Herds of zebras, wildebeests, and gazelles surround the hungry lion, but his eyes and ears are alert for one that stands alone. Even a strong, healthy wildebeest could be taken down with some skill and strategy if it can be dealt with alone. So it is with the spiritual predator. He is hungry. His soul is empty, and he has been unable to fill the void with anything that satisfies. Like Satan who has now taught him his ways, he goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He seeks to fill his empty soul with the souls of men. His only goal is to devour. He is not interested in sport and meeting his match. He is not interested in those who stand united with others in God’s word. It is not worth the effort when easier prey abounds for the alert predator. The devil took on Christ himself when he thought Christ to be at his weakest. There is not a man who is safe from such attacks. The devil has many servants, and as predators, they hunger continually, and seek those who are vulnerable to them, especially those who try to stand alone on their own strength.
Faith is the key to our safety from spiritual predators. It is knowledge given by God and nurtured within us through our parents and the church. Perhaps it could be compared to that sense or instinct that is nurtured in the young gazelle from birth to live and survive as a member of the herd. It is more than just knowing about the great truths of God’s word, but it is loving these doctrines, living out of them, and growing in our knowledge along with all the other growth we experience in life.
That faith is a living, growing part of God’s people that must be constantly nourished. God gives to each one of us his word to cherish and study on our own. But God is pleased to use the preaching of that word in his church as the chief means of nourishing that faith. Within the church our souls are virtually bathed in the heritage of doctrines that saints before us, after careful study of God’s word, have come to know, love, and express for our spiritual nourishment. Here in the church, in living fellowship with saints around you and with God himself, like a young gazelle in the center of the herd, alert to its every move and collective awareness of the world around, you are safe.
Like sheep, however, we wander and find ourselves standing alone and exposed. Of course there are countless ways in which we foolishly expose ourselves to danger. We fight with fellow saints, we selfishly seek what we want apart from God’s word and the church, we get too busy, etc. In recent years a whole new world has been opened up for exploration, play, work, learning, and yes…hunting. The Internet has proven to be an ideal stalking grounds for the spiritual predator. It is ideal because, like a net, it is capable of gathering a host of living active minds to display on the computer monitor of the predator. He watches as they chat together with their messages. When he finds a whole group, he scans them, watches for those most vulnerable, and moves in for a kill. The attack comes not with a frightening roar, but rather a seemingly innocent question. He comes with comments that draw attention. He gauges responses, carefully sifts through their thinking, and probes for soft spots. Feasting on them is only a matter of engaging them in conversation with the age-old question: “hath God said?”
On the Internet, such dialog between the predator and unsuspecting prey is not restricted by time, place, or interference from others. The predator can stalk and play his prey whenever he has time to sit at his computer. Everything he needs is in one physical place: his computer. Searching the whole world requires no physical effort; and no physical contact is necessary. The predator is able to remain virtually invisible.
Not only does the Internet bring stalking to a new level for the predator, the fields are teaming with young minds giddy with the delight of a whole new world to explore. Often they are alone at their computer in their own room. Few shepherds have found the wide, fertile plains, and if they have, are busy exploring on their own, or are busy tending the flocks in their old pastures. In the meantime the news of new land passes quickly among the lambs, and they flock to this new land of plenty. Here they play games, do their homework, explore the world, shop, chat with friends, and exercise their spiritual wings as they carry on Bible discussions with others.
The discerning Christian is careful to avoid the places on the Internet where it is obvious no Christian belongs. But even in Bible discussions with others, we need to be on guard, because here the devil is able to strike at our mind, attitudes, and thinking with consequences that last for generations. What are some signs that one with whom you are discussing your faith may be a spiritual predator? 1) He trusts in his own strength—his mind, his education, his clever rhetoric—and is reluctant to bring God’s word. When he does bring God’s word, it is out of context, and presented as though one interpretation is as good as any. 2) He is proud. He uses his wit to expose weakness in his prey, and instill a sense of foolishness, so that they step closer lest they appear to be afraid. He quickly ridicules the shepherds and questions their wisdom. 3) He constantly challenges you to stand on your own and distance yourself from the guidance and instruction that you have trusted.
When a predator appears, God’s people must stand together upon his word. Help one another. Search the Scriptures and expose the lies. Use the mind God has given you to think for yourself, but always in the light of Scripture. When new and attractive ideas are set forth, find out first what our forefathers did. Discuss questions with your parents, teachers, and pastors. We are foolish to think that they have never faced such questions before. When we ignore or minimize what the other members of the church have learned and built up doctrinally so that we can proudly display our own knowledge, we are foolish and proud. We stand proudly alone, and are sure to fall.
Even though the Internet provides some advantages for the predator, it also provides advantages to God’s people who walk by the same faith that has preserved the church through all history. The Internet provides powerful tools to search God’s word, articles to help in Bible study, and opportunities to discuss God’s word with believers all over the world. The Internet opens up a new world, but we may not forget that God calls us to live in and serve a local congregation of believers. It is only when we stand united in faith with Christ our head, and the church, his body, will we withstand him who goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.