by John MacArthur
1. The Edification Principle: Will this activity produce spiritual benefits?
In 1 Corinthians 10:23, Paul explained that “all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”… So based on this verse, believers should ask themselves, “Will doing this activity enhance my spiritual life and the spiritual lives of others? Will it cultivate godliness in me and in them? WIll it build us up spiritually?” If not, then is it really a wise choice?
2. The Enslavement Principle: Will this activity lead to spiritual bondage?
…Don’t allow yourself to become addicted or enslaved to that which is sinful or even just potentially destructive. If what you are considering can be habit-forming, why pursue it? Don’t allow yourself to be in bondage to anything or anyone. You are a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ, and Him alone.
3. The Exposure Principle: Will this activity expose my mind or body to defilement?
Speaking specifically of sexual immorality, Paul commanded the Corinthians to avoid anything that might defile them. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Elsewhere, he told the Ephesians to reprove and avoid the sensual deeds that characterize the wicked, “for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret” (Ephesians 5:12). Instead, believers are to dwell on those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, excellent, praiseworthy, and of good repute (Philippians 4:8). So ask yourself if the decision you are about to make will expose you to the sinful, lewd, and debauched elements of fallen society. If it will, then stay away from it. … Thus, anything that defiles your body or pollutes your mind ought to be avoided.
4. The Esteem Principle: Will this activity benefit others, or cause them to stumble?
[1 Corinthians 8:8-9, 12-13; Philippians 2:1-5]
… If you know that your choice – what you consider “in bounds” and approved by God – will cause another Christian to stumble and sin, love that brother or sister enough to restrict your own freedom. That is not very popular in our self-absorbed society, but it is biblical.
5. The Evangelism Principle: Will this activity further the cause of the gospel?
… Christians should always consider how their actions will affect their witness to a watching world. … Whether or not you are aware of it, what you allow or disallow in your behavior affects your witness for Christ. It is an issue of testimony – what your life says about God – to the friends, relatives, coworkers, neighbors, or even strangers who might be watching you. Your testimony either tells the truth about God, or it tells a lie. The choices you make in the gray areas should reflect your concern not to bring offense to God’s reputation but to bring Him praise instead.
6. The Ethics Principle: Will this activity violate my conscience?
… “He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). We sin if we act in any way that goes contrary to the convictions of our own faith and good conscience. … Never train yourself to violate your conscience. If your conscience is troubled by what you are thinking about doing, don’t do it. If you are not sure about it, don’t do it. It is hard to overstate the value of a clear conscience, and it is definitely worth keeping your conscience clear so that your relationship with God will not be hindered. (cf. Psalm 66:18).
7. The Exaltation Principle: Will this activity bring glory to God?
The summary and goal of the aforementioned six principles is found in this one. Paul declared, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). … Our heart’s cry is to glorify our Lord and Savior with our lives. So when it comes to the gray areas, think about your decision. Will God be glorified, praised, and exalted? We genuinely honor Him when we make choices that are consistent with the principles found in His Word. On the flip side, when we make foolish and sinful choices, our actions dishonor Him. If an activity will glorify God, then do it. It if won’t, or if it is questionable, then do something else.
A Few More Thoughts About the World of Entertainment.
The Seven principles we’ve examined can apply to every gray area in life, including those related to entertainment, amusement, and leisure. At the same time, however, there are some additional principles that are specifically helpful in considering how we choose to be entertained. …
The Lordship of Christ Demands Good Stewardship
…[A]sk yourself how much real benefit you receive by watching television and movies or playing video games, and how that compares to the time you spend in spiritual pursuits. How much money do you spend on temporal amusements, and how does that relate to your eternal investments? How hard do you labor not to advance your own agenda but to further the work of Christ’s kingdom? These are heart questions every believer needs to ask. As stewards of the King (Matthew 25:14-30), we have been called to so much more than our own entertainment.
The Lordship of Christ Denounces Impurity and Worldliness
Ephesians 5:3-4 has excellent words in this regard: “Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” Those two verses alone rule out much of what passes as entertainment in our world today – sexual immorality and impurity, dirty jokes and silly talk, and anything that promotes greed or undermines the giving of thanks. That list is a pretty good summary of what is wrong with much of contemporary American media.
Movies, for example, are usually rated according to language, violence, sexual content, and thematic elements. Many of them are not just non-Christian, they are anti-Christian. I don’t mean that they openly attack the Christian faith [often they do, though]. But at least in some cases they might as well. They employ filthy language and lewd humor…; they glorify violence rather than peace…; they glamorize lust and immorality rather than holiness…; they instill feelings of discontentment and desire rather than thankfulness…; and they promote worldviews that are antithetical to biblical Christianity…. Does this mean a Christian should never watch movies? Not necessarily. But we must be discriminating about the things we allow in our minds. We are called to renew our minds…. When we continually fill our minds with the filth of this world, we do ourselves a great spiritual disservice.
The Lordship of Christ Determines Right Priorities
Our media-driven culture has redefined the pursuit of happiness. The American Dream – which used to consist of a loving family, a nice house, a white picket fence – now includes instant fame, endless riches, easy romance, and the blank-check promise that anyone can achieve his or her dreams. Reality television and the rise of the Internet are perhaps somewhat to blame for this phenomenon. But ultimately the problem lies in the human heart.
We were created to long for satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy, and those desires are good in and of themselves. But our fallen world tries to meet those desires with money, romance, fame, and other earthly pleasures. Yet temporal things can never bring lasting satisfaction to a heart that was created to find its ultimate joy in God. …
Christians should not allow entertainment to define their understanding of happiness, romance, modesty, masculinity, success, fulfillment, justice, or anything else. The Word and the Spirit should shape our worldview, not Hollywood. Sadly, however, many Christians today are more affected by the movies they watch than the sermons they hear. They show more enthusiasm for video games or television sporting events than they do for pursuing Christlikeness. They fill their minds with the sounds of talk radio or perhaps the latest hit albums rather than letting the Word of Christ richly dwell within them. Deep down, they enjoy exploring the pleasures of the world – even if only vicariously – as they watch actors play out scenes in which sinful pursuits are seemingly rewarded with happiness. The irony, of course, is than in real life those same actors are just as miserable as everyone else, a sobering reality that keeps supermarket tabloids in business.
Our priorities, passions, plans, and pursuits must be grounded in our love for Jesus Christ. Only in Him can we find true satisfaction….
The Lordship of Christ Defines a Proper Perspective
Right priorities and godly passions stem out of a proper perspective – a heavenly mind-set that understands eternal realities and interprets this life accordingly. If this world were all there was, we would be wise to amass treasure and search for happiness in the here and now. But that is not reality. This world is not all there is.
Reality, as revealed by the truth of Scripture, encompasses much more than the temporal pleasures, priorities, and pursuits of this world. God is real; His Word is real; heaven and hell are real; the gospel is real; Jesus is real; His death, resurrection, and ascension are all real, as is the fact that He will soon be coming back. The brevity of this life is real; the certainty of death is real; the promise of future reward is real; and the threat of eternal destruction is also real. In contrast, the world of entertainment is not real. In fact, most entertainment is about escaping from reality, not portraying it accurately.
As Christians, our worldview must be grounded in reality, not in the imaginary worlds of Hollywood. People can deny reality, and the can distract themselves with fantasy, but they cannot change the fact that one day they will stand before God (Hebrews 9:27). At that moment, the riches, pleasures, and accomplishments of this world will be of no use to them.
~ Right Thinking In A World Gone Wrong, pp. 18-27
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