Placing Entertainment In Its Proper Place.
Lost souls and the lost world spend their time trying to avoid obligations, maximize personal pleasure and pursue what they believe will bring them emotional fulfillment. They do this largely by attempting to divert their minds from reality. Thus the entertainment industry pumps out movies, TV programs, novels, sports and games.
Unfortunately, the lost world’s preoccupation with fiction and escape from reality has crept into Christ’s local churches. I have seen many Christians who have adopted an almost entirely worldly philosophy regarding the purpose of their lives and the use of their non-obligated hours. Too often, we think we’re really “enjoying life” only when we’re escaping from spiritual realities. Personal pleasure, relaxation, and recreation seem to be king and everything else has to fight for some of the left-over time, affection, and attention.
These forms of escape are wrong not only because of the filth they contain, but also because they rob your heart’s affections from God.
In Colossians 3:1-7 we read:
If you then are risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience: In the which you also walked some time, when you lived in them.
Satan, our flesh, and this world’s system want to steal our affections away from God and see our hearts set on “inordinate affection.” Thayer explains that the Greek word “pathos,” here translated “inordinate affection” refers to “a feeling which the mind suffers, an affection of the mind, emotion, passion; passionate desire; …in the New Testament in a bad sense, depraved passion: Col 3:5; vile passions, Romans 1:26; …in the passion of lust, 1 Thes 4:5.” The English word “inordinate,” means “unruly, disorganized, excessive.” These passions are wrong both because they are set on sinful things and because they are a vast misplacement of the emotional energy with which God has equipped us. How often have I seen this misplacement of affection and readiness to pour myself into some new time-consuming hobby or activity!
Romans 1:28-32 goes on to describe the mindset of ungodly, lost souls:
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
You and I have seen that the lost world does not like to think about God. Most seem to keep themselves constantly distracted as if to escape the conscious recollection of God’s existence and purposes. Just as Adam and Eve in the Garden, their sinful nature shows them their sin and causes them to run from Him. Adam and Eve hid behind fig leaves. Most lost people today hide behind TV screens, stereo headphones, sporting events, games and intoxicating substances.
Why would the Christian want to imitate the lost in this? Why would a Christian, who knows God’s judgment, not only participate, but find his pleasure in those who do such wickedness? Why would a Christian try to find joy in the immodest attire, wickedly sensual message and fleshly music of popular worldly singers or “Christian” so-called singers who imitate the world? Why would a Christian follow the world’s advice for what constitutes “a good time”?
God calls all believers to live holy lives, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Pet. 1:15). “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). God wants all of His children to be of one mind in obedience and dedication to the Gospel. Galatians 5:24-25 offers the mindset for the born-again soul, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” This is not a special call to those who are ministry leaders or who want to be disciples, but God’s call to all who are born again.
Who cares if it’s “fun,” the question is “Is it right?”! Let’s challenge the worldly pleasure-seeking mindset and work to eliminate it in our own lives!
Please let me suggest four practical tests for your recreation. If it passes these tests, then it is likely you will find actual refreshment and recreation from it rather than inordinate affection and the snare of sin.
1. DOES IT VIOLATE GOD’S WORD?
This first test should eliminate nearly every snare in which Christians enslave themselves. All too often, we excuse the sin content and allow our lust for pleasure to override our desire to please God by being holy. We would know peace, God’s blessing, and increased victory over the flesh if we would simply cease from anything that glorifies, promotes, or uncritically portrays sin.
You’ve heard the excuses and have used them yourself, “Well, it’s just imaginary…well, it’s just a little bit of foul language…well, we fast forwarded the fornication part…well, those imaginary enemies deserve to be blown to shreds …” No story-line, no matter how interesting, emotionally engaging, or visually-satisfying should so capture our hearts that we indulge in sin to find out what happens. When God is against it, let’s not excuse it. God’s goal for our daily behavior is that we would live up to His command in 1 Peter 1:15, “But as He which has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all your behavior.”
2. HOW IMMERSIVE IS IT?
Does your hobby, relaxation, or activity so consume you that you don’t think about spiritual realities? Some newer computer real-time strategy games, which my flesh happens to like, do this. The player is challenged to micro-manage many tasks (keep the farms running, keep the builders building, keep the explorers exploring, move the army, defend against enemies, research technologies). Two hours later the player looks up only to be surprised by how much time has elapsed. Just because my flesh likes it, just because it’s “fun,” does that make it OK? No! Even if the content weren’t sinful, I just won’t play.
If the form of escape you are pursuing is so immersive you are not fellowshipping with God while you’re doing it, stay away from it. Psalm 10:4 describes the wicked as, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” Let’s not get trapped imitating this sinful behavior by keeping God afar off in our thoughts.
3. HOW MUCH TIME DOES IT TAKE?
There’s nothing wrong with a change from the ordinary, with relaxation or recreation. Jesus told His disciples to come apart and rest awhile. But, relaxing ought not be our primary goal. Do we need to spend two or three hours a night relaxing? Do we view the weekend as our time to play? Some of you scoff at having such time to play, but in your heart you wish you did, which reveals you’re just as snared by the world’s philosophies.
Life is not about play. If you’re living to play, you’re neglecting God, things useful to yourself and others, and you’re training your children to live for pleasure. Our churches would be revolutionized if everyone joyfully served God a few hours a week and spent their free-time pursuing that which will equip them to be more useful to themselves, their family, and their Savior. Your family would be changed if you would invest your creativity into combining Christian service with joyful family time.
I suggest you spend more time each day or week reading the Scriptures than you spend watching TV, reading novels or playing games. To do otherwise, seems to insult God. Although written to Old Testament Israel, this verse is still true of God’s intentions toward His people, “For you shall worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).
4. HAS IT CAPTURED YOUR HEART’S AFFECTIONS?
No doubt, every time you choose to do something, you could be spending the time for God instead. It’s also true that God wants you to spend some time relaxing and refreshing. But, when confronted with time at your disposal, how often do you choose to relax instead of doing something spiritual?
When you get up from your hobby, does it live on in your mind and consume your thoughts? If so, you may have some idols in your life that you are worshiping in place of God. 2 Corinthians 10:5 sets the standard:
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
Let me close by offering some alternatives to play, when confronted with “free time”:
- Bible Meditation and Memory – Take some clear New Testament principles, like Ephesians 4:30-32 and think and pray over how to implement them in your life.
- Prayer – You’d be surprised what there is to pray about, if you’d just stop long enough to do so.
- Witness – Go out and find a person to share the gospel with.
- Preparation – Why not invest time in making yourself more useful for God and family? Practice a musical instrument, develop a useful skill. [Admin: This link was added as another example.]
- Service – Why not do something for others? Send a card, wash the dishes, walk the dog.
- Rest – You may just need rest. Parents know what I’m talking about. Rarely does the child quit playing at 8pm, brush his own teeth and hop in bed because he needs his rest. More often, you had to call the foolish child to bed, yawns, cranky spirit, and all, because he didn’t want to quit playing.
May God help to free us from the lost world’s preoccupation with play, escape and godlessness. Instead, may Christ be glorified in our lives. May we find true joy in walking with the Lord!
by Vince Londini