Thursday, February 12, 2015

Do We Deny God By Our Entertainment Choices?

The characteristics of Christian men and women are ones that should be unmistakable in this fallen world. Over and over again, the Bible tells us that while we are certainly in the fallen world, we are absolutely not of it (Jn 15:19; 17:15–16). The separation indicated in these passages alone is clear—one speaks of proximity, the other of assimilation.

We are salt, which is inherently different from that which is being salted (Matt 5:13).

We are light, which is inherently different from that which is being illuminated (Matt 5:14).

Paul wrote to Titus, “We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (3:3–6) (emphasis mine).

Speaking of this new life to the Ephesian Church, the Apostle then exhorts them to do what would be most expectant of someone who is now regenerated by the Spirit of God and different from the former days of being entertained by sin:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children . . . sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness, nor foolish talk, nor crude joking, which are out of place . . . at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord . . . it is shameful even to speak of the things that [the sons of disobedience] do in secret” (5:1–12).

This has immediate implications on the decisions we make regarding entertainment. When it comes to sin, Christians are still under the authority of Jesus Christ and must do everything with His glory in mind, as if He were there with us, because guess what?—He is. We must “try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” in all things, but some things we know are off-limits from the start—sin.

Is it any small matter that God flooded the whole earth because of violence? God Himself spoke to Noah, saying, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them from the earth” (Gen 6:13). Yet, how many Christians will tell you that their favorite movie is Gladiator, or Braveheart, or Saving Private Ryan—all of which are rated R? Why do we throw our God-given time away to play fantasy games that kill people? Trying to justify anything like this as being educational or motivational is a stretch that God will not honor.

Is it any small matter that God destroyed whole cities for sexual immorality? God Himself spoke to Abraham about destroying Sodom and Gomorrah because “their sin is very grave” (Gen 18:20). The angels that stayed with Lot in Sodom warned of the “punishment of the city” that was coming the next day (Gen 19:15). Yet, how many Christians never missed a show of Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family, or The New Normal?

Is it any small matter that God killed Ananias and Sapphira on the spot for lying? When they lied about their financial situation in Acts 5, God killed them in front of the whole church. Their ultimate sin was they had “not lied to man but to God” (v. 4). Every sin is ultimately a direct offense against God—something David rightfully understood after his sin with Bathsheba, saying, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam 12:13).

Why then do we purposely watch movies and television shows, read books and articles, listen to radio shows and podcasts, that promote, glorify, normalize, and love these things? If we do, Christian friends, then we are denying the very God that we claim to be children of. We are belittling the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are reviling the Word of God.

“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 Jn 1:6).

Do not be entertained by the sins for which Christ died.

God is the same today as He was yesterday and will be the same forever more—His hatred of sin has not waned (Heb 13:8). Remember that when God killed Ananias and Sapphira in the church, this was a New Testament event. We tend to think that the God of the OT is markedly different than the God of the NT. No, friends. While we may think we are experiencing less of God’s wrath in general in the world, it is not because His justice is slipping; rather the riches of His grace and mercy are being magnified.

In Romans 2, Paul says that God’s wrath rightly falls on the reprobate, but when it seems to be delayed we ought not to presume on His kindness in His delaying of judgment as He is really allowing more time for repentance (2:2–5).

Similarly, Peter says that the Lord is not slow in His judgment on sin or in the fulfillment of His promises to the saint; rather He is “patient . . . not wishing that any should perish” (2 Pet 3:9).

Therefore, if God is the same then and now, can we imagine that He would have found it acceptable for the Hebrew people to watch shows that were laced with sex, violence, lying, drugs, alcohol, cursing, taking God’s name in vain, and all other forms of sin? If they were making the right sacrifices and offering the right offerings and taking the right days off of work, then they were good to go, right? God wasn’t too concerned with anything else?

Let’s allow the following OT passages to sink into our hearts for a moment as we realize that even then, God wanted the hearts of the people to be holy, pure, and obedient to His law, loving Him and hating sin—before they sacrificed a thing:

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats . . . bring no more vain offerings . . . your appointed feasts my soul hates . . . when you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen” (Isaiah 1:11–15).

What were they to do?

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good” (1:16–17).

The prophet Amos gave the same message from God:

“I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen” (21–23).

Today, likewise, simply attending church, or even serving in the church, does not count for anything if we are not truly rendering our hearts to Him. If He is our Lord and Master, then we live for Him and according to His standard. We do not have the right or the ability to justify our habits that are satiated by the observation of sin. A Christian, in actuality, is one who really is submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ—not someone who simply makes the claim in order to sin on purpose, thinking their sin is always excused.

Peter says, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Pet 2:16).
Let's also be clear to church leaders: there is no such thing as sanctifying something sinful by preaching or teaching in a way that follows a show in order to pull some self-contrived spiritual parallels out of it. If anything, this just gives Satan a foothold in the church because it forces people to consider the original source in order to understand the parallel. It also makes the object of attention the secular media and not the Word of God. This is an abomination that should not be done in our pulpits or in our homes.

When a movie, show, or book comes out that includes sin, then Christians are obligated to shun it. Paul told the Romans to be “innocent of evil” (16:19) and exhorted the Ephesians to not let there be even a hint of sexual immorality among them, or even on their lips (5:3).

“Understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people” (2 Tim 3:1–5) (emphasis mine).

We are to be lovers of God and not lovers of pleasure, or ourselves—our own evil desires that produce temptations and sin. Those who really love God will keep His commandments (Jn 14:15) and His commandments are not burdensome (1 Jn 5:3).

Those who are called to be sanctified, holy, set apart, and pure before our holy God cannot, then, simultaneously be entertained by things that are unholy, irreverent, impure and sinful. We must choose what type of person we will be. Will we love God, truly? Or will we pretend that we are Christians who are saved by God when we do not live for God?

“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:1–2).

How we respond to God and respond to the temptations of sin will speak to whether or not we are really Christians, for only someone who is filled with the Spirit of God will act in a way that honors God. “As you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12–13) (emphasis mine).

Friends, put a stake in the ground. If what you are watching is the acting out of something that is sinful in the eyes of God, then it is sinful for us to be watching that act. If we love God more than the world then our entertainment venues will be severely limited. If we are to be contentious about this then we have no practice.

As the Apostle Paul said, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (Tit 1:15–16) (emphasis mine).

Since we have been called out of darkness and into His marvelous light, let us not partake in any way of the deeds that are associated with darkness; rather:

 “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

In His Sovereign Grip,