Tim Johnson, editor
March 20, 2011
Fox and the Frog and Walking Circumspectly
In and Out of the Church
Efforts to restore a fallen soul sometimes result in disappointment. I once visited a church member to find out the reason for her having failed to assemble with the saints for a few weeks. The souls of other family members were at stake as well. When I expressed my concern regarding the direction this family had taken, the woman said, "I have been in and out of the church all my life." Not having heard anyone make such objection before, I was void of helpful words with which to reply. But after having had time to reflect, I now see that I could have given her some words of wisdom from the Bible that might have been helpful.
First, it was never God's arrangement or intention for one to be in and out of the church. Penitent believers in Jesus as the divine Son of God are "baptized into Christ"-- having "put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27). While it is true that the church is the saved (Acts 2:47), it is also true that the saved (sheep) may become lost (Matt. 18:12, 13; 1 Cor. 10:12; Gal. 5:4). We can have assurance of going to heaven only if we determine to be faithful until death (Rev. 2:10). To remain in God's graces, we must "walk in the light" (1 John 1:7). Jesus said, "In your patience, possess ye your souls" (Luke 21:19). In other words, don't give up.
Second, Christians who are guilty of "forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" are sinning willfully and the result is "there remains no more sacrifice for sin" (Heb. 10:25, 26). In addition, the Hebrew writer says backsliders crucify "to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame" (Heb. 6:4-6).
This last text speaks of the difficulty of renewing those who have "tasted the good word of God" but fall away, "to renew them again unto repentance." While it is impossible for me, by my power, to renew one to repentance, this does not mean the word of God, coupled with the will of the brother or sister who becomes weary of life without hope, cannot reach the lost soul.
Finally, if only those who are "out of the church" (being out of duty) would read and seriously contemplate on the Scriptures that teach of the love (1 John 4:9), grace (Rom. 3:25), mercy (Eph. 2:4; 1 Pet. 1:3), patience (Rom. 5:15), and faithfulness of God (Rom. 8:39), perhaps they would renew their allegiance to God and once again enjoy his fellowship, taking their place among the saints who enjoy the continual cleansing of Christ's blood (1 John 1:7-9). Our Lord, using parables, speaks of the pitiful condition of the lost soul, the importance of repentance and the joy that other Christians experience when the lost comes home (Luke 15:3-32).
While it is true that a backslider can repent and return to the flock, it is better to "Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Jude 1:21). John wrote, "But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him" (1 John 2:5). God knows no mere man will be perfect (Rom. 3:23; 1 John 1:8, 10). But he expects diligence that we "may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless" (2 Pet. 3:14; 2 Tim. 2:15; Eph. 4:3). Does anyone really have something better to do when the saints are assembling for edification and to worship and praise God? Never give up. Get in and stay in. If you are out, get back in before it is too late (2 Thess. 2:10-12).
There once was a hungry fox. He went out seeking a meal, when he found a frog. He tried to catch the frog, but the frog was too quick, and the frog jumped nimbly out of the fox's reach and into the water. The fox tried a different approach and put on a pot of boiling water and invited the frog to jump in. The frog, seeing the boiling water, refused and once again eluded the fox's trap. The fox thought hard and set out a pot of cool water. He then said to the frog: "Frog, come swim in this pool I have made."
The frog looked quizzically at the fox and said, "No, Fox, for you have tried twice to catch me and failed. If I get into your pool then you will catch, cook, and eat me."
The fox replied, "But this water is not boiling and just the way you like: calm and cool. Besides, if you are in the water swimming, how can I catch you? You can just swim away."
The frog thought about the fox's offer. Indeed the frog loved to swim and, seeing that the water was not hot, and that he could easily swim out of the fox's reach, he agreed and began to swim in the pot. While the frog swam, the fox lit a fire underneath the pot and the water slowly began to heat up. Eventually, the frog said to the fox, "Is this water getting hotter?" to which the fox replied, "Perhaps, but it is sunny and warm out. There is nothing to worry about."
Before the frog could realize what was happening, the water got hotter and hotter until it was boiling. The heat from the water sapped his energy and he was eaten by the fox.
In this tale, we are the frog and Satan is the fox. The fox like the Devil in 1 Peter 5:8-9 "walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" and he will try many things to get us to let our guard down. When we are presented with temptation, isn't it easier to flee from it when it is obvious and in our face? When a temptation is dragged out over time, is less noticeable, or causes us to make compromises, it becomes easier to give in. In the story, the fox plays to the desires of the frog which gets him in the pot of water much like the devil makes sin look desirable. When we make small compromises over time, before we know it, we can end up in a position we never intended.
Consider the story of the man of God after he warned Jeroboam in 1 Kings 13. The man of God was lured into the old prophet's home and sinned against God. He made a compromise and did not stick to his convictions. Because of his disobedience, he was killed by a lion (1 Kings 13:11-19).
Consider also Solomon and his many wives. Was his heart turned away by just one wife or all of them? They slowly turned his heart away from the Lord. Satan was subtle in turning Solomon's heart away from God. Solomon made compromises and small concessions for each of his wives for the sake of their happiness and his heart eventually turned away from God.
The frog, instead, should have walked circumspectly and been more aware of his adversary. We likewise should be aware of our adversary and his wiles.
As we can see, it is easy to avoid sin when it is right in front of us; but if we begin to make small concessions and compromises of our faith, we can, like the frog, end up "in hot water". We should "Be sober, be vigilant" and "resist the devil, steadfast in the faith" as 1 Peter 5:8-9 says. We need to pay attention to even the smallest things around us and "walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise" in Ephesians 5:15. If you're in hot water and in need of assistance, God offers you a lifeline.
-- John C. Sugg