Influence

May 24, 2010 at 5:26 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Whether we realize it or not, we are influenced by many things. We see an advertisement for the newest car, the latest way to lose weight, or the fastest way to make money and we have the opportunity to be influenced. The more we see the ad, the more likely we are to be influenced to purchase the product. It happens for cars, houses, grocery items, toys (think about all the ads you see at Christmas), and movies.  We see people happy with the new product or service and we can’t help but think that it may be the same way for us. We see the newest TV shows with the hottest stars and our interest is piqued. We see the latest summer blockbuster with the most amazing special effects and we have to see it. The chart topping hits play on our favorite radio station, we can’t get the song out of our head, and the next thing we know, we’re buying the CD or iTunes download.

The influence of music, movies, advertising, and other media forms has become so pervasive that we hardly even notice it anymore. We have become desensitized to it. We hardly realize that we are not making the choices anymore. Add to this the “herd mentality” where friends and family are acting on this influence and it becomes even stronger. We seem to be in full control of our decisions, and fail to recognize the influence that the environment around us – the things we see, hear, smell, taste and feel – has such a profound influence on what we say and do.

The influence that we deal with on a daily basis can lead us to do a number of things without thinking. This can be ok at times but it can also cause problems. If we spend money that we don’t have to buy something that we have been made to believe that we just can’t live without then we have a problem. We have been influenced to the point that we are now in debt and have hampered our ability to do what is necessary because of that influence. Of course, there are always credit cards; but this too is an influence based idea. We are led to believe that we can use the credit card to get out of debt by putting off the payment for the merchandise we buy until later on down the road. We will only have to pay a small interest fee on the money and we can have what we want now while paying for it later. The problem arises when later comes and we have spent the money that we needed to pay off the credit card on other things that we “just had to have”.

The danger of influence can readily be seen in this simple example, but there is something more dangerous still. For Christians, the danger of influence goes deeper than many seem to realize. We are bombarded with the same images and messages that everyone else is. We feel the same influence that others who do not believe feel but there is a greater cost and many Christians seem to be willing to pay it without even thinking twice. As Christians, we are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). The definition of the word holy means to be “set apart”. We are to look, act, speak, and live differently than the world does. We are to love the things that God loves and hate the things that God hates. Anytime that we compromise our Christian faith for the sake of influence, we open the door for non-Christians to mock Jesus and turn their back on the only One that can save them because “it obviously doesn’t work”.  Many Christians allow themselves to be influenced by the world in the name of being “relevant”. Others don’t realize the influence that what they see and hear has on them, and still others just don’t care.

All you have to do to see the dangers of influence is look at what people are watching, listening to, wearing, saying, and doing. Today it’s hard to find a movie that doesn’t have some kind of derogatory comment about God. Blasphemy runs rampant through the movies that many people watch. Even movies geared toward the younger generations contain blasphemy. The James Cameron movie “Avatar” has military characters blaspheming God’s name on two occasions. Some would argue, “Well, it’s only two times.” That may be true, but it’s still blasphemy. In the Old Testament, blasphemy was punishable by death. I realize that we no longer live by the Old Testament laws, but the God of the Old Testament who ordained death for blaspheming His name because it’s holy is the same God of the New Testament and His name is still holy. What kind of message are we sending to our kids by allowing them to listen to blasphemy? Are we not telling them that they really don’t have to worry about it? God’s character is tied to His name. Every time God revealed more about His character, He was called a different name (El, Elohim, Yahweh, etc.). If we make it clear to our kids that blasphemy is ok (by allowing them to listen to it), are we not helping them to disregard God’s character as well?

Another movie that was lauded as a “Christian” movie is “The Book of Eli”. I’ve already talked about this movie before, but I think that it shows just how much influence the world has had on Christianity. The movie is full of sexual connotations, rape, murder, gratuitous violence, and a number of other sins. And yet, many Christians went to see it. Why? What purpose was served by spending money to sit down and watch a movie that did nothing to glorify God? Many people defended the movie as “Christian” because it included the Bible in its storyline and the main character (Denzel Washington) would “pray”. Is that all it means to be Christian anymore? Is it enough to carry a Bible and “pray” during hard times? The sad thing about this is that these are only two of a number of movies that bombard the viewers with sin and worldliness.

The music industry is just as notorious for this sort of thing. I haven’t listened to mainstream music in a long time, but I know what they present to the listeners. Many songs are laced with vulgarity, sex, and sin. The videos for these songs are just as bad, often showing women in almost nothing, gyrating their bodies in a way that could easily cause men to sin. Even the songs that don’t have a large dose of this still have a negative influence. And yet, many Christians listen to this stuff and allow their kids to do the same. A good case in point is a Christian music station. They pride themselves on playing “uplifting” music to “get you through the day”. And yet, they play music by openly homosexual artists and secular artists. Is this “uplifting”? Is it right? They are a Christian music station. For them to play music by an openly homosexual artist is the same as endorsing the singer’s lifestyle. The secular artists that they play have been defended by the staff of the station because the songs they play are “encouraging” and talk about God. Having looked at the lyrics for some of the other songs by this same band, I can’t believe that they would even consider playing them. One of the other songs talks about having a one night stand and just looking for a good time! Is this Christian? If a song mentions Jesus once, is that enough for it to be played on Christian radio? Should Christian songs be filled with theology and praise to God? Another defense by the radio station was that they play this music “because this is what the listeners want”. Really? They want to hear this? If that is the case then I am just as concerned for the listeners as I am for the station.

