We allow our youngest son to draw and color in church. Sometimes he impresses us with drawings derived from the lessons in his Sunday School class that week. Other times he draws sweet pictures of our family. Most often lately, he will draw some random collection of super heroes. Sunday, he showed me this artistic rendering and asked me to determine what it was…
There wasn’t a cross or rainbow which are the two icons he usually uses when a drawing is religious in nature. There was only one character drawn. It could have been just a self-portrait, but I could tell it wasn’t the whole family. The figure was hovering about the ground, so I decided it was most likely a depiction of a super-hero. Then I had to figure out which one. It was almost entirely red, so I was able to eliminate several options like the Hulk, Green Lantern and Batman. Since there was also a little yellow in his costume, I was able to make an educated guess that it was Iron Man. To go through that process, I had to know quite a bit about my son, his habits, his interests, his skills and abilities and even some fairly specific details about the things he enjoys. I had to know the source of the drawing.
Sure, I could have asked my older son to consult with me on his brother’s drawing because he is certainly more knowledgeable about super heroes than I, but he was on the other side of my husband and that would have been disrupting during service. Consultation when faced with a tough decision isn’t always an option for us, either. Of course there are people trained in theology that serve in positions of authority, but they won’t always be available when you have to make a split second decision. Sadly, too, not all those who should be able to guide us are as well prepared as they could be and in some cases they can even lead us astray whether it be intentional or not. Unfortunately, as Christians we are all too often subjected to those who wish to deceive us. Paul warned the church in Corinth that “such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” 2 Corinthians 1:13-15
We must all be able to discern Truth for ourselves. We must know the source of truth to be able to ascertain the Truth. The devil is a skillful enemy and he will attack us where we are weak, where we lack wisdom and when we are alone.
Thankfully, my son wasn’t trying to deceive me. He wasn’t trying to trick me or lead me astray. He didn’t draw himself in an Iron Man costume and expect me to know that. He just innocently wanted to know I could identify his drawing. And I made him one very happy boy with my educated guess.
TV, internet Social Media and people who cross our path bombard us with pictures and images, video and audio clips and even written words like this post on a daily basis that have the potential to influence our thoughts and actions. 1 John 4:1 tells us we should “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” We are constantly presented with situations in our lives that require us to use discernment and wisdom to determine their source and our appropriate response. How do we figure out if what we are seeing is fiction or truth, if opportunities are from God or temptation from the enemy? We must know the source of all that is good in our lives.
The way to know what is right and true is to know the nature of God. We should listen to Him speak to us through His Word and cultivate a relationship with Him through a strong prayer life. Proverbs 2:1-5 outlines a strategy for gaining the wisdom to protect ourselves from those who seek to deceive us. “If you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call our for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” James reiterates this principle in the New Testament when he urges us that “if any of [us] lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5
God will never present us with any opportunity or temptation or even an idea that is contrary to His Word. He cannot contradict Himself. 2 Timothy 2:13 confirms this fact, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” Because if we start to accept that He could, then we open the door to doubt, suspicion, confusion and uncertainty about the scriptures which are the basis for our faith teaching. That is a dangerous road to go down, indeed. Some of Paul’s writings in the New Testament contain warnings to the newly established Christian communities to be on guard against false prophets and those who would teach doctrine in opposition to what he had taught them. He warned Timothy that “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy, and quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” 1 Timothy 6:3-5
Romans 12:2 warns us of the dangers of allowing things of this world too much influence in our lives. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” This world will bring us many ideas and theories and proposals, but we Christians must not change to fit in in this world. We are called to be different and identifiable by the tenants set forth in The Word. The commandments He gave Moses did not say, ‘Do not commit adultery unless it becomes socially acceptable.’ It doesn’t allow for the curse of covetousness to be excused when advertisements become so effective at tempting us to desire more with more. The Word doesn’t make provisions allowing us to worship only Him until something or someone else becomes more important to us. No where will you read that we should live according to the Word until the world convinces us it is acceptable to do otherwise. Instead of allowing the world to mold us we must embrace the power of the Word to sanctify us. Hebrews 4:12 reaffirms that “the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” We must hold all our thoughts and actions and decisions up against this one great standard in order to discern the will of God in our lives.
Just like the apostles Jesus sent out, we walk in the world “as sheep in the midst of wolves, so [we too must] be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16. Every action and decision we make should be run through the filter of the WORD. When asked by His followers which commandment was the most important, Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40 The entire law can be fulfilled by loving God and others. “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10. If our every action, thought word and deed are done in love, we cannot go wrong because “everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7. If we put every written or spoken word or witnessed action or event through a filter of love before we allow it to take up space in our minds or hearts or make it part of our lives through action, we can begin to safeguard ourselves from ungodly influence. If you let anything that does not pass this test fall away from you, you will be left with Truth.
Know the Source. Know God. Know the Word. Seek Truth. Request Wisdom. Love one another.
Undoubtedly, we will all choose poorly and make mistakes at one point or another. That is simply a byproduct of being a sinful human being, and precisely why Jesus came to earth and died for us! Because in our flesh we simply cannot choose perfectly. God’s love is so amazing that even knowing that about us, He provided a way for us to be made holy and blameless and spend eternity with Him. Not that His sacrifice is a license to sin willfully, but rather an example that should inspire us toward a life more like His.
What choices are you faced with today? What will you allow to influence you in your decisions? Where will you turn for advice? How well do you know the source?