One of the central features of the times is the ubiquitous nature of data. We live in the age of information, and it is a self-evident fact. From social media to cable TV, we are bombarded with streams of images of every sort. There are many things that can be said on both the blessing and the bane of this. But there is something that we often forget, the very distraction that comes from this and the ever-increasing appetite for it can be very detrimental to the health of a Christian. This is especially true of entertainment. There is nothing inherently wrong with entertainment. But there is a latent danger within in it, even the best of entertainment.
First, there is the danger of taking our minds off God’s Word and focusing it upon temporal things to the point that we are hindered in our being transformed into the glory of Christ. True Christian progress cannot take place without meditation. Psalm 1 speaking on this. The man or woman who is considered to be blessed is the one whose “delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” It is because of this that “he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalm 1:2, 3). Without being saturated with the Word, we will not be Bible thinkers. Speaking on this, R. Kent Hughes wrote,
It is impossible for any Christian who spends the bulk of his evenings, month after month, week upon week, day in and day out watching the major TV networks or contemporary videos to have a Christian mind. This is always true of all Christians in every situation! A Biblical mental program cannot coexist with worldly programming” (R. Kent Hughes, et al., “Disciplines of a Godly Young Man,” p. 75).
Secondly, and this comes on the heel of the first, if we spend inordinate amounts of time listening to or watching entertainment, then our thoughts will probably affected to some extent by the thinking of the producers of this media. We will, in effect, not be “the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” To a large degree, we will sit ourselves at their feet. Again, R. Kent Hughes touches on this, when he states, “Perhaps the most subtle of the cinema’s effects is the promotion of worldviews that are sub-Christian and spiritually destructive” (Ibid., 61).
Third, as in Psalm 1, there usually (if not always) a step-by-step regression into the world. Our spiritual sensitivities are numbed. We promise that we will only go so far, but in the end we are permitting ourselves to watch things that we would never have done in the beginning. Who can deny Karl Graustein’s words, “Humor can be a means by which the world subtly influences us. When we laugh at something, we tend to accept it and think it is okay, good, or appropriate. Slowly, over time, we begin to accept things that we rejected earlier. We begin to ignore our moral beliefs, we compromise with the world, and we sin—first in thought and later in word and deed. The next time you watch a sitcom, analyze what you’re really laughing at. You probably won’t laugh as much anymore—you’ll probably turn the TV off” (Graustein, “Growing Up Christian,” p. 71). Speaking on this, John MacArthur notes,
Statistics show that the average child living at home in America watches at least twenty-eight hours of television each week. (For some kids, the total is much higher.) Programming that targets young people is often the very worst at deliberately glamorizing sin. By the time most young people graduate from high school, they have been overexposed to the grossest kinds of evil through ‘entertainment’ media in mind-numbing ways—so that nothing seems particularly appalling anymore. After all, drug use, immorality, violence, and profanity are standard fare on television. When a whole generation has been raised on a steady diet of that stuff, it’s no wonder that sin no longer seems exceedingly sinful to them (John MacArthur, “The Fulfilled Family,” p. 89).
This is not merely on sinful matters that concern man; that is to day, merely on the horizontal front. Rather, this concerns our attitude toward God. L. R. Shelton noted this: “Irreverence for the Bible, Christ, God, and all that is holy. These are all made the butt of many jokes, and some so-called Christians laugh the heartiest of them all. Why? Because they have no sense of sin, and no love for God, His Christ and His word; all they have is a ‘form of godliness.’ They have flatly denied the power of God in His Gospel to save, keep and deliver from sin” ( L.R. Shelton, “The True Gospel vs. the False Gospel,” p. 36). Likewise, Hughes underscores this same thing:
[M]edia immersion creates irreverence for God. … Significantly, no one anywhere seems to be counting the blasphemous abuse of God’s name—the number of times ‘God’ and ‘Oh God!’ are used as fillers for absent syntax—and ‘Jesus!’ and ‘Christ!’ as angry exclamation points. In the movies, men employ the name of God in such a way as to effect swagger and tough male elan. If you can damn God, and abuse His name without a twinge, you must be quite a man! And female stars regularly profane God’s name with a fashionable ‘O gawd’ intonation to affect a worldly wise, urbane, bored air. … God’s name is continually debased in the media in ways so routinely acceptable that Christians do not even take notice, but the debasement sinks into their souls. Sometimes God’s holy name becomes the rhetorical filler in a Christian man’s ever-emptying life. But we must never forget the Third Commandment’s prohibition against such use, ‘You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name’ (Ex. 20:7) (R. Kent Hughes, et al., “Disciplines of a Godly Young Man,” pp. 60-61).
