Are We ‘Affecting’ The World, Or Is It ‘Infecting’ Us?
Part V in a series on compromise in the church
The Scriptures are crystal clear on the issue of entertainment; there’s really no debate. Philippians 4:8 says to fix our thoughts on what is true and honorable and right, and to think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable and worthy of praise. Ephesians 5:1-20 also addresses this issue, and enough is said in II Timothy alone to silence any debate: Everyone who names the name of Christ should depart from anything that goes against His standard of holiness. We must be pure vessels that God can use. A pure vessel cannot come from a polluted mind. Years of feeding the flesh will leave us spiritually weak—what goes in our mind ultimately comes out in our actions.
When it comes to entertainment, it’s not about following rules. Let your freedom in Christ, and a relationship with Him, guide you. James 1:27 says that Christians are to remain “unspotted” from the world; which literally means to be free from the world’s corruption. We should continually ask, “Are we ‘affecting’ the world, or is the world ‘infecting’ us?” We’ve all watched questionable material and have made wrong choices; don’t live with ongoing regret. But don’t justify wrong behavior by thinking that God doesn’t care about what you watch or listen to, He does; we serve and love God with our mind. (See Romans 7:25 and Luke 10:27.) What we view and listen to clearly affects our relationship with Him. If we find dozens of hours a week to watch movies and television programs, but have little time for God, our relationship with Him will suffer—period. Liberty has limits. The key is to ask, “Will it build me up spiritually, or pull me down?”
On the flip side, far too many of us have forgotten about grace. As a result, legalism surfaces. Legalism has been known to condemn all music, movies, and television programs. It can be defined as a self-righteous attitude that rates spirituality by how well a person follows rules. A legalist often has a sliding scale mentality—the more rules and regulations a person follows, the more spiritual he or she becomes. The legalist often forgets that we are saved because of what Christ did, not by what we do. He or she may have the tendency to view struggling Christians as counterfeits because they don’t measure up to a certain standard. Most Christians will struggle with legalism from time-to-time, that’s why it’s important to discuss it, and avoid it.
Chuck Swindoll once said, “The liberating truth about our freedom in Christ flies in the face of do-it-yourself religion and challenges Christ’s followers who are enslaved to man-made rules and regulations to break free.” He adds, “At the same time, grace promotes a powerful devotion to Christ and obedience to His Word, not to someone’s guilt-giving list of DOs and DON’Ts.”
Some matters must be determined by an individual’s own conscience. (See Romans 14:1-15.) However, we must learn to recognize what glorifies Christ and what clearly does not—then choose accordingly. Grace does not relieve us of responsibility; we actually live under a higher standard when grace, not rules, guides our decisions. Those who are living under grace won’t want to continue in sin.
When we give our hearts to Christ, read and study the Word, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, questionable things should no longer amuse us; we have a different Spirit guiding us—the Holy Spirit, not Hollywood. The last half of Galatians 6:14 states this well: Because of the cross, my interest in this world died long ago, and the world’s interest in me is also long dead. Romans 8:5 adds that those who live according to their sinful nature set their minds on the things that excite that nature, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on what the Spirit desires. We are free to choose what we allow to enter into our minds—but if it begins to control us, we are no longer free, but bound. Compromise if often the first step in the wrong direction. (See I Corinthians 10:23.)
Let me leave you with this final thought on compromise: If you are a young adult, are you willing to do what it takes to protect your mind and your relationship with the Lord? If you are a pastor or leader, are you willing to do what it takes to protect your congregation against compromise? If you are a parent, are you willing to do what it takes to protect your family? It’s your choice. Drawing a line can be out of step with the mainstream, but, like Joshua, we too must say: “Choose this day whom you will serve, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).