A couple of months ago I watched an absolutely incredible documentary on television and related motion-picture media put out by The Apologetics Group. The documentary is entitled Pandora’s Box Office, and it is very effective in exposing the harmful influence of this device. I shared in another blog entry a while back a poem entitled “The Devil’s Vision” that was written some time back in the 1950s on television that was actually very astute. Written during a time when, by today’s standards, television really did seem mostly harmless, it is evident that even then at least some discerning Christians were aware of its growing influence, as well as the influences that were growing behind it, shaping what it would become.
I must admit to having a strong disdain for television, especially cable and satellite network programming. I know that in a sense, I am a bit of a hypocrite because I have subscribed to cable and satellite TV channels in the past. For a little over a year now, though, my family has gone without the 200 channels of sin on-demand. Even without the 3 or 4 halfway decent educational channels missing from the electronic altar, my family appears to be doing just fine. When people ask me why we don’t have cable or satellite service (especially with the rural reception issues we have out where we live), I have to keep going back to the eternal perspective.
Does having 200 channels of Garbage Input help me focus on Christ? Does it help my wife or my kids better know the person of Jesus Christ? Does having 200 hypnotists in our living room help us better serve the needs of our church or of the unchurched and unsaved community around us? Does 200 false teachers, worldly wise men, sin-planters, and desire-harvesters help me minister to the spiritual needs of my family and keep them focused on the eternal things that God loves? Is there any good to come of exposing ourselves to the world’s leading campaigner for the “gotta-have-it-hot-here-and-now, forget-about-tomorrow” mentality when we belong to Jesus Christ today and desire Him for eternity?
If we are truly converted and have the eyes of our hearts set on eternity and not on the perishable products of our modern culture, then would that not be reflected in the desires we live out? That is, if God has truly elected me for salvation and I have truly understood what that means (and I am not real sure the two of those ideas can actually be separated as if either could exist independent of the other), then should not the indwelling Spirit of Christ steer the passions of my heart toward those things that are pleasurable in Him? Shouldn’t the desires of the flesh and the seeds of sin begin to falter and fall away? No longer will I want to spend my time, money, and energy pursuing sin and earthly pleasure, for it is contrary to the new heart that exists within me. If I continue in those things, I should question the certainty of my salvation, for if God has put a new heart in me then it only follows that it should desire the things God Himself desires.
As with so many affluent nations past, we are a people of many idols, and most of our lives are filled with way too much idol time. We make idols of ourselves, of actors, athletes, and politicians, of our fashions, of our homes, of our jobs, of our families, of our hobbies, of our interests, even of our ministries or our pastors in the church! John Angell James wrote a piece nearly 200 years ago that (similar to Jeremiah Burroughs writings nearly 400 years ago) may actually be even more applicable today than they were in the time in which they were written. In his article entitled Spiritual Idolatry, some of which I have quoted here already in a former post, James writes:
Creature love, when excessive and indulgent, to the neglect of God, must draw away the strength of a renewed heart, and impoverish the soul of her spiritual wealth and prosperity. To many it is perfectly evident that their religion, under the weakening and withering influence of this undue regard to some worldly object, has sunk to a mere form; they have a name to live, but are dead; and if they reflect at all, it is in some such strain as the poet’s—
What peaceful hours I once enjoyed,
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void,
The world can never fill.
Through the deceitfulness of the heart, we are very apt to be imposed upon by the pure and lawful objects which, in some cases, are thus idolized. Lawful I mean in themselves, and sinful only in the excessive degree in which they are regarded. As professors of true religion, you do not and cannot love and worship sin. The children of this world may do this, and exalt their vices into gods. But many of your idols are virtues—or objects in themselves quite innocent. You may, and ought to love your relatives; you may and ought to value your business, home, ministers, and ordinances of religion; and these things become sinful, only when loved more than God. Here lies the difficulty—to keep them in due subordination to God. Yet the deceitfulness of the heart takes advantage of this difficulty, to blind us to the distinction between lawful and unlawful love, and to hurry us over the line of demarcation.
Let me, my dear friends, earnestly admonish you to give this subject a deep and due consideration. Examine your hearts. Does not the charge of spiritual idolatry appertain to you? Is there not some object, or class of objects, that have come between God and your souls? Have you no idols? Has your heart departed from the Lord? Search the mind, the house, the shop, the sanctuary, the world—and see where it has gone, and what you have exalted into a competitor with God. Be faithful to yourself. Is there not something for which God has a controversy with you? Ask yourself what it is you trust in, look to, depend upon, for happiness. Do you indeed look through and above all—to God? Is God your center, rest, and dwelling place? Is Christ more to you than everything else? Is it he that is precious? Is he the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely one? Is he the sun that makes the day of your prosperity, the moon that enlivens the night of your adversity? Is he your riches, your friend, your home, your pearl of great price? Say, dear brethren, is God really God to you—loved and treated as God should be?
I think that it is honest and right to examine ourselves in Light of Scripture and by the power of the Holy Spirit to determine whether or not we are indeed worshipping God. Are the things that we are holding up and praising eternal or perishable? I hear people all the time talking about their favorite television show or professional sports team, just gushing with excitement and adoration. Yet, when it comes to our glorious Savior who is truly worthy of our praise and proclamation, all too often we speak in hushed tones–as if we are almost embarrassed to be so smitten by the only one who gives us grace.
I think it is true that the vast majority of people when asked would say that they would like to go to Heaven when they die. And most of them think that they are. But if you asked them what their idea of Heaven is like, you will most likely find that it is their own man-centered fascination—a place that will completely satisfy their ideal life they felt they could not enjoy in this life. And in all honesty, most of those folks would probably re-think their desire to go there if they truly understood that Heaven is a place of eternal worship of the Triune God. It is not a place where perfection and glory is realized by our standards, but where it is revealed supremely by the presence of God. Coram Deo. If the most important thing in your life is not worshipping and serving God and recognizing the magnificent glory of His presence in this world, how could you possibly expect to enjoy Heaven when you arrive and find out that it’s not all about you—it’s all about God!
The true church is as close to Heaven on earth as you can get, and in this regard it is something of a litmus test for the self-proclaimed believer. The way you feel about the Church reveals much about the way you feel about Heaven. Going to church is a privilege, not a punishment. It is not penance. Rightly understood by the heart of the believer, spending time with brothers and sisters in Christ, worshiping, praising, and glorifying the King—this is but a foretaste of the glory divine! If our hearts don’t jump and skip a beat with excitement every time we have the honor and privilege of going to spend time in fellowship with other believers, then something is wrong with our hearts! Our Pastor said today that being in Heaven will be a lot like being in a church service, except that there will be no sin to dampen or diminish the Spirit of worship that will pour out of us as we worship our God. How heavenly is that! Amen!
Brothers and sisters, if we do indeed belong to Christ, then let us fix our eyes not on the tips of our earthly noses, but on that seemingly distant though fast-approaching day when we will stand before God and, by the character of our lives and the desires of our hearts, testify to our desire to spend eternity with Him.
1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, are not from the Father, but is from the world.
The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
Peace & Blessings,
In Christ, for Eternity~