Worldly Distractions and the Death of Primitive Christianity
One of the greatest distractions from an earnest preparation for eternity is the seemingly endless round of pleasure-seeking, merry-making, holiday celebrating and amusement by the people of the earth. The thirst for worldly pleasures and things is an insatiable one, and it also deadens the higher, moral sensibilities, killing the appetite for spiritual things.
The beloved apostle John wrote these solemn words of warning to the followers of Christ:
“15 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. 16 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. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever."
James the brother of Jesus is even more strident in his warning, calling world-loving Christians spiritual adulterers and adulteresses:
4 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. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?
The pursuit of worldly pleasures and things comes with an enormously expensive price tag: the loss of love for God the Father and the things of God. But worldliness is very pervasive, even in the church. Small wonder, then, that the contemporary has so very little of God’s Spirit left in it! Has not the Spirit of the living God been grieved by the churches’ strenuous efforts to come more and more in conformity with the world? Has no one considered that the parade of church bazaars, fairs, carnivals, and other apparently innocuous forms of “Christian” entertainment is not pleasing in God’s sight? And what’s more, the church has very little to offer the world because the church is hardly different from the world! Whatever happened to being God's peculiar people in the world?
People who want to seriously prepare for heaven and get to know Jesus Christ better and become better disciples for Him, would do very well to bring the idols of selfishness, pleasure-seeking and amusements to the altar and sacrifice them in the service of God. We cannot consecrate the theater to God. God cannot bless it and He has no part of it. We cannot ask God to bless anything that has the effect of drawing away from Him the time and attention and devotion that He alone deserves. But to speak against and condemn these common idols from the pulpit is a sure way to incur the wrath of the professed Christian people of God! The truth be told, we have cultivated a love for sin and for the sinful pursuit of earthly pleasures and treasures which direct the mind and heart away from God!
Please consider and understand. What if every social club, movie theater, juke joint, bar, dance hall, bingo parlor and casino, TV and computerized entertainment and the carnivals were to suddenly shut down their operations for a period of time, what do you think would happen to church attendance and offerings? What about highly popular gaming and sporting events? Now consider the remote or under-developed areas of the world where hardly any of these havens of amusement and entertainment are present. Look at the church attendance there, and be instructed. Where none of the distractions of worldly pleasures are present, participation in church and spiritual devotions dramatically increases. But add these distractions to these places and be saddened to discover a precipitous drop in spirituality. Where other competing non-spiritual distractions are present, church empties out.
Contrary to popular opinion, it is not the lack of engaging amusements in church that is the cause. It is the love and pursuit of entertainment that is at fault. There is no relish for the things of God, no real love of bible study, worship and prayer. Church attendance becomes an exercise for those who fear hellfire but lack real godly fear and love for God and His word. The world has a much greater influence on the church than Christ has on the church, and we wonder why we have not received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit!
But we should also be concerned about the distractions that arise from simply pursuing a living. We have become so focused on making a living that we have forgotten how to make a life! We have allowed work and labor and working for the almighty dollar to eclipse being workers with God and for God! We’re just too busy trying to make it in life to build a life with God. Studies have shown that people are working harder than ever yet barely getting by. Or they are doing quite well but preoccupied with getting more and more. Success and fortune are promoted as the ideal virtues. But while people seek upward mobility and the promotion, moral character development and living for God take a back a seat. Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and Mammon (money).”
We go to great pains in the church to become popular or “relevant” to the world we must live in. But often our attempts at popularity or relevance are misguided. God’s word will NEVER be popular, because it condemns the very worldly, carnal pursuit of the sin we so thoroughly love and enjoy. But God’s word is always very relevant. It speaks to every generation of our greatest need: the need for a loving Savior Who alone can satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts, and frees us from the sin and worldliness that separates our hearts from Him.
So we don’t need the latest high-tech gadgetry or slick marketing methods to reach our generation. We don't need to re-tool our marketing and outreach and resort to more "Christianized" entertainments to reach and retain converts. The church needs to overhaul its dependence on and love of the world and repent! We ourselves must first turn to the loving Christ and repent of all our insane, sinful pursuit of worldly pleasures and treasures, taking up the cross of Christ anew. We need to fall in love with Him all over again. We must reckon ourselves pilgrims and strangers in this world. We’re just passing through down here, preparing for our heavenly home. Then we will be fully prepared to receive Christ’s Spirit and be born again, fit to carry the message of a crucified, risen and soon coming Savior to a world perishing in the fleeting pleasures of sin.