On Sunday, we talked about how there are no truly neutral influences in this world when it comes to the cross of Christ. The things we read, watch, listen to, etc., either influence us toward or away from the Lord Jesus. But does this mean that we should eradicate from our lives every influence that is not explicitly Christian? As I said on Sunday, I don’t think so. We are to be in the world while not being of the world.
So how do we interact with the influences of the world without allowing them to push or pull us away from the Lord?
1. Know the Word. This one is a bit obvious, I know. But keep in mind that we’ve never finished this step. It’s a lifelong journey. Our hearts need constant, repeated exposure to the Word of God, the standard against which we are to measure all truth.
2. Reject the myth of neutrality. We talked about this quite a bit on Sunday. I won’t belabor the point here. Just keep in mind at all times that just because an influence is not explicitly Christian or anti-Christian doesn’t mean that it is neutral. There are only two kingdoms – the domain of darkness and the kingdom of the beloved Son (Col 1:13). Every person is a member of one or the other and therefore in some way espouses the values of that kingdom.
3. Regard interaction with worldly influences as discernment training. In other words, don’t interact with the world unguarded. Rather, do so with purpose, using the interaction to sharpen your own discernment. When watching a movie, reading a book, listening to the radio, or surfing Facebook, don’t do it exclusively for entertainment or information gathering, but also think of it as training – training yourself to catch an enemy trying to teach you to think differently. For example, when I watch a movie with my kids, I do watch it for entertainment, but not only that. I’m also watching to develop the ability to see what worldview or “truth” the filmmakers are trying to impart to me.
4. Constantly question influences. If it is the case that the god of this world is my enemy, and that all those not in Christ lie in the power of this enemy (1John 5:19), then no influence outside of Christ will miss an opportunity to corrupt my mind and heart. I must then question the influences around me. “What is this person or movie or book or program trying to teach me?” “How is this person trying to change the way I think?” “What biblical truth is this movie trying to challenge?” “How is this story trying to contradict the sufficiency of Christ?” “In what way is this denying the gospel?”
This has become second nature for me and I’ve been training my kids to do it for a while now, too. Now, whenever my kids hear something unbiblical, they know it. For example, we were watching a secular Christmas movie last December. (These movies offer all kinds of training opportunities!) At one point, one of the main characters said, “A good deed can erase a bad deed.” I immediately paused the movie, and several of my kids said in unison, “We know, Dad.” I said, “Somebody correct it.” They explained that good deeds cannot take away sins. “What can take away sins?” “Jesus blood.” And then we turned the movie back on. I was encouraged that Hollywood was not training the gospel out of my kids. In fact, in a sense I was using Hollywood’s own material to train my kids to spot error.
It is possible to be exposed to the influences of the world without them changing the things that you think and belief, but only if you enter those situations with your eyes open. I encourage you to be in the Word and to compare all that you hear in the world to it, so that your powers of discernment may be “trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb 5:14)