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She went after her lovers; but Me she forgot, says the LORD.
(Hosea 2:13 NKJV)
A woman who came to a recent Set Apart Girl conference wrote me a letter about how God had convicted her of idolatry in her life — worshiping pop culture through her addiction to movies and television. “What God calls sin I’ve been calling entertainment,” she admitted.
Bravo. Rarely have I heard anyone be willing to speak that truth so honestly.
I’ve written in previous articles about how God convicted me of this same thing a few years ago. He gently opened my eyes to see that by filling my “down time” with the images and messages of Hollywood, I was participating in something that dishonored Him and grieved His heart. I was wasting countless hours of my life on something opposite of His Kingdom and His nature. Movies and television had literally become an idol in my life — something I was unwilling to give up. Something I couldn’t imagine living without.
Like so many modern young women, I had been looking to worldly entertainment to bring the rest, refreshment, and pleasure that was supposed to be found in my relationship with Christ. In fact, I started noticing that often when I tried to pray or meditate upon God’s word, my mind would be distracted by scenes from a movie or TV show I’d recently seen, and I would have to labor to get my mind back upon Heavenly things.
But the idea of giving up my regular “veg-out” sessions in front of movies was almost impossible for me to consider. How could I survive without at least a few nights each week to relax, unwind and escape reality for a couple of hours? And then the gentle voice of Christ’s Spirit reminded me, “A daughter of the King should never have the need to escape reality. In My presence is fullness of joy; at My right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (See Psalm 16:11)
When I thought about it, I couldn’t picture my spiritual heroes like Elizabeth Fry, Viba Perpetua, or Gladys Aylward spending every weekend at the movies and rushing out to see Spiderman 3 on opening night. I couldn’t imagine Amy Carmichael or Sabina Wurmbrand getting hooked on Survivor or American Idol. They were far too busy living out a real-life drama with the King of the universe; spilling out their lives to bring Him glory, reveling in His abundant mercy and faithfulness; marveling at His unspeakable power, and delighting in the joy of His surrounding presence.
So with the help of God’s Spirit, Eric and I completely overhauled our “down time” activities. Time that we typically spent watching movies we now spent in prayer, serving others, and cultivating intimacy with our King. And though it was not an easy transition to make, in the end, the results were nothing short of extraordinary.
For the past five years, we have lived this way. Worldly entertainment no longer distracts me or eats up my precious time. My “down time” is spent on things of eternal value and my daily “refueling” happens through time with my King rather than time in front of the DVD player. Now that I have tasted the incredible peace and joy that comes from spending hours in God’s presence, I have no desire whatsoever to return to the cheap counterfeit and temporary rush of Hollywood. I have truly discovered that in His presence (not in a movie theater) is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
It’s not that Eric and I have never watched a movie during the past five years, but it’s the rare exception, and not a normal activity for us. In fact, we only watch about three or four movies total during an entire year — not counting the “little kid movies” that we see every now and then while cuddling on the couch with Hudson and Harper.
The movies that Eric and I occasionally choose to watch are the rare few that we feel will actually enhance our relationship with Jesus Christ and build us up spiritually. Making this decision has truly transformed my spiritual life in a way that nothing else ever has. It keeps me from spending hours of my week on meaningless worldly things and frees my time for things that really matter — like prayer.
If you find it hard to believe that time in God’s presence could be more exhilarating and fulfilling than time in front of the latest movie, I challenge you to try it for yourself and find out what you’ve been missing!
As much as we might like to simply call it harmless entertainment, the reality is that Hollywood is anything but harmless. It glorifies violence, perversion and evil. It glamorizes sin and debauchery. It splashes sin across a huge silver screen as an entire culture eagerly drinks in its twisted messages. And yet most of us spend a large majority of our free time at the movie theater or in front of the television, ready to participate without even a second thought, ready to give our money to an industry that is the opposite of all that we hold to. Sure, we might be somewhat careful about the kind of movies and shows we watch. But even the “milder” ones, for the most part, glorify sin and selfishness. In fact, if we are to be completely honest, we will only be able to name a very small handful of movies or TV shows that truly bring honor to the name of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 1 says:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. (vs 1-2 NKJV)
By clamoring after the world’s entertainment and imbibing the images of Hollywood, aren’t we walking in the counsel of the ungodly? By plopping down in a movie theater every week, aren’t we sitting in the seat of the scornful (quite literally, if you think about it) and watching the very same garbage as the rest of the world?
By filling our minds and hearts with movies and TV, we are certainly not delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating upon it day and night. Rather, we are meditating on the sights, sounds, and messages of pop-culture day and night.
A great man of God once said that modern Christianity has ac-cepted a counterfeit version of joy and peace by looking to Hollywood and professional sports to bring us delight. We look to movies and television and football games to bring us the pleasure that our King desires to give. And by leaning on worldly entertainment for rest and refreshment, we find only a temporary fix; not lasting happiness or true fulfillment.
1 Timothy 5:6 says, "She who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives." (NKJV)
That’s a sadly accurate description of today’s young Christian woman. Though many of us claim that Jesus Christ has first place in our lives, in reality we are steeped in selfish pleasure and pining after the attractions and delights of the culture. And, as a result, we are dead inside. Christ came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) Building our life around His pattern rather than the world’s does not lead to stiff spirituality and legalism. Exchanging counterfeit worldly pleasure for the eternal delights of God’s kingdom does not bring misery and death. It brings abundant life. I can say this from firsthand experience.
As I said in Authentic Beauty, one of the ways that you can tell something is an “idol” or “other lover” in your life is that you are unwilling to let it go; you can’t picture living without it. Most of us, if we were honest, would have to admit that we are unbelievably addicted to the world’s entertainment. Life would seem empty and bleak if we didn’t own a TV. Weekends would be boring and depressing if we didn’t frequent the local theater to catch the latest Hollywood flick. Even though we supposedly have everything we could ever want or need in Christ alone, we still look to these other means for the peace, joy, excitement and refreshment that He Himself desires to give us. All we have is the counterfeit version of peace and joy, because we aren’t willing to let Him give us the real thing. We are too busy programming our TiVo or buying movie tickets online.
Christ makes it clear that we cannot love both Him and the things that charm and ravish this world. We cannot be dazzled by the images of pop-culture and captivated by the King of all kings:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 John 2:15-16 NKJV)
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
The set-apart women of history past were not only willing to give up all the pleasures and enticements of the world for His sake, but everything they held precious was poured out upon Him without reserve, like Mary of Bethany.
So if you are ready to break free from the unhealthy hold Hollywood has over your life and your time, here are some practical ways to begin:
1. Consecrate a Set Apart Season
Though not every movie is necessarily evil, very few movies or TV shows are truly spiritually edifying or glorifying to our King. I would challenge you to take a set apart season of your life to remove all movies and TV shows from your life, and instead fill that time with prayer and seeking God. At first, it may feel awkward and uncomfortable to make this transition, but if you are disciplined to use your “down time” to cultivate your relationship with Christ instead of feeding your flesh, you will soon find that in His presence truly is the fullness of joy. Once you taste the “real thing” you will no longer hunger for the counterfeit. If you feel that making this decision might be a struggle, consider recruiting an accountability partner who is willing to make the same choice — and schedule prayer and worship together instead of the typical veg-out sessions in front of the TV. If you need a boost to get you started, you might try downloading audio or video messages from David Wilkerson, Corrie ten Boom, A.W. Tozer and Jackie Pullinger on sermonindex.net and beginning your prayer times with these soul-stirring reminders of what truly matters.
2. Remove the TV (and that DVD Collection)
If it is within your power to do so, consider removing the TV, DVD player, and pile of movies from your living space completely. When you remove the option of coming home after work and flopping on the couch with the remote in your hand, you are far less likely to waste your time in front of the TV. For those rare occasions when there is a movie you feel will be spiritually edifying, watch it on your computer (or borrow someone’s DVD player) instead of having a TV and DVD player taking up space in the corner of your living room and providing a daily temptation toward distraction.
Once the TV is no longer sitting there ready to entertain you during your “down time”, you can look for ways to “unwind” without having to spiritually unplug from your Life Source, Jesus Christ. Things like taking a long walk with worship music playing on your IPOD, taking a hot bath with audio Scripture playing in the background, calling a friend or loved one to encourage them, baking or creating a gift for someone in your life, scrap-booking or photo-journaling, writing music or poetry, etc.
David Wilkerson is the founder of Teen Challenge and pastor of Times Square Church in New York City whose amazing ministry has impacted the world for decades. It all began with a decision he made way back when he was a simple country preacher in rural Pennsylvania. Every night for a couple of hours he was in the habit of watching TV, partially to relax and partially to stay in touch with the culture. One night a strange thought entered his mind: What if he were to get rid of his TV and instead spend those two hours every night in prayer? To make a long story short, he tried it. He sold his TV, got on his knees, and from that point forward, incredible things began happening in his life and ministry. David’s life became an unprecedented adventure that impacted the lives of millions. Never underestimate what can happen when you are willing to make sacrificial decisions for the sake of your King! The simple step of re-moving your TV as an act of love and obedience to Christ could very well change the world.
3. Ask the Right Questions
When it comes to knowing what movies or shows you should watch, or how often you should watch them, it’s important to ask spiritually-minded questions instead of selfishly-minded ones. Like I said, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a movie, but there is something wrong with any activity that dulls us spiritually or distracts us from our true Love, Jesus Christ. Prayerfully ask the following questions when it comes to your standards and decisions regarding entertainment:
Have I been surrendering my mind and emotions to Hollywood’s ungodly messages?
Do I watch movies and shows that glorify darkness or perversion, mock God, or make sin seem noble, even in subtle ways?
Do I justify my participation in Hollywood’s ungodly messages? (Hint: If you catch your self thinking things like, “As long as I don’t agree with the bad stuff in this movie, it’s okay for me to watch it,” or “This movie has a good message if I just ignore the sex and profanity,” Or “Every other Christian I know would watch this movie, and it’s only rated PG-13, so it’s probably fine,” then it’s time to let Christ re-shape your standards.)
Do I turn to TV or movies for a counterfeit version of rest, refreshment, and enjoyment instead of going to Christ for the real thing?
Am I addicted to movies or TV shows? (Reminder: if you are unwilling or unable to go without these things, that’s a sign they have an unhealthy hold on your life.)
Am I willing to use the time I would normally spend being enter-tained by Hollywood to further my prayer life and deepen my relation-ship with Christ?
Are there any practical changes that Christ’s Spirit is asking me to make (by His enabling grace) in this area of my life?
If you bring this area of your life to Him with a truly surrendered heart, the area of worldly entertainment becomes far less confusing. Anything that leads you closer to Him is worth spending your time on. Anything that distracts you from Him is not worth a second glance.
God’s Word says, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31)
There is no such thing as a trivial, neutral activity during our days — from moment to moment we are either honoring our King or we are serving self.
Precious sisters, let us wipe the spit from the face of Jesus by purging all idolatry from our lives. Let us live as if we truly are bondservants of the most High God; purchased by His blood. No sacrifice is too great for the One who gave everything to rescue us for eternity.
(Note: For some extra inspiration on this subject, listen to Eric’s sermon A Friday Night in the Promised Land.)
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