I heard this on the Desiring God Pod-Cast. Episode 597 (May 15, 2015) was a question/answer session with Trip Lee, a Reformed Christian Rapper, addressing the issue of believers watching on-screen nudity. I have posted a link to it here, as a follow up to my previous post, “How Can A Believer Not Be Grieved By Watching Sin?”.
A brother in the Lord recently posted the following commentary about a movie that is in the theaters right now (I am not going to mention the name of the movie- it is irrelevant to the point of my post). It left me wondering how can a believer not be grieved by watching immoral entertainment- sin.
“We saw the new _____________ movie as a family for Mother’s Day. It really bothered me. You could see the producers anti-God world-view through the whole movie. It was dark and sometimes evil. There were comments against Jesus multiple times. The women actors wanted to be sexually immoral with ______…and on and on.”
What astonished me about this brother’s commentary of the movie wasn’t so much that the movie was full of that stuff, but some of the responses that other professing Christians had to his post. One person disagreed with the post outright and another accused him of undue criticism. That was interesting to me, because if you re-read what he wrote, you will see that he did not criticize the movie at all. He stated three things: 1st- that he saw the movie, 2nd- that the movie bothered him, and 3rd- he explained – point by point – why the movie bothered him. Logically, (and I do mean ‘logically’ in a ‘logical syllogism’ sort of way- not just the expression), it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to disagree with him, or to say that he was being critical. After all, he only shared, how he felt about the movie and why he felt that way about the movie. If what he wrote about the movie is true (and I am assuming that it is, since I have not seen it, but I know this person well enough to know that he is not lying), he was neither being critical, nor did he write anything that can be logically disagreed with.
Now, the point of me sharing this is that I do not understand how any Christian could see a movie which intentionally presents an anti-God world view, has a ‘dark and evil’ undercurrent, misuses and abuses of the name of Jesus Christ, contains multiple scenes of crude sexual immorality, and enjoy it, calling it ‘entertainment’. Something seems ‘off’ to me about that. Our friend felt as I’d think all believers would feel after being exposed to those sins, after watching immoral entertainment that depicts those sins.
Of course, I understand that all true Christians desire to avoid being legalistic. We should avoid legalism- at all costs- for legalism (pharisaism) puts people in hell, just as much as gross immorality does (maybe even more so). And, Jesus Himself warned, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” (Matthew 23:15). But, we need to be honest with ourselves, being entertained by sin is not what the Lord had in mind when He said that. We know that because, in another place, the Word commands that Christians, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord“ (Hebrews 12:14). To me, that is a terrifying thought – not seeing the Lord, for not being holy. I know that in some theological constructs the ‘once saved always saved’ paradigm frees people from taking the necessity of the pursuit of holiness seriously, but it shouldn’t, since people that are really saved (i.e., the regenerate) pursue holiness. So, setting the issue of legalism aside, I still ask, how can a believer not be grieved by watching sin?
I use to think that some believers just had more liberty for stuff like that than I did. I reasoned that since the Lord saved me out of sin, movies that depict my former lifestyle bother me more than they bother other believers that have no personal history with deep immorality. I use to think to myself, “Self, you know what this issue is really all about? It is about Christian Liberty. I am the Proverbial weaker brother- in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. Other Christians can watch pornographic scenes, and not be bothered, because they were probably never exposed to real pornography and they probably never saw the devastating effects that porn has on a home, or on a person. Other Christians can pay money to listen to people use the Lord’s name being used as a vulgarity with out it bothering them. After all, they were probably not raised as godless as I was…” When I was a girl, I heard the Lord’s name used as a swear all the time. I had no idea that it was a sin to say His name in vain. So, when I started to grow in my faith and I saw older believers watching and listening to immoral things, I just assumed that they had more liberty than I did. But, now I know the Word well enough to know that enjoying immoral entertainment and enjoying an occasional glass of wine is not the same thing. (Although, for the record I do not, personally, have the liberty to drink alcoholic beverages.) So, I still do not get it, how can a believer not be grieved by watching sin?
I have known quite a few very sincere people who think that they have an edge on evangelism, because they can use what ever movie or questionable activity they are involved in as a platform for the Gospel (with the unsaved). They can be especially critical of Christians, like me, that question whether we should enjoy those types of movies and entertainment. I can understand that mentality. I would only say that the Lord taught that the Holy Spirit was going to come to earth to “…convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment” (John 16:8). Therefore, if our lives are not useful to that end- we are probably not as evangelistic as we think that we are. Besides, when I was in the world- I thought lukewarm Christians were hypocrites, not culturally relevant. So I still do not get it, how can a believer not be grieved by watching sin?
