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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
June 13, 1999
The Battle for the Mind, Part 2
The Dager of Amusement
Two weeks ago I began this series by pointing out that the Scriptures give us clear warning that we are in a Spiritual War. Any of us that have been Christians for any length of time and have been striving to live for Jesus Christ is also aware of this conflict by personal experience.
I pointed out then from Ephesians 6:10f that we should expect this spiritual conflict and that we should be prepared for it by putting on the whole armor of God. Let me read that passage again for you as a way of reminder.
Eph. 6:10 (NASB) Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places.] 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Interestingly enough, the first piece of the armor Paul tells us to put on in verse 14 is to have our loins girded with truth. He goes on to add the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. But let me back up and again point out that we are to stand firm against the schemes or wiles of the devil. It is the truth that we must understand and follow to withstand those schemes. It is the truth that holds all the other pieces of armor in place. In the series I preached this passage a few years ago we spent many, many weeks dealing with this issue.
The breastplate of righteousness is dependent on us knowing the truth that true righteousness comes from Jesus Christ alone. We are not good in ourselves, but only as we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ can we stand holy before God without fear. Truth is also essential for the gospel of peace, for the good news of peace with God through Jesus Christ is only good if it is true. If it is a lie then it is a horrible deception and of the utter most evil.
The shield of faith only has protection for you if what you believe is true. It is truth that gives strength to the shield. Faith in something that is not true is placing your trust in an illusion that can not protect you when the attack of Satan’s fiery darts comes. I believe most of us have experienced this. We have placed our faith in Jesus and believe what He has told us. Satan attacks that from every quarter trying to get us to doubt Christ and believe his own lies instead. It is the solid ground of truth that keeps us from wavering. We often do not understand everything, but we go back to the foundation of things that are true and we can stand firm.
I don’t know how often I have had to go back to some very basic truths to make enough sense of this crazy, evil world to go on. God is the creator. Man is evil because he has turned away from God. God has provided a way for man to be free from slavery to sin in Jesus Christ. Jesus loves me and proved it on the cross of calvary. Jesus is coming back to get me and take me to heaven. Those truths may sound simple, yet they are deep and profound. They are a foundation that is solid. They are steel plating that covers the shield of faith and make it strong to withstand the devil’s attacks. If you do not have your armor on, you will lose the battle.
The helmet of salvation is also dependent on truth and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, is truth. In every aspect of this spiritual war involves an attack on your mind, an effort to get you to believe something that is not true. Remember that a half-truth is not the truth and much of the attack is this mix of truth and error so that your conclusions are still false.
God wants you to know the truth and live accordingly. Our adversary, the Devil, wants you to believe lies. In John 8, Jesus said that the Devil was a liar from the beginning, that it is his nature to lie, and that he is the father of lies. What did Satan do to Eve in Genesis 3. He lied to her saying, “you shall not surely die.” Then he continued to lie about why God did not want them to eat of the tree of knowledge. From the beginning there has been a battle for the mind with Satan seeking to deceive mankind and pervert the truth. I traced that through the Old and New Testaments two weeks ago.
Two weeks ago I also pointed out the many verses that warn us to be diligent and careful of Satan’s effort to deceive. 2 Peter 2:1 gives both the historical summation and the continued warning about deception. But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” Are you prepared for such false teachers? Can you identify the truth from error? Can you defend yourself against their deceptions?
Two weeks ago I spoke about one of the major ways that our minds are attacked. The Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 2:8, See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. Worldly philosophy is the major stumbling block to non-Christians and Christians alike.
For non-Christians, the philosophies they hold on to keep them from understanding and submitting to the truth of God in Jesus Christ. The philosophies of false religions lead people to believe in false gods and not the God who created them. The philosophies of the cults lead people to a perversion of the truth of God so that they believe they can earn their way to heaven through various rituals or moral codes. They reject salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ’s substitutionary atonement. Their Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the Mormons is the brother of Lucifer. The Jesus of the Jehovah Witnesses is a lesser god.
There are also the secular philosophies that reject their being a God who created everything. Their materialistic worldview creeps into every aspect of life and death. It is the basis for Communism in which the State is supreme and the individual only has worth as it relates to the State. Evolutionary philosophy makes man simply an animal in a battle for survival. The strong prey on the weak. Abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and genocide all become acceptable in reaching individual, group or State goals. Other worldly philosophies are the foundations for all forms of totalitarianism in which an individual or small group oppresses all others because they seem only themselves as important.
What is common in all of these is the rejection of the Bible as the Word of God, the revelation of the Creator to His creatures of who He is and what He has done and what He wants us to do. In sinful pride man wants do things his own way. He invents his own gods which are reflections of himself and develops religious systems so he can earn his own way or in the quest for complete autonomy he does away with the need for God altogether. Romans 1, 2& 3 describes this decline of man and its results.
