Tuesday, March 12, 2013

on following Jesus, tv, and movies: why I watched it all but can't anymore.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2

So many times I've wondered, "what does it mean to be in the world, but not of the world?"

Over and over again as I think and pray about it, I come back to the same idea...we live in the same world as unbelievers, but when we are transformed by Christ, we no longer desire the things the world desires.

In the past few years, I've seen God transforming my life in so very many ways. Oh, it's so crazy to me. I can't take an ounce of credit for it- God has started to change my spirit and give me a different mind than what I used to have, and I have seen Him continue to change my desires from doing what I want to wanting to do what He wants. It's so incredible, and I'm so, so thankful.

But it wasn't because of anything I did. I loved the world. I wanted it all. And He has been so merciful to change me. To keep me from myself.

And one area I particularly loved the world in was watching TV.

I won't lie- this topic makes my knees shaky. TV and movies are near and dear to many people, and I know it's hard to talk about.  I used to be so defensive about it. I have talked about it before and had hard discussions with people in real life, and I know it's something that's tightly held on to in our culture- and it's way down in our hearts.

But like the birth control thing- it's so overlooked...so easily set aside even, yet we can't afford to not give it a thorough look as followers of Jesus.

We are supposed to be in the world, but not of the world.

Oh, sweet friends, one thing I've realized in the past few years is that if I want to live for Jesus, I cannot desire to entertain my soul with filth and sin.

How much of what we watch on tv or in the movies is people pretending to sin?

How much more do we long to watch fictional stories more than we long to spend time with Jesus?

How is what we watch and love any different than what the rest of the world watches and loves?

I used to love watching TV at night after the boys went to bed. Seven years ago, I fell in love with the first episodes of Grey's Anatomy, and Desperate Housewives, and so many other shows that were full of adultery and premarital sex and cheating and lying and oh, how the list goes on. I've watched HBO, I've watched fx, I've watched shows on MTV. And I never missed one of my favorite shows.

I've lived in anticipation of the next racy episode. And I loved every minute of them.

As a believer in Jesus.

It's one of those things you don't realize just how bad it is until you step back farther and farther away from it. I had no idea how far I'd gone.
amazing image from pinterest that made me think all week

how I justified watching it
This is why it's so hard for me to share my tv story: I've been there, and not really that long ago. I remember all the reasons I had to watch them- it was only one or two scenes in the whole episode, and the show was so funny- such a good story... I could handle the innuendoes, the skin... I mean her husband was so mean, anyway...just don't watch that scene, Mandy...I'll close my eyes... etc.

But then each episode over the years I watched had more and more and more of all of it. And I still watched it. Some of the shows got to a point where I couldn't take it anymore- even by my own rules. And some were still bearable...just a little junk here and there.

I always knew deep down that God had no desire for me to watch filth on television. I believe God saved me and placed His Spirit in me at a very young age. It was never a question of it being right, really. I had just shoved the thought so far down as an adult that I wouldn't let it come to the surface because I knew it would make me change my habits- what I watched every week. And I loved my shows. Don't touch my shows.

But Jesus got ahold of me, you guys.

He started showing me who He was, and friends, He is HOLY.

Slowly- very slowly, like over yearsHe has changed my heart about what I fill my eyes and mind with. He started with pulling me back to Him when I was first married with the Bible and giving me the desire to pray and be restored to fellowship with Him like I had been as a young girl.

the quote that opened my eyes
And within a couple of years of Him starting to do all of this in me, I read this article from a godly man named John Piper that made my head jerk up from my tv. Here is what I read so many years ago that made the hair on my arms stand up:

