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The World, The Christ, and Us – Part 3

The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life…

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 NKJV)

15Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NASB)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NKJV)

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  (1 John 2:15-17 ASV)

15 Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world— 16 the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever. (1 John 2:15-17 HCSB)

15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  17And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17 KJV)

15Love not ye the world, nor the things in the world; if any one doth love the world, the love of the Father is not in him,  16because all that [is] in the world — the desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and the ostentation of the life — is not of the Father, but of the world,  17and the world doth pass away, and the desire of it, and he who is doing the will of God, he doth remain — to the age. (1 John 2:15-17 YLT)

15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NIV)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the des ires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 ESV)

It is interesting to note, also, that what the Apostle is doing in this warning passage is not just referring to the world, but to all three of the cords that bind our souls for destruction: the flesh, the world, and the devil.  The lust of the flesh obviously refers to the flesh.  The lust of the eyes refers to the desire to obtain and find pleasure in the things of this world.  And the “ostentation” or vain-glory of life is that Satanic influence to exalt and glory in ourselves, rather than to be humbled to the dust by the glory of our magnificent Creator.

Consider what our Lord Himself says in the gospels.  In the gospel of Matthew, we read his words:

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:28-30)

In the gospel of Mark, we hear something very similar:

“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.'” (Mark 9:43,45,47-48).

In the passage from Matthew, Jesus starts with the heart and the sinful intent.  He then goes on to say it is better to cut off your hand or tear out your eye if they cause you to sin.  Of course, it is not the hand and the eye that cause the sin; they are the just the medium for its consumption.  It is the heart (or mind or affections) that control the members of the body.  The addition of the foot in the gospel of Mark is interesting, since this suggests the way we walk as well as that which we stand upon.  The Greek word “peripateo” means “to live” or “to walk”.  For a practical example of how our “walk” is basically the same as the life that is lived out of our heart, see Ephesians chapters 4 and 5.

Considering these warning passages in the gospels, there seems to be many parallels in John’s epistle.  I do not think that Jesus, the great physician meant for people to literally maim and mutilate themselves.  I do think He intended to underscore the severity of dealing with our sin.  The hands that so often feed the flesh the desires of its appetites; the eyes full of desire, seeking their satisfaction in whatever delights them; and the feet–the way we walk and what it is we are standing on.  They are both saying the same things different ways.  Seeking sensual pleasures, earthly treasures, and self-glorification will separate you from God eternally.  They are antithetical to the will of God.  Their end is hell and hopelessness.  If we are pursuing such ends, we MUST REPENT and turn again… for “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” (Acts 3:26)

It should also be noted that the fruit of the hand and the eye grows from the root of heart.  A rotten heart may produce bad fruit (the works or use of the hands and eyes), but they do not make the root bad.  It is not the fruit that corrupts the root, but the fruit stems forth from what is in the root.

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit.” (Luke 6:43)

And he said, “Are you also still without understanding?  Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” (Matthew 15:16-20)

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.  Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.” (Luke 11:34-35)

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The World, The Christ, and Us – Part 2

The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life…

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 NKJV)

15Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NASB)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NKJV)

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  (1 John 2:15-17 ASV)

15 Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world— 16 the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever. (1 John 2:15-17 HCSB)

15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  17And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17 KJV)

15Love not ye the world, nor the things in the world; if any one doth love the world, the love of the Father is not in him,  16because all that [is] in the world — the desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and the ostentation of the life — is not of the Father, but of the world,  17and the world doth pass away, and the desire of it, and he who is doing the will of God, he doth remain — to the age. (1 John 2:15-17 YLT)

15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NIV)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the des ires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 ESV)

Now to the third type of enmity.  To a certain extent, it is difficult to distinguish between the “lust of the eyes” and the “pride in possessions”, but it helps to keep in mind that the first refers to the covetous nature of the heart, always seeking to acquire what it does not yet have; the second refers to the way a person establishes their identity and purpose in what it they have obtained.  This could be the pride that results from material wealth and possessions, or it could also be the result of some other prestigious achievement in the eyes of the world—a certain position or title (be it in the church or in the secular world), a degree from a recognized university or institution, peer recognition as an authority or expert in a certain subject matter, or the public persona that accompanies accomplished actors, athletes, politicians, ministers, musicians, and published authors.

Whether by possessions, achievements, or simply by status (i.e., worldly recognition), a person can easily an unknowingly persist in enmity with God.  Other factors that can be even harder to detect might be a person’s family name, skin color, place of origin, place of worship, neighborhood, or “social circles”.  These, too, can put a man at enmity with God.  When a person forgets that all of those things are theirs purely by God’s providence, and instead they find glory for themselves in those things, they are in fact at enmity with God.  The more subtle the source of our pride becomes, the more insidious is its effect.  It was exactly these types of intangible possessions that the Apostle Paul deemed rubbish (or refuse–or even dung, depending on the translation) in chapter 3 of Philippians, forsaking all in favor of obtaining Christ.

