Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
When I recently rehearsed this verse in my mind, I thought of something I’d written years ago when my wife, kids and I lived in San Antonio.
When I first spotted the gecko resting on top of the backyard spotlight, the creature was only an inch or so long. I wondered why it stayed there instead of moving to the grass where it would more likely find food. So, with as much compassion as anyone can feel toward a lizard, I tried to capture the slithering creature to put it in the yard. But at each rescue attempt, it scurried away. I soon tired of the chase and decided it would have to fend for itself.
I needn’t have worried. It fended for itself quite well. Each evening, when the sun disappeared behind the south Texas foothills and darkness blanketed our back yard, hundreds of bugs swarmed to the light illuminating the porch. And when the unsuspecting insects settled near the light, the gecko swooped from the shadows and – well, within no time it grew three inches and gained a pound.
Yes, I exaggerate.
But to the point, you wouldn’t think a gecko could illustrate a lesson in spiritual warfare, yet when I saw how fat my little friend had grown, I caught a sense of how deadly is the battle. Like the difference between sunlight and a lightbulb, two spiritual lights beckon us: God’s word, the true light, leading those who follow to safety (Psalm 119:105), and various New Age philosophies – artificial light -- leading to destruction (Colossians 2:8).
Given the choice, some might think the artificial would not be as attractive as the genuine. However, religious surveys conducted over the years by the Barna Research Group illustrate how strong the artificial light’s attraction can be.
For example, more than half of Americans surveyed believe we can earn our way into heaven by performing good works. Seventy-one percent deny the existence of absolute truth. Forty percent believe Jesus committed sins while on earth. Nearly that many believe Jesus never rose from the dead. Sixty-two percent deny the existence of Satan. Sixty-one percent believe the Holy Spirit is not part of the Godhead, but simply a symbol of God’s presence.
And the lizard gets fatter.
Each evening, as I sat in my lounge chair on the back porch and watched the gecko waiting patiently on top of the light fixture, I was glad people are not bugs and the artificial light – although a powerful seduction – is not irresistible. God has promised those who hunger for truth will find it. Those who thirst for a right relationship with Him will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6). While the gecko flicks its tongue and hungrily watches the insects swarming ever closer, the prudent person seeks the true light.
Behind the other, death lurks in the shadows.