Part IV in a series on compromise in the church
As I said last week: Holiness is not a strange, outdated word. Its being set apart, or separated from anything that causes us to sin, whether mentally (in what we think), or physically (in what we do). Holiness begins in the heart. We should continually strive for holiness in all that we do and say. “The Holy Spirit is first of all a moral flame. It is not an accident of language that He is called the Holy Spirit, for whatever else the word holy may mean it does undoubtedly carry with it the idea of moral purity” (Tozer).
Ironically, one youth pastor told me, “I don’t worry about what I watch, or listen to, as long as my heart is right.” But this is a very dangerous view. Most will admit, however, that this statement is really just an excuse to cross the line when it comes to entertainment. Let’s be honest: Many rationalize watching and listening to very questionable material because they enjoy it.
What we watch and listen to affects the heart; it’s impossible to separate the two. If we would make it our goal to know Christ more personally, we would preach Christ more powerfully. For example, if a pastor (or Christian leader) fills their mind with the world all week and expects the Spirit of God to speak boldly through them, they will be gravely mistaken. “The gratification of the flesh and the fullness of the Spirit do not go hand in hand” (R.A. Torrey).
E.M. Bounds said, “The sermon cannot rise in its life-giving forces above the man. Dead men give out dead sermons, and dead sermons kill.” Bounds continues, “Everything depends on the spiritual character of the preacher.” Who he is all week is who he will be when he steps to the pulpit—the passion and conviction of his message is only as strong as the passion and conviction within him.
The same is true with you: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). What goes in ultimately comes out. A paraphrase of, The Battle Within, found in my books, illustrates this truth: A young man in need of help for his troubled life, walked to a neighboring church. He told the pastor that his life was meaningless and in constant turmoil. He wanted to make better choices, but couldn’t. He described the conflict: “It’s as if I have two dogs constantly battling within me. One dog is evil, while the other is good. The battles are long and difficult; they drain me emotionally and mentally.” The pastor asked, “Which dog wins the battles?” Hesitantly, the young man admitted, “The evil dog.” Without a moment’s thought, the pastor looked at him and said, “That’s the one that you feed the most. You need to starve that dog to death!”
The pastor realized, as should we, that the source of our strength comes from the food that we choose. What we feed grows, and what grows becomes the stronger force within our lives. Sin has a life cycle—it either grows or withers depending on whether you feed or starve it. Which dog wins the battle in your mind? Entertainment plays a huge role in this. Proverbs 23:7 says, as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. To be completely honest, the list of acceptable entertainment is small, very small. For some, the best policy may be out of sight, out of mind. You’d be amazed at what a week or two of no television would do for your spiritual life.
Think about it: Just a few decades ago, most of today’s television programs and movies would have shocked the public. Programs that never would have aired then, receive the highest ratings now. You may say, “Times change.” And you are correct, but God’s standards do not. The sin that once amazed us now amuses us. When sin begins to amuse us, we are dangerously close to the edge: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).
No wonder families are disintegrating; it’s evident to me that we’ve embraced an attitude of compromise in our nation, and, more sadly, in our homes. Culture reflects our religion. In other words, the culture around us reflects who and what we value. How we dress, what we view, who we hang out with, what we listen to, and how we spend our time, all speak volumes as to what we cherish. Are we cherishing the things of God, or the things of the world?