Bowling for Jesus: The god of entertainment

It’s more difficult for me to write this week’s blog post than usual. The reason for that is my rebellion about the topic. I’ve been arguing with the Lord about it now for quite some time. But I am finally willing to admit that I am being disobedient and double-minded when it comes to television and movies.

Gently yet persistently, the Holy Spirit has been teaching me God’s view on the subject since about 1994, when I became addicted to figure skating broadcasts. That was the year that Tonya Harding hired someone to smash Nancy Kerrigan’s knee during a practice session before the national championships. It was also the year I was hemorrhaging. So I had a lot of down time because I was on bed rest, awaiting surgery. I spent most of it lying in front of a flashing screen.

This is a difficult subject to broach because entertainment is a sacred cow in evangelical circles. Did you get that? Why do we call this kind of thing a sacred cow? The roots of the phrase go back to the golden calf that Aaron helped the Israelites fashion while Moses was on Mount Sinai, receiving the 10 commandments from God.

I wish I could say the standard applies only to me. But I honestly believe that Christians grieve the Holy Spirit when we spend precious time and limited financial resources taking nourishment not from God’s Word and through fellowship with other believers, but bowing to the god of this world… entertainment!

Like the proverbial frog in hot water, we have grown so comfortable in Egypt, we bristle when anyone suggests that it isn’t God’s plan for His children to spend the gift of life in the same way as unbelievers. Just like the world, we:

  • Fill the silence with noise instead of quietly listening for God’s still small voice.
  • Pay to have cable or satellite television piped into our living rooms.
  • Use “extra” money to buy video players, DVDs, CDs, albums and gaming systems.
  • Devote our “free time” to reading magazines about movie stars instead of poring over the Word so we can get to know Jesus.
  • Wait in lines and pay high prices for seats in theaters which are often more ornate than cathedrals and boast not just screens—but altars.
  • Spend so much time at the world’s table, we know more about celebrity trivia than the Bible.
  • Schedule video recorders so we have plenty of programming to pass the idle hours.

This behavior is easy to justify because “everyone is doing it.” Except for the most conservative (even “Amish-like”) Christians, many of us own numerous flat screen TVs and give more money to Best Buy and AMC than to the church. But Jesus warned us about this type of behavior:

~2 Corinthians 10:12

For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

 

~Matthew 7: 13-14

“Enter by the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”   

 

Spiritually speaking, I try to remind myself of this verse whenever I find myself on a very crowded Christian street. If Jesus returned again to earth in the flesh and was sitting in my living room, would I invite Him to watch our family’s programming choices? Do we think it odd that the long-time number one show in the country is called American Idol? Is it accidental that the prize for winning is something our culture values above all else—fame and fortune? Is it coincidental that the other top-rated reality hit, Survivor, rewards lying, cheating and scheming and offers exemption from a token they call the idol?

Few today would argue that Satan, the prince of darkness, has control over the media. Most movies and TV shows glorify exactly the behavior that Timothy cautioned against in the last days:

~II Timothy 3:1-5

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Here’s where things get tough. Maybe you don’t watch mainstream TV or go to R-rated movies. So you can sit back and feel good about making “spiritually mature” programming choices. But I challenge you to consider this: even if the shows you watch, the movies you attend, the books you read and the music you listen to are void of obvious evil, are they for your good?

~Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy  — think about such things.

 

~John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

It’s easy to apply the concept of idolatry to pagans physically turning away from God and choosing instead to bow down and worship a carved image or statue. After all, few of us in America in 2012 own wooden or clay statues of false gods. That practice is mostly relegated to Catholicism in the form of molded images of the saints. So avoiding this type of idolatry is painless for most evangelical believers.

However, that is only a portion of the meaning of idolatry, which God considered important enough to mention 200 times in Scripture. If idolatry were truly limited to this narrow definition, would it be necessary to devote so much attention to it in the Bible and warn of such harsh consequences if it concerns a relative few?

Another definition of idolatry, agreed upon by biblical theologians such as R.C. Sproul, Charles Spurgeon and A.W. Tozer, not often discussed in the Church, is “putting anything before God.” Anything! This means that even if something is inherently good, it can become bad if we put it before God.

~I John 1:21

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

Even if you do not spend more time taking pleasure in entertainment than enjoying God, is it possible that your pursuit of it has made you friends with the world?

~James 4:4

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. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously?”


~I John 2:15

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.


~John 17:14

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.

 

~I John 2:15

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.

While we are here, we are supposed to feel, act, think and speak differently than those around us. After all; this is not our home. We are strangers. We are aliens. We are not of this world. If we are more comfortable discussing popular culture with our neighbors than sharing biblical truth, I have to wonder if our hearts truly long for heaven or if our roots are buried too deeply on earth.

The good news is that God is ready to forgive and provide us with the strength to avoid temptation. He loves us and wants to restore us to fellowship with Him as soon as we repent and turn from our sin and submit to His lordship over our lives. I find great comfort in Romans 7, where Paul confesses he struggled, much as I do, in my inability to live my entire life according to the courage of my convictions.

~Romans 7:14-19

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

~Romans 7:24

Oh wretched (wo)man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

This encourages me not only because I am relieved I am not alone in my struggle against sin but because it guarantees that Jesus is my deliverer.

~Bowling for Jesus

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