Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Vacation from the World's Influence

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he confessed a concern for them, and therefore the Holy Spirit confessed a concern for us, “that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (11:3). Obviously, that concern was well-founded then and is well-founded today. There are numerous deluding influences, not only in the form of false teaching within the church, but also in the idolatrous culture around us (1 John 2:15, 5:21). The constant challenge for the believer is how to be in the world without being of the world.

In our Saturday men’s group this morning, we were discussing how Satan has used the culture to invade the church’s understanding of and attitude toward sexuality. It is difficult to go into public without being bombarded by sexual images. From the magazines at the checkout counter at the grocery store, to the windows of the clothing shops at the mall, to suggestive billboards on the freeway, the world is doing all it can to eroticize every aspect of life. Even in our own homes if you turn on the TV or watch a movie there are the same influences.

This is true not just in the area of sexuality, but also in the area of gender roles, the definitions of the family and marriage, and the existence of moral absolutes. The deception is gradual and insidious and can mold our thoughts on certain issues without our realizing it. How then do we take inventory of our own minds and hearts to find out if we are being conformed to the world or transformed into the likeness of Christ (Rom 12:2)?

Of course, there should be the positive renewal of the mind through the intake and application of the Word. I would suggest that a good diagnostic exam of our hearts would be helped by limiting worldly influences for a time while devoting ourselves to deeper study, meditation, and prayer.

I know someone who twice in the last year has engaged in a 40-day fast from electronic entertainment and communication. For 40-days, she didn’t watch TV or movies. She didn’t surf the internet (including Facebook). She had her husband check her email for her so that she wouldn’t miss anything truly important. And she spent extra time in the Word, in prayer, in reading books, and devoting herself to her roles as a wife and mother. She testifies that the experience both times has been tremendously beneficial in helping her to refocus on the things that are truly important, as well as revealing areas of her life where she had gone astray in her thinking and attitudes, which allowed her to concentrate on renewing her mind in those areas through God’s Word.

It would be a healthy exercise to find some way to pull out of the influence of our culture for a time in order to devote ourselves to prayer and the Word, for the purpose of discerning how our thoughts and attitudes have been “led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” It may shed light on the amount of time we spend on things of no eternal value. It may reveal to us how dependent we have become upon the world to tell us what to think. It may show us how much of life we have been devoting to entertaining ourselves while denying that we have enough time for daily devotions.

Please understand – I’m not saying that enjoying TV, movies, the internet, email, or the radio is sinful. Paul said in 1Corinthians 6:12, All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything. There is nothing inherently sinful about entertainment or hobbies. But many times we concentrate on the "all things are lawful" part, while ignoring Paul's point in its context, "I will not be enslaved by anything." What if we are devoting the balance of our free time to things that are not helpful, when we could be engaging in activities that are truly helpful.

So I say this not as a strong exhortation, not as a condemnation of certain activities, but just as a friendly suggestion. Why not consider turning off the TV for 7 days and doing some intentional service project or catching up with your spouse and children? Why not leave the computer off for a couple of days to devote yourself to the Word and prayer? Why not intentionally and significantly limit the influence of the world and intensify the influence of the Word for a time? You may find that you’ve strayed in your thinking or attitudes or relationship or devotion to Christ. You may come away refreshed in a way you haven’t experienced in a long time. One thing is certain – any time spent with the Lord is never a waste. Its doubtful that you’ll look back and think, “I wish I hadn’t blown all that time with the Lord instead of watching TV.”

Again, this is just a friendly suggestion. Whatever you do, may you become ever more enthralled with the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Can’t wait to worship with you tomorrow. See you then.

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