The Christian usually withstands the blatant aspects of worldly philosophies, but the more subtle aspects can capture the mind of the Christian resulting in living lives that are nearly identical to the non-Christian. I pointed some of these out in my previous sermon. Christians raise their children with nearly the identical philosophy and practice and non-Christians even though much of it is directly against what the Bible says about raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Christians flock to so called “Christian psychologists” who basically just add prayer to the same treatments that secular psychologists use even though neither Scriptural or scientific support for what they are doing. Pride, renamed as “self-esteem” becomes the great virtue instead of humility. Personal happiness instead of holiness becomes the pursuit of life. Blatant sins are labeled as psychological dysfunctions for which the person is not responsible.
There is a battle for our minds and worldly philosophies are a major weapon against us. That is why Jesus, John, Peter, James, and Paul all warned us about it. As Christians we have been changed into new creatures in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17). We, as Eph. 4:17 states it, are to “. . . walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart:”
If you missed the message two weeks ago, I would encourage you to pick up the tape to get more details on all this, but for the rest of this morning I want to bring to your attention another attack on our minds that is more subtle in part because most of us have accepted the philosophical premise behind it as normal. It is the danger of amusement.
What do I mean by “amusement?” Simply what the word itself means. It is a compound word made up of “muse” with the prefix “a” which negates it. To muse on something means to think deeply. Webster’s dictionary states it is “to become absorbed in thought; esp: to turn something over in the mind meditatively and often and often inconclusively.” A synonym for it is “ponder.” To muse is to grapple deeply in thought. The prefix, “a,” negates the word to mean the opposite. To “amuse” is to not think deeply. Webster defines “amuse” as “to entertain or occupy in a light, playful, or pleasant manner.” It is also defined as “to divert the attention of so as to deceive.”
Now before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am not saying that all entertainment, all play, all lightheartedness and humor are sinful. Ecclesiastes 3 makes it clear there is a time to laugh and dance as well as a time to weep and mourn. What I am suggesting to you this morning is that this society has made so much out of amusement that it has perverted our ability to think. It has also robbed many Christians of the ability to serve the Lord. That is a strong statement, but as we go on you will see the evidence backs it up.
It can go almost without saying that public discourse in America has dissolved and been converted into the art of show business and the sound bite. Neil Postman clearly describes this decline of American society’s ability to think rationally, inferentially, and deeply in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death. Compare any area of communication today, whether advertising, education, politics, or religion, with the early 1800’s and you can see this. For example, in the past, America’s highest literacy rate was extremely high. Even in the early colonial period, 1640 – 1700, it was estimated that 89%+ men and 60%+ women could read. Early advertising was based on the assumption of the consumers ability to rationally think through the long copy describing the product and its potentials. Today, most advertising tells you almost nothing about the product itself. Instead it presents an image to attract the consumer including creating the need for you. Example: Mouthwash and Hair-product commercials. They are designed to project the image that people without their product could have a problem and lose friends and customers as a result. It is the image that is important, for almost no actual information about the product if given. Another example: Car commercials. Each is designed to produce an image that you might want for yourself. Wealthy people have this car. Sexy people drive this one. Macho people have this truck. Intelligent and thrifty people buy this car. Little to no information is given about the car itself.
Let me go on to some more important examples: Politics and religion. Has anyone here ever seen a real political debate in the last 40 years? Can anyone here imagine a normal political debate lasting 3 hours or more. One hour for the first man to present his arguments. An hour and a half for the next to present his and refute the former, then a half hour for the first man’s rebuttal. Our how about this: Oct. 16, 1854 in Peoria, Ill. Stephen A. Douglas delivered a three-hour address to which Abraham Lincoln was to respond. Being that it was by that time already 5 pm, Lincoln proposed that the audience go home, eat supper and return refreshed before the talk continued – and it did for four more hours. Seven hours of political debate, and debate that centered on political theory and assumed the audience was well acquainted with such theories and the events which were shaping those theories. Note well that Lincoln and Douglas were not even running for high public office as they did four years later. People today can hardly make it through an oral presentation of less than an hour, much less hours and hours of intricate and complex discussion.
Politics was not the only area this was seen. The great preachers of that time were different and so were their audiences. For example, Jonathan Edwards, of the mid-1700’s, was “one of the most brilliant and creative minds ever produced in America. His interests were largely academic; he spent long hours each day in his study. He did not speak to his audiences extemporaneously. He read his sermons, which were tightly knit and closely reasoned expositions of theological doctrine. Audiences may have been moved emotionally by Edwards’ language, but they were, first and foremost, required to understand it.” (pg54).
