Overcoming the Temptations of the World
Reading: Luke 22
Thereís something missing that should be the most important part of our lives that the people around us seem to overlook in their everyday lives. What is missing is the introduction and continuing influence of God in their lives. If we look up Matthew 24, we are told what can happen to us if we lose the influence of God in our lives and begin to live without him.
But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Mat 24:37-39)
We can see that these people were doing the things that all of us do like eating and drinking, they are going through the events of their lives with no thought or influence for God and we can see that their time ran out. If we can turn over to the gospel of Luke 17, we can read of another account of what happens. We can see a little bit more of what will happen in the last days and to those that did not include God in their everyday activities.
They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot's wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (Luk 17:27-36)
While we read the same words in Matthew, we also read of the activities of the people during the days of Lot when they bought, sold, planted and built. All of these activities were done without the influence of God and in turn they were destroyed before they knew what had happened to them. We cannot live our lives without the influence of God, instead we need to allow him to be part of our everyday existence. I would like to take a look at how the world around us is spending their time and also take a look at what we should be doing with our time if we are including God in our daily lives.
The world around us has provided many forms of entertainment that could easily fill up our days with unproductive time. How many of us come home from school, or work to sit in front of the television for hours and hours? According to a recent study the average American watches 3 hours and 46 minutes of TV each day. Thatís more than 52 days non-stop of TV watching for a year. At the age of 65 the average American will have spent nearly 9 years glued to the tube. At the same time how many of us turn on the computer, get online and surf the internet or play computer games for hours and hours? I know myself I have in the past and got on the computer to play a game and before I know it, itís 3 in the morning.
The world has given us many excuses to get away from having God be a daily influence in our lives. Just surviving today itself keeps us busy in our pursuit to stay alive and be successful. Employers today are expecting their employees to work longer and longer hours for less and less pay. While at the same time employers are expecting potential employees to have more and more education, this means that either you spend more time at school or you are expected to study at night or at the weekend, while at the same time the world has provided us with a nice amount of other things to do, including a countless number of video games, movies, internet sites, television stations, all with their alluring marketing and subconscious call that make us have to watch or play them right away.
We can also find ourselves pursuing other activities in our lives, like sports teams or after school activities that can not only drain time from their lives, but also the parents who have to get them there and back. And last but not least, there is the necessary time that we need to eat, drink and sleep. With all these distractions you can see how easy it can be to go through a day without God, or it can even turn into a week or as it progresses, even a month. Every day we spend away from God we are going further and further away from where he wants us to be.
We may be inclined to think that if we engage in these activities and do the readings and keep God in our lives then itís probably ok. We can find that the innocent things that surround us suddenly get worse and worse and we find ourselves very far away. As I learned in college, the entertainment industry relies on three things to keep people watching: Adult themes, death and violence. Just about every movie or television show you watch with the exception of a few childrenís programs, will have an element of one of these. These three elements are what make the movies exciting for people, it is also one of the reasons why shows like Barney, Teletubbies and Dora the Explorer are not exciting to adults.
It is amazing to think of all the places that these elements show up, Saturday morning cartoons, and yes they show up in Disney movies too, but sometimes we donít even realise it. In fact according to a recent study, the average American children sees 200,000 violent acts, including 40,000 murders on television by the time he or she reaches the age of 18. Just take a moment to look at the movies that are currently in the theatres, currently 3 are rated R, 12 are rated PG-13, one is rated PG and two are rated G. The options for the movie-goer is pretty much limited to a majority of PG-13 movies. According to the Motion Pictures Association of America, a PG-13 rating has to be used if there if partial nudity, drug use, depiction of violence or if certain bad words are used in the movie.
Or you can on the other hand walk into a movie rental place and you will be surrounded by a world of adult themes, death and violence. The majority of the movies coming out today are PG-13 or R, that represent the world around us that needs to see more and more immorality to keep peopleís interests. You even have the option to rent all kinds of movies that have escaped the rating system and boast this fact with huge non-rated signs on the cover. These movies go way beyond the R rating and include things that no-one should ever be watching for entertainment. In fact if you go to Blockbuster.com and look at the 5 new releases for the week, you can see 3 Rs, one PG and one non-rated.
