… Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. 2 Corinthians 11:14 NIV
Once in a youth Sunday school class, my husband really grossed out some 7th and 8th grade boys. They were discussing lying and the boys were adamant that little white lies were okay. If you made a statement that was 98% true with just a tiny twist, it wasn't really a lie.
For instance if their parents made a rule that they had to be in bed by 9 pm on school nights, implying that they needed to be going to sleep. But what really happened was that they'd take comic books or radios to bed with them and hide them under the blankets and read and listen until after midnight. If asked the next day what time they were "in bed", the answer could honestly be "I was in bed at 9 pm!" Oh, to be a middle-schooler again!
So Bill asked them if any of them had eaten boxed cereal for breakfast that morning. Most of them had.
"Well, suppose," he said, "that the factory that makes and boxes your cereal can produce 2000 boxes of cereal every day. It's a really big factory with lots of big machines that need to be kept spotlessly clean. It's hard to do because the machines run 24/7. No matter how clean they try to keep everything, once in a while they find evidence of mice or bugs and they know that probably there is an occasional box that might have a mouse hair, or maybe a bug leg. But how can they inspect every single box every single day? Then they remember that the cereal is toasted in hot ovens before it gets sealed in the boxes, so even if there is something in there, the heat will kill any germs or bacteria.
"If only 1 box out of 2000 gets contaminated, that's only .0005%! They realize that as many as 20 boxes a day could get contaminated and that would still only be .01%! Not even a whole percent! So they decide that's an acceptable margin of error in an imperfect world.
"So the real question is, Is the box you poured your breakfast from this morning one of those 20 contaminated ones from a day's batch? And is that okay with you?"
Needless to say, that wasn't okay with the boys. They got the point, and I just try to not think about it whenever I make my oatmeal!
This is how our enemy works ... he tells us a whole lot of truth and slips in about 2% of a lie. Then with the help of the media comes the continual drumbeat of these as they get repeated over and over again. When we hear the same messages over and over again, we begin to subconsciously take them in until they take root inside and we kind of just accept them eventually.
These are the kind of lies that the world peddles to us. Subtle, insidious lies that sound good and seem harmless until you look closer. If you balk at them, you'll be called a fanatic, but they are totally counter to what God's word teaches.
Every children's story we create doesn't have to be overtly about God, of course, but when we're writing and illustrating stories for children, we need to be wary of the messages we're sending and make sure they are not watered down, compromised, half-Godly truths. A half-Godly truth is a total lie! Stay steeped in His word, walk closely to Him, and be ever sensitive to the Spirit's promptings ... He will sound the alarm when needed.
Below are a few of the secular messages I get wary of ... you may know of more. Mostly these are just man-centered, self-sufficient, pop-psychology ideas that sound nice and exclude any influence from God. And you may or may not agree with me. Just consider them prayerfully and ask God to lead you in understanding the way He wants you to see them ...
• I’m okay, you’re okay. This isn't the Bible message, which says that we are sinners estranged from God and spiritually dead. But it can be true after we come to Him, repent and accept His free gift of salvation hrough His Son, Jesus Christ. Then we are whole and made alive in Him, and we're more than okay! The problem is when we tell people they are okay outside of Christ, implying that they are fine and not in need of anything, when they are, in fact, separated from God and spiritually dead.
• God loves you unconditionally. Hear me out on this one ... I haven't lost my mind! It is absolutely true that God loves us unconditionally. He loved us before we ever knew Him. He loved us so much that He made provisions for our salvation by sending His Son to die in our stead. There is nothing we can do to earn His love. There is nothing we can do to make Him stop loving us. The salvation He offers us is absolutely a free gift. But sometimes this phrase gets tossed about casually so as to imply that God will accept us no matter what, no questions asked, and that's dangerous. There is a cost to discipleship. True discipleship requires repentance and will result in a changed life. It's not just a free ride to Heaven with zero response from us. He expects us to repent of our sins, die to ourselves and live totally for Him. And, yes, we are imperfect and we will make blunders, and He makes provision for that, but He rightfully expects our whole hearted love and devotion to Him alone. Read Jesus' warnings about the wide and narrow gate and fruitless lives in Matthew 7:13-23. The secret to this is living totally surrendered to Him and abiding in Him, apart from Him you can do nothing, but joined with Him, "you can do everything through Him who gives you strength". See John 15 and Philippians 4:13. So if the message is "God loves you unconditionally and doesn't require any response from you", then, no, that's not right. But if the message is the good news that "God loves you unconditionally and He will help you turn from your sin and be whole and alive in Him", then yes! That's the right message!
• Just believe in yourself. This, along with the concepts of self confidence and self esteem, is perhaps one of the greatest of the enemy's counterfeits. We are created and designed to follow. In order to follow someone, you must believe in them. Jesus said to follow Him. He also said that there are only 2 choices: we are either following Jesus or we are following the enemy. But the enemy says, Oh, believe in – "follow" – yourself! What he's actually saying is "follow me!" If you could successfully follow yourself, there would've been no need for Christ to die on the cross. True humility is knowing who you are and who God is. When you are saved and in Christ, He gives you your true identity and security, which are the genuine articles that the enemy counterfeits with "self confidence". My Aunt Charlotte and I used to say, don't have self-confidence have Christ-confidence!
• Just follow your heart. Jeremiah 17:11 says that "the heart is deceitful above all things." In Proverbs 4:23 we're told to guard our hearts above all else, for it is the wellspring of life. In Matthew 23 Jesus tells the Pharisees to wash the inside of the cup, then the outside will be clean. We do operate out of our hearts, but our hearts can be easily deceived. We have to guard our hearts to prevent bad things from getting in, but open them up to the good things, like God. Our hearts can get hardened which can prevent good things from coming in and prevent us from believing and following God. Try as we may, we can't even change our own hearts, only God can come inside and do that. Jesus told a story once about a tree that never bore fruit, so the owner said to "cut it down!" But his workers persuaded him to give it another year. They would come in and till the ground around it and fertilize it and tend to it and hopefully the next year it would bear fruit. It's a picture of how God comes into our hard, unbelieving hearts and tills up the ground until our heart softens and becomes pliable in His hands, making us fruitful and useful to Him. Sometimes the desires of our heart are not in line with His will. I'd say that you should yield your heart to Him, let Him come in and clean it up and make it His own, then follow His leading.