Our pastor told a pretty good story in church this morning. It was about two sheepdogs who were supposed to be protecting a flock of sheep from wolves. The first sheepdog had spent a lot of time studying wolves. He knew all about them, and he set himself to watch carefully for wolves that would come to hurt his flock. The second sheepdog had never seen a wolf before. He had no idea what a wolf was, so he spent his time watching the sheep. In a short time, he knew all about them.
One day, a wolf decided to disguise himself with a sheepskin. Now, he didn't look as much like a wolf, so he easily got past the first sheepdog. The second sheepdog, however, started barking, and ran that wolf out of there in no time. After he came back, the first sheepdog asked how he knew there was a wolf, especially because he had never seen one before. The second sheepdog said that he might not know much about wolves, but he knew everything about sheep. He knew how they looked, how they sounded, and how they moved, and when he saw that wolf, he wasn't sure what it was, but he knew it wasn't any sheep.
The point of the story is that we can spend all sorts of time studying the "evils" in the world. We can look for boogeymen behind every bush, but if we really want to keep from following the wrong way, we have to be sure what the right way looks like. So many of the things that are bad in this world are masquerading as something good. If we are only looking through our human eyes, we aren't going to see past the sheepskin to the wolf underneath. It is only when we know what God really looks like that we can see through the disguise. And the only way we can really know what God looks like is to spend time studying Him through His word.
Aha! This simplifies things quite a bit, doesn't it? Instead of trying to identify every danger by its own merits, we can simply see when things don't look like God. We don't even have to know what they are. We just have to know they're not of God, and we can avoid them easily. The tough part may be having the strength and courage to run them off, especially if we find they are something we enjoy. I find it hard sometimes to avoid the wolves, because they are really old friends. Or, they are "friends of the family." What do you do in cases like that? Hmmm. I'm going to have to think about this one.