The reason for this type of discourse, according to Postman, was that “in the 18th & 19th centuries, print put forward a definition of intelligence that gave priority to the objective, rational use of the mind and at the same time encouraged forms of public discourse with serious, logically ordered content.” Contrast that with today and we can see that politicians are not elected based on knowledge of the candidates positions and political theory, but rather on image produced by the sound byte and favorable visual pictures. The mediums of television and news magazine with lots of pictures themselves demand that image and not rationality reign supreme. Impression, not logic is more important. It has been said by many that Lincoln, among other past presidents, could not have been elected if modern technology were available then – why? Lincoln was not pleasant to look at. He suffered from gigantism. He was subject to long periods of depression. His wife was mentally unstable.
The same is true for modern preachers. Can you name any of the great theologians of our day? Walvoord, Kistemaker, Thomas, Hendrickson, Morris, Guthrie, Archer, Packer, Murray, Bruce, Metzger, etc. You may not even recognize them. Yet many of you can name many of the TV preachers or at least recognize them – Shuller, Roberts, Robertson, Crouche, Hinn, Copeland, Price, etc. Why? Because visual image – or calling it more accurately – entertainment or amusement is more important in the context of the communication mediums of this age than logical presentation of theological arguments. Deep theological discussion won’t make it on TV – and it rarely makes it on modern Christian radio.
May I suggest to you that the medium of communication itself removes the sacredness of worship, and I think of even serious theological discussion. Lets face it, you can do anything while watching TV or listening to the radio. You can sit in the living room, work on projects, cook in the kitchen, do pushups – and excuse my vulgarity – go to the bathroom. Where is the sacredness then?
Let me give one more example before wrapping this up and telling you what can be done. The example: TV News. Nothing more typifies what TV has done to create our amusement world and lessen our ability to think. TV news presents life to us in “peek-a-boo” fashion. First this event, then that event, then the next. They pop up, then vanish. The result is that everything becomes de-contexualized. Add to that the irrelevant information from around the world and the information that you can do nothing about. The end result: irrelevance, incoherence and impotence. Postman traces this decontexualiztion of news back to the invention of the telegraph and photography and found something interesting along the way. The “crossword puzzle became a popular form of diversion in America at just that point when the telegraph and the photograph had achieved the transformation of news from functional information to decontextualized fact. This coincidence suggests that the new technologies had turned the age-old problem of information on its head: Where people once sought information to manage the real contexts of their lives, now they had to invent contexts in which otherwise useless information might be put to some apparent use. The crossword puzzle is one such pseudo-context; the cocktail party is another; the radio quiz game show of the 1930’s and 1940’s and the modern television game show are still others; and the ultimate, perhaps, is the wildly successful “Trivial Pursuit.” “…The pseudo-context is the last refuge, so to say, of a culture overwhelmed by irrelevance, incoherence, and impotence.”
The question about whether Television shapes our culture or reflects it is moot. Television has become our culture. Our society has an entertainment mentality. It desires to be amused. It does not want to think deeply and critically. Even our definition of truth has been effected. “Credibility” no longer refers to a past record of a person who has made statements that have survived the rigors of reality-testing. It now refers to the impression of sincerity, authenticity, vulnerability or attractiveness, conveyed by the actor/reporter or for that matter, politician or preacher (pg102). This “credibility image” demands that TV News assemble a “cast of talking hair-do’s,” and so you do not see TV News anchors that are women over 50, or bald, or overweight or have long noses or close set eyes, etc,.
I could go on and talk about Sesame Street and the failure of TV, for the most part, as an educational tool, but that will have to be some other time in another context. TV does one thing well – amuse. It has made everything into entertainment including life’s tragedies and serious topics. I am not saying that TV itself is a sin or that it is necessarily a sin to watch it. I have one, I intend to keep it, and I intend to watch it on occasion – when I want to be entertained. But even then, I have to be careful, for I am a soldier of Christ. And this is my whole point.
I am a soldier in a spiritual battle. I have to have my armor on to fight the battle. The first piece of armor is the truth, and I can not put it on unless I can recognize it. There is a battle for our minds. Do you recognize the truth. My weapon of offense, the sword, is the Word of God, but I can not wield the Word of God if I do not know it and have lost the ability to think deeply and plumb the depths of understanding it. There is a battle for our minds, do we use them rationally and logically while thinking about the deep things of God?
Our entertainment culture has greatly weakened our ability to think. It has also slipped into our minds things which are contrary to the Word of God. Remember all I said earlier about philosophy? A very effective way of getting someone to accept a philosophy contrary to their own is to present it in an amusing manner. Don’t let them think about it deeply, but give them bits and pieces that they can feel good about or at least not object too much. It is even better if you can get them to laugh about it. Keep it coming and they will become numb to it and then accept it as normal. That is a major way in which our society morals have been brought down over the last forty years. Are your moral standards the same as God’s? Do you laugh at dirty jokes? When fornication or adultery is portrayed as romantic, are you offended or entertained? Do you sympathize with a homosexual character struggling for acceptance, or do you pity him and desire to see him rescued from his debauched condition? What are you allowing to enter your mind through entertainment?