The ESV uses the phrase “pride in possessions”.  The NIV translates this as “boasting of what he has and does”.  Young’s Literal Translation adds the curious phrase, “the ostentation of the life.”  The Random House Dictionary defines “ostentation” this way: pretentious or conspicuous show, as of wealth or importance; display intended to impress others. The 1828 Webster’s Dictionary also defines this word as an “outward show or appearance”.  It also adds this helpful bit:

Ambitious display; vain show; display of any thing dictated by vanity, or intended to invite praise or flattery. Ostentation of endowments is made by boasting or self-commendation. Ostentation often appears in works of art and sometimes in acts of charity. (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary)

In this regard, I think that I prefer the Holman Christian translation, “pride in one’s lifestyle” and perhaps even moreso the American Standard Version’s “vain glory of life” for a better understanding of this third great danger.  I think what the apostle is driving at goes beyond “pride in possessions” or “boasting of what he has and does”; it is the pride that a person takes in their own self.  In this sense I understand the lust (or the desires) of the flesh pertain to physical appetites of our fleshly bodies—food, sex, and sensual (or sensory) pleasure.  Whereas the desires of the flesh and the eyes pertain to the physical body and to the mind (or the heart), the “vain glory of life” (or “pride in one’s lifestyle”) really has to do with the condition of the soul.  This is a much more subtle, yet much more serious sin.  The warning here is against self-glorification.

Created by God and in the image of God, our souls are designed to desire Him, worship Him, and see the glory of Him.  This is the condition of the soul created by God, and untainted by sin.  But in the garden, the serpent deceived Eve who also gave the fruit to Adam.  Now to be sure, the serpent was dishonest and deceived the woman.  But as is so often the case, there was some very real truth mixed in to the lie of the serpent when he said “you will be like God.”  In a certain regard, they would be.  But they would also be like the serpent: seeking their own glory.  Just as God does all for His own glory, now fallen man would attempt to do the same.  Just as God determines what is good and what is evil, now fallen man attempts to do the same.  This results in a definite conflict of interests between the Creator of all things and one of His created beings.  And this is the great irony of what Satan told Eve in the Garden.  The result of rebelling against God to “be like God” was rather not to be like God at all, but like his adversary the devil.

The result of this sin is this: in his fallen state, man (just like Satan himself) seeks to exalt his own self over all else.  This conflict of natures—man’s self-exaltation and the position that only God Himself occupies on His throne—is the reason man incurs God’s judgment (as well as the reason that God is just in judging us).  This is also why Jesus can say to the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” (John 8:44)  This is not just true of the Pharisees, though, but for all mankind, for it is the seed of the devil himself that his been sown into the heart of every man (read Romans 1-3).  That is why it is necessary for a fallen sinner to be spiritually reborn according to the power of the Spirit to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, for we are born into this world just like everything else… according to our own kind.  We come from a long line of sinners.  Without a supreme work of grace and divine intervention, we cannot help but be the seed we have been sown.

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The World, The Christ, and Us – Part 1

The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life…

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 NKJV)

15Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NASB)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NKJV)

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  (1 John 2:15-17 ASV)

15 Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world— 16 the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever. (1 John 2:15-17 HCSB)

15Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  17And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17 KJV)

15Love not ye the world, nor the things in the world; if any one doth love the world, the love of the Father is not in him,  16because all that [is] in the world — the desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and the ostentation of the life — is not of the Father, but of the world,  17and the world doth pass away, and the desire of it, and he who is doing the will of God, he doth remain — to the age. (1 John 2:15-17 YLT)

15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NIV)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the des ires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 ESV)

I looked this verse up in many translations that I would consider to be reliable and printed them here to reflect on.  I like the ESV translation, especially with regards to the first two of the three—“the desires of the flesh” and “the desires of the eyes”—but as I continue to mull over and meditate on this passage I think that “pride in possessions” falls a little short of what I think John is saying.  I’ll try to make more sense of that as I proceed.  First, though, I’d like to consider the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes.

The lust (or the desires) of the flesh… these are physical appetites of the body.  It is important to understand that these may be God-given needs—such as food to feed the body, physical comfort (so that we may rest), and sex (both for pleasure and for pro-creation).  But as a result of Adam’s sin, and of our fallen and corrupt natures, these physical needs and appetites are distorted and out of balance.  We should be in control of our appetites.  But because of sin, they are most often in control of us.  We are slaves to food, alcohol (or other intoxicants), and to sexual passions, but God did not create man to be enslaved by these things.  He created these (some of them anyway) for man’s enjoyment, not his enslavement.  The enslavement to them is a result of sin, and results in further bondage to sin.