Jesus Christ was tortured and crucified for sin. We, who are saved, are being spared the awful eternal consequences of our sin because of that torturous crucifixion. As Christians we are saying that we have turned away from our lives of sin and turned towards God in a pursuit of His holiness for His glory and His purposes. Immoral entertainment glorifies sin and death- it glorifies the opposite of what we are suppose to glorify- namely, Jesus, the conqueror of sin and death. Immoral entertainment also feeds our sin-appetites, and gratifies our debased desires vicariously. The people that make immoral movies will go to hell if they do not repent. And, the people that enjoy the depravity depicted in immoral entertainment are also going to hell, unless they repent. And since there is nothing entertaining about hell, sin, immorality, or Christ’s death, I don’t get it, how can a believer not be grieved by watching sin?
Doesn’t Ephesians 4:17-24 seem to address this issue of immoral entertainment? Isn’t this the type of thing that Paul could have been talking about when he wrote, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” This passage of Scripture is one of the reasons that I ask, how can a believer not be grieved by watching sin?
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…” (NIV)
As we experience more and more of the goodness of God in our relationship with Him, we are naturally led into deeper and deeper levels of holiness. For, the kindness that we experience in our relationship with God produces in His children a godly grief in our souls, which leads us to confess and repent of more and more of our sin. As we do this we become holier; thus we begin to live in the joyful freedom of walking in newness of life.
Another way to say the same thing is to say that the kindness of God causes us to feel a good-guilt over our wrongdoing. Good-guilt is rooted in an awareness of the goodness and love that God has shown to His children. Good-guilt is good because it makes us want to turn away from the things in our lives that displease God (i.e., our sin) and turn towards the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation that He died to give us. That is why the Scripture says, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4, NLT).
When we say that we repent of our sin we mean that we have a change of mind about our sin; and for that reason, we turn away from our sin and towards God in the desire to live a God-glorifying life. In other words, to repent of sin is to turn around and go in the opposite direction when we realize that we are heading the wrong way on the path of life. Repentance is the authenticating mark of our profession of faith in Christ. It is the first outward proof that we possess true saving faith. If we agree with God that our sin is wrong, we will do everything that we can to turn away from it and turn towards the righteousness that is ours because of the cross-work of Jesus Christ. It is in this way that repentance leads to salvation. As Isaiah 30:15a says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…” (NIV).
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices, and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3:5-9
The other day I posted a prayer of confession. In it I detailed some of the specific out-workings that the fear of man has had in my life. Some may wonder why I did that. Someone might ask a question like, ‘Isn’t it humiliating to publicly own such a low and cowardly sin as that of man-fearing?’ Or, someone might wonder “Doesn’t she feel any shame or embarrassment about admitting that her fear of man has given birth to a multitude of other sins in her life- sins like those of sulking, self-pity, murmuring, complaining, and gossip?” And, the answer to that question is, well, yes, actually, it is very embarrassing to publicly confess my sin- and, in large part, that is why I posted Confessions of a MAN-PLEASER.
John Owen wrote, “Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.” The public confession of my man-fearing was one of many personal attempts to kill my sin of people-pleasing. For me, embarrassment is a very effective tool in the practice of the mortification of sin. When I feel embarrassed by something- I want to get away from it. Or, to put it in Bible language, embarrassment over my sin makes me want to “…put off the old self with its practices…” and to “…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” I have also found that for me, genuine intentional self-abasement is a pre-curser to humbleness of mind; and humbleness of mind prepares my heart to receive the grace of Christ- His grace to overcome my sin; His grace to walk in the new life that He has called me to; and His grace to receive more of His grace.
Grace empowers me to “…put to death whatever is earthly…” in me (like, my fear of man), by teaching me how to “…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” That is, grace enables me to put on the life of Christ, and be renewed by the promises of the Word of God which reveal all of the perfections of Christ; His person, His character, His image, and His glory.
The following are four verses that I am praying over in the continuing effort to put my man-pleasing tendencies to death, so that I can live in the joyful, victorious freedom of living in the fear of God. I might be battling this particular sin for the rest of my life. Although, Monday’s public confession proved to be a decisive victory in the on-going battle with this particular sin. No less, I am certain that John Owen was right. I need to “…make killing sin my daily work – I better be always at it while I live; and cease not a day from this work. I better be killing sin or it will be killing me.” So, in the end, I am okay with feeling the shame of my sin. Actually, I welcome it. If by feeling it more acutely, I can more earnestly welcome and more powerfully experience the grace of God – why wouldn’t I?