Television also has gotten worse and worse even with the regulations that are supposed to be imposed on it. Comcast for example offers a countless number of channels that offer nothing but the things you shouldnít be watching along with the so called on-demand feature that allows the viewer to access with the push of a button so called entertainment of the most immoral and offensive kind. The viewer can also order a number of channels that offer adult content exclusively.
This sort of television program isnít just limited to cable television as public stations over the air offer the viewer many other options for immorality. Some of these shows are Desperate Housewives, One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl, all which feature adult themes of cheating as major themes from week to week. In fact the study shows that kids aged 9-12 favour the show Desperate Housewives over other shows, with shows like The Simpsons and Malcolm in the Middle popular for the teen boys and One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl for the teen girls.
The internet also gets worse and worse every day. Thereís no-one who can really control its content, and with the push of a few buttons you can access numerous adult sites that can show you anything you could ever imagine, and even some things you never could. These sites themselves get worse and worse, trying to attract new customers by offering something no other site on the internet can give you. Combine this with the fact that a recent study from out of a survey of 1,000 people, the average person spends 32.7 hours a week on the internet. The average person can potentially get exposed to a lot of really bad material.
The video and computer game world has also gotten pushed along with the rest of the entertainment industry and gets worse and worse. Video games arenít just for kids, now you can get adult video games that feature entire themes surrounding adult encounters and situations. These video games for the AO, or the adults only rating, offer the players themes for things that people will never think about doing themselves. You have the games with the R rating, which are about the same type of rating system as in the movies, but itís worse because the player is actually doing the activity, like shooting, stealing, killing, assassinating, destroying, seducing and everything else you can imagine. Even the games that are supposedly ok for kids give you the opportunity to do a number of things that a believer should never be doing, or even thinking about.
When we surround ourselves with these things, even a small amount at first we will find ourselves acting and thinking like the things we are watching. It is a proven fact that the human mind likes to imitate what it sees. This imitation can be seen in toddlers when they try and act like their parents, and when they get older they want to do all the things the parents are doing. So if we watch bad movies and surround ourselves with bad language and things we shouldnít be doing we will find ourselves thinking and doing these things. It even comes down to things like the music we are listening to in our car. It is a proven fact that people listening to music with a fast beat will drive faster than people listening to music with a slower beat. If we listen to music with bad language or with evil themes, we will find ourselves thinking evil thoughts and find ourselves using language we shouldnít be using.
With all these things surrounding us we can easily end up on a path that leads us to nowhere but death. We have the opportunity to stay away from the path that leads to death, and we can take a path that will give us an opportunity for life. God has given us some tools that we can use to combat the world around us. If we can look up Ephesians 6 we can see some tools that are to be with us at all times to combat the ever increasing worldliness around us.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. (Eph 6:11-18)
God has given us the armour of God to combat and defend ourselves from the world that constantly surrounds us, so that in the last days we can be strong, to battle the world around us. We need to think and dwell on heavenly things, like truth, righteousness and peace and have faith that God will overcome all that is in the world today and give us a chance of salvation. We also need to be equipped with the Bible, to have it with us at all times in our minds so that we can combat the world around us and use it as a sword for defence and for attack against evil when needed. These armaments should be with us at all times, but it takes work and perseverance to always have them with us. We are commanded to read the Bible as often as we can and the daily Bible readings should be a necessity for us.
Much like all the entertainment industry influences us, we find that when we surround ourselves with godly things we become better servants and followers of God. When we read the Bible we are making ourselves to be like the characters and ideals that are located in the Bible. The more we do it, the more we will find ourselves as good followers of Christ. When we read the Bible every day we are giving ourselves the necessary escape from the world and it gives us a renewed dose of how God wants us to be. This godly influence when put into our daily lives not only gets us closer to God but also gives us relief.
