03/22/09

Taste and See: Part 5 – Leave the moment you know that you should not have come

 Taste and See: Part 5   Leave the moment you know that you should not have comeHebrews 5:14
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Philipians 3:8
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

In view of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, I look at my standards for entertainment and find them incomplete. Tonight I was at the campus theater for one of the university’s productions. I did all that I could do in order to keep my previous commitment to avoiding entertainment (even if it be for class credit) that is spiritually harmful; I read reviews and summaries, making sure the play was decent.

By the time we made it to intermission, my conscience was suffering. The subject matter on stage was not spiritually healthy. I closed my eyes and refused to look on stage for one entire scene, avoiding the worst and trying to appease my conscience. Still, by the end of the production, my heart felt as heavy and sick as the story-line of the play itself. The intake of my heart tonight was undeniably unhealthy.

It is not enough to simply avoid spiritually destructive entertainment as much as possible. We must go further: It is never too late to cease what should never have been started. I should avoid sinful entertainment, and if any entertainment I thought was clean turns out to be unclean, I should leave it the moment I know it to be unclean. If I would have avoided the entertainment if I had known its content beforehand, then I should abandon that entertainment the moment I know it is harmful. Another way to say it: Leave the moment you know that you should not have come.

Evil is evil, and the price is no less if it is paid on accident. There is no excuse for polluting the mind, and ceasing its intake is a clear statement of the validity and vitality of our faith. My entertainment standards were incomplete because though they strive to keep me from STARTING sinful entertainment, they did not commit me to ENDING entertainment that seemed fine before turning ugly. I am fixing these standards after tonight’s events, to God’s glory and my good.

What entertainment is spiritually harmful? Here are some questions (from a previous post):
1.    Does it make me want to commit immoral action with a woman/man? (Does it make me want to see too much, do too much, etc)
2.    Does it present evil in a favorable or laughable light, making me see it as harmless?
3.    Is this entertainment media cause me to desire to do any sin? (Jesus put desiring and doing on the same moral ground)
4.    Does this entertainment come at the expense of someone else? (Does it create a derogative view of women, does it produce critical thoughts of others in me, does it creative a sinful attitude of pride or insensitivity in me? I am thinking of music especially here, but internet and movies as well. Guys, do you want to give your girl something for Valentine’s that will change both of you forever? Permanently log out of porn, stop watching trash on TV that gives your mind to another woman, and request that your girl dress modestly. Feeding the immoral appetite says nothing but “I love me.” Saving yourself for her, and caring enough about her walk with God to support her in dressing modestly and acting morally, is a loud, “I love you.”)
5.    Does this entertainment help or hinder the renewing of my mind?
6.    Will I likely walk away from this entertainment having sinned? (I say “likely”, because sometimes we say that we can control our thoughts in the face of temptation, but likely we want. Be realistic. Know what will likely happen to your thought life, not what should or could happen)
7.    Does this entertainment cause me to walk the line as bring me closer to paying a cost I do not want to pay? (Is this entertainment bringing me to a place where I am in the iffy, gray-area zone, likely pushing limits and not honestly admitting that I am dangerously playing with temptation, not fleeing from it? It is better to walk away that risk paying a moral cost)

Why do I worry so much about entertainment? Here’s why:
1.    If I am amused by evil, I am probably not aware of it’s influence on me.
2.    If I laugh at it now, I’ll do it eventually.
3.    Continued exposure to evil deadens the conscience to its poison, making it “a slow fade, where black and white turn to grey.”
4.    Continued exposure to evil deadens the heart to God’s voice, making me less sensitive spiritually to God’s voice in His word as I read.
5.    If I fill my mind with evil, evil will come out of my heart, as I reap what I sow and the heart speaks from what is put in it.

Thus the price for exposure to evil is too great. I will lose my spiritual ability to discern good and evil if I do not practice it in life (Hebrew 5:14). I must count it all as loss in order to gain Christ (Philipians 3:8). Sin is serious.