I understand the lust (or the desires) of the eyes pertain to those things that are external to our bodies.  The lust of the eyes is most often associated with covetousness.  Our eyes are seeking things to derive pleasure (or worth) from, although this is a certainly different from the sensual pleasure that comes from sex, food, or intoxicating substances that have a direct effect on our physical nature.  The pleasure that comes from gambling or winning the lottery, from buying a boat or a new car or a new house, or even some new clothes or jewelry is very real and can be very intense.  And most certainly there is an emotional aspect to the acquisition of such things, but it is obviously pleasure of a very different sort than would be had from a large meal, sexual intercourse, or an intoxicating substance.  It is a pleasure that is more oriented to the mind or, as our Christian forefathers centuries ago might say to the “affections” (or the heart) than it is to the body.

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Reality, Utopia, and Christ

Well, in my last post I mentioned an email that a friend of mine sent out to several people mentioning an article he came across on the movie “Avatar” actually resulting in depression for several viewers.  He asked some good questions: What strikes your mind as you read it? What does it say to you about Christianity (the religion) as we know it, the current level of Kingdom influence in our world, and about what we should be doing?

Well, I have given everyone who comes by to visit my site a few days to respond, and since neither of you did, I’ll go ahead and post my own response to these questions my friend asked…

I have not seen the movie, but I think it is a sad indictment that culturally we have moved so far away from the REALITY of God’s Word that a movie about a virtual world and the possibilities within *that* place, stir us to greater heights and depths of emotion than what is taking place not just here in the *real* world, but also in the heavenly realm which is our real home.  We were not made to be permanent residents of this world, but rather we are warned not to fall in love with this world, not to be dragged away by passions that can only be satisfied by it, and to live here as aliens… as *sojourners*.  This brings us into a conflict that affects all of us–believers and unbelievers alike.  We cannot find our satisfaction here.

I think it is important, though, to remember who we ARE as a result of the Fall.  In the book of Romans, Paul lays it out pretty clearly and we can see this image of man reflected back through everything we see on television and in the movies.  Collectively speaking, this is who we are:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32)

It is little wonder that someone who is confronting this *reality* (whether it is a result of seeing a movie, reading their Bible, or dealing with the recognition of their own depravity) would become depressed.  It is depressing news.  Any time we begin to really see the impact of man’s fallen nature and the effects of our sin on God’s creation (whether it is our own personal corruption or the collective corruption of mankind), it is overwhelmingly depressing.

For the believer, though, we have a blessed hope.  We are the “called-out” ones.  But paradoxically, we are not called *out* of this world when we hear His voice.  We are called *into* it.  We are given a savage mission: to live IN this world as aliens and strangers, to *suffer*, and to work as unto the Lord.  And He has given us a task: to glorify Him, to be a witness for Him to the ends of the earth.  He has promised us joy in this, but He has also promised us suffering on His behalf.  We will toil, we will suffer, but we will not lose heart.  We have a blessed hope, a Rock, a Refuge, and an eternal home.

For the one without hope in Christ and who wants even a temporary escape, nothing provides like technology.  In fact, I think it is this desire to “escape reality” that has driven most of the major advances in technology over the last hundred or so years, and truth be told it isn’t just unbelievers who are guilty of falling victim to it.  It throws an appealing lure, and it is natural for us to take the bait.

“Real life” is hard.  It demands sacrifice and serving others.  “Real life” does not always work out the way we would like it to.  We are not in control of it.  It includes wayward children, strained marriages, death and disease, addictions and abuse.  It places demands on us we do not always want to meet, requires more from us than we often want to give, and also tends to grant us far less than we would like to have.  It can be painful, difficult, and full of trial.  No wonder, people want to check out and look for some way—ANY way—of escape.  If you look with eyes that can see, most of the way people use technology in their daily life is “escape”… a way of staying distracted (i.e. “entertained”) so that they can forget about “real life” for a while.

Some find their escape in sports, others in movies… or some other visual form of entertainment (TV, game systems, computer games, pornography, etc.). For some, it is cell phones, texting, Facebook, shopping, collecting, or whatever else brings some pleasure for a time.  But it is always and only for a time.  That’s because for the believer and unbeliever alike, there is no real and lasting satisfaction to be had in this world.  The grass withers, and the flower falls… moth and rust destroy… thieves break in and steal.  We were not created to be satisfied in a fallen world tainted by the corruption of sin and death.  For the one who has no real, eternal hope in Christ, they find their “best life now”–finding some small joy in trinkets and distractions, though only for a little while.  BUT GOD

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Don’t run past that last sentence too quickly.  We are HIS workmanship, created in Christ Jesus (we are a NEW creation in Him) for good works.  We are not saved by good works, but for them.  Now, if this is true, then as I said earlier we are not saved OUT of this world, but INTO it.  We are called to be salt and light, and instruments for His glory.  We are not our own, but have been bought with a price and are to glorify God in our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20).

