Entertainment Detox

Three years ago, Steph and I decided to cancel our TV subscription and try Netflix instead. We did this primarily for two reasons – we were getting tired of all the filth and profanity on TV and secondly, it would save us a few bucks. For the most part, we were happy with Netflix because we were able to watch our kinds of shows and without all the commercials. Last year we switched from Netflix to Amazon Prime, once again because it was cheaper. Still, we weren’t entirely satisfied. We were able to watch good, wholesome shows and movies, but something was still missing. Our solution was to take the month of January and watch nothing at all. That’s right – no TV for a full month (some of you are probably gasping right now).

One month later, having met our goal, I can honestly say we barely missed the TV at all. TV for us was almost exclusively an evening activity, after the kids went to sleep. It was our time to relax and kick back, but the problem was it was costing up precious time to talk with one another. The funny thing is that just this morning Steph was even talking about getting rid of the TV all together. I don’t think we will be going back to our old TV watching ways anytime soon.

In the book, Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper offers the following:

Television is one of the greatest life-wasters of the modern age. And, of course, the Internet is running to catch up, and may have caught up. You can be more selective on the Internet, but you can also select worse things with only the Judge of the universe watching. TV still reigns as the great life-waster. The main problem with TV is not how much smut is available, though that is a problem. Just the ads are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what program you’re watching. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God. Its facility for this great calling is ruined by excessive TV. The content is so trivial and so shallow that the capacity of the mind to think worthy thoughts withers, and the capacity of the heart to feel deep emotions shrivels.” (page 120)

I would encourage you to examine your entertainment viewing habits. I am not saying you should give up TV and entertainment completely, but simply to take a serious, sober look at your entertainment consumption. Our Lord only gives us a short time here on earth – may we use every moment to His glory.

Is Male Leadership Simply a Result of the Fall?

Many people argue that male leadership (in the home and church) is simply a result of the fall of man and not as God originally intended things to be. John Piper disagrees and responds in this way.

Nine evidences in Genesis 1-5 that man’s leadership is an order of creation and not a result of the fall:

  1. The creation of man and woman equally in God’s image but with a representative leadership function implied for the man (Genesis 1:26-27).
  2. Man is created first, then the woman (Genesis 2:7, 18). Man goes ahead (leads) in creation and is given that same leadership function in life. Paul picks up on this in 1 Timothy 2:13.
  3. Man is given the moral teaching for governing the garden to pass on to the woman (Genesis 2:15-17). God gives these instructions to Adam with the assumption that he is to pass them on to Eve.
  4. Woman was created “from man” and presented as a helper “fit (suitable) for him” (Genesis 2:18-23). Woman is to come alongside man and partner with him in serving the Lord.
  5. Man names woman (Genesis 2:23). Naming is a significant leadership function. For example, parents name their children.
  6. The serpent undermines the roles ordained by God and draws Eve and Adam into a deadly role reversal with God and each other (Genesis 3:1-6). Satan targeted Eve in the deception. Adam was “with her” (verse 6) when she gave of the fruit of the tree but he did not stop her.
  7. God calls the man to account first, not the woman (Genesis 3:7-9). This is one of the clearest evidences. God did not go to Eve first even though she was originally deceived by Satan.
  8. The curse of “Desire” and “Rule” show the futility of role corruption (Genesis 3:16b).
  9. God named man and woman man (Genesis 5:1-3). This is why it’s good for married couples to have the husband’s last name.

Adapted from lesson four of What’s The Difference: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible. A DVD small group study by John Piper.

The Relationship Between Sex and Knowing Christ

“Sexuality is designed by God as a way to know God in Christ more fully.  Knowing God in Christ more fully is designed as a way of guarding and guiding our sexuality.”  So argues John Piper in his book “Sex and the Supremacy of Christ.”

In order to help the reader better understand what he means, he restates these two points negatively.  “All misuses of our sexuality distort the true knowledge of Christ.  All misuses of our sexuality derive from not having the true knowledge of Christ.” Still a little fuzzy?  Try this one:  “All sexual corruption serves to conceal the true knowledge of Christ, but the true knowledge of Christ serves to prevent sexual corruption.”

To say that the purpose of sex is intense physical pleasure for husband and wife along with procreation would not be wrong, but Piper takes us beyond a basic understanding of sex to its deeper meaning.  Too often Christians have a distorted view of sex, having been more influenced by the world than by the Scriptures.  In some circles, the topic of sex is taboo and we forget that the Bible is not silent when it comes to this subject.  I remember one of my professors in seminary giving us his own personal paraphrase to Genesis 1:28, which the ESV translates, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”  My professor’s paraphrase went something like this: “Have sex and have lots of it!”  All humor aside, God created sex and it is clearly a “good” thing, when it happens in its proper, God-ordained context – marital love.

Few Christians would argue that God intends for us to know Christ more fully.  Paul even said in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ.”  So how can we know Christ more fully?  A typical evangelical response might go something like this – through prayer, bible study, fellowship, and worship and through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.  But let’s return to Piper and his thesis – “Sexuality is designed by God as a way to know God in Christ more fully.”  Perhaps we could now add sex to the list.

