Beware What Entertains You!

Although we may not realize it, the things that entertain us can greatly influence us. Their influence is more subtle, like the gradual erosion of a rock by rain, wind, and heat. Yet, gradually the entertainment industry can shape our minds. Many women have poor self-esteem because they cannot look like television stars or models. However, the stars and models do not look perfect either! We see the final product, filtered by editing rooms and touch up artists. There are no perfect looking people and, as the Bible teaches, these transitory features must not be our focus anyway, Proverbs 31:30.

The media culture will try to convince us that we do not have enough.  It teaches that unless we have certain labels on our clothes, certain jobs, elite neighborhoods, and the like, that we will be miserable.  Therefore, we must continue to shop and continue to buy.  Proverbs 27:20 warns us: “Hell and Destruction are never full; So the eyes of man are never satisfied.”  We must be content, 1 Timothy 6:6.

The entertainment industry often teaches values that are not in harmony with the Scriptures.  The popular culture approves of many things contrary to sound doctrine (Romans 1:18-32; Galatians 5:19-21).  We can desensitize ourselves to the abhorrent nature of these sins by exposing ourselves to it a little at a time.  The gradual assault on our minds can erode our good morals and godly principles.  Sadly, we have opened the door for these influences, sat them down in our houses, and parents have even placed them before their children.

Positive entertainment, when shared by godly friends, can draw people closer together.  We can do many activities as Christians.  Our joy is enhanced when we can do those activities with our fellow brethren and families.  There are some movies and TV shows, though rare, that provide positive lessons and exemplify good principles.  Some songs extol the marriage relationship, the parent-child relationship, and doing the right thing.  We can properly use what is good but must shun evil.

Respecting A Brother’s Conscience

When I love my brethren as Christ loved me, I will not do anything that might cause them to stumble and be lost.  To accomplish this we must have true love for our brethren, forbearance, longsuffering, and patience developed in our lives.  Though it is difficult, I may have to refrain from doing something that I know is not condemned in the presence of a brother who, because he does not have knowledge, would be offended.

Consider the issue of eating meat offered to idols in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.  The issue was not whether it was right to eat meat offered to idols or not; eating meat was not condemned.  The real issue was that if I have a brother in Christ who does think it is wrong to eat meat offered to idols and I, knowing this, eat meat that is offered to idols (since I know that it is not condemned), that I may encourage my brother to eat in violation of his conscience.  I have used my liberty to cause my brother to stumble.

It is not wrong for me to eat meat that has been offered to idols, but my brother who does not have this knowledge, if he eats, will be condemned because he has violated what he believes to be commanded by God.  I must not put my brethren into that situation.  Note the strong language of Paul in verse 12:  “But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.”  When doing something that is not wrong, but doing it in the wrong circumstance, I sin against my brethren and Christ.  My brother and I may be lost through my knowledge!

Paul’s solution to the problem is if an action will cause my weak brother to stumble, I will not do it.  My brother’s conscience is more important than food or anything else that would make him stumble.  This sacrifice is a practical application of bearing with one another.

Battling Pornography

There is an excellent set of articles on the challenges pornography presents to Christians striving to live “soberly, righteously and godly in this present age.” The articles provide a broader definition of pornography that more appropriately describes the lustful images, stories, music and words that surround us. The site is at http://www.cvillechurch.com/TheChristiansBattaleAgainstPorn.htm

Spend time investigating the rest of the site for great articles on a variety of subjects. I would also recommend signing up for their newsletter. It always features a variety of interesting articles.

Forgiving Yourself

Many years ago I had a discussion with a young lady who was debating within herself whether to acknowledge to the congregation things she had done wrong in the past and asking forgiveness from those who knew what she had done. More than that, she wanted the prayers and encouragement of others as she struggled to forgive herself. That struggle to forgive oneself was the subject of the letter that I sent to her and share here with you. If you are struggling to forgive yourself I hope you will find words of encouragement to allow you to free yourself from the hold this sin exerts in your life as it weakens your spiritual strength. If you have obtained forgiveness from God through the gift of His Son, give yourself a wonderful gift of freedom by removing the grip of the past sin so you can fully embrace your future service for God.

First of all, I appreciate your sensitive heart, the courage to face yourself, and the changes already evident in your life. You are a fine example to others and I do not think making this confession will diminish it in the least. On the contrary, I think it may open opportunities for you to help others in a similar situation. Though God does not want us to sin, I think that He is able to use our experience to help heal the lives and pain of others in a way that others cannot do so easily. I think I have told you before but when I was in high school and college I did not drink. I wish I could say that it was because of my dedication to God but more often there were other things in my past that created a strong aversion to alcohol and its results. Whatever the motivation, I am thankful for the result. However, when talking with someone who is having a drinking problem or other problems to which alcohol contributes, I can encourage them from the scripture but I cannot relate to them as one who has been there. However, there are other problems with which I can be very helpful because of my personal experience. God says, “Behold, I make all things new,” and he will be able to make something new from your experience.