Here is what I am not advocating:
1.    Isolationism. 
I am not assuming or advocating that Christians can or should be completely isolated from the world. We are to be in the world, but not of the world. However, I cease to simply be in the world when I cease to be able to be separated from it. As Paul E. Little writes, there is a difference between separation and isolation. We are to be in the world (not isolated), yet separate from the world (for we are not of the world). When I feed on entertainment that is spiritually harmful, I am no longer separate from the world because I am not participating in the same evil thoughts/delights as world does.
2.    Legalism.
I am not attempting to follow a list of rules to walk holy. However, I am desiring to live holy and know that the only way to do so is to live strategically. Empowered by the Holy Spirit and motivated by love, I can discern what is spiritually harmful so that I avoid it and become more holy, as He is holy.

Father, please give me Your hatred of sin. Give me clarity of vision, so that I can be further rid of sin and gaze at You, seated on Your throne, high and lifted up. My heart is tempted at times to downplay sin’s horrors, yet that is only when I do not see the nails it drove in Christ’s hands and feet. Let me hate sin with a passion so that I chase after You all the more. I will never truly repent until I hate the sin I want to abandon. Let me glorify you in the entertainment I choose. For Your namesake, give Your child the strength and grace to live as You have commanded.



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03/9/09

Taste and See: Part 4 – The Word

 Taste and See: Part 4   The WordJohn 17:17
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

If out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45)…and we are feeding our heart poison, what comes from our mouth? We might be temped to say, “I don’t talk about inappropriate and vulgar things, I don’t cuss much,” but does that prove that we are feeding our hearts on the good things of the Lord? Psalm 34:1 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”  Praising the Lord is a far cry from just refraining from speaking evil.

May I be honest personally? Psalm 34:1 is not me. I have moments of praise, but my praise is not continual. I take that to mean a couple things:
1) I am not feasting my heart in meditation on His character revealed in Scripture, and
2) I am tasting of something other than Him instead.

What is the difference between my life and David’s? David was able to praise the Lord continually only because he had tasted of the Lord and seen that He was good, and committed to obeying all that the Lord had commanded. In Psalm 119:9-16, David showed that his heart’s intake was the Word of God, and his lips poured forth accordingly. If you want to praise the Lord as David did, you must spend the time with the Lord in His Word that David did. Robert D. Foster put it this way: “To know God, it is necessary to spend consistent time with Him…The intimacy of communion with Christ must be recaptured in the morning quiet time. Call it what you want — the quiet time, personal devotions, the morning watch, or individual worship — these holy minutes at the start of each day explain the inner secret of Christianity. It’s the golden thread that ties every great man of God together — from Moses to David Livingstone, the prophet Amos to Billy Graham — rich and poor, businessmen and military personnel. Every man who ever became somebody for God has this at the core of his priorities: time alone with God!”

Scripture makes the prescription for our heart’s sickness clear, and I am walking the path towards Psalm 34:1 with you. As we consider the tastes of the world, find them wanting in comparison to our beautiful Lord, we reject them in order to turn to the Lord in His Word. It takes faith in God and a belief that He will reward those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), but letting our minds dwell on the reality of God and His character by meditating on His Word will not fail to produce a harvest (Galatians 6:7-10). Psalm 1 is yet another picture of the one who does not have any dealings with sin, and bears the fruit of delightful meditation on the Word (also see Jeremiah 17:6-10; Isaiah 5:24; Hosea 4:1-6, 8:7, 10:12; Matthew 3:8-12; Galatians 5:22-25).

The Word plays the central role as we seek to overcome sin. It shows us what is right and wrong, as well as allows us to gain an intimate knowledge of of our Father. You will only know the Father to the extent that you have been in His Word. If we have a 10-minutes-a-week plus church relationship with God, we will know Him about as well as we know the people we wave at on the streets and cannot remember their first name. But we want more than that. We want to taste and see in such a way that sin is exposed as a lie and its promises pale in comparison to the delights of knowing God.