“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Psalm 18:10
“Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” Isaiah 2:22
“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.” Jeremiah 1:17
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.” Proverbs 29:25
Lord, please forgive me for allowing my fear of man to shape an ungodly view of church life in my soul. I confess that all too often, I have left church on Sunday mornings upset that I wasn’t invited into the “Cool Kid’s Huddle” after service. I confess that instead of leaving church full of rejoicing that I have been accepted into Your family; I have left church sulking that I wasn’t accepted into the “in” crowd. It is so embarrassing that I do this. It is embarrassing that I have even gone to church one time thinking about me at all- let alone having done it countless times. Church is about worshipping You, and serving Your body; not about my pride or my fear of man. Lord please forgive me.
Lord, please forgive me for allowing my fear of man to shape my ungodly speech. I confess that I have often hopped on the “Complaining about Everything Ban-Wagon-” just so that I could share in conversation with others who were complaining. I have done this even when in reality I didn’t feel upset about anything that You had providentially ordained into my life. I know that the Word says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing…” (Phil 2: 14). I also know that my complaining and grumbling, has often been motivated by wanting to have something in common with other people, or because I didn’t want others to think that I was being overly pious. (Which is really lame, considering that Christians are supposed to be pious.) In truth Lord, I think that my obsession with people pleasing also accounts for most of the gossip that I have ever shared. It is like I just wanted to be the one with the juiciest morsel of the day- the person who is in ‘the know’ with what’s going on in the lives of others. – Lord, please forgive me- I know that Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Lord, please forgive me for loving the praise of men more than loving the opportunities that You have given me to serve You. I have often allowed my fear of man to make me feel ashamed that You have manifested your grace in me in a different way than You have manifested your grace in the lives of my peers. It has been my fear of man and my pathetic desire to just “fit in” that has given me that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach, when I have been called to serve you in a different way than my friends have been called to serve you. I have thought foolish things to myself, like: “What if so and so doesn’t approve?”, or “What will ‘this one’ or ‘that one’ think of me when she hears about me doing thus and so?”.
Lord, I would have thought that the grace that you have shown me in giving me unique opportunities to serve You- would have caused the other type of pride to well up in side of me. You know the “I am so great, look at me” kind of pride. But, I am such a mess (outside of your grace) that that type of pride is quickly squelched by the reminder of my intrinsic uselessness, my lack of innate intelligence, and the horrifying reality of my sinfulness. Besides, like 1 Corinthians 4:7 says, “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” Lord, please forgive me- I confess that my pathetic man-pleasing, people-pandering pride has made me so fearful of people that I have sometimes even wanted to forfeit the blessings of Christ and the graces of the Holy Spirit- so that I could just be like everybody else. I mean really, how sad is that? How wicked is that? How sad am I? How wicked am I? I don’t think that it gets more debased than to want to shirk the calling of God just so that I can “fit in” with the world around me.
Lord, please forgive me for my fear of man- it has been a systemic problem in my walk with You. Even in this brief time of confession I can see how terrible of a snare this sin is to my soul. Please forgive me, please free me, please grant to me the faith that I need to trust in you, and to be kept safe. For Your Word warns me that “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.”
It has been a while since I posted anything from Wretched. The other day I came across the “Arrogance Test,” administered by Todd Friel. I found it to be wonderfully convicting, yet slightly entertaining in a Todd Friel-ish-edgy-sin-exposing sort of way (if you know what I mean). As for me, I’m glad I spent three minutes and fifty-five seconds of my life taking this test- it helped me see an area of my soul that needs a little mortification; that is, a little more sin-killing-effort. So I figured, “Why not spread the love?” If you like it, there is a link to Wretched on my blog. You can find it by scrolling down and looking to your reading left.
“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Proverbs 10:19
No kidding, right? When I was first married this verse was my husband’s ‘trump-card’ when we were in an argument. I would be prattling on in self-defense, or with some string of irrelevant angry-accusations, and all of sudden- in a triumphantly low and calm voice- my husband would say, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking.” That statement would usually provide a momentary cease-fire in our fight, an opportunity to consider the questions ‘Is what I am saying right now pleasing to God?’ or ‘Have I said too much?’ At that point in the argument, I could do one of two things. I could gather my self-justifying thoughts, and “re-load” my semi-automatic mouth. Or, I could repent by momentarily putting my mouth on lock, and allow my wayward heart to be quieted by God’s grace (at least until I could speak the truth in love).
