Head on a Swivel Christianity
As a kid I loved to watch shows on the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. I loved the ones that featured real time video (complete with British commentary) of wild animals living in their natural habitats. Whether it was of reptiles, sharks, or venomous rain forest snakes--I was enthralled by the beauty of diverse parts of creation that I had never seen before. I particularly enjoyed the shows which included carnivores stalking, chasing, and finally...devouring their prey. Those shows would go something like this:
The cheetah would crouch in the tall Savannah grass, blending in with its coloring--perfectly enshrouded. It's agile body lines compress like a spring. Like a sprinter loading up into his starting blocks, the cat gets into starting position.
And off in the distance, the unaware family of gazelles graze blindly in the scorched African plain. Two fawns prance together in the heat of the evening a bit away from the rest of the herd. One youth strays further still, chomping on bits of grass. Happily. Without a care in the world.
And like bullet shot from a rifle, the great cat fires out of his starting position. Hiding no longer. The herd is panic stricken--and the one fawn is far too close to the on rushing cheetah. A sheet of dust ascends as predator and prey come together.
It was over before it started.
The cheetah has caught the youngest of the outliers. It knows no rules to play by. It has to eat, and today he enjoys a suitable feast.
Though we may not have to fear ambush from carnivores throughout our day to day routines (Lord willing), we would do well to gain some wisdom from the tale of the negligent gazelles. Scripture ushers out several warnings. Be sober minded (1 Peter 5:8). Be alert (Matt 24:42). Wake up (Rom 13:11). Guard the deposit entrusted to you (2 Tim 1:14). Keep the pattern of sound teaching (2 Tim 1:13). Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together (Heb 10:25). Watch your life and doctrine closely (1 Tim 4:16).
Why this state of constant paranoia? Because Satan is a roaring lion, and he is ever on the prowl, seeking whom he may devour. And he is devouring.
I have seen many people (primarily young) fall prey in similar manner to the schemes of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Perhaps they did not care enough to check the subtle philosophies they were digesting over the years. Perhaps they grew tired of Christian struggle. Or maybe they dismissed the reality of the battle that raged around them, forgetting what was at stake in the process. New data increasingly shows that a growing percentage of those raised in the church are leaving its doors.
Satan, like any predator, will use any and every means available to achieve his ends: the destruction of souls. Those means may differ from age to age, but it has always been appealing and it has always been successful. In this age in particular Satan works in subtlety and deception, and we have seen the fruits of his activity.
Therefore, the Christian life is to be lived like the gazelle that doesn't get nabbed. Rather than being careless and comfortable--rather than living distracted--he lives with his "head on a swivel". He never lets down his guard. He is always scanning for threats and re-scanning; and when a threat is spotted he makes the necessary preparations (sufficient distance between the predator...and then some).
We need to be alert. That looks like:
- Scanning for threats within. Worldly philosophy does not occur in a vacuum, it seeps into our churches, our thought processes, into our deepest desires--often without realization. We need to be asking ourselves, "What am I thinking and dwelling on that is contrary to God's Word? and "What am I desiring that is contrary to God's Word?" We need to be praying as David prayed, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
- Scanning for threats without. We need to be checking our daily diets. What are we feeding ourselves consistently through entertainment or social media? What are we surrounding ourselves with and immersing ourselves in? What absorbs most of our mental energy day in and day out? We need to be discriminatory in what we consume, for no one is immune to the powerful forms of artistry we are surrounded by.
- Renewing our minds. The Christian life is not only freedom from something, but freedom to something much greater. Once we recognize the threats we must turn from them and turn towards Christ Jesus. We must devote ourselves to the truth of His Word. We must preach and remind ourselves daily the gospel, asking Christ that he would reprogram our minds and hearts according to His will.
"If sin be subtle, watchful, strong, and always at work in the business of killing our souls, and we be slothful, negligent, foolish, in proceeding to the ruin thereof, can we expect a comfortable event?" – John Owen