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An old adage says if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will leap out to escape the danger. However, if the same frog is put into a kettle filled with cool water, and the heat is gradually increased, the frog will not be aware of the threat until it is too late, resulting in cooked frog!
This story teaches an important spiritual lesson. It is a warning to pay attention not just to obvious threats or influences, but also to the subtle, more slowly developing ones.
Christians are not expected to become hermits and completely cut themselves off from society. Jesus Christ when praying about His followers acknowledged they must continue to live in the world. Yet He expressed great concern about protecting them from the evil influence Satan has on this world: "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world" (John 17:15-16).
While God wants Christians to have a true, outgoing concern and love for all peoples, they are warned that the values promoted in the world are dangerous. Paul described these values as being heavily influenced by Satan and the evil spirit world (Ephesians 2:2-3), and the Apostle John cautioned the Church not to "love the world or the things in the world" (1 John 2:15).
John goes on to warn us of the (all too familiar) rush to satisfy the human appetites (verse 16):
The Lust Of The Flesh — refers to the things people seek to satisfy the physical: junk food, substance abuse, illicit sex, excessive and unsuitable entertainment etc.
The Lust Of The Eyes — involves coveting pornography, looks/beauty, wealth, etc.
The Pride Of Life — is the desire for prestige, fame, power and popularity.
These perceived needs and appetites motivate most people today, and the lifestyles are promoted by the media in advertising, television and movies.
James 1:27 admonishes us to be “unspotted” from the world, and the account of the prodigal son is also a warning for us. Luke 15:11-32 portrays a young man who wanted to experience what the world had to offer and was tempted by all the things John warned against. We can resist these influences if we are convinced of God's law and way of life!
Who is influencing whom? When interacting with others who have different values in school or in the workplace, ask yourself who is really doing the influencing? It is a fundamental question we should ask about where we go, what we do and what we think about and desire.
In what direction is this taking me? Sometimes our decisions or activities may not technically be wrong or sinful, but we should still be aware of the overall direction of our life, and the focus of the social circles in which we move.
Dialogue with those who share your values Socializing with others who are of the same faith and who share your beliefs is an important key to remaining focused on God's way of life (Hebrews 10:24-25). This is called positive peer pressure. Articulating and discussing what we believe strengthens our convictions.
Ask God for help No matter what challenges we face in life, we should never lose sight of our greatest source of help and strength. We should continually pray for God's guidance and wisdom to do the right thing.
Be an example In contrast to being affected by the culture around us, Jesus instructs us to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16). Although God admonishes us to distance ourselves from wrong values, we are to be good examples of kindness and honest behaviour (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; 1 Peter 2:12).
The impact and influence of this world cannot be underestimated. Our commitment to God and the values found in His Word prepares us for the world to come and “times of refreshing” the Apostle Peter referred to in Acts 3:19. This and other biblical prophecies speak of a wonderful future society based on God’s law that will be truly refreshing compared to the violence, death and suffering of today.
Vertical Thought (Jan-Mar 2006)