There are, perhaps, a few extraordinary men who can watch action-packed, suspenseful, sexually explicit films and come away more godly. But there are not many. And I am certainly not one of them. 
I have a high tolerance for violence, high tolerance for bad language, and zero tolerance for nudity. There is a reason for these differences. The violence is make-believe. They don’t really mean those bad words. But that lady is really naked, and I am really watching. And somewhere she has a brokenhearted father. 
I’ll put it bluntly. The only nude female body a guy should ever lay his eyes on is his wife’s. The few exceptions include doctors, morticians, and fathers changing diapers. “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). What the eyes see really matters. “Everyone who looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Better to gouge your eye than go to hell (verse 29). 
Brothers, that is serious. Really serious. Jesus is violent about this. What we do with our eyes can damn us. One reason is that it is virtually impossible to transition from being entertained by nudity to an act of “beholding the glory of the Lord.” But this means the entire Christian life is threatened by the deadening effects of sexual titillation.
That was when my eyes began to open, and I realized my husband was watching all this on tv with me too. The pretend sex, and the real half-naked women we were watching on primetime television were filling his eyes and mind too, all because I wanted to watch it.

That heart-sickening idea really affected me the most in the beginning, and still affects me close to the most today.

I started to become jealous for my husband's eyes again.

I realized I didn't want my husband looking at another woman- a real naked woman as John Piper said. And that quote, coming from a man who is in my opinion, one of the most godly, biblical preachers I know, made me realize that no man {or woman} is immune to the effect of seeing nakedness and sin.

what is really on my TV screen?
seeing the sin behind it all
I started to see that I couldn't watch people pretending to sin for fun, and then turn around the next morning and try to be like Jesus and come before Him in prayer. My mind was soaking in the world only a few hours before- loving exactly what the world loved.

But oh, how God was so, so very gracious to show this to me. I loved the mud- it was fun to watch. And looking back, I can see how much other sin came into my heart because of watching what I loved and wouldn't let go of.

But the more I read my Bible and prayed, the more God drew me closer to Him. And the less tv I watched, the more even those scenes I could easily watch before started to make me feel sick to my stomach.

And then God showed me this quote again a couple of years later that changed my thinking even more:

“We should not be entertained by the sins for which Christ died.” John MacArthur

And my heart stopped again as that one hit me.

Sin is not funny. Sin is horrid in the sight of God. Sin is not for our entertainment.

Jesus- the Lord of all- had to die for my sin. This sin thing is not a light matter in any way.

People even pretending to kill each other, sleep with each other, cheat on each other, steal from each other- this is not okay. This is hideous.

And my heart hurt even more for what I'd done and loved. And God kept changing my heart. Around a year or two ago, these questions came to me like lightning bolts straight to my heart:

Would I be willing to watch real people actually do what I'm watching on my living room tv? Having sex, doing drugs, committing murder, or stealing?

Would I watch people even pretending to have sex in my house, taking off their clothes, on my living room floor?

Of course not... then why in the WORLD would I watch it on my tv two feet away from my rug then?

Oh, how did I miss this for so long???

finding forgiveness
I wish I could say I hadn't seen all of what I have seen over the years.

I know it was wrong, and that God has forgiven me, and given me so much mercy and opened my eyes to how dangerous sin really is to my heart. It's poison, and it separates me from Him. He doesn't want me to love the things of the world, and His Son had to die for what I did- what I loved to take part of.

Oh, it makes me cry. What anguish I have poured on my Savior with my actions. I loved filling up my eyes and mind with everything that He rescued me from. I was so wicked, and He still loved me so much. Oh I don't understand it- but He didn't leave me when I left Him behind to be in the world. He has changed me when I didn't deserve to be changed.

how God has changed our habits
I'm not saying that I don't watch TV altogether. I haven't made any rules that say all TV is evil {though I do believe almost all of it is}, therefore nothing good can ever come from it, or just this one type of thing is okay. I just wanted to share with you how God has been so gracious to pull me closer to Him and to open my eyes to how much I loved the world and it's evil, and it was happening through my television in my very own living room.

