Half A Poison Pill Won't Kill Me: Thoughts on Worldliness - Part 2

This is a continuation of yesterday's blog.

Questions for Self-Evaluation from 1 John

Cravings of sinful man: Are my media habits encouraging me to want my own way? Is what I’m watching, reading or listening to whispering the lie that these desires are natural, good, harmless when God’s word says they will destroy my soul?

Lust of the eyes: Are my media habits stirring up a covetous desire for more of what this world offers? Is it making me want everything for myself — a beautiful companion, a beautiful home, a beautiful car? Is it leading me to feast my eyes on unlawful sights for the sake of sinful pleasure? Is it causing me to be captivated by the outward and visible with no regard to goodness and virtue?

Boasting of what he has and does: Are my media habits encouraging me to exalt myself because of material possessions, fame or athletic achievement? Does it make me want to appear important according to the world’s standards of importance?—Joshua Harris

Excuses for Sin

“You may see this deceitfulness [of sin] in the wonderful proneness of men to regard sin as less sinful and dangerous than it is in the sight of God and in their readiness to extenuate it, make excuses for it and minimize its guilt. ‘It is but a little one! God is merciful! God is not extreme to mark what is done amiss! We mean well! One cannot be so particular! Where is the mighty harm? We only do as others!’ Who is not familiar with this kind of language? You may see it in the long string of smooth words and phrases which men have coined in order to designate things which God calls downright wicked and ruinous to the soul. What do such expressions as ‘fast’, ‘gay’, ‘wild’, unsteady’, ‘thoughtless’, ‘loose’ mean? They show that men try to cheat themselves into the belief that sin is not quite so sinful as God says it is, and that they are not so bad as they really are. You may see it in the tendency even of believers to indulge their children in questionable practices, and to blind their own eyes to the inevitable result of the love of money, of tampering with temptation and sanctioning a low standard of family religion. I fear we do not sufficiently realize the extreme subtlety of our soul’s disease. We are too apt to forget that temptation to sin will rarely present itself to us in its true colors, saying, ‘I am your deadly enemy and I want to ruin you for ever in hell.’ Oh, no! Sin comes to us, like Judas, with a kiss, and like Joab, with an outstretched hand and flattering words. The forbidden fruit seemed good and desirable to Eve, yet it cast her out of Eden. The walking idly on his palace roof seemed harmless enough to David, yet it ended in adultery and murder. Sin rarely seems sin at its first beginnings. Let us then watch and pray, lest we fall into temptation. We may give wickedness smooth names, but we cannot alter its nature and character in the sight of God. Let us remember St Paul’s words: ‘Exhort one another daily ...lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin’ (Heb. 3:13) . It is a wise prayer in our Litany; ‘From the deceits of the world, the flesh and the devil, good Lord, deliver us.’’—J.C. Ryle, Holiness

A Test for Seeing a Portrayal of Sin

“A portrayal of sin should never prompt the reader or the listener only to want more of the same. ...the contemporary media specialize in making you an addict to sin—prompting you regularly to ask for even more of the sin you’ve just witnessed. Every double entendre calls for another that’s a bit more daring. Pictures of sin that should produce repulsion instead produce attraction. It’s by design—and it’s wrong.

“In close proximity to the portrayal of sin should always be a portrayal of redemption. Sin is real, and there’s nothing wrong with portraying its reality. But the good news from God is that we don’t have to live forever with the burdens of sin. Christians always have a responsibility to say that. The story of sin is only half the story, and the grungy half at that. To tell that part without also regularly pointing to the deliverance from sin that God offers is dishonest, cynical, and cruel.

“If God’s Spirit is not to be grieved, you should be able honestly to give thanks to God for the portrayal in its totality. This is not a simplistic test, but wholesomely biblical. If you can’t bow your head and sincerely thank God for a movie or a symphony or a newscast or a novel—or WORLD magazine, for that matter—then for you that activity is wrong. Stop arguing with yourself, and move on to something else.”—Joel Belz, WORLD magazine, Sept. 28, 1996

Sowing to the Flesh

“[The flesh is that] lower nature that is in each of us and remains in us even after conversion and baptism. It is one of the fields of our human estate in which we may sow.

“To ‘sow to the flesh’ is to pander to it, to cosset, cuddle and stroke it, instead of crucifying it. The seeds we sow are largely thoughts and deeds. Every time we allow our minds to harbor a grudge, nurse a grievance, entertain an impure fantasy, or wallow in self-pity, we are sowing to the flesh. Every time we linger in bad company whose insidious influence we know we cannot resist, every time we lie in bed when we ought to be up and praying, every time we read pornographic literature, every time we take a risk which strains our self-control, we are sowing, sowing, sowing to the flesh. Some Christians sow to the flesh every day and wonder why they do not reap holiness. Holiness is a harvest; whether we reap it or not depends almost entirely on what and where we sow.” —John Stott, The Message of Galatians

Letter from a Prisoner

Ted Baehr challenges the assumption that simply by viewing sinful media content we are left unaffected. “Too often,” he writes, “[Christians] believe that a violent movie or television program will not affect them, although they know that it will affect others.”

He shares an excerpt from a letter that a prison inmate wrote him. The inmate describes the violent, sexual movies the wardens foolishly choose to show to the inmates and the negative effect viewing them has on the men. “There is not a man in here who can watch that on the screen without being affected by it in a manner that is emotionally and spiritually detrimental,” the inmate writes.

“Allow me to be blunt,” he continues. “It is an absurdity to believe that the effect of sex and violence in movies is any different upon you and your children than it is upon me and my fellow inmates. A short while ago many of us stood in the same ticket lines as you. We’ve rented videos from the same video stores as you. The world system touches every life, and every person is led into sin in the same ways, through the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and sinful pride of life (1 John 2:15–17) .”—Ted Baehr, The Media Wise Family

Biblical Principles of Conduct

CJ Mahaney compiled the following questions and Scripture support to help in determining whether or not a certain activity is glorifying to God.

1.      Does it present a temptation to sin?

a.       Romans 13:14 “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”

b.      2 Timothy 2:22 “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

2.      Is it beneficial?

a.       1 Corinthians 6:12a “‘Everything is permissible for me’—but not everything is beneficial.”

b.      1 Corinthians 10:23 “‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is constructive.”

3.      Is it enslaving?

a.       1 Corinthians 6:12b “‘Everything is permissible for me’—but I will not be mastered by anything.”

4.      Does it honor and glorify God?

a.       1 Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

5.      Does it promote the good of others?

a.       1 Corinthians 10:33 “even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”

6.      Does it cause anyone to stumble?

a.       1 Corinthians 10:32 “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God”

7.      Does it arise from a pure motive?

a.       Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

Putting Themselves Upon Temptation

“In nothing does the folly of the hearts of men show itself more openly, in the days wherein we live, than in this cursed boldness, after so many warnings from God, and so many sad experiences every day under their eyes, of running into and putting themselves upon temptations.” —John Owen

Three Encouragements to Changing Media Habits

1. Change the set-up of your home—don’t make media omnipresent or central in it.

2. Look for places in your schedule where media is becoming the default activity and do something else.

3. Periodically fast from different forms of media.