Your confession statement was well worded and very moving. From your email I know that you believe God has forgiven you and, based on His promises, you are correct. However, since you have written this document and revised it on several occasions I assume that it has been on your mind for a long time. If this is troubling you and you cannot find peace without bringing it before the congregation, I think you have the answer you are seeking. If you feel that you should have said something in the past, you should say something now, I am sure that you will feel that you need to say something in the future–until you do. Your statement explains well why you have waited to make such a statement.

It breaks my heart that you are still struggling with your guilt and have problems forgiving yourself. You have already made the hardest decision–facing yourself and your sin and making changes. Sometime when you pray, thank God for the guilt and shame that moved you to repent and leave a path headed to destruction. Your past will not define your life and you should not look at yourself through the lens of your past. There are many young Christian women who have been down the same road you traveled who are fine teachers, loving wives and mothers, and good examples for young women. Many young women at the church look up to you and, knowing what you have been through and the changes you have made, I would, without any reservation, feel that they chose well when you are listed among their role models.

Sometimes we hold onto guilt and have problems forgiving ourselves because we feel that we are letting ourselves off too easily. Holding guilt allows us to punish ourselves and, when reaching some spiritual summit, reproach ourselves saying, “You’re not so good.  I remember when you…” It is perfectly fine to let go of your guilt. Acknowledge that your inward pain has been your punishment and prison for past sins and give yourself a pardon. Forgiveness is the greatest thing you can give others and yourself. Grieve your sins, the embarrassment you feel/felt, the sorrow for letting others and yourself down, the actions you regret–yes grieve them–then let them go. You have punished yourself well enough–I think anyone could say that you have not let yourself off easily–you have the right to free yourself and enjoy true peace and happiness. You will never forget what you have done, but when you forgive yourself, it finds a place in your past that can only give you a small tinge of pain when it is brought to mind, but it will not bully and berate you anymore. This I can tell you from experience.

A Seared Conscience

I hate going to the dentist.  I hate the smell of the chemicals when I walk in the door.  I hate to sit in the chair and wait for the dentist as a convict on death row would wait for an executioner.  Most of all, I hate the pain.  I really hate the pain.  The dental assistant will usually come in before the ordeal begins and give me a shot to deaden the nerves around the offending tooth.  I’ve learned that their definition of “this won’t hurt a bit” and mine are quite different.  Though I hate the shot, I could not imagine the pain of the dentist’s drill without the Novocain.

No one, except someone who is mentally unstable, enjoys pain.  We seek to avoid emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual pain if possible.  Some pain is good.  Body pains can warn us of serious internal problems that need medical attention.  A slap on a child’s bottom for almost sticking a bobby pin into an electrical outlet is preferable to the child “plugging himself in.”  (Trust me on this one~)  Spiritual conflict, or a pained conscience, can help us choose good behaviors over bad.

God gave us a conscience as a decision making aid.  When we do what is right, our conscience will approve our actions.  When we sin, our conscience is pricked, we feel uncomfortable, and, hopefully, are motivated to correct our sin.  A bothered conscience has stolen many hours of sleep.  The conscience will sometimes relentlessly torture us if we feel we have grossly violated our core beliefs.  This is good.

We should not want to have a troubled conscience; on the contrary, we ought to live so that our conscience is relatively quiet.  When we do what we know we should do, our conscience gives us no argument.  Though the conscience is very important, it cannot be (with all due respect to Jiminy Cricket) our only guide.

The conscience is good only when the Word of God has trained it.  The Bible is the standard of right and wrong.  As we study the Bible and learn its precepts, principles, and the example of Jesus, we train our conscience how to judge right and wrong correctly.  Often the conscience will call to mind specific scriptures that we have violated when we sin, or will commend us with scripture when we have done what we should.

However, the conscience does not dominate our thoughts.  We can ignore its warning rendering it ineffective.  When I lived in Florida, it was nothing to see people ignore hurricane warnings when a storm was just off the coast.  Many die in tornados and hurricanes because they do not listen to the warnings.  We can hear alarms but choose not to react.  People may, through selfish desire, ignore their conscience and continue in sin until finally the conscience is silent. 

Paul warned of these people in 1 Timothy 4:2 whose conscience had been “seared with a hot iron.” If you sear your flesh with a hot iron, the nerves in that area will die.  You can stick the skin with pins but will feel nothing.  These false teachers continue in sin until their consciences, seared by disobedience, cease to be effective. 

Others sear their conscience through ignorance.  In Ephesians 4:17-19, Paul warns that those who persist in ignorance of God’s will “lose feeling” and indulge in lewd behavior.  Neither the holiness of godly living nor the common sense of avoiding a self-destructive life motivates them.

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