Father, You are a holy God, completely set apart from sin. By Your Word, sanctify me so that I am able to step out of sin and see You more clearly. When I gaze through a shroud of sin, I find myself unable to see Your goodness with clarity. My heart longs to taste and see, please sanctify Your child.



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03/6/09

Taste and See: Part 3 – Entertainment

shapeimage 1 1 Taste and See: Part 3   EntertainmentPsalm 101:2-4
“I will give heed to the blameless way
When will You come to me?
I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.
I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not fasten its grip on me.
A perverse heart shall depart from me;
I will know no evil.”

There is a certain danger in putting evil before our eyes when evil is used to humor the viewer, or at worst is even set in a desirable light. Movies present the devil with a stealthy opportunity to give us a potent taste of evil because nothing we view is morally neutral, though we often treat the delights of Hollywood as such. Everyone from the director to the actor has a worldview that they are presenting, and if we let down our guard, we are letting them sell us that idea without our knowing. The seriousness of contemplating this issue is underscored by the way movie images burn themselves into our memory. If movies hold that power, then we want to be doubly careful that we are not victims of evil’s vise.

Particularly, I find the issue of sex the most disturbing. This is spoken to the guys: After the last secular movie I watched, I came away feeling like the movie had done nothing but present one of the main characters before me so as to make me want her. The way she was dressed, the way the camera presented her body, the words she spoke – she was intentionally presented to the viewer in an alluring way. Tell me, can I view such a movie, and not have immoral thoughts? Do men not want to se everything concealed when a female body is made tantalizing by revealing clothes? (I will discuss modesty further in a future post). I want no part of any movie that does that to my mind. I unapologetically call that evil, and my heart knows there is no justification strong enough or pleasure so rewarding as to make it worth the destruction such a thought life produced by the movie does to my heart. I want my mind to be washed and renewed, not corrupted further.

Romans 12:1-2: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” There is nothing good and acceptable and perfect about immorality as fined and condemned by God. Movies that are tainted with immorality and/or images that produce immorality in me do not help us present our “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” A mind filled with impure thoughts is not holy and set apart unto God. A mind that is in such a state is not participating in the worship of God. (John 17:17: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” The renewing comes by being in God’s Word.”)

How do I know if I have become acclimated to sin in entertainment?
Here’s a test: Would you have watched the same movies you do today, 10 years ago? How about 15? Maybe you see it differently. But I see the searing of consciences when I see the progression from evil to blatant evil. Instead of requesting God to reveal the presence of sin, we have often opted to ignore sin until we are deadened to it’s bitter taste.

A section by Charles Finney communicates this well:
“Especially does the conscience become seared, when the will persists in courses directly denounced or condemned by the conscience. In such cases the conscience soon becomes indignantly silent and leaves the soul stupefied to pursue its course of disobedience. It is often seared by an individual’s resorting to sophistry to justify any course of disobedience…Conscience becomes seared by diverting the attention of the mind from the moral character of your own actions. If you suffer yourself to pass along without attending to the moral quality of your actions, your conscience will soon become seared with a hot iron.”

I have not come across an action movie yet that was not pushing immorality and disregard for Biblical values. “But the movie had a good moral to it.” At what cost? Did I view 2 hours of sex and violence just to learn that “There is a good side and a dark side at war with each other”? As long as there is an alternative way to learn that same moral, I would prefer not to pay the high cost of forfeited mental purity and sensitivity to evil. I hold the view that no good is good enough so as to make committing a sin acceptable to obtain the good (I am not a utilitarian). God never once in His word commanded us to sin in order to attain righteousness. I take that to mean that if we seek God Himself, we will find all the good we need without needing to taste evil.

Searching for an alternative to destructive entertainment.
I am not condemning all entertainment, nor labeling all movies as sinful. There is an alternative to evil if we search for it, and we do need one! How about a movie where you  walk away wanting the attractive lady to want HER husband, and happy when she at last does? (Fireproof was a great movie). How about movies like The End of the Spear, that present the gospel and the realities of God with high quality filming? Or how about the Chronicles of Narnia? We don’t need to sacrifice quality for morality. But we must be seeking morality in order to find quality movies that put it on display.

I have discussed movies because of the moral sway (noticed or unnoticed) that they hold with their viewer, but my reasoning also applies to music, TV, video games, the internet, etc. Let me be clear on what I am advocating, and what I am not. I am not trying to say that every secular movie, song, TV show, video game, and website is unacceptable to the Christian. What I am saying is that entertainment that causes me to sin is unacceptable, and that all other entertainment should be approached with a mind aware of the moral stance being advocated by the entrainment media.

How do I know if the entertainment media is causing me to sin? Here are a few questions for self-examination:
1.    Does it make me want to commit immoral action with a woman/man? (Does it make me want to see too much, do too much, etc)
2.    Does it present evil in a favorable or laughable light, making me see it as harmless?
3.    Is this entertainment media cause me to desire to do any sin? (Jesus put desiring and doing on the same moral ground)
4.    Does this entertainment come at the expense of someone else? (Does it create a derogative view of women, does it produce critical thoughts of others in me, does it creative a sinful attitude of pride or insensitivity in me? I am thinking of music especially here, but internet and movies as well. Guys, do you want to give your girl something for Valentine’s that will change both of you forever? Permanently log out of porn, stop watching trash on TV that gives your mind to another woman, and request that your girl dress modestly. Feeding the immoral appetite says nothing but “I love me.” Saving yourself for her, and caring enough about her walk with God to support her in dressing modestly and acting morally, is a loud, “I love you.”)
5.    Does this entertainment help or hinder the renewing of my mind?
6.    Will I likely walk away from this entertainment having sinned? (I say “likely”, because sometimes we say that we can control our thoughts in the face of temptation, but likely we want. Be realistic. Know what will likely happen to your thought life, not what should or could happen)
7.    Does this entertainment cause me to walk the line as bring me closer to paying a cost I do not want to pay? (Is this entertainment bringing me to a place where I am in the iffy, gray-area zone, likely pushing limits and not honestly admitting that I am dangerously playing with temptation, not fleeing from it? It is better to walk away that risk paying a moral cost)

If the answer is “Yes” to any of these questions, be careful. Moral costs are paid but are difficult to ever regain. It is better to forgo a little entertainment than to deaden the heart. Why? Because we want to see God and taste of Him. We can’t do that when our mouths are still bitter with the last sex laced, violence ridden, morally destructive movie we filled our mind with. How can we taste and see the Lord when images of vile sin still float before our eyes? He cries out to us, but we can’t hear Him over our laughter as the Devil waves morsels of death before our eyes and humors us with its perceived harmlessness. We slowly deadened our conscience to the gnarled face of adulterous sex until we are willing to fall in love with a troll we never would have permitted our eyes to even glance at previously. We’ve learned to laugh with the troll of immorality and admire her deformed features. How dare we wonder why we don’t have the joy of the Lord? We’ve found a sick happiness with our trolls on the throne of our heart, and the Holy One has been dismissed. Such a paltry promise she offers. She can only offer a fleeting feeling that fades to churning regret soon afterwards. We clasp her diseased hand in ours, and put her cup to our lips to partake of her poison. We feel a sudden terror as we feel the poison tear through our heart and leave us empty and deprived of love for God.

Oh God, make us holy, as You are holy. We want to set ourselves apart for Your worship, and leave the world’s destructive entertainment behind for a better treasure found in You. To attempt to discern sin in our entertainment would be only futile arrogance if we are not empowered by You. Please let Your Holy Spirit bring our sin before us, and we will overcome it by the power of the blood of Your Son.