And we can find our encouragement and our greatest example in Christ, who did not look for any way of escape, and who would not be distracted from His eternal purpose, but for the JOY set before Him endured the suffering…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

BE OF GOOD COURAGE! Listen one more time to the words of the Apostle Paul.  Do not be depressed or discouraged—be it by a movie or by a man.  The Apostle who suffered countless beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonment, and death itself for His love of Christ could experience all those things with JOY because His eyes were right.  He wrote to encourage the church in Corinth:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:1-10)

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Avatar, Utopia, and the Kingdom of God

A friend of mine recently sent an email to several people with a news article that I tracked down to AOL Health.  It is entitled, “Does Watching Avatar Lead To Depression”, written by Deborah Huso.  My friend asked us to consider these questions as we read the article, “What strikes your mind as you read it? What does it say to you about Christianity (the religion) as we know it, the current level of Kingdom influence in our world, and about what we should be doing?”

Here is the article that was posted on the AOL Health page in its entirety:

Does Watching “Avatar” Lead to Depression

By Deborah Huso

Hundreds of fans of James Cameron’s hit film “Avatar,” which has raked in $1.4 billion, are reporting symptoms of depression as well as suicidal thoughts after seeing the movie. The film is set in the future when the Earth’s resources have been depleted and a corporation is looking to mine the natural resources of a planet called, Pandora, which is portrayed as a world of beauty, with inhabitants that are close to nature and all creatures are connected. Many attribute their depression to the fact that the utopian world shown in the movie is unattainable here on earth and makes life seem meaningless.

One fan, who calls herself “Outsider,” wrote on Avatar-Forums.com, after seeing the film for the third time, “I thought the third time would help. It did not. I have slipped deeper into the depression than ever before. Now I am back at home and I am going to die. This depression will kill me.”

Crazy as it may sound at first, feeling blue after engaging in some form of escapism, whether it’s an especially touching movie or a great book, isn’t unusual. But if it’s impacting your ability to function, you could be taking escapism to the extreme. Escapism on that level can be a symptom of all kinds of problems from anxiety disorder to clinical depression.

“If a person has such an inordinate attraction to fantasy material and is prevented access to it, frustration, stress, anxiety or depression might possibly result,” said Frank Farley, Ph.D., a professor of educational psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. “Modeling or identifying with media depictions is not unknown,” he added. “Yet most people make the distinction of reality versus fantasy.”

“Virtual life is not real life and it never will be, but this is the pinnacle of what we can build in a virtual presentation so far,” Dr. Stephan Quentzel, psychiatrist and Medical Director for the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York told CNN. “It has taken the best of our technology to create this virtual world and real life will never be as utopian as it seems onscreen. It makes real life seem more imperfect,” he said.

But even as some moviegoers despair over the human condition after seeing Cameron’s film, not all of “Avatar‘s” fans are singing the blues. Many have seen the movie as inspirational. Another fan, “One of the People,” commented last week, “Sometimes I get to thinking that it sucks that our planet can’t be like Pandora, that we have to be so vain and greedy, but at the end of the day all I’m trying to do is feel better with myself and “Avatar” has helped me do that. I may have had the ‘depression‘ for a day, but all it did was make me want to improve myself.”

The same fan later wrote:”I have also experienced a positive outcome. I feel inspired to do a great variety of things and make my life more meaningful. Whenever I need motivation, I just think about Pandora and Neytiri and Voila!”

I read several good responses to those questions, and felt compelled to respond as well.  Before I post further, though, I would like to invite you to respond with your own thoughts.

What strikes your mind as you read it? What does it say to you about Christianity (the religion) as we know it, the current level of Kingdom influence in our world, and about what we should be doing?

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Is TV Really So Bad (Joel Beeke)

Is TV Really So Bad?

by Dr Joel R. Beeke

We are living in a sin-sick, morally degenerate, and pleasure-mad world. Our society continually demands entertainment, amusements, and pastimes at an ever-increasing level.

What is the goal of this “continual-entertainment” spirit? To keep modern man happily busy.

In a certain sense, entertainment does succeed in its goal. It keeps thousands and millions busy.

The very words themselves reveal this fact. The word amusement comes originally from the French and literally means “to stare at fixedly so as to prevent musing or thinking.”  The word pastime speaks for itself. It means to kill or use up time as a thing of little value; to pass time away. The root of the word entertainment means to divert. Thus it implies something which takes us away or diverts us from the normal, real world of everyday life.

In other words, entertainment, amusements, pastimes are things which keep us busy – busy avoiding the realities of life and truth as they are set down in God’s Holy Word. They keep us busy avoiding thinking about eternity, hell, heaven, sin, God, Christ, salvation, our own selves, and especially our need for a new heart.

