It’s A Jungle Out There
By Jeff Belknap
Within the teaching of Christ, we find many word pictures used, to help us understand our manner of life and what we will be confronted with as children of God. Within the scriptures, frequent depiction of animal life is used to portray the difficulties we must overcome, as we are surrounded by a world of lustful creatures. In so many words, the Bible is telling us, that it is a jungle anywhere and everywhere outside of Christ.
This wild and dangerous conduct that we are to look out for, is not only prevalent among those of the world (I Jn. 5:19), but sometimes it is displayed by those whom we believe to be among the redeemed (Jas. 4:4).
This is why inspiration says, “see then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). The word “circumspectly” is a compound word which means to look about and be careful to consider – like the little animal working his way through the woods has to walk “circumspectly” and watch for the creatures of prey. He cannot afford to be thoughtless and naďve, for his life is surrounded by much evil. And, we too, would be extremely foolish, if we did not take heed to the inspired admonitions revealed about these dangers.
There is much beauty and good in the world, but there is also much wickedness. Although we live in the 21st century, the days are still evil (Ecc. 1:9). The disposition of man has not changed, regardless of how far we have come! Therefore, we must learn about, and then be reminded of the “devices” of the devil (II Cor. 2:11).
The King of the Jungle
In I Peter 5:8, apostle Peter instructed us to be “sober” and “vigilant;” because our “adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” As the lion is the king of the physical jungle, Satan is the king over this wicked world!
Within the “signified” language of the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:1), John uncovers horrible creatures coming up from the bottomless pit (Rev. 9). He also tells us, “And they had a king over them,” and went on to say that this king’s name in the Hebrew tongue is “Abaddon,” but in the Greek tongue, it was “Apollyon” (Rev. 9:11). These names mean: “Destruction” and “Destroyer.” Moreover, the devil is identified elsewhere, “as the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). The evil one is the ruler over all wild and evil behavior.
The Grievous Wolves
Jesus began to teach his disciples about the reality of this jungle from the beginning of his earthly ministry. In Matthew 7:15 he said, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Men, like animals of the forest, can be very cunning and crafty in their efforts to gain an advantage (cf. Eph. 4:14). Then again, in Matthew 10:16 he said, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” In spite of the fact that we are harmless, kind and gentle people, those outside of Christ (cf. Jn. 15:4, 6) will mistreat and abuse us (cf. II Tim. 3:12). But be that as it may, we must continue to trust in the Lord and never return evil for evil (Rom. 12:17; I Thess. 5:15; I Pet. 3:9).
Before departing from the congregation at Ephesus, Paul told the elders of that church to take heed. He also warned them with the following words: “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:29-31).
I ask you brethren, why are there so many words of warning to beware of these carnivorous beasts of prey? In addition, why do the scriptures portray them as monsters? It is because they will destroy you if you are not careful! In the gospel of Luke 13:32, Jesus also referred to Herod as a “fox,” for he was sly, crafty and up to no good! Such characters only have one objective, and that is to fulfill the appetite of their own passions.
From time to time, we can hear people say that we live in a “dog eat dog world.” Unfortunately, such a statement is not far from the truth! The Bible talks about men who make manifest the animal characteristics of a “dog.” In the sermon on the mount, the Lord said, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.” Why? “lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Mt. 7:6). Such wild creatures have no appreciation for things eternal and they will turn on you, even when your intentions are good (cf. I Pet. 4:4).
Apostle Paul told us to “beware of dogs” (Phil. 3:2). Peter also revealed that after our conversion, it is possible for us to revert back to the wild behavior revealed in Proverbs 26:11. He wrote, “it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (II Pet. 2:20-22).
Furthermore, John says in the last chapter of the Bible, “for without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” (Rev. 22:15). Outside of Christ are the “dogs” or “the assembly of the wicked” (cp. Psa. 22:16).
The Brute Beasts
In the beginning of II Peter 2, the apostle tells us that just as “there were false prophets also among the people…there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” Regrettably, he went on to say, “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (II Pet. 2:1-2). In verse 12 he described some of these false teachers “as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed,” because they “speak evil of the things that they understand not;” and therefore he said they “shall utterly perish in their own corruption.” Without self control and rationale, they have no discipline or reason. Their behavior sometimes manifests the characteristics of an untamed animal. Apostle Paul also stated that he, “fought with beasts at Ephesus” (I Cor. 15:32).
Moreover, in the book of Jude, the servant of the Lord stated that we are to “earnestly contend for the faith” (v. 3; cp. w. I Tim. 6:12). Why? Because verse 4 says, “for there are certain men crept in unawares.” Like a carnivorous animal, the errorist secretly creeps in on those who he thinks he has the greatest chance to capture and consume. Jude went on to state, “these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves” (v. 10). Jude tells us that such men depend on what they know “naturally,” not on what is revealed in the Holy Scriptures!
Moreover, like an untamed beast in a cage, they do not like to be restricted in any way. They do not want you to demand a book, chapter and verse, for they have no desire to dwell within the confines of God’s word. Like animals, who only follow their own instincts to satisfy their own ungodly lusts, they are corrupt and self serving (cf. II Thess. 3:2)!
In Romans 16:17+18, Paul tells us to watch out for those who teach “contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” In other words, they are devious and they are well-versed in the tricks of carnivores, whose aim is to satisfy their own appetites.
As Jesus and his forerunner had to battle with “serpents” and “vipers” in their day, we too, will have struggles with wily men (Mt. 3:7; 12:33-34; 23:27-33).
The Only Place of Refuge
In the Old Testament, the messianic prophet, Isaiah foretold of the time of serenity, when Christ would come to lead his people in the way of peace (Isa. 9:6). The animal nature of man would be subdued by the power of the gospel and those in Christ would be reconciled together from all nations under heaven. The scripture says, “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isa. 11:6).
Regardless of our wild, malicious and maybe even carnivorous backgrounds, the people of God will be able to study, work and worship together side by side, according to godliness. The faithful will allow Christ to tame their behavior and put a bridle in their mouth (Jas. 1:26; 3:3-18). The disciple of Christ has learned to discipline himself; to buffet his body and bring it into subjection (I Cor. 9:27). Faithful children of God seek to mortify the deeds of the body and put off what is evil, that they may walk in newness of life (cf. II Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20). Just as man tames the animals of the field, the master of this universe subdues the spirit of his people!
Unfortunately, not everyone who comes into the local church will allow the Lord to become the ruler of their life. Thus, led by the flesh, and not by the Spirit, their carnality is detrimental to the cause of Christ. Such brethren can be portrayed as “biting and devouring one another.” Paul warned the brethren that such ferocious actions would only result in their own extinction (Gal. 5:13-17).
The Lord has prepared a place of refuge – a dwelling place in which undisciplined “animals” are not to be tolerated. Therefore, the local church is obligated to discipline those who will not restrain themselves, for their own good (cf. I Cor. 5:4-8). When such admonitions are heeded, Christians may dwell together in peace and safety, while preparing to face the jungle of the world, and “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15-16).