Standards

Standards

Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:1-5, 1 John 2:15-16, James 4:4
The Bible tells us in the last days that people will love themselves more than God. Christians who only make a profession and do not walk in obedience to God are on dangerous ground.
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To introduce our subject today I want to read 2 Timothy 3:1, 4, 5: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves ... Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof." These inspired words were written to describe the conditions of the last days when great profession of Christianity would be made. There has been no time in the history of the world when more people belonged to the church than now. But, my friends, millions have taken the name of Christ in vain. They have a form of religion, but without any power. Our text says they have no power because they love pleasure more than they love God.

What is a Christian anyway? Is it one who reads the Bible and prays? Is it one who has his name on the records of some church? No. A true Christian is one who is like Christ, who follows His example. No one has a right to call himself a Christian if he continues to act and talk like the world. You ask: "What's wrong with the world? Why do we use that term?" Read now in 1 John 2:15, 16: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." Here is a text which touches every phase of our life. This brings the fact forcibly before us that there are only two patterns of life for anyone to follow. There are only two standards by which anyone can live. We must either move in the sphere of the world, or in the sphere of Christ. The antagonism between the two forces is so violent that there can not even be any ground for friendship. God's standard is so much higher than the world's ways that no basis of fellowship is possible. No one can divide his loyalties between the two great opposing ways of life. It must either be one or the other. The Christian is so intimately committed to Christ's life and example that the Bible illustrates it by the ties of marriage. Notice these words in James 4:4: "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." No stronger terms could be used to express divine disapproval of those who try to combine the two sphere of life, the world and Christ.

Now we are prepared to inquire about the nature of this gulf which should separate the Christian from the world. What do we find in the world which is so violently at odds with God? What is so foreign to the teaching of Jesus? If we look long and hard at the lives of many modern Christians we can see no contrast with the world whatsoever. They attend the same movies, wear the same clothes, eat the same foods and have the same fellowship with the unbelievers. Even their speech and habits harmonize with the spirit of the world. We are constrained to ask again: "What does the Bible mean by saying that the Christian should not love the world?" It means simply that the spiritual claims of Christ will so separate a man from certain influences in the world that he will be considered peculiar by the unbeliever. Titus 2:14 tells us that very thing. "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." This does not mean that we should be odd just for the sake of being different. There is no virtue in seeking to be eccentric just to attract attention.

Now, what are those influences of the world which contradict the spirit of Jesus? First, let us read some of the principles upon which the kingdom of God is established. They will guide us in knowing where to draw the line. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." In other words, some things must be given up in order to be a Christian. They just do not fit into the framework of spiritual things. Again, in John 15:19 Jesus taught: "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." This means that a true Christian cannot expect to be popular with the world. How can he when his standards make him seem peculiar in the eyes of the world? Let's read another principle in Philippians 4:8 that really makes a distinct line of demarcation between the two opposing forces. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." This text guides the Christian in making decisions about recreations, reading, amusements and almost every other activity. What a vast gulf it creates between those who follow the ways of the world and those who live by the principles of Christ.

We will now apply the test of Philippians 4:8 to some of the popular activities of the world, and note how they fail to meet the high standard of Christianity. What about the modern dance? I maintain that it is not pure and virtuous. It is not of "good report" as our text requires. Who can say that the modern-dance forms with their suggestive and often vulgar body movements are pure and virtuous?

Now let us apply the test to the theater and see what the result is. My friends, there is no influence in the world that is so subtly intended to poison the imagination and destroy religious impressions as the movies. Hollywood and its scores of movie idols have been a moral taint upon the whole world. The make-believe images on the screen, with their glittering glass of wine and glorified sin, have reached into almost every country to mold the minds and characters. I blush to tell you that so-called Christians have been the very ones to sit by the hour feeding upon the vice, crime and human passion that is glamorized in the theater. I know that very few pastors dare raise their voice against it for fear of being called old-fashioned. But it is time that someone called sin by its right name. I say it is not pure, virtuous, true, just and of good report. There is no agreement between the theater and the Christian. One is of the world, the other not of the world, even though he is in the world.

Even so-called historical films and Bible pictures are twisted beyond recognition in order to instill the element of impurity that the carnal mind demands. The films are made to appeal to the majority of the people. It does not take a great deal of wisdom to discern what the majority wants. Their unspiritual cravings are in conflict with the exalted ideal manifested in Christ.

There has been a lot of publicity about censorship boards, production codes, etc. None of them are acting on the basis of Bible standards. This is why Christians need to draw the line, set up ideals based on Scripture, not Hollywood.

"But," you say, "surely there is an occasional good educational picture that we can see." Friends, I am the first to agree that pictures can be very educational. There is nothing wrong with a picture simply because it moves. But about 99.9 percent of the movie fare is not, in any sense, uplifting or instructive. I will concede that there might be one in a hundred that would not be objectionable. But that one could not be recognized by the title. I maintain that it is not worthwhile to dig through the contents of a garbage pail to get one good banana at the bottom. The Bible rule "Abstain from all appearance of evil," would lead us to guard our Christian influence by staying away completely from those places where sin is commercialized, either in picture or deed. In Revelation 22:15 I read these words: "For without are dogs and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie." Those who are left out of the kingdom of God are described as loving or making a lie. Hollywood pictures are lies. As such they have no common ground with the true spirit of Christianity. In this category we could place the stacks of multi-colored trash that appear in the form of magazines and novels on the news stands. Wherever the evil is magnified and spotlighted, and wherever a lie is dwelt upon, the test of Philippians 4:8 is not met. What we see enters the mind, and is translated into thought, and the Bible says, "as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." Proverbs 23:7.

The same indictment against movies can also be leveled at television. Some pictures that cannot pass the censors for theater screening are fed into the front rooms of millions of Christians. It is possible for people to control the set, and keep out the evil, but, unfortunately, it is seldom done. The fascination of bright, flashing, professional costuming and programming has led countless Christians to lower their standards and to feed on the thinly-veiled garbage of Satan. The imperceptible effect is to sear the conscience and desensitize the soul to the evil of it all.

Let us turn now to 2 Corinthians 6:17, 18 and remind ourselves once again that there are only two sides in the great conflict between good and evil. "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." We cannot hold onto the world with one hand, and to Christ with the other.

Friends, let's lift up a standard today so that we will be recognized as Christians. The world is mad with pleasure, pride and sin. Jesus said, "As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man." Luke 17:26. The world is going down the broad road of destruction where there is plenty of room for the baggage of sin. But the way of life is straight and narrow, demanding that we deny ourselves. Paul said, "... the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Galatians 6:14. Can you say that right now? These things are not prohibitions or "don'ts," rather it is a sacred privilege to be God's peculiar people.

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