate at ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com.

Leslie: The best way to recognize a counterfeit is to study the real thing. Find out why on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1 Williams
2 H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 21 (Hendrickson, 1985).
3 John MacArthur, Second Timothy: New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1995).
4 D. E. Hiebert, Second Timothy, EvBC (Chicago: Moody, 1958), 88.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion