This is a little long, but well worth reading if you are a Christian who has received the call to step out of the world, step out of lukewarmness, and follow our Lord in earnest His time is drawing near.
Love Not the World
Is it right for Christians to attend theaters and other places of amusement? This is a question often asked; and, as it is one of great importance, affecting the testimony here on earth, and also the reward in eternal glory — it is well that it should be answered in such a way that there may be no possibility of mistake.
For God’s people, God’s Word, which is given to be a lamp to the feet and a light to the path — should be the guide in all such questions. And no surer guide are the chart and the compass to the mariner in his path across the trackless deep, than is the Bible to the Christian in his pathway through the mazes of this world. Its principles are sufficient to govern and guide him in whatever circumstances he may be placed.
But all Christians are not willing to be governed by God’s Word; and these must, sooner or later, go through a breaking which will bring them into subjection. Happy those who unresistingly yield submission to the cleansing power of that Word. To such there is joy now, true joy being found in the path of obedience, and blessing for eternity.
Christians may be divided into two classes: those who “cleave with full purpose of heart to the Lord” — and those who “follow afar off.”
The first class, allowing God’s Word to shed its light on their pathway, seek to avoid worldliness, and evil in every form.
The second class, giving little or no heed to God’s Word, take what comfort or pleasure they can get, going into the world as far as they can without disturbing their consciences too much. Of this class are those who are found spending hour after hour at games of various kinds. If spoken to about it, they will tell you they see no harm in these “innocent amusements,” and they do not see that the Bible speaks against such things. Such are not governed by the principles of God’s Word; and if they have any thought of pleasing the Lord Jesus, they have little realization of what is due to Him.
Do they ever seek to measure the uncounted hours thus passed, every one of which will have to come in review before the judgment seat of Christ? Do they ever stop to question how they will feel in the presence of His all-searching gaze, and what account they shall render for this worse than wasted time? For we shall have to meet Him face to face, and shall then have to speak with Him of things done and things left undone — and each of us will receive according to the deeds done in the body.
I cannot answer for your wasted time — and you cannot answer for mine. Each must give account for himself; and it will be a true account that we will render in that day. In the presence of that light which will search us through and through, it will be useless to seek to cover anything up, or to hold anything back. “There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hidden, that shall not be known.” (Luke 12:2.)
Is it, then, nothing to the Christian that his life down here should be such that he will have no fear nor dread to have all laid bare when he shall stand before Christ? Will he allow the things of time to shut out the eternal things, and go on from day to day as if this life were all? He may forget, as the days and weeks pass on, the many failures that come into his life — but God does not forget.
To return to our question. Is it right for Christians to attend theaters and other places of amusement? That these things have their origin in the world, and are supported by it — no one will deny. The question, then, resolves itself into this: Has the Christian a right to take part in that which is purely of the world? He himself is not of the world (John 17:15). Shall he, then, seek and find his pleasure in those things whose source and strength are only of the world? The two things do not agree together. If he is “not of the world” — then how can he find his joy in that which is of the world? Pursuing worldly pleasures and lending his support to these things, will gain for him the love of the world which provides these pleasures. But here again is inconsistency, for Jesus says, “If you were of the world, the world would love his own; but because you are not of the world, therefore the world hates, you” (John 15:19). This Scripture should search the conscience of every one who bears the name of Christ.
It is sadly true that a Christian may so far get into the spirit of the world, that his ways would lead us to think he is of the world. Too often his ways are not such as to condemn its ways, and instead of having the hatred of the world — he has its love. But such a one is in a false position, and will suffer great loss. And if there is one of my readers who does not shun the pleasures of the world, and frown upon its follies — he may well question if he belongs to Him who says of His own, “They are not of the world.”
It is most important to see that there is a breach between God and the world which has crucified His Son, and that we cannot have part with both. We cannot at the same time be friends of God — and the friends of the world. God shows us this in His Word. He says, “Whoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world — is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
Dear reader, are you a friend of God — or His enemy? Have you known the grace that has wrought for you, and the love that has met all your needs? Has the voice of Jesus reached your soul, and have you passed from death unto life? Is there, then, no answering chord in your heart to that love which led your Savior to drink the awful cup of God’s wrath and judgment against sin for you? And when He bids you follow Him, and bear His yoke — do you say, “It is too heavy a burden?”
If He has redeemed you, and chosen you for eternal blessing, and now says to you, “I want you to live in separation from the world for the little while I leave you in it, until I call you to Myself, to be with Me; where I am” — Do you say, “It is too hard; I cannot live in separation from the world; I must have some of the innocent amusements of this world?”
If this is the language of your heart, or of your life — then where is the proof that you have bowed to Him and owned His Lordship? And where is the answering love in your heart to that love which led Him to go down into the deep, dark waters of death for you — a death made appalling through God’s forsaking, and that because of your sins borne by Him?
Stop! Think! Where are you? What are you doing? Has Jesus strewn these worldly pleasures in the “narrow way” that He has marked out — or has Satan spread them along the “broad road” to allure souls on their way to destruction? Have your feet been caught in the Devil’s snare? If so, may the Lord deliver you from Satan’s toils!
