Often we are given the opportunity to look back in history and see the development of the church of Jesus Christ. When we do this, we are often struck about how blind they seemed on points! How could there be times in history where the church thought that torture was acceptable? Or, as in the case of the witch trials in New England, how could the Puritans be swallowed up in superstition and unbiblical ways of adjudicating the matters set before them? We may even point to things like slavery in the 1700 and 1800’s and just stand amazed at what the church missed in terms of its duty and in terms of its violation of that duty.
Then again, we recognize that we are men and women of our cultures. It is quite difficult to see beyond that, though indeed it is possible if we humbly look to Scripture for all matters of doctrine and practice and the Holy Spirit illumines our understanding to receive His Word. Nevertheless, we seem to imply that we have no such blotches that are glaring as that of the past church. Oh, we are not torturing people or holding people unjustly in slavery (although there is a such thing as biblical slavery), but, I say, we have glaring inconsistencies in the church of Christ. But what are they?
Before I embark on this subject, I will add that I am not referring to the general apostate church in America. We see that, in terms of the apostate church, we have accepted as normal all sorts of abominations, from sodomy, to women preachers, to mass adultery and divorce, to peddling the Gospel, etc. etc. But I am not referring to these since these things are normally accepted in churches that hold no semblance of the Gospel any longer are synagogues of Satan.
But in the faithful church of Christ, the proverbial white elephant that is standing in the room that no one wants to acknowledge is the obsession with all things entertainment. We see bumper stickers that say “If it’s not fun, why do it?” and the Hollywood industry which is solely that of entertainment, is one of the most successful businesses in America. As Americans, we’re about fun and this has carried over into the church. We choose our churches based on fun programs and get together dinners. Our “fellowships” are around sports activities, recreational programs and tea parties. We seem to think that in any setting where we want to give people the Gospel, we need to have some sort of “goodie” that will entice them to listen. Our churches start looking more like circuses and our pastors more like clowns and we give people free doughnuts instead of the Bread of Life and Living Water.
Ask yourself these questions and see if this applies to you: how much time do you spend in matters of entertainment per day. Most families have a tradition of watching a movie every night. Most movies last about 100 minutes, a little more than an hour and a half. Multiply that by 7 and divide by 60 and you have about 12 hours a week on the one specific entertainment of movies (doubtless there are more). Now, ask yourself how much of that time in the week do you take up in Christian duties, prayer, praise, God-centered work, reading God’s Word and Christian fellowship? Is there even a comparison? This is not to make categorically all leisure activities as sinful. My point is that we have made an idol of it.
Life is more than just fun. In fact, Christianity as such isn’t about “fun” at all. It is about Christ and His reign in heaven above and, no, He isn’t exalted and subduing all His enemies under his feet so that you can have fun. He gives you a cross (Mt 16:24) and a commission (Mt. 28:19-20). 1. To live a life of self-sacrifice and self-denial, and 2. a commission to evangelize the nations for His Glory and Kingdom’s sake. What He does promise is contentment, joy unspeakable and full of glory, tribulations and the faith to endure them, encouragement by His Word and His Church, the body of Christ, and to be conformed more and more to the image of His dear son, Jesus Christ. Is this fun? No; the two are incomparable. The point in all this is not to show that Christianity is about some austere life that we need to live. The point is that we have traded fun and games with the unspeakable and matchless glory of Jesus Christ. We have, like Esau, traded our birthright for a mess of pottage.
If future generations are going to evaluate us like we do the church in the past, undoubtedly the criticism they will raise against us will be that, while our culture was at its lowest and the Gospel of Christ comprehensive rule over all things for the church was preached the least, we were playing games, watching movies and joining the circus. That when we should have been the light of the world, the salt and preservative agent of society and culture, we were too busy with all things entertainment.
I am speaking mostly of those of my generation, though doubtless it applies to those of older generations as well: are you just living life in “cruise mode”, as it were? Is your life about the new fun thing, great band, epic movie, new celebrity, or weekly sports? Now, I don’t mean to condemn all movies or music, but that is not my point. Do you delight in the Word of God? Do you, like David, hunger and thirst after God? Does your life reflect the fact that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God? We are decayed, my brothers and sisters. It is no doubt that we are like the valley of dry bones; lifeless and unable to rise unless God grant us a great measure of His grace and mercy.
Mediocrity is unacceptable. The thicker the darkness in our culture, the more brilliant our light should shine. But it has been the exact opposite. It seems as if the darkness has swallowed us up and we can’t even conceptualize what light should look like anymore; our fellowship becomes shallow, our life’s example to a lost and dying world lamentable, and our senses to discern good and evil almost gone entirely. We start looking like the darkness we profess to hate. Why? Because we absorb it through all the media and entertainment we occupy ourselves in, and we become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. The sad thing is that we don’t even realize it. We are men and women of our cultures.
What then? What we need is to cry out to God to have mercy upon us. Christ is our strength, and this is a testimony of our lack of strength. We cannot perform what is our duty to perform. We cannot love what we should love or hate what we should hate. If God should withhold His hand of grace, immediately we turn to dust and are undone. We need to learn to pray the prayer of St. Augustine, “Lord, give what Thou commandest and command what Thou wilt”. We need to live in conscious dependence upon Christ and repent of our sloth and complacency. Why would we trade a life of glorious service to the Lamb of God, our High Priest and King of Kings, Jesus Christ, for a life of vanity that serves no purpose beyond temporal and shallow pleasure?