BE WATCHFUL (Part 2)
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)
Paul’s exhortation to “be watchful” is a reminder to them they are in the midst of a spiritual battle which has two battlefronts: the inner which deals with the sinful nature and temptations that we encounter inwardly (which I dealt with in part 1), and the outer which is the focus of part 2.
There are a number of ways we may be assaulted outwardly. We might be tempted outwardly (peer pressure to do something sinful), but also false teaching, false religions, worldly values, & viewpoints and such. We are constantly assaulted by these things through the media, politics, education, science, philosophy, ideology, the arts and so forth. Paul provides some insights into some of these ways in Colossians 2. “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) “See to it” bears the same idea as “be watchful”. These things are all around us and coming at us all of the time - see to it that you identify them, and protect yourself from being deceived. Unfortunately, many Christians fail to identify them and instead accept them with open arms.
Here are a few examples of what I mean: For quite some time, Disney was seen as “safe” and “family friendly” moral but spiritually benign. It was not until the Disney company came out in support of homosexuality that Christians saw Disney as a problem. And suddenly there were calls for boycotts. But truth is, Disney was never the friend of Christianity. I say this not because I don’t like Walt Disney or think Christians should be boycotting everything Disney - not at all. In fact I think Walt Disney was an amazing animator and visionary. I have great admiration for what he accomplished. However, I also recognize that he had ideas and beliefs that came from a man-centered outlook, despite his Christian upbringing. Though he spoke highly of his upbringing, and believed in good morals and would have stood against many of the things which the company that bears his name puts out today, he was more a product of human philosophies and traditions than of the truths of Scripture. Walt Disney once said “If you can dream it, you can do it.” He also said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” That sounds safe and acceptable on the surface, but what does it really mean? Simply that you can be the master of your own future. You control your destiny - that is if you have the courage to make your dreams come true. Yet when we read the Scriptures we encounter a God who is in complete, sovereign control over all of our destinies. While he does encourage us to dream and to pursue those dreams - it is all to the glory of God. Not to mention human history is full of broken, unfulfilled dreams that no amount of courage could protect. But the overarching philosophy behind much of Disney’s work has been the supremacy and self-determination of mankind.
Here’s another example found in the realm of politics. Many Evangelical Christians tend to vote along Conservative/Republican party lines, myself included. There are understandable reasons for this - we often find we share certain moral convictions on things like abortion and gay marriage. I personally cannot in good conscience vote for anyone who supports the extermination of the most vulnerable members of humanity. But what concerns me is that evangelical Christians have been quite watchful when it comes to something like abortion or other liberal positions, but have given the keys of the city to conservative positions which may or may not line up with scripture. A pastor friend of mine said to me years ago: “It is possible to be more conservative than the Bible.” And he is right. Yet there seems to be this assumption that if it is a politically conservative idea, then it must be biblical. And the further to the right we go, the closer to Jesus we will be. And this leads us to embrace just about every “conservative” idea that we hear without searching the infallible scriptures to see if these things are so. And of course this spills over into the media, the news outlets and radio and television personalities. If the conservative news outlet says it, or we hear the conservative radio host say it - it must be true. It seems when it comes to political conservatism, we lack alot of discernment and fail to see the dangers all around.
In Acts 20 Paul told the Ephesian elders to be watchful against ferocious wolves who would seek to scatter the flock, and that some of these wolves could even come from their own ranks. In 1 Thessalonians 5:20–22, Paul said: “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” Now, he was speaking about dangers within the church that could come through wolves posing as elders, or false prophets and teachers within the church. Are we to assume the political dangers are less of a threat, or are not to be scrutinized and tested? We are to hold to what is good and reject evil in all its forms, including the ones found in conservative politics.
How do we keep watch on this battlefront?
First of all, we need to be people of the truth. Only God’s word has all of the truth and so our minds need to be shaped and conditioned by the infallible Word of God, not by fallible radio personalities or news outlets. We need to be cautious about what influences our positions on various issues and examine EVERYTHING through the lens of scripture. We need also to recognize that each one of us have already been affected by the empty philosophies of the world. No one is purely objective - no one is unbiased. We all have presuppositions that need to be challenged by the Word.
Second, we need to be wise as serpents though innocent as doves. Think about how the Enemy tries to infiltrate your thinking, or the church? His approach is to slowly boil the frog in the pot, not usually a direct assault. He uses stealth - has his wolves wear sheep costumes. Things are not as they appear! And he uses red herrings to keep us occupied and distracted so he can make is more lethal move. He wants to present himself as our ally, to get our guard down so he can infiltrate our thinking and turn us against the very things we ought to be defending.
Thirdly, we need to be clear on our identity, and the identity of the enemy. Our identity is in Christ. We are citizens of his Eternal Kingdom, his brothers, sisters, and mothers, members of his body. That needs to come first before any political affiliation, or even before our national identity. Christ must be first. His Kingdom and his eternal purposes must take priority in how we interact and seek to influence our world, including politics. Just to be fair, all of this applies to the left side of the political spectrum and everything in-between as well.
But please do not misunderstand me - I am not calling for anyone to stop watching certain news outlets or to vote a specific way. I am urging Christians to be discerning about what they are hearing, watching and reading so that they are not taken captive. I am also urging Christians to allow themselves to be exposed to opposing viewpoints and to get out of echo chambers and allow their positions to be challenged. Most importantly I am urging Christians to look at everything through the lens of scripture and to recognize that it is far too easy to have our worldview shaped by unbiblical ideas. We need to remember that as Christians we are in this world, but we are not of it.