We still go to movies sometimes on dates- we watched The Hobbit not long ago... we don't have cable or satellite, but we have Netflix, and we have Amazon Prime. What we watch on those and how much we watch at all has changed so much over the past few years.  I honestly have less than zero desire to see a movie with any nakedness or sex or filth in it- if it does, we don't want to watch it at all. And we do try to find out before we even turn it on or rent it.

What's really weird is that it makes me feel sick to watch sin now. I'm not perfect, by any means, and of course I still make mistakes, or mess up and sin sometimes, but my reaction to what is on the screen has changed so significantly over the last few years, and I can't say enough- it's not because of me. I can't bear to watch evil things like I could before. I can't stand them, and they make me want to cry.

Sometimes even jokes about sin make me feel sick, and it's not because of what I've learned or anything I've done- it's because of the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart. I don't want to grieve my God by watching what He has commanded me not to look at or do.

I can take no credit for it, because I loved it before. I enjoyed feeling the same feelings the rest of the world felt watching those shows- the same lust- the same excitement. And I know I would only be watching more increasingly evil things if it weren't for the grace of God. That was already happening in a few short years! What I'm saying is this: people in this world do not grow more holy when left to themselves, and I wouldn't have either.

But God has been so good to me- to open my eyes to what I was watching. It's not about following a law- this rating is okay- that one's not. PG movies have as much sin in them as R movies do sometimes, and sometimes TV-PG has the same as TV-14. Sometimes G movies can be completely anti-God. No rule can cover this kind of thing.

how do we know what is right to watch?
It's not about rules- it's about our hearts. What is good, acceptable, pure, and holy in the sight of God? Who is the source of the only good things? Jesus. His Word. And those are where we have to go to to find the truth.

We can't afford to rely on our own judgment to decide what is good and evil. Our hearts will deceive us every single time. We are a sinful wicked people left on our own. None of us are righteous without the blood of Jesus. And like John Piper said- what we do with our eyes can damn us.

Oh, friend, if you watch tv and movies at all {or read books}, please seek after the heart of God- pray hard and ask Him to reveal what His desire for you is in these areas. You can't make up your own standards for these things. This is so important- if His Spirit lives in you- can you really fill your soul up with pretend {or real} evil and love Him too?

We can't walk in the ways we walked in before we knew Him- He has called us to be holy like He is holy. His blood- His life was paid as a ransom to rescue you from the ways you used to live in:

 14As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 
1 Peter 1:14-19

Oh, please, please, please consider this.

I love you so very much- I don't want you to go where I did. And as much as I would like to wish this whole subject all away, I can't. We are living in the age of the video. Anything and everything can now easily come into your home... and into your mind. And it's so dangerous to all of our souls.

Please listen to the voice that is whispering in your heart as you watch that screen.

If you have a doubt about a show or your watching habits, please ask the Lord to tell you what He wants you to do. I can't tell you what to do- only He can. Don't be afraid to ask Him. I can promise you life walking closer with Jesus is worth more than any- ANY- TV show or movie out there. You won't miss it if He asks you to leave it behind. I guarantee it.

The world tells us being entertained by sin will fill you up and make you happy. Enjoy it. Be like us.

But Jesus says be in the world, but don't be of it. Don't desire what it desires. Don't love sin. You shall be holy, for I am holy.

Set your eyes on things above, not on the things of the earth.

On which will you set your eyes this week?

Oh, Lord God, break our hearts. Let us not desire sin or even to watch it in pretend. Help us to see what you see, God. Show us what is true. Open our eyes, open our hearts to your Spirit. We want to love you, Jesus, and we desperately need your help as we walk in this culture. Oh, God, please show us how to live for you- to love you with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In the name of Jesus we ask you for help.

 15I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.a 16They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17Sanctify themb in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sake I consecrate myself,c that they also may be sanctifiedd in truth.   John 17:15-19

What influences have you noticed movies/tv/fictional novels have had in your life? Have they ever affected your relationship with God?

How have you seen God working in your heart about television and movies? Has what you watch slowly changed over time too? 

No comments:

Post a Comment