Embarrassingly, I usually chose the former (in the first year of marriage), but eventually I found that the truth of this Proverb is life-saving, soul redeeming, and grace-giving. I have found that the truth of the Proverb is life-saving because it often hinders me from entertaining my life-suffocating thoughts, from speaking life-destroying words, and from acting on the many life-corroding impulses of my flesh. I have also found that this Proverb is a soul-redeeming truth because it reminds me that it is out of the abundance of my evil heart that I often want to speak. This reminder can motivate me (if I yield to its wisdom) to acknowledge the self-centered desires that are motivating the words that I want to say, and an acknowledgment such as this, usually leads to confession and repentance. It is in this way, that the truth of this Proverb has become soul-redeeming for me, for confession and repentance are both fruits of the soul-redeeming, sanctifying grace work of God. And, finally, I have also found that this Proverb is grace-giving. I have found it to be grace-giving because when I do not relieve an emotional unrest in my soul and my desire for justification before others with my “American right to freedom of speech”- I am forced to prayer. Since prayer carries me to the throne of God’s all-sufficient grace, and sets me at rest in the mighty stronghold of God’s redeeming, grace- this Proverb has become for me a grace-giving truth, as well.
In short, this verse is a ‘check-point’ for my soul. Because now, eighteen years later, although I still have disagreements with my husband, this verse has become to me a door of hope (not a call for a ‘momentary cease fire’). For, when I feel myself heading towards the weapon’s armory of my fallen heart; about to go into ‘attack mode’ with my Best Beloved (or someone else), wisdom’s flare often lights-up the caverns of my momentarily-darkened soul, reminding me “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
“Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.” John the Baptist, Luke 3:8
One fruit that is in keeping with repentance is confession of our sin. Confession consists of giving full consent to, being in out-and-out agreement with, admitting wrongdoing, or an acknowledgement of debts owed. That is, confession is the verbal expression of our agreement with God that He is correct (He is right) about the matter of our sin. In practical terms, this includes fully agreeing with God that our wrong attitudes, self-consumed motives, ungodly actions, destructive addictions, and immoral relationships are sinful. Confession also includes acknowledging that the sin-debt that we owe to God is beyond our ability to pay back. In short, confession is how we say, “Lord, You are right. I am walking on the wrong path. I am going in the wrong direction with my life. If You do not save me, I cannot be saved. Please, Lord, turn me around so that I am going in the right direction on the path that leads to life.”
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 2 Corinthians 13:5.
We all need to check the quality of our professing faith against the fruit of salvation in our lives. We can do this by comparing our lives with the Biblical description of what the Christian life is supposed to be like. We can ask ourselves Bible-based questions that help us measure the genuineness of our faith by the objective standard of God’s Word. For example, we can ask ourselves questions like: Do we find joy in God? Do we want to be with other people who find their joy in God? Are we sinning less than before we came to faith in Christ? Do we feel conviction when we do sin? Do we want to obey God’s word? Do we even want to read God’s Word? Do we love God more than we love ourselves? All this to say, we must obey the admonition of Scripture, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
None of us should foolishly buy into the false belief that salvation from sin is accomplished because we give verbal assent to the truth of the Bible. Even demons do that! James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” Real Christians – those who are being saved – experience the power of the cross to save them from sin more and more every day of their lives. We experience God’s power in real-time as God destroys our deadly sin patterns and gives us new life through our relationship with Jesus. We experience God’s power through the message of the cross every time that we are kept from fulfilling our sinful desires, we are enabled to deal with our messed up pasts, or we receive God’s grace to accept our own frailties, and love others despite their frailties. The power of the cross is a present-tense reality; it is not just a future hope. For the power of the cross is the power of God to put us on a new path, walking in newness of life. The longer that we walk on that new path, the more we will experientially know that, to those of us who are being saved, the message of the cross really is the very power of God.
The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
First Corinthians 1:18 says that the message of the cross is the power of God to those that are being saved. Those who are being saved are those who are daily experiencing God’s resurrection-power in their lives; not those who just say that they believe the gospel message. There are some people who think that they are in the group of those who are being saved, but they have no real relationship with Jesus Christ; they have no personal experiential knowledge of the power of the cross to save them from sin. The Word of God warns us about these people saying, “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.” And also warns us, “Stay away from people like that” (2 Timothy 3:5, NLT).
People that think they are being saved, and yet, never seem to experience any of the fruit of saving faith (conviction over wrong-doing, hunger for God, love for God, joy in God, a desire to be with other Christians, etc. etc.); are self-deceived: they are not really being saved. People who are being saved experience the power of the cross of Christ to save them from sin’s power every day – not just judgment day. Unfortunately, there are some people that do not even realize that they do not know God (Matthew 7:21-23, 25:31-46).