Piper writes, “God created us in his image, male and female, with personhood and sexual passions, so that when he comes to us in this world there would be these powerful words and images to describe the promises and pleasures of our covenant relationship with him through Christ.  God made us powerfully sexual so that he would be more deeply knowable.  We were given the power to know each other sexually so that we might have some hint of what it will be like to know Christ supremely.  Therefore, all misuses of our sexuality (adultery, fornication, illicit fantasies, masturbation, pornography, homosexual behavior, rape, sexual child abuse, bestiality, exhibitionism, and so on) distort the true knowledge of God.  God means for human sexual life to be a pointer and foretaste of our relationship with him.”

One of the ways this can be illustrated is in Genesis 4.  “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.”  Adam’s knowledge of his wife obviously refers to sexual intercourse.  There is a much deeper intimacy and knowledge that comes through sex than through any other type of relationship, which is why God has reserved this privilege for those who are married and have become “one flesh.”  Husband and wife have the great privilege of growing in this “knowledge” for the rest of their earthly lives together. And as Piper stated earlier, God intends for sexuality to be a pointer and a foretaste of our relationship with him.  God does not intend for us to simply know things about him.  I have met Christians who equate knowledge of God with knowing facts about the bible and being able to quote scripture by memory.  In contrast to that, God’s desire for His children is that they might move beyond mere “head knowledge” to a deep and intimate knowledge of their Creator.

To be sure, marital love is only a foretaste of what awaits God’s children at the coming of their Savior, but what a powerful reminder it is!  As it says in 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

So what does knowing Christ have to do with guarding and guiding our sexuality?

To quote once again from John Piper, “not only do all the misuses of our sexuality serve to conceal or distort the true knowledge of God in Christ, but it also works powerfully the other way around: the true knowledge of God in Christ serves to prevent the misuses of our sexuality.  So, on the one hand, sexuality is designed by God as a way to know Christ more fully.  And, on the other hand, knowing Christ more fully is designed as a way of guarding and guiding our sexuality.”

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:3.  “But among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” Christians know that sexual purity is important, but we also know that it is a challenge, given our toxic culture.  There are temptations all around and it’s easy for our purity to be compromised. The solution is not to simply give in and say “everyone is doing it so it’s ok.” The solution is to flee from the temptation and trust that God will provide a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).  As Paul writes, “This is the will of God, your sanctification: That you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles, who do not know God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)  Notice how at the end of that passage we are told that the Gentiles “do not know God.”  In contrast, those who know God are committed to sanctification – to pleasing God in everything they do, including their sexuality.

As Piper concludes, “If the Scripture teaches that truly knowing God – truly knowing Christ – guards and guides and governs our sexuality in purity and love, then we may be sure that anyone whose sexuality is not governed and guarded and guided in purity and love does not know God – at least not as he ought.”

Beholding is Becoming

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Human beings are wired in such a way that makes us desire beauty. We want to gaze upon what is beautiful and majestic. That is why people visit the Grand Canyon and go to art galleries and the list goes on and on. But while there is much beauty in the created world, surely nothing compares with “the glory of the Lord.” There is nothing more worthy of beholding than the glory of Jesus and this is exactly what God intends for us. Jesus prayed, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

There is a sense in which the ultimate fulfillment of this will be when the saints are in heaven where, “we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). We long for that day, but is it not possible to see Jesus and “behold the glory of the Lord” this side of heaven? The answer is yes. In fact, the bible encourages it (Hebrews 12:2). In contrast to much of what the world has to offer, God invites us to behold true beauty – the glory of His Son.

The problem with modern Christianity is that we are content with little. We think that if we simply take a quick glance here and there, that will be enough to sustain our spiritual lives. Forgive me for the X-rated illustration, but picture a man and his wife on their wedding night. Do you think he is going to simply “glance” at his wife or is he going to “behold” her and gaze upon her beauty? If there is a such a man who is content with just a glance, I have yet to meet him. Well, in the same way, God is inviting us to behold the glory of the Lord, through His Son, Jesus. Safe to say, this is not a view that will disappoint which means more than a glance is required.

Before we are regenerated and “born again” in Christ, we are blind to the glory of the Lord. But when we experience new life in Christ, we can finally look with “unveiled face.” We begin to see all that we have in Christ and how little we have in the world. We used to think just the opposite, but “having the eyes of our hearts enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18), we can now see clearly. That is not to say there is no longer a battle to fight. Satan, our enemy works very hard to blind us and obstruct our view of God. But God has equipped us with everything we need to “stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

At this point, perhaps you are asking the “why” question. Why is it important to behold the glory of the Lord? Well, in addition to finding our ultimate joy and satisfaction in Christ, it’s all about “becoming” the person God wants us to be. I stole the phrase “Beholding is Becoming” from John Piper, but what it tells us is that God wants to shape and transform us into the image of His Son. The goal of the Christian life is not simply to stay the way we are, but to become the people we were intended to be – people who reflect Christ to the world and who carry the “aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15). The great thing is that the more we “behold” Christ, the more we “become” like Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the choice is yours. We have been given the invitation to look and “behold” the glory of the Lord. Either we continue to take a quick glance here and there and maintain our comfortable Christianity. Or we can behold and become. We can look and be changed. We can be transformed into the image of Christ. Unfortunately, most people will opt for the former, because it’s easy and requires no change on their part. But for those who do look and behold, they will not be disappointed. Far from it. They will “taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8).