Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)
By Jeff Keeney
I wonder if the Apostle John knew when he said “Do not love the world” that we would have a day, like we are living in now, where there would be access to the internet, and computer games, and DVDs and cable TV. I mean he certainly wouldn’t have wanted to stop our access to these great things would he? While not all these things are bad in and of themselves, John knew one thing that was certain-the human heart does not change. Sin is ever with us and its pull and snare are timeless and universally constant for all peoples and places. Whatever the latest, greatest means of communication that man creates, sin will be ready, willing and able to hop on board, and if given half of a chance will seek to become the conductor of our lives and lead the unguarded on a trip straight to hell.
You don’t have to look too far to see the results in our culture. We are constantly bombarded by the world’s value system which is completely at war with God. The world’s attitudes, tolerance and encouragement of wickedness and its false definition of reality seek to assault our senses everywhere we turn. The world lies about the nature of goodness, truth, beauty, God and the creation of the world, seeking to indoctrinate our children at the very earliest opportunity. It offers counterfeit versions of what a true family looks like, what love is and threatens our very identities. It does not waste time in arguing for immorality or seeking to justify its actions and promotion of sensuality. The world instead chooses to zoom in on the “beautiful people” engaged in questionable behaviors and tap into the emotions of people blinded by the assault on their very nature. It makes evil seem so very seductive and appealing, and John’s prophetic words are even more relevant today than ever.
The greatest danger, I believe, to this constant barrage on our senses, is not one-time exposure but rather long-term exposure. Just as long-term exposure to radiation or lead or asbestos will irreparably damage you, exposure to worldliness will gnaw at your soul and deaden your heart to the ugly, brutal nature of sin. It begins to deaden or “sear” our conscience to the very things that the Bible calls enemies of our souls. We act like some exposure to these things-like a little profanity or blasphemy in a movie, or the random occasional affair, or the casual fornication that the world says is alright, because everybody is doing it will not actually affect us. How much poison do you have to ingest to be poisoned?
The Bible warns us not to be deceived. God cannot and will not be mocked. You will reap what you sow, and if you are sowing to please your sinful nature, then you will reap destruction from your sowing. But if you sow in such a way that seeks to please the Holy Spirit, you will reap eternal life. There are no ifs, ands or buts in this warning! So many of us sow to our flesh and sinful natures daily, we surf the net or watch TV or read secular novels for hours but neglect time in God’s Word and prayer. And we wonder why we don’t reap a harvest of holiness and why there is no revival in our country. We wonder why our nation and our children reject God!
The great preacher, John Wesley, wrote to his mother, Susanna, asking for a list of sins he should avoid. Her response is a model of biblical wisdom applied: Whatever weakens your reason, whatever impairs the tenderness of your conscience, whatever obscures your sense of God, whatever increases the authority of your body over your mind, whatever takes away from your relish for spiritual things, that to you is sin, no matter how innocent it is in itself.
As Christians, we need to remember that following Christ means a radical departure from the ways of the world and our commitment to do that should drastically affect the believer’s lifestyle. If we are truly seeking to follow Christ with our lives, we need to honor God by constantly evaluating our media habits. I know many Christians who would envision themselves making heroic sacrifices for the Kingdom but resist altering the mundane areas in their life that need attention. “Jesus, I will forsake my home, family, and future, but don’t ask me to give up my favorite TV show!” As believers, our only non-negotiable ought to be obeying and glorifying God — even if that means not seeing the blockbuster movie everyone is talking about, or keeping the TV off on weeknights.
Be very clear on this: the world wants your attention, allegiance, and love. Whether subtly or blatantly, it will never stop seeking to persuade you. It is therefore essential that we, as Christians, engage in the battle for our own hearts and souls. The Apostle John lived in a world without the temptations of modern media, but this issue of the heart remains the same: who or what will you love?