Media, Purity, and "Loving God with ALL your mind"
"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good."
In the midst of pressures and influences dictated by popularity and emotions, the Christian identity has been compromised under the flag of cultural assimilation and personal subjectivity. Religious syncretism is rife. "Toleration" and "love" have been made excuses for defying absolutes and accountability.
Paul here in Romans admonishes believers to love without hypocrisy, a real genuine affection and action of godly sacrifice. But he then further writes to "abhor what is evil" and "cling to what is good." That statement defies most banners we have flown over our lifestyles and decisions as a nation, as individuals, and sadly at times, as the church.
Gray has blinded the lines of what is right and wrong too often. We take things from the world and slap a Christian label on it. We rationalize. We justify. We excuse ourselves from truly rejecting darkness, and we have our list of reasons. But can we honestly look God in the eyes and say what we have allowed to be "ok" is acceptable according to Him and His Word?
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 grows a bit on the same thought as Romans, "Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil."
"From every form of evil? Test all things? Well if my church is doing it, it must be ok, right?" "Oh come on; it can't be that bad!" We have all heard that little voice trying to sanitize and Christianize what we know is not right.
When it comes to popular media, we desperately need a fresh look at God's Word. If God has so called us to love Him with all of our mind, we need to know what that looks like. Therefore, we need to know how to discern popular media so that we are not sucked into compromising our Christian identity of solely living for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This topic is touchy, I know. But I believe we are only so sensitive because we have compromised the standard we are called to live by in God's Word so much to fit what we want and hunger for.
Let's dive into a couple passages of Scripture.
1 Peter 1, "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Here believers are to hold fast to their calling. They are to gird, prepare or guard, their minds resting fully upon the grace that God has blessed upon them. Then, Peter continues that we are to do so "as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy.'"
"In all our conduct?" Yes. In all our conduct, we are not to conform to our former lusts, but rather to pursue holiness. Not for us, however. We live holy by and for the only Holy One as we live in Christ Jesus.
Deuteronomy 23 also talks about this. "When the army goes out against your enemies, then keep yourself from every wicked thing...For the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you."
Although God was commanding the Israelites to be clean in a physical aspect, the command can also be seen with a dual instruction of being spiritually clean as He taught them in previous texts. God's people are to live under the Lordship of God, for He is imminently involved in our lives. Do we, as believers, view popular media as if He is watching and reading it with us? Would He find it pleasing? Does He find it glorifying Him and having us focus on Him all the more?
Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." Here Paul lays out the ultimate criteria. Does what we view display all of these traits? What we watch at home and in theaters, and what we read printed on pages will be meditated in our minds. What are we meditating on?
Paul continues in verse 9, "The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." God shows here an organic relationship between what we think and what we do. What we fill our minds with will inevitably influence how we choose to live. Therefore, what content and images we open into our minds will bear great significance.
For example, although popular opinion says Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games are all great movies to watch, can we honestly admit that these movies line up to the above criteria? I challenge you, as I am challenging myself, to refine what we mean by loving God with all our mind. He views every thought. Would He be pleased and glorified? Or is there something else stealing the attention and adoration He so deserves?
In the mentioned movies, there is blatant murder, gore, sorcery, false romance, nudity, sensuality, and the glorification of what is darkness in the eyes of our Lord.
"Oh, but there is a good side and bad side, and the good guys always win!" Good and evil is defined by who in this work? The secular author with no biblical standards or convictions?
"Oh, but it's real. This really happens in the world around us!" Well, sex slaves, abuse, homosexuality, lewdness, satanic activity and worship with many more forms of evil are real and rampant in our world, so is that an excuse to go view it and fill our minds with it?
"Oh, well I'll just close my eyes on that part." Why would you watch a movie that you have to close your eyes on? You are still going to get a glimpse of that image.
A great analogy I once heard was brownie baking. If the cook decided to cook the brownies with a little feces, would you eat them? You can try to spit out the junk, but guess what, the poop is mixed into all the brownies as these secular authors mix all their junk throughout their stories.
Here is another example. A friend of mine went to go watch a Marvel movie with his youth group when it first hit the cinema. The film was based on one of his favorite old superhero, kid comic strips. The comics were innocent; how bad could the movie be? Plus, if the youth group is going, hey, it must be ok, right? During the movie, he stood up and walked out. Why? The large screen displayed a naked woman, and as the Word of God commands, that is not an image he is to allow into his mind. What would his wife think if he allowed his eyes to stare at this bare actress? What would our future spouses think of similar images we accept into our minds? Purity of mind is of utmost priority.
Isaiah wisely warns, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20). Whose standards are we living by? Ours? Or Jesus'?
1 John 2:6, 28-29, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked… And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” Is this us?
After telling the Thessalonians to test all things, abstain from every form of evil, and hold to what is good, Paul begins to close off with the following words and so will I as I pray you will open your heart and surrender to God. He will lead you to live the kind of life He wishes for you to live, a life that wholly worships Him.
Life is not about us. Life is all about Him. We are to have the mind of Christ. Is that what we are holding to? Are we walking and thinking in the Spirit or in the flesh?
Remember, ultimately what we think will lead to what we do. The mind has such an influence into how we live. We need to follow the words of Scripture as it shows that if we think biblically, we will live biblically. We need to love our God and Savior without hypocrisy. God should get the glory as He so deserves it. Is that our goal in how we live? Is that our goal in how we intake cultural media?
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
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