I am a soldier in a spiritual battle. 2 Timothy 2:4 says, “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” I will add to that Hebrews 12:1 ” . . . let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” I am a soldier of Christ, I need to set aside the affairs of this world. I am a soldier of Christ, I need to set aside anything that will hinder my service for my king.
I must consider that my time, including my leisure time, is valuable. Eph. 5:16 tells us that we are to “make the most of our time for the days are evil.” Are your leisure time activities beneficial or detrimental to your soul? Are the things you do to entertain yourself a help or a hindrance in walking with Christ. Are you a soldier of Christ willing to put aside every encumbrance?
I want to conclude today by giving you some very practical applications of today’s message.
1. Become aware of the battle that you are in. The solution to the problem with amusements like TV is being aware of its dangers. You will not fight the enemy if you do not recognize him as the enemy. If you do not recognize your enemy, you may be embracing him and not even know it.
2. Become a truth seeker. It is increasingly difficult to find the in this society, but that makes it even more of a necessity that you search truth out yourself. That of course begins by step three.
3. Spend time in the Word of God. Study it in depth. One of the things that concerns me greatly is how few people actually do this. You can’t live for God if you do not know Him and what He has said to you.
4. Be a good soldier, and get yourself untangled from the world. Nothing in our society has affected us like TV. You come here and get an hour of Bible teaching. Then you go home and turn the boob tube on. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that an hour or two of church is going to do you any good if you continue to fill your mind with the garbage on TV. Can anyone even name a current program that is not an attack on Christianity. Even “Touched by an Angel” has horrible theology contrary to the Scriptures. Some of you are addicted to TV. It has become your God. You spend the majority of your time with it. You schedule your life according to it. It is the topic of your conversations. It occupies the place of honor in your home – all your seating faces it. If so, maybe you ought to decorate with some candles like an altar. If that is what TV has become for you, then maybe you do need to do something radical like get rid of it. Jesus said that if your hand was a stumbling block to cut it off, or if your eye was a stumbling block to pluck it out. Better to enter heaven without a TV than go to hell because of one.
I hope there is only a small number of you who would need to do something as radical as getting rid of your TV, but if need to do so, then do it, and don’t be ashamed about it. Be mature enough to admit your area weakness and strong enough to do something about it.
Here are some other suggestions. If you are addicted to TV and can’t control it, but you would like to still keep it for special programs. Put it out in the garage in a locked cabinet and give your spouse (or someone not controlled by TV) the key. I have known several pastors that have done that.
If you are not quite so addicted, then make it difficult to watch it. Diane & arrange our furniture so that the TV is not center piece of our living room. Others put it in some obscure place so it is difficult reach and somewhat uncomfortable to watch. I read of one man who placed in a position where he would have to watch it standing up. Whatever you do, get yourself untangled from the things of this world. Col 3:2 “Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth.”
I would like to challenge all of you to do something as an experiment this next week. I want you to commit yourself to not watch any TV this next week and instead use that time to read through the New Testament and/or spend time together with someone else in this church to talk about spiritual things. Then next week during the praise time we will restrict it to how the Lord may have used this in your life.
Sermon Study Sheets
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times “TV” or “Television” is used. Talk with your parents about your viewing habits and what could be better
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Do you have your spiritual armor on? How important is truth? What dangers do worldly philosophies pose for you? What secular ideas have crept into your thinking? What does it mean to “amuse.” How important is entertainment to you? What do you do with your leisure time? Could you have made it through the Lincoln-Douglas debates? Would you find Jonathan Edwards sermons soul feeding? How affected are you by our entertainment culture? How many theologians can you name? How many TV personalities? Do you think you can get the truth from TV news? What do you do with trivial news? Are your moral standards the same as Gods? Is fornication on TV romantic or disgusting? Do you spend more time watching TV or pursuing godliness? Will turn your TV off for a week?
Sermon Notes -6/13/1999 a.m.
“The Battle for Your Mind” Part 2. Selected Scriptures
Ephesians 4:17-20 This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way,
Introduction & Review
Ephe 6:10 (NASB) Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places.] 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil [one.] 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The Importance of Truth
The Danger of Worldly Philosophies – Colossians 2:8
Who is Elected & Why?
Who do you know?
Being a good soldier of Christ 2 Timothy 2:4 (NASB) No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
1) Be Aware 2) Be a truth seeker
3) Be in God’s Word 4) Be a good soldier
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