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03/5/09

Taste and See, Part 2

shapeimage 1 2 Taste and See, Part 2In November, the Lord put Psalm 34 on my heart, and I compared the Jeremiah 2:19 account of the bitterness of sin with tasting of the Lord’s goodness in Psalm 34:8. But Lord, as You continue to “open our eyes to behold wondrous things of Your law,” we do not want to merely stop with understanding the evil is bitter. We want to go a step further and identify the bitters we taste.

Specifically, we can expound on this statement from the last post:
“Evaluated experiences alight our vision with the fire of understanding. When you compare your experiences with sin and those experiences with God, we shamefully find sin decidedly lacking, and we can then see life with an understanding that sin will not satisfy what our heart longs for. Seek Him.”

What does the Word say? Isaiah 2:5-8 says,
5Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.
6For You have abandoned Your people, the house of Jacob,
Because they are filled with influences from the east,
And they are soothsayers like the Philistines,
And they strike bargains with the children of foreigners.
7Their land has also been filled with silver and gold
And there is no end to their treasures;
Their land has also been filled with horses
And there is no end to their chariots.
8Their land has also been filled with idols;
They worship the work of their hands,
That which their fingers have made.

Does that sound familiar? Have we not been filled with foreign influences? We, who claim to be sojourners in this world as Abraham (Hebrews 11:8-10), forget that the passions of our flesh wage war against the soul of the sojourners (1 Pet. 2:11-12). The foreign influences creep in.

Psalm 34:8 holds the key to a more intimate relationship with God: taste of Him and know He is good. If only you will taste, then you will see His goodness and draw near for more of Him. But wait, not everyone will drawn near and taste. James 4:8: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Cleansing and purification precede drawing near. In the preceding verses, James wrote, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (v4). When I taste of the world, I can not taste the fulness of God’s goodness. Both Psalms and James point to this, for how can we expect to taste the good if our mouth is still filled with the bitter? One who has filled his mouth with the rotten can not quickly turn and taste of the sweet. The sweet will be mixed with the bitter, and will not be fully appreciated.

Is this to say that we should not taste of the Lord until we have removed all impurity from our life? No, sanctification is a process. To be pure, unmixed with sin, set apart unto His worship alone is the ultimate goal but not the immediate state of the saved. Rather, the effect of bitterness to the spiritual tongue is all the more reason to “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). We see the way bitter evil distorts our vision and taste of God, so we pursue purity out of a love for God Himself and a desire to know Him truly.

As I develop the application for Psalm 34:8, I want to bring this this idea specifically to bear on “tastes of the world” such as entertainment, clothing, and finances. This is not legalism. It is a heart driven by a desire for a true taste of the Lord because we want to know the One we love. Love is the polar opposite of legalism’s motivation.

We love you Lord, show us Your glory as we seek to truly taste and see that You are good. We come with a heart void of legalism but full of a love for our Father.



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11/21/08

Taste and see

Ps 34:8-10
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”

Jer 2:19
“Your evil will chastise you,
and your apostasy will reprove you.
Know and see that it is evil and bitter
for you to forsake the Lord your God;
the fear of me is not in you,
declares the Lord God of hosts.”


Heb 3:13
“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Sin is a lie. With its beckoning appearance of sweet satisfaction, we are lured into the fantasy of a satisfied soul apart from our Maker. Our hearts recoil at the bitter taste left in our mouth as the lie is unveiled and the delusion is shattered by awakening reality. Sin wasn’t what we thought it was.

But oh! taste and see that the Lord is good! Take refuge in Him, fear Him, for those who fear Him have no lack. Seek Him. Our Lord never promises sweet only to deliver bitterness.

Evaluated experiences alight our vision with the fire of understanding. When you compare your experiences with sin and those experiences with God, we shamefully find sin decidedly lacking, and we can then see life with an understanding that sin will not satisfy what our heat longs for. Seek Him.



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