This truly can be seen in our lives, Iíve found when I read the Bible every day for a number of days I found myself to be in a better mood and found it easier to live a godly life. This also applies to the music I listen to, when I listen to some Christian music on my way to work I found I was in a much better mood, dealing with traffic and finding myself feeling a whole lot better when I arrived where I was going. As opposed to when I listen to music on the radio, I was stressed and tired when I got to where I was going.
Prayer is also another way that we can escape from the world around us. When we pray we are completing the cycle that any good relationship needs. The Bible is Godís word speaking to us and when we pray we are responding and communicating with God. This cycle will not work with one of the parts missing. We have to be effective communicators and both listen and respond to the word of God. When we respond we have an opportunity to connect with God on a level that cannot be substituted with anything else. This connection and closeness to God is essential to combat the world, the evil that surrounds us.
Along with the Bible and prayer we also need to be close to other believers. We need to attend functions that are centred on the Bible. During these functions the fellowship that we receive can be a major boost to the life of the believer in combating the world that can drain us. When we go to functions focused on the Bible we form relationships around the Bible and in turn become stronger against the world. If youíve ever tried to lose weight or start working out on a schedule youíve probably found that it is easier when there are others working with you. When you have a bad day or feel discouraged itís a major boost to have that person keep pushing you and help you not to give up. Along the same lines, itís the same with our brothers and sisters in the church. Our fellow brothers and sisters can comfort us when we are in a spiritual low and at the same time when we help others we can feel a renewed sense of God in our lives. When we let God work through us to do good things for others weíre letting God into our lives and then he can fulfil his purpose through us.
This is also important when we select our friends, while itís not necessarily wrong to be friends with people in the world, we have to be careful not to let these people influence us into doing the wrong things. Itís very important for us to have good strong friendships in the truth so they and strengthen us and keep us doing the right things. Friends can influence us in ways that we may not even realise for both good and bad. The influence of peer pressure isnít just for kids and teenagers, it can affect everyone no matter what age we are. We need to make sure we are making the right decisions and doing the right things and not being influenced by our friends to do the wrong things.
The things we have looked at are all very important for the combat and defence of the worldly things around us. But we have the example of our Lord Jesus Christ who successfully combated the world around him and put to death sin. Every day our Lord Jesus Christ woke up with the same nature as ourselves and was able to overcome it. Jesus is the best example we have of a man that we should emulate in our everyday lives if we want to combat the world around us. He avoided the appeal of the world around him by living a life separate from the world, living in tents and not seeking after the unnecessary appeals of the life around him. He surrounded himself with those who were trying to do the right things and actively encouraged those who were trying to do the right things. He constantly sought to do the will of God and allowed God to work in his life even from a very young age. Even to his own detriment he was constantly trying to help and bring others toward God. He studied the word of God constantly and was ready to use the word of God as his sword for defence and for attacks. He showed when he was in the wilderness his knowledge of Godís word and he used it throughout his life to not only defend himself but combat those who were against him.
Jesus also prayed constantly and was in constant contact with his father throughout his life and trusted him completely, even sacrificing his life. In our reading we had the opportunity to look into some of the last moments of our Lord Jesus Christ before he was crucified. In Luke 22 we see a man that even in his last hours was still thinking about others and set up the institution we are here for.
And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luk 22:15-20)
He commanded us to eat and drink and remember him. Weíre to remember him and examine ourselves and truly try to be more like him. We need to be separate from the world around us and avoid the temptations that surround us and call out to us. We should only have one God in our lives and not let a television or computer take over our lives. Instead we need to read Godís word every day and study and learn and apply the lessons there found in it. We need to let the word of God sink into our hearts and minds and let it overtake and mould who we are. We also need to pray constantly and be connected to our Father as well as being connected to friends in the truth and being active participants in our church. And last but not least we need to keep the example of Christ alive in our own lives, truly examining ourselves and trying to imitate him.
To close Iíd like to read from Paulís words in Ephesians 5.
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Eph 5:1-16)