But if entertainment succeeds in its first goal of making man busy it fails miserably in its second: happily busy. Never has there been so much restlessness, dissatisfaction, and yes, unhappiness – in spite of the millions who immerse themselves in modern-day entertainment. Despite our freedom from poverty, our multiplication of opportunities in nearly every walk and aspect of life, plus our continual drinking in of entertainment – no age has been as unhappy as modern man.

Entertainment can never give enough – it always leaves an empty feeling behind. The more it is practiced and relied on, the emptier it becomes.

It has turned our society into an object of pity, for we are victims of our own system. Society goes full cycle, from being pleasure-hungry to pleasure-mania to pleasure-boredom.

But do you know what is even worse? Not only the world, but also the church has begun sliding down the slippery slope of entertainment which can only end in sin, and disastrous results.

Satan does not stop with liberal churches only. He comes also among us. We who believe that the truth is still preached among us – who know so well that the Word of God says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil,” who read continually, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” – are also beginning to fall victim to the idolatrous god of entertainment.

Step-by-step some are beginning to look for new things (in the church and outside of the church) with which we entertain and keep ourselves busy. Step-by-step the old-fashioned, plain gospel message with its emphasis on the necessity of conversion, is being increasingly de-emphasised. Less and less time is being spent praying together as a family, reading religious books together with children, talking together in family circles about spiritual matters.

Are we not all guilty? Do we not all fall short in experiencing the reality of the seriousness of life, death, the judgment day, and eternity? Today we have a carefree, laughing society, but you never read in the Bible that Jesus took life lightly. Rather, especially referring to our day, He said: “Watch, and pray, and again I say unto you watch!”

But by nature we don’t watch. By nature our question is, “How far can I go and still not sin?” instead of, “How far can I flee from sin and avoid the very appearance of evil?”

At the very heart and center of our modern entertainment spirit stands TELEVISION. This is an obvious fact. Television sets are in the homes of 97% of Americans today and 91% of all television time is dedicated solely to the purpose of entertainment. Entertainment-addiction and television-addiction cannot be separated from each other.

Our society has become TELE-HOLIC. On a night when wives do not leave home, 95 out of 100 will spend it watching TV and 85% of their husbands will do likewise. Among teenagers, 80% will follow their parents’ example, and 75% of children will also spend their evening drinking in the sin shown on TV.

There are people, however, who do not believe that television becomes an object of slavery in the home, and for that reason we have to consider the power of it in the homes where it is allowed. I shall seek to show you from plain facts that a television owner usually becomes addicted to TV with respect to (A) TIME, (B) SIN, and (C) CONTROL.

(A) TIME. The average TV viewer spends 5½ hours per day watching TV. By the time an average American youth becomes sixty-five years old, he will have spent fourteen years of his life watching TV (compared to one year spent in church, Sunday School, and catechism if he comes faithfully to all). In the U.S.A. children three to five years old spend fifty-four hours every week watching TV, which is 64% of their time awake. When the average graduate from high school receives his diploma at seventeen years of age, he will have spent 11,000 hours of his life in school, but 22,000 hours watching TV. Every time an adult sits down to watch TV, he/she averages 3½ hours of watching time before turning the TV off. Children are glued to TV for an average of 2½ hours per sitting. With the exception of sleeping, the average American will spend more time in his life watching TV than anything else – yes even more than working. Do we not have a tele-holic society with respect to our precious, God-given time?

(B) SIN. TV is a flood of sin. It numbs its watchers against all ten commandments.

First commandment:  Anything we put above God becomes an idol. Modern man has become addicted to putting TV before God.

Second commandment:   If not in reality, in practice TV has become a graven image in the hearts of most of its watchers.

Third commandment:  TV causes its hearers to become addicted to hearing the name of the Lord used in vain. Profanity is used so often that it becomes an inoffensive thing. Few TV watchers realize that every time they willingly watch and hear such things, all those sins are reckoned to them on account of their willing participation.

Fourth commandment:  Even the Sabbath Day is not holy enough for TV watchers to keep it turned off, or, if a small percentage may still do so for conscience’s sake, desire and craving for it usually remains even on the Lord’s Day.

Fifth commandment:  TV does anything but honor father and mother. It continually degrades fatherhood and motherhood, and even frequently glorifies the disobedience of children. Family life, respect for authority, and obedience to government are repeatedly violated on program after program.

Sixth commandment:  Instead of “thou shalt not kill,” one study reached the conclusion that by the time a child is fourteen at least 18,000 violent assaults and murders take place before his eyes. Another study confirmed that the average child between five and thirteen years of age soaks in 1,300 murders each year, so that violence, assaults, and murders no longer speak the message of sin or its consequences. Murders, hatred, violent actions and words assume  the role of normal behavior. The average child’s program contains thirty-eight acts of violence per hour (adult program: twenty). A New York City judge who spent his life in courts judging juvenile delinquents and teenage criminals has plainly said that those who investigated the situation know that TV is a prime cause of crime. Another judge said: “Parents, one hour of TV can teach your children more crime, rebellion, smart-aleck freshness, and sex than you can counteract in months if you work at it.”

