Media and the Gospel

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

This past Sunday, December 11 (my 12th anniversary, by the way), our fellowship was blessed to hear an exhortation by John Mark Battaglia, a Italian Medalion of our fellowship. He completed a three part series on 1 John 2:15-17 with a call to examine the influences the media has on our lives and how the gospel relates to it. In short, the relationship is this: Jesus died to satisfy the wrath of God against all the sinfulness we have dumbed ourselves into enjoying.

He wisely chose not to mention any shows or movies so as not to create a legalistic environment in folks' minds. That was wise for a sermon. But for a blog, it's different.

By way of personal example, I used to watch Seinfeld years ago. But the Lord struck me with conviction one day that the things I was laughing at were entirely sinful. Joking about fornication, cheating, lying, stealing, and other foolishness is essentially laughing at that which put Christ on the cross. Ephesians 5:3-4, 6-7 has always been the concrete measure on this matter:

"But 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, but instead let there be thanksgiving...Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them..."

Tough words for Christians...Christians who, like me, seem to find sin so amusing. Along with enjoying that which cost Christ His life, we find pleasure in entertaining ourselves with that which brings the wrath of God down on the lost. Essentially, then, we please ourselves with and in light of impending judgment. Foolish. Stupid. And amazing.

"Sin murdered Christ; will you be a friend to it? Sin pierced the heart of the Incarnate God; can you love it?" Charles Spurgeon

John Mark also made another point relating the gospel to worldly media. The first touched on the humor that lowers our guard to laugh at sin. The second touched on the violence that desensitizes us to a real loss of life. Think about it for a moment. How many movies and video games find their sales in violence? More than half, if that little is even an honest estimate. Yet what it cannot help but create in our minds and hearts is little care for the loss of life, and hardly any biblical realization of what that death means for the one who died. Were they believers? Were the walking by faith? Were they justified by God through the cross? Such questions never enter the mind of the persons (be they 'bad guys' or 'terrorists'...a subtle rationalization) I just 'wasted' in the latest Tom Clancy Rainbow Six video game release. Instead of thinking and praying through how to reach them for Christ (a game not likely to be invented in the near future), I was planning how to enter the room by stealth and 'pop a cap' in the back of their heads, or silently cut their throats.

Want to play the rationalization game and claim we are just doing what the real soldiers do and hunt down terrorists? It is likely you are not a soldier, and even if you are, it takes work to guard a sense of value, a real sense of the imago Deo (the image of God) in each terrorist we aim to kill. Want to play that same game using the Bible and claim that it is nothing different than the OT stories we read of Israel 'wasting' the Canaanites? Try to read the rest of the Bible where the mission has changed from that operation to the Great Commission. It's about winning the world for King Jesus, and no longer about wasting the pagans.

Be real about worldly entertainment. It's a sore spot, I know. We've spent lots and lots of money either seeing movies, or else buying movies and video games. We've 'invested' quite a bit, haven't we, in treasures on earth, if they can even be called that. Blockbuster and Carmike Cinemas may have received more of our kingdom currency than our local church. More virtual people may have been killed than real people won to Christ. More sexual immorality has been tolerated and indeed laughed at than the godly pleasures of marital sex truly enjoyed.

Why do we follow Christ then? Why do we name His name? Why do we go to church, read our Bibles (if we do at all), and pray before meals? Why do we attend church functions? If this describes you, and if it is all that describes you, then it is likely that the world has captured your heart. It is likely that you are more beholden to the world than you are to King Jesus. It is likely that you have the love of the world within rather than the love of the Father. If that is likely, the remedy is easy to say, but harder to do.

Do not love the world any longer. It is dying. It is corroding and rotting. Those who love it will die, corrode, and rot with it. Love the Father. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love one another. Follow King Jesus and learn of His pleasures. They are eternally satisfying, full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. They are rivers of delight. They cause abundance of happiness. And the cross provides it all.

And therein lies the rub. The cross provides all of that. But it judges everything else. The cross event was that singular point in history where God decreed to begin the world's judgment for sin. And we can either be found in Christ, choosing God's judgment to fall upon Him rather than on us...or we can be found in our movies, games, and worldly entertainment, choosing God's judgment to fall upon us along with the rest of the world (Rom. 1:18-32). A choice must be made. And we cannot 'ease' our way out of the entanglements of worldly entertainment. They must be quickly and daily severed by the two edged sword of the Spirit. If we live according to the flesh, we will die. But if by the Spirit we put to death our worldly desires, we will live (Rom. 8:13). Choosing Jesus means choosing death to our desires for the world, and choosing life for our souls. But we cannot have both Jesus and worldly entertainment. And we should not deceive ourselves. We will reap what we sow in this area (Gal. 6:7-8), both in the present and in eternity.

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