Our Thought Life & Entertainment: Hindrances to Christian Progress

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).

Thomas Scott on the Law’s Relation to Every Man

All who die in unbelief perish for breaking this law: all who are saved, were thus condemned for breaking it; else why did Christ bear their sins for them? Some indeed talk of another and milder law: but where it is found, when promulgated, what it requires, who does keep it, or who is condemned for breaking it, hath never been, nor never can be, determined. Others express themselves very am­biguously about our obligations to keep the law, prior to the consideration of redemption. But “where there is no law there can be no transgression:” where there is no transgression, there can be no con­demnation: and where no condemnation, no occasion for redemption. Thus we repeal the law and sub­vert the gospel.

Surely we ought with precision to determine this matter; and to show that man, as God’s creature, is bound to obey his law; that sin is the transgression of the law; that the wages of sin is death; that Christ died (not for Adam’s sin only, or mainly, but) for our transgressions of the law: that they who perish, are condemned (not only or principally because Adam sinned, but) for their own sins; that upon believing in Christ, we are delivered from the condemnation of sinners, but are never released from the obedience we owe as creatures: and that the obligation to obey is enforced on us by most powerful additional motives taken from redemption.

Thomas Scott’s Sobering Words to Hypocritical Ministers

Multitudes of the strictest professors and teachers of the Jewish church were, not only superstitious and formal, (and so either blind guides or blindly led,) but even atrociously wicked; and yet they cloaked their crimes with apparent zeal.

Thus in all ages many love the credit of being called Christians, and the dignity of instructors, who “hate instruction”; and many discourse on the word of God with their lips, who pour contempt upon it in their lives. While they zealously plead for some parts of divine truth, they secretly, nay, perhaps openly, indulge themselves in lewdness, dishonesty, and in wicked and deceitful conversation, and the basest slander and calumny; especially against those who are strictly conscientious, and such pious persons as, being near to then: put them to shame by their example. Indeed, in this manner they often excuse their crimes, and even think they have compensated for them, by their earnestness in promoting what they supposed to be the cause of God. But the righteous Judge disdains such hypocrites, and abhors their religious profession and preaching, even more than their theft, adultery, and lies ; because they tend more to disgrace the gospel, and to prejudice or deceive the souls of men. “What have they to do to declare” his statutes, or to take his covenant in their mouths? “

His cause needs not such helpers; he never sent nor employed them; and they must expect his vengeance as their recompense. Such were the scribes and chief priests, who were scrupulously zealous about externals, while they were full of rapine and covetousness; and were seeking to murder the holy Jesus, by bearing false witness against him before Pilate, in the most atrocious manner. The whole of this strange delusion arises from a perverse construction, put upon the long-suffering of God: and a willful mistake of his character and the intention of his gospel: as if the methods of his grace, the doctrines of his word, or the ordinances of his worship, were substituted in the stead of a holy life, and afforded men the license to indulge their lusts with impunity! But the Jews of old were reproved, convicted, condemned, and punished with the most dreadful severity, on these accounts: and so will all the superstitious, formal, hypocritical, enthusiastic, or antinomian abusers of the gospel; when the Day of Judgment shall come, and the secrets of men shall be judged by Jesus Christ.

International Day of the Bible, Protestantism, and the Primitive Church

When there is an International Day of the Bible, we are enjoying the blessings of emancipation from the Papal yoke. Yet, everywhere we are seeing and hearing so-called Evangelicals stating or acting as if we must recede more and more from the principles of the Protestant Reformation, seeking rapprochement with Rome that we may save Western Civilization. This fails to see that the foundation of Western Civilization that is worth saving is the Scriptures. It took centuries for us to cast off the tyranny of Romanist despotism.

The best sure way to maintain freedom from any and all spiritual and political tranny is to know the God of the Bible and to enjoy the salvation in Christ as taught in the Bible. But in order possess these, we must read the Bible. And this emphasis of Bible reading has forever been found in the true Christ, including the primitive Church. Such cannot be said of the Romanist ‘church,’ but let it forever be truth of the true Church. Let us be men and women of THE Book –the Holy Bible, as contained in the 66 books of the OT and NT.

Chrysostom says: “The reading of the Divine Scriptures, my beloved, is a great good. . . . Wherefore let us, I exhort you, practice the reading of the Divine Scriptures with all possible haste, for we shall thus attain the knowledge of them if we continually approach their contents. . . . Although we may have no man as our instructor, the Lord Himself horn. above, entering our hearts, will enlighten our minds, illumine our reason, reveal those things that are hidden, and instruct us in the things of which we are ignorant. . . . Let us thus practise the reading with much circumspection and with much attention, in order that we may be guided by the Holy Spirit into the understanding of the things that are written; . . . for the Lord, seeing our earnestness, will afford illumination. . . . Let us not, then, I exhort you, neglect this reading; but whether we understand the force of what is said, or are ignorant of it, let us perseveringly pursue them.”

“Ignorance of the Scriptures is the cause of all evils.”  “And this I always exhort, and will not cease to exhort, . . . when you are at home, diligently apply to the reading of the Holy Scriptures. . . . And let no one repeat to me those stale and reprehensible words. . . . It is not for me to read the Scriptures, but for those who have renounced these things (i.e., ministers). . . . What sayest thou, 0 man? Is it not your business to study the Scriptures, because you are distracted by a thousand cares? It is much more thy business than theirs, for they do not so much need assistance from the Holy Scriptures as those who are involved in multifarious business.”

“And even if men should not teach you what you seek, He (God) will completely reveal it to you. Call to mind the Eunuch of the Queen of the Ethiopians. . . . Philip is not now present, but the Spirit who moved Philip is present. . . . The reading of the Scriptures is a great safeguard against sinning, ignorance of the Scriptures is a great precipice and a profound deep.”

Cyril of Alexandria writes thus: “Christ exclaimed to the Jewish people, ‘Search the Scriptures,’ most clearly saying that n>ne could otherwise attain eternal life, unless digging into the written law as for a certain treasure. . . . Wherefore it is expedient incessantly to delight in what is said respecting God, and to use the Scriptures as a lamp, according to the Psalmist, who cries out and says, ‘ Thy law is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths’.”

Irenaeus says: “Read more diligently that Gospel which is given unto us by the Apostles, and read more diligently the prophets, and you will find every action, and the whole doctrine, of the Lord preached in them.”

Clemens Alexandrinus, 196 A.D., writes: “They that are ready to spend their time in the best things will not give over seeking for truth until they have found the demonstration from the Spirit themselves.”‘

Ambrose, 396 A.D., says: “I read that He is the first, I read that He is not the second; they who say He is the second, let them show it by reading.”

Cyril of Jerusalem speaks thus: “Do not simply give faith to me while I am speaking these things to you, except you have the proof of what I Bay from the Holy Word.”

Augustine, says: “Whatever our Saviour would have us read of His actions or sayings, He commanded His Apostles and disciples, as His hands, to write in a book.”

“What faithful man . . . doth not with an equal mind read and hear all things which after the ascension of our Lord are written in the canonical truth and authority?”

These testimonies are sufficient to prove that it was the doctrine of the early Fathers that all men should duly read for themselves the Scriptures. To  have a Bible is one thing, but to read it another thing. Let us take up and read the Bible above all other books, for therein is light. In God’s light, we have light.