Gen. 18:32 π Gen. 19:24 π Psa. 1:1 π Psa. 46:2-3 π Psa. 46:6 π Psa. 46:9 π Psa. 46:10 π Isa. 30:15-18 π Ezek. 16:49-50 π Dan. 9:4-19 π Amos 4:4-5:2 π Lk. 12:42-49 π Eph. 5:15-16 π Rev. 3:15-18
In 1963 a prophet died and entered into the presence of His Lord and Master. That prophet foresaw, as early as the 1950s, the false idolatry concealed in the entertainment industry. A.W. Tozer wrote:
...excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man.
If this is true (and I believe it is), then the present inordinate attachment to every form of entertainment is evidence that the inner life of modern man is in serious decline. The average man has no central core of moral assurance, no spring within his own breast, no inner strength to place him above the need for repeated psychological shots to give him the courage to go on living. He has become a parasite on the world, drawing his life from his environment, unable to live a day apart from the stimulation which society affords him.
...there are millions who cannot live without amusement; life without some form of entertainment for them is simply intolerable; they look forward to the blessed relief afforded by professional entertainers and other forms of psychological narcotics as a dope addict looks to his daily shot of heroin. Without them they could not summon courage to face existence.
No one with common human feeling will object to the simple pleasures of life, nor to such harmless forms of entertainment as may help to relax the nerves and refresh the mind exhausted by toil. Such things if used with discretion may be a blessing along the way. That is one thing. The all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which and by which men live is definitely something else again.
The abuse of a harmless thing is the essence of sin. The growth of the amusement phase of human life to such fantastic proportions is a portent, a threat to the souls of modern men. It has been built into a multi-million dollar racket with greater power over human minds and human character than any other educational influence on earth. And the ominous thing is that its power is almost exclusively evil, rotting the inner life, crowding out the long eternal thoughts which would fill the souls of men if they were but worthy to entertain them. And the whole thing has grown into a veritable religion which holds its devotees with a strange fascination, and a religion, incidentally, against which it is now dangerous to speak.
For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was - a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability. For this she got herself abused roundly by the sons of this world. But of late she has become tired of the abuse and has given over the struggle. She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers. So today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven. Religious entertainment is in many places rapidly crowding out the serious things of God. Many churches these days have become little more than poor theaters where fifth-rate "producers" peddle their shoddy wares with the full approval of evangelical leaders who can even quote a holy text in defense of their delinquency. And hardly a man dares raise his voice against it.
The great god Entertainment amuses his devotees mainly by telling them stories. The love of stories, which is a characteristic of childhood, has taken fast hold of the minds of the retarded saints of our day, so much so that not a few persons manage to make a comfortable living by spinning yarns and serving them up in various disguises to church people. What is natural and beautiful in a child may be shocking when it persists into adulthood, and more so when it appears in the sanctuary and seeks to pass for true religion.
Is it not a strange thing and a wonder that, with the shadow of atomic destruction hanging over the world and with the coming of Christ drawing near, the professed followers of the Lord should be giving themselves up to religious amusements? That in an hour when mature saints are so desperately needed vast numbers of believers should revert to spiritual childhood and clamor for religious toys?
When a thing has been said as best as can be said, it is hard to improve upon. Tozer's words ought to incessantly haunt us from the moment we realize that this warning was sounded at about the same time James Dean was becoming a rebel without a cause and Marilyn Monroe was being lauded as a sex-symbol. It was sounded before names like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Star, Roger Daltry, Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Ann Wilson, Mariah Carey, Madonna and hundreds more became household words. Tozer's warning went out before television and movies made us intimately acquainted with the uni-dimensional personalities portrayed by Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Doris Day, Carey Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Alan Alda, Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, James Garner, Ron Howard, Bob Denver, Arnold Schwarzeneger, Tom Cruise, Sylvester Stallone, and thousands of others. And who are these men and women that have become our heroes? Entertainers! And not just entertainers, but entertainers with ungodly lives and unholy attitudes and actions. (see Psa. 1:1; top )
Let us pause and give consideration to what an entertainer does and is. An entertainer diverts your attention for a time. He causes you to be wrapped up in a non-existent fantasy world which brings you pleasure and enables you to exist and endure through yet another period of real time. I submit that it is high time we remember Paul's sobering warning: "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." ( Eph. 5:15-16; top )
Were we to examine even more carefully exactly what it is that an entertainer does, and more accurately label his profession, we would be forced to admit that, no matter what motivations drive him or what secondary goals might be achieved, he is, at the heart of it all, merely a deceiver. In the case of an actor, he deceives you into believing that he is someone other than who he truly is in real life. In the case of today's musicians, they deceive you into believing that they are someone to be believed simply because they have a hit record. Even if an entertainer deceives you in no other way, he most often deceives you into believing that there is nothing more important for you to be doing while you are being entertained by him!
When will the reality of hell be imprinted on our conscious actions? When will the staggering statistics of the vast number of lost souls who are hurting and even dying and entering a very real hell for all of eternity become a truth more true than the rat race of the world around us? And yet we persist in our need to be entertained. We don't even have the inner drive to at least turn off the television or the radio and begin to earnestly and fervently pray for these lost souls. We would rather go see the latest filth and blasphemy from Hollywood or go hear the latest trash band in concert than spend a night in fasting and prayer for the needs of our neighbors and friends. Woe unto us!
And even on a more sublime level, when will we realize our soul and spirit's need for quiet in order to truly assimilate and appropriate the spiritual things that God has for us? We must consider again what God said to Isaiah:
For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: "In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." But you would not. And you said, "No, we will flee on horses" - Therefore you shall flee! And, "We Will ride on swift horses" - Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift! One thousand shall flee at the threat of one, At the threat of five you shall flee, Till you are left as a pole on top of a mountain And as a banner on a hill. Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him. ( Isa. 30:15-18; top )
We must remember God's command to all who would remain unmoved in a time of great trouble and distress: "Be still and know that I am God." ( Psa. 46:10 ; cp. vv. 2