An old adage says that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will leap out right away to escape the danger. However, if you put that same frog into a kettle that is filled with water that is mild and pleasant, and then you gradually increase the heat in the kettle until it starts boiling, the frog will not become aware of the threat until it is too late (cooked frog!).
I'll have to admit I've never tried to "slow cook" a frog, but the tale makes for a good lesson. We have to be careful about slowly changing trends in our environment, not just the sudden changes. The story is a warning to encourage people to pay attention not just to obvious threats or influences, but also to the subtle, more slowly developing ones.
God gives similar warnings to His people: "Be careful of the pot you choose to live in" (a paraphrase of God's instruction to be careful of the influence of the world in which we live).
We live "in" the world
In praying to God the Father about the Church, Jesus Christ acknowledged that His followers must continue to live in the world. He doesn't expect (or desire) us to become hermits on a mountaintop or in some remote, dark cave!
Yet He expressed great concern about protecting the Church from the evil influence that Satan has on this world. Notice His words to His Father: "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).
Here Jesus acknowledges that we have to continue to live in a world that is under the influence of values and a power that is simply not of God. He acknowledges that we are living (physically) in the world, but that we should not be (philosophically) of the world. That, my friends, is a challenge, but one that God knows we can, with His help, accomplish.
The apostle Paul described the world that we came out of as being directed by Satan and the evil spirit world (Ephesians 2:2-3). Most people don't realize that many of their previous values and actions before they were called of God were actually of Satan's influences— the hot water in this boiling pot!
Don't love the world
The apostle John cautioned the Church not to "love the world or the things in the world" (1 John 2:15). While God wants all of His people to have a true, outgoing concern and love for all peoples, here John is actually warning that the values that are promoted in the world we live in are dangerous. Succumbing to this self-centered mind-set—where the world and its material things become our primary focus—can destroy our efforts to be in the Kingdom of God.
To put it straight, John warns us of the (all too familiar) rush to satisfy the human appetites that we are all subject to:
The lust of the flesh— the things that people seek for satisfying the physical: junk food, substance abuse, illicit sex, excessive seeking of entertainment and pleasure, etc.
The lust of the eyes— the things people look at and covet after: pornography, looks/beauty, wealth, etc.
The pride of life— the desire for prestige, fame, power and popularity.
When we think about it, all of these vices or appetites are still relevant in the 21st century. These vices are still central to the lifestyle promoted by the media in advertising, television, movies and entertainment. These are the perceived needs and appetites that motivate most people today! How very sad.
Consider this advice
What can we do to ensure that we remain "unspotted" from the world (James 1:27)—even while we live in it? This is a serious responsibility not to be taken lightly, and it applies to one's entire life, 24/7!
Remember the account of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32? This young man wanted to experience all that the world had to offer; it seems that he was tempted by the things John warned against. You can resist these influences if you become convinced that God's law and way of life are truly best. But you have to decide!
The following questions can help you evaluate what is really important to you. Consider these questions and suggestions as you make your choices living in this world:
Ask yourself: Who is influencing whom? When you interact with others of different values in school or in the workplace, who is really doing the influencing? This is a very important question to ask, since those who strive to serve God are greatly outnumbered by those who are ignorant of the true God. Remember, the potential influence on us can be far greater than our influence on others.
Ask yourself: Is this sin? This may seem to be a "no-brainer." However, it is a fundamental question we should ask ourselves about where we go, what we do and what we think about and desire. Are these things good or bad in the eyes of God? Is it sin, or is it not?
Ask yourself: In what direction is this taking me? Sometimes our individual decisions or activities themselves may not technically be wrong or sinful, but we should still ask ourselves about the overall direction of our life. What is the focus of the culture, social circles and people that we hang out with? Is the direction it is all headed a good one? And does it enhance the spiritual goals you have for yourself—like entering the Kingdom of God in the future? Direction is critically important when you want to get somewhere. Next time you travel somewhere, test the theory!
Dialogue with others who share your beliefs. 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). However, just hanging with other young people who go to your church will not always be enough.
It's good to have some friends who will share their convictions and talk about the truth of God once in a while. History has shown that articulating what we believe is strengthening to our convictions. This influence is called positive peer pressure.
Ask God for help. No matter what challenges we face in life, we should never lose sight of the greatest source of help and strength: Almighty God. Living in this darkened world, coupled with its tinsel and temptations, we should continually pray for God's help and the strength and wisdom to do the right thing.
Be an example
In contrast to the warnings about being caught up in this world, Jesus told His followers that they were to actually be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16) and that they shouldn't hide from the world in which they live. Even though God admonishes us to distance ourselves from the wrong values that are promoted in this society, He tells us to be good examples of kindness and honest behavior to all men (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; 1 Peter 2:12).
It's important for us to understand why God wants us to remain in the world but not become part of it. Two reasons: By this, 1) God is providing the best circumstances for us to grow in spiritual strength and in compassion for those around us, and 2) He is preserving our lives for greater service to mankind when Jesus Christ brings a new government at His return.
The time is coming when the environment that man will live in will be cool and refreshing as opposed to the hot and boiling pot of today's world! The apostle Peter spoke of this wonderful future world that will be truly refreshing compared to the violence, death and suffering of today. He called this future age the "times of refreshing" (Acts 3:19).
This world is powerful. Its influence should not be underestimated. You and I cannot live and spiritually flourish in this world without a commitment to God and the values found in His Word. But remember, God has called you to prepare for a world that will replace the one we now live in. The world we look forward to isn't here yet but is coming soon! VT