A Christian walking with the world, and finding his pleasure in the things of the world — is a most unenviable person. He cannot have the Lord’s approval, and, with a bad conscience, he cannot find comfort or satisfaction in pursuit of that which the Lord forbids.
God’s Word is clear, strong and unmistakable. He says: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
Here we find God’s answer to our question, “Is it right to attend theaters and other places of amusement?” It is a verse that should search the conscience of every child of God, and this not only as to games and places of amusement, but also as to reading, singing and companionship and many another thing that is only of the world. Is it not love of the world, which leads one to find pleasure in the things of the world? If one participates in these things, is it not because his heart is in them? The natural heart craves the things of the world. The Christian, as born of God, turns away from these things, and presses on with his heart set on the brighter, better things above.
If a Christian gives way to the world, where is his influence for testimony? The wife who attends the theater wishes her husband would become a Christian — but her words have no weight with him. Is it difficult to see why? One who loves the world enough to attend the theater, will display many other inconsistencies as a Christian, and where the ways are inconsistent — the words must fall powerless.
A young lady who bears the name of Christ, but who is often at parties expresses a desire to see her brother become a Christian. But as long as the gaieties of the world are claiming her time and heart — what power has she to lead her erring brother to Christ?
Does that wife rise from her knees — to go to the theater? And is the desire of her heart in going — the glory of God?
Does that sister sit down to her game of cards — in the name of the Lord Jesus?
Unless it is so, God’s Word is unheeded by them, for He says, “Whatever you do, do all to the Glory of God.” “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17).
“Ministers and plenty of Christians go to the theater,” is a plea often used — but it will not answer with God. Because there are ministers who love the world — this will not excuse me for loving the world, nor you. Each must give an account of himself to God. Let us not stumble over ungodly ministers, and thus be turned aside from the right path.
Worldly professing Christians might well stand aghast in presence of the language with which God denounces worldliness and worldly ways in those who bear the name of Christ. He says, “You adulterers and adulteresses — don’t you know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4). All loving of the world, and all fellowship with it — is unfaithfulness to Him who has so loved us; and in the measure in which loving of the world is followed, it proves us in that measure, to be untrue to Him. It is spiritual adultery, and as such it will be counted to the sore loss of him who indulges in the friendship of the world.
It is the one who has pledged himself to Christ — finding his joy in that which is opposed to Christ — and this He must denounce. He wants the hearts of His own to be true to Himself. He is not satisfied to have them bear His name — and have their hearts remain in the world. His word is, “Love not the world.”
What will the end be? The world is going to “pass away,” God’s judgment is coming upon it, and its lusts will also pass away. Solemn thought! All these lusts, these desires, and pleasures that have drawn away hearts from Christ — coming under God’s displeasure, passing away under His ban! Is there no voice in this, for you, O careless, worldly Christian?
In marked and blessed contrast with this we have, “He who does the will of God abides forever.” In which position, dear reader, are you? Are you drinking at the fountain of this world’s pleasures, which can never quench your thirst? Or do you, seeking the will of God, turn away from these things, and look on to durable and eternal pleasures?
Dear fellow-pilgrim, once more let me ask, “Is there no constraining power in the love of God, to keep us apart from that which is at enmity with Him? Are we so short-sighted as to allow the fleeting pleasures which end in death, to displace the unending joys of eternity?” Oh! let it not be so. The gain that will be ours, if we live for Him who has died for us — is beyond computation.
Let us not, then, fritter away our precious time in that which can only prove loss. Let us not grieve the heart of Him who has purchased us at such a cost, and who would have us purify ourselves as He is pure, and keep ourselves “unspotted from the world.” Let us heed His bidding, “Love not the world.” Let us seek to realize the force of His words, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”
The path of separation from the world is not an easy one — and the Lord does not so present it to us. It involves self-denial and the bearing of the cross — and this means death to the world. Jesus says: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever will save his life shall lose it; but whoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23, 24). This does not mean ease, but suffering with and for Him in a world which cast Him out.
But if is not an easy path — then it is a blessed one, and the Lord will sustain us in it, if we set ourselves to follow Him. In order for a true following, there must be full purpose of heart. A man will not succeed in any avocation in this life, unless he has purpose. Just so, the Christian will not prosper in his Christian life — unless with full purpose of heart, he cleaves to the Lord.
It will not do to put our hand to the plow and look back. The world has its thousands of allurements, but the Christian who is cleaving to the Lord will steadfastly resist these and press on. A little more climbing up the narrow, rugged path, a little longer turning away from the pleasures of this world — then the rest, the joy, the never-ending pleasures in those courts of light above — then the welcome and approval from Him whose love words cannot measure, nor thought comprehend, for it is a love that surpasses knowledge.
Oh, will not the “well done” from His lips more than compensate for all that we have given up for Him? Viewed in the light of “eternal things” — how can we for a moment cling to that which is of the world?
We are going to have part in that coming eternity of glory, and we are going to be His beloved companions forever and forever, sharing all the blessedness He has purchased for us. Only a little while — and we shall be in His presence there!
The days are fast speeding on. Shall we not live them for Him, instead of living to ourselves?
May the Lord bless us to be true to Him, and, guided by His Word — to turn away from all that savors of the world.