If you look at other industries and happenings you can see the same things. I dare you to try and find modest clothing for women and girls anymore. It’s near impossible. It’s a miracle if the pants/shorts don’t have writing on the backside (like men need help looking there). They are so tight, low cut, and revealing that it’s impossible to be modest while wearing it. The shirts are no different. Surely if I just mention the swimwear that is offered to women today that will be enough? We have pageants where women parade around in almost nothing to be judged so that they can win and represent the country in bigger pageants. Why?  Is it necessary for them to be almost completely bare for anyone to see their beauty? Exactly what type of image of our country are they trying to present to others?

The area of science is one that has influenced Christianity for a long time now. Men and women of academia push hypotheses like evolution around like they are fact and no one even bats an eye anymore. Forget the fact that the evolutionary account of the history of the universe has numerous holes and problems. Forget that it goes directly against the account given in Genesis for the creation of the universe by God in six, 24-hour days. Forget that it completely erases the need for God and morality and allows man to sin his heart out because he’s in control. Forget that it denies the death of Jesus because there is no such thing as sin. All of this and more are just taken for granted by many Christians without any kind of study at all. Because scientists speak with an air of confidence and layout all the “facts” that they have, people take them at their word. No one realizes that they start with a spiritual statement (“There is no God”) and then build their whole worldview around this. No one seems to notice that the entire worldview changes every time a new piece of “evidence” is found.

Ok, I realize that this sounds like a long diatribe about the evils of the world. In a way it is. The church has become so complacent in its duties that we have no one else to blame. We no longer study to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15). Instead we just find a “pastor” or “preacher” who will tickle our ears and tell us what we already believe. When challenged to study, many Christians gawk at the work involved and complain about how hard it is. But, these same people will manicure their lawns to perfection, orchestrate every detail for a party this weekend, or work all day putting a new stereo in their car. They will learn all the new stats for their favorite teams, read the latest computer magazine, or build a new set of cabinets for their kitchen; but they won’t have time to study the scriptures. Our churches are filled with people who couldn’t answer the most basic of questions having to do with doctrine or theology. Many of them couldn’t articulate the exclusivity of Jesus, the Trinity, or explain what makes Christianity different from every other religion in the world…

Idolatry runs rampant in the church as people create their own version of God. Many churches are now “seeker sensitive”, designing their entire church around an effort to lure non-believers into Christianity by catering to them and giving them what they want. “Pastors” stand up on Sunday morning preaching on movies, singing Elvis songs while dressed in tights and a cape, and performing stunts in an effort to “connect” with the audience and get some weak, watery version of the faith instilled into those who are there. Others push their attendees to do service, give money, and sacrifice their time because “that is what the gospel is” (No….no it’s not). We entertain our children with coloring pages and shallow, “barely Biblical” stories about their spiritual ancestors while the world inundates them with false history as fact and bombards them with every sin imaginable.

Can anyone taking an honest look at the church in America today (and other places) say that it hasn’t been influenced by the world? Can we look at all of the “Fear Factor” stunts done by youth groups and the hundreds of dollars worth of “giveaways” offered to lure people into the church and say that something is severely wrong today? Can we look at the lackluster, inaccurate, self-serving message being preached by far too many pastors and agree that it’s not the true gospel?

I realize that because we are in the world and rub elbows with non-Christians everyday that we are going to have the opportunity to be influenced by them. I completely understand that. I also understand that we are not going to be able to remove every bit of vulgarity, immorality, and sin from movies, music, advertising, and other areas. I realize that to live in the world means to face some things that we don’t like or agree with, but do we have to usher it into our homes? Do we have to purposefully bring it into our lives through TV, movies, music, magazines, the internet and other avenues? While we can’t keep it all away from us (unless we’re monks…), should we just give up and allow it complete access to our homes and our children? Instead of being influenced by the world, shouldn’t we be influencing the world for Christ and the glory of God?

The church professes to have the answer to all of life’s problems (and it does), but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the way that many Christians live their lives. How can we, who have the only way to be saved from the wrath of God to come, expect the unsaved to come to repentance when many in the church do not? Is that not exactly what the Pharisees did in the times of Jesus? Did they not put more and more on the people who wanted to do right while ignoring the law themselves? They tithed their spices and ignored justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23).  We do the same thing today when we ignore the study of the word and its proper preaching in favor of entertainment and enticement. We must stop the influence the world has on the church and begin to do the things required to start influencing the world for Jesus Christ. He is the only hope…

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