Fourth, an inordinate amount of entertainment robs the Christian of his time to serve God and others. While a bit of amusement may be profitable, it can and often does lead to wasting life, because it wastes time. Rather than redeeming time, for the days are evil, the person spends time, the very stuff that made is made of, on the most trivial things:
As you sit down to watch TV, count the minutes. How long until you hear the first swear word, how long before the first sexual joke, how long until a violent act takes place, or how long until a child shows clear disrespect to a parent? Probably not too long! Start watching for these things, and you will be amazed. Analyze the humor in a show. Often it centers on foul language, sexuality, or disrespect or rebellion, and the limit is always being pushed (Karl Graustein, “Growing Up Christian,” p. 71).
As we look at these four matters, they are serious issues to consider. But behind them, there may be something even more serious. It may reveal that the desires of the heart are still worldly because regeneration has never taken place. Tim Conway noted, “”The whole world is willing to say a little prayer. What does the sinner’s prayer sound like? … ‘Jesus, please come into my heart.’ You know one of the dangerous things about that prayer? You don’t find it anywhere in the word of God. Nowhere! That’s not how Jesus said Heaven is attained. … We’ve got a world full of people that are happy and ready to say ‘Jesus, I’m a sinner, please come into my heart,’ and then you go enjoy all the idols, all the sin, love the same garbage on TV that the rest of the world loves, dress like them, look like them, pursue all the things that the world wants—everybody wants to be able to say a little prayer as fire insurance to get out of Hell and then go live it up and have their sin!” (Tim Conway, sermon, “Few People Make it to Heaven). Spurgeon noticed this in his day, adding,
You know more about your magazines and novels than what God has written; many of you will read a novel from the beginning to the end, and what have you got? A mouthful of foam when you are done. But you cannot read the Bible; that solid, lasting, substantial, and satisfying food goes uneaten, locked up in the cupboard of neglect; while anything that a man writes, a best seller of the day, is greedily devoured.
Now, with these in mind, every Christian should stop and ponder his or her involvement in the entertainment of our day. Is he or she better for it? Does it help them on with God? Does it enable them to fulfill the reason for their existence –the glory of God? Many of those who indulge in our day’s entertainment, panting after the newest in the series or the most recent version, will not be able to answer these in a satisfactory manner. I leave off with the following quote from J. C. Ryle for all of us to meditate upon:
It is not enough that we determine to commit no sin, we must carefully keep at a distance from all approaches to it. By this test we ought to try our ways of spending our time–the books that we read, the families that we visit, the society into which we go. We must not content ourselves with saying, ‘There is nothing positively wrong here'; we must go further, and say, ‘Is there anything here which may prove to me the occasion of stumbling into sin?’ … This is one great reason why worldly amusements are so objectionable. It may be difficult, in some instances, to show that they are, in themselves, positively unscriptural and wrong. But there is little difficulty in showing that the tendency of almost all of them is most injurious to the soul. They sow the seeds of an earthly and sensual frame of mind. They war against the life of faith. They promote an unhealthy and unnatural craving after excitement. They minister to the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. They dim the view of heaven and eternity, and give a false color to the things of time. They make the heart unfit for private prayer, and Scripture reading, and calm communion with God. The man who mingles in them is like one who gives Satan vantage ground. He has a battle to fight, and he gives his enemy the help of sun, and wind, and hill. It would be strange indeed if he did not find himself continually overcome (J.C. Ryle, “Thoughts for Young Men,” Solid Ground Christian Books, 2013, pp. 65-66).