The trouble with violence on TV is that it does not show the real consequences of violence. The guilt that is left behind in the soul of the murderer, the bereaved family, the orphaned children, the filled hospitals, and the solemn graveyards are not shown. Especially in children’s programs violence is often totally unreal. Their heroes are often crushed or blown into pieces and moments later reappear unscathed. TV is artificial violence glorified instead of showing real violence in all of its ugly and terrible long-term consequences. Is it a wonder then that there have been thousands of examples of tragedies nationwide when children have “played TV together”?

Seventh commandment:  How can the TV viewer remain pure with respect to the seventh commandment when seven out of eight references to sexual acts on TV take place between those who are not married? How can he remain pure when the TV viewer sees on an average of three times every hour sexual misconduct between unmarried adults? How can he remain moral when countless circumstances, conversations, immodest dress, actions, and behavior all point to the excitement and acceptability of sinning against the seventh commandment in a false and unrealistic way?

Eighth commandment:  Can an hour be found that goes by when TV actors do not unashamedly steal before their audience? It is not wonder that thousands of thefts in real life have been patterned after TV plots and heroes.

Ninth commandment:  Lying against a neighbor becomes a normal, acceptable, and even expected form of behavior on television shows.

Tenth commandment:  Covet is a desirable word for TV viewers. Constantly they are reminded through advertisements of a stream of unending luxuries which they are told they shall never be happy without. There is always something they must have which they don’t have. The programs themselves are not an exception. For one man to covet another man’s wife (or vice versa) is the main theme of entire shows.

From beginning to end TV glorifies sin. On TV the only thing that is “sin” is morality. TV applauds sin, approves of sin, and forces its watchers to minimise sin through tens of thousands of countless repetitions. Over and over again the traditional family life is despised as old-fashioned: fatherhood is replaced with heroism via pathways of sin; motherhood is rejected as demeaning; obedience from children is laughed at as being too boring to be entertaining.

TV has become a catalogue of sin, and all studies reveal it is getting worse. It has become the devil’s classroom. The devil is smart enough to throw in a little religion too, and occasionally even a little morality, to pacify consciences enough not to throw it out. Does not TV make a tele-holic society with respect to sin when it feeds lust, perverts morals, presents impurity as love, pictures murder as thrilling, exalts nakedness and indecency as beauty, and seeks to legitimize all kinds of sin against every command of God?

(C) CONTROL Here the addiction becomes even more serious. Thousands of family fights take place regularly because no agreement can be reached on which show to indulge in. In American homes 35% of mealtimes are spent in front of the TV set. Nightly thousands of parents realize the programs that will come on are demoralizing and harmful for their children but yet are so hungry themselves to drink in the sin which they contain that they often let their children watch it too, having no power to control it.

People who say they can control TV are usually speaking idealistically, not realistically:

(1) Our natural hearts love sin, our ears listen for sin, our eyes look for sin. That is just the problem with TV. It is not the box itself that is the problem, but it is our hearts. TV shows what the heart of man wants to see. We have enough “TVs” already in our hearts without buying one for our home. It is our “TV hearts” that are inclined to TV sets. We do not stand above a TV watcher – just the opposite. We desire to come so low that we confess we would not trust our own heart with such an instrument.

(2) Who is able to keep sin from flashing before them on the screen at any moment, whether it be through the program being watched or through advertisement?

(3) Is a person who has owned a TV set for some time, and consequently become hardened to many sins, really qualified to know what is necessary to “control”?

Man does not control TV. TV controls him. Only one study of many will prove this point. Approximately four years ago in St. Catharines, Ontario, the newspaper headlines read one day: $500 paid for disposing of TV. The article went on to say that a study was done in Detroit in which the goal was to find out to what degree people are controlled by TV. Two hundred fifty families were scientifically selected from various races and classes to be offered $500 if they would live without their TV set for one month. After thirty days they could take it back in, and receive $500 free. Out of 250, only fifty families agreed to do it. How many families “made it” through this trial of thirty days? Eight! The other forty-two forfeited their $500 sometime during the month – one family took their TV back in on the 29th day. The eight who made it through were interviewed extensively. All said it brought their family closer together without TV. Six fathers said they first learned to know their children. One father said: “The day that I disposed of our TV  was the first day in twenty-five years that no one was killed in our living room, no sirens screamed, no shots rang out, no artificial merriment told us when to laugh, and no one slashed anyone else.” And what was the final result of these eight families of whom seven said their family life was considerably more rewarding without TV? The last line of the article tells us: “All eight families took TV back in.”

Tele-holism. Knowing it does more harm than good, and still keeping it – that is slavery.
Dear friend, I urge you to dispose of TV today on the following grounds:

(1) It is against the word of God. In Psalm 119 the Lord commands us to turn our eyes from vanity. The entire Bible speaks against television because of its unending list of evils.

(2) The sinfulness of television damages your own soul. Every secular and/or religious study has revealed TV’s over-all effects. Since you know that we are fallen children of Adam and Eve, corrupt, and prone to backsliding, why do you unnecessarily feed your own corrupt nature with still more corruption through this instrument of sin?

(3) Studies on television reveal that TV also hinders the God-given treasure of family life and communion. This alone should be reason enough to dispose of TV immediately.

(4) By keeping television you are stepping on and fighting against your own conscience.

(5) You are wasting precious God-given time for which you will have to give an account one day. Would it not be far better that you take the time spent watching TV to read Scripture or good books, or listen to sermon tapes?

Do yourself a favor: for the Word of God’s sake, the church’s sake, your own soul’s sake, your family’s sake, your conscience’s sake, dispose of your television today. Do it permanently before you become its lifelong slave.

Finally, may it become the prayer of all of us with David: “I will set no evil thing before my eyes. Turn Thou my eyes from beholding vanity.”
(Pilgrim’s Gate; Condensed)

(This article from Fair Dinkum, Free Autralian Magazine, issue 52. All statistics are taken from studies conducted between 1979 and 1999.)

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Necrophilia and Narcissism (Take Two)

A couple of days ago I wrote a post entitled “Necrophilia and Narcissism”, and got a good response from someone who read that post.  I am always thankful when someone takes the time to leave a comment, and especially when they challenge me to think more deeply about what and why I believe.  I would like to take a minute and personally thank you, Daniel, for taking the time to comment and to challenge my position and assumptions.

I purposefully included a broad spectrum of vices and devices in that group.  Few would argue against death as the ultimate end of anger and violence, although some may not see the evident end of it in things like pornography and adultery.  To my mind, pornography and adultery are the same.  Jesus makes that clear in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28). But we don’t necessarily even have to look at someone lustfully with our eyes; it might be concealed in the dark thoughts of our mind where no one else can see but God.  And concerning the ends of adultery, the Proverbs are very clear that the end of adultery is death.

We know the same is true for alcohol and drugs, and that the word which is commonly translated as sorcery from the Greek in Galatians 5 in Paul’s list of “bad fruit” is from the Greek “pharmikea” from which we get “pharmacy” and “pharmaceuticals”.  The death sentence was also proclaimed on diviners and necromancers (i.e., those who communed with the dead for knowledge).  And I’m sure we all know someone who has been effected by death produced by drugs and or alcohol, whether by a drunk driver, overdose, or some other tragic consequence of their influence.  Surely, most of us have seen someone we know become someone we no longer knew at all as a result of drug or alcohol addiction.  I can speak from painful and personal experience to these things.  (And God has delivered me from many addictions, as well – cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, pornography, so again I have some experience with these things.)  The door to addiction is called pleasure, and that is what draws people into alcohol, drug, and sexual addictions.  But the Proverb is true that says: “One who wanders from the way of good sense will rest in the assembly of the dead. Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” (Proverbs 21:16-17)

Many will also admit that cigarettes cause cancer and that there is no life-giving benefit to smoking cigarettes.  Yet, I know many people–both friends and family–who despite knowing that there is no medical benefit and much evidence of the harm that smoking does to the body, still smoke.  Many of them have kids.  I would assume that they are at least somewhat aware that 20 or so times a day smoking *this* cigarette right here right now might cost them several years of life down the road with their kids and/or their grandchildren, but they do not feel compelled to stop.

So those may be obvious.  But television?  Junk food and soda pop?  Coffee?  Too much sugar?  Pharmaceutical drugs?  These are things that our culture says are okay, right?  Even Jesus drank in moderation didn’t he?  There is a Proverb that reads, “Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.” (Proverbs 23:30-33) And another that says, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.” (Proverbs 31:4-5) These do not reflect the character of Christ at all, but they certainly reflect the character of many who love their alcohol today.

Now, in moderation, some things are fine.  I have children.  And I have appetites of my own.  I happen to like coffee a lot.  But if I drink too much of it and not enough water, it is bad for my body.  My body lets me know if I’m drinking too much coffee and not enough water.  And if I do it for a long period of time, it gets worse and worse.  I don’t have a problem with a bowl of ice cream or a couple cookies after dinner.  But if one of my kids wants to drink soda and snack on candy, cookies, and crackers before a meal, and then claim they are not hungry when it’s time to eat their vegetables, I know they are not getting the nutrition that they need.  And if this persists for days and weeks and months and years. . . well, there may be one more member of my family who dies at an early age because of obesity and diabetes.  If they never learn to develop healthy appetites and feed their bodies the nutrition that they need–and they never develop that necessary sense of moderation–well, the end of such is death.  That is just the simple truth.  The Apostle Paul writes in his epistle to the Philippians: “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18-19)

And the big problem with our American society today is it does not teach any sort of understanding of moderation or “delayed gratification” (or a true sense of self-sacrifice for that matter).  But rather it encourages a spirit of “I want it here, I want it now, I want it hot, and I shouldn’t have to wait for it or work for it.”  The family meal has almost vanished, and a real appreciation of food and nutrition is lacking in our society like never before.  But our heart-attitude toward food is really not specific to just food, but to almost everything in our society.  Speaking in admittedly sweeping and general terms, I think it is obvious that we are a people who have very little appreciation for anything, and who live with a sense of expectation.  Indeed, the basic marketing principle that underlies our whole consumer society is that “we deserve” all these things being sold to us.  The focus is entirely all on self and self-gratification.  Narcissism; the love of self.  But the Apostle writes to the church: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

And what of television?  Well, I guess we’ve agreed that pornography and violence produce death, but isn’t that 90 percent of what television sits on?  Most of the shows on TV (even most professional sports) package up some form of sex and violence, encouraging anger, dissension, and adultery all the while selling and reinforcing those primary principles of entitlement and instant (self) gratification.  Television like nothing else in the last 50 years has taught us to devalue everything around us, promoting sex and violence, and a continual discontentment with what we have–always telling us that to want more, to not be satisfied with what we have, whatever it may be–whether our home, our car, our job, our material possessions, our spouse, our children, our very lives. . . which ultimately means dissatisfaction and discontentment with God, our great provider of ALL things.  This is the basic message that television promotes and it is at enmity with God.

Now, please understand — I have not gone off the deep end.  I am not advocating the destruction of television sets and soda vending machines all across the land.  But I think it is good and necessary to point out that even those thinks that we accept as harmless to determine what sort of fruit they ultimately produce.   It is also good to examine our own hearts and our appetites to see if they are balanced.  And if they are not, to take steps to correct them.  As I said in the article, sometimes it is our appetite that is not healthy moreso than the thing we crave itself…. that “our voracious consumption of it only works to bring about death.”  “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food. Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:1-5)

Now the other important point of the post, and what I was really shooting for (but probably missed) was not just the Necrophilia, but perhaps more importantly, the Narcissism.  I think it is true that the vast majority of us are drawn to (or “consume”) perhaps one or more things that unchecked and unmoderated could contribute or bring about our demise, but it is usually pretty easy to see the effects of these things and to recognize when we are no longer in control of our appetites, but they in control of us.  The greater danger it seems to me is not the Necrophilia, but the Narcissism.  Even when it comes to own our Necrophiliac tendencies, our usual habit (at least mine anyway) is not to lament over our own Necrophiliac tendencies and to cry to the Lord for help, but to see them in others and wag our heads and make mouths at them (Psalm 22).  Isn’t this typically the beam in our own eye.  I’m sure it is in mine.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

And even when we do we lament and cry out, how much more often is it for our Necrophilia than our Narcissism?  How often is the condition of our heart truly more like the Pharisee than the Publican, whether we state it so or not?  That was the point that I really wanted to emphasize.

My motivation in the post was not to condemn everyone who has an addiction–be it to coffee, soda, sugar, and/or fast food. . . or anger, adultery, alcohol, and/or drugs.  I think there is actually a positive aspect in that addictions (and their consequences), when they become strongholds, can sometimes drive us to our knees so that we cry out to our Sovereign Lord for mercy.  Often the corruption of our lusts and desires and our complete helplessness to break free of them reveal our great need for a Savior, which is the place we really all need to come to if we are to be born again (John 3:1-15).

But when it comes to Narcissistic self-love and pride, I think it must be exceedingly rare that we are driven to God in despair for that.  It is the Narcissistic tendency rather than the Necrophiliac one that poses far greater danger because it masks the inner decay and the decomposition of the soul.  The Narcissistic tendency wants to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil not so much because we really want to be like God, but because like the serpent, we desire to sit in His throne.  And the Necrophiliac tendency wants to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, in spite of the fact that God has told us that to do so will bring death.

It is not that one tendency is “better” than the other, and both are dangerous to the life of the soul.  But I do think that the one is a bit more honest and obvious in both its effect and its assessment, and if for no other reason than that, it may serve to bring one to the Cross, recognizing the significance and the need for a Savior.  And yet, for those of us bound up by either one, the only hope of escape that we have is Christ, and that the God of all grace would mercifully open our eyes to the depths of our own depravity and reveal to us this great need for deliverance, for redemption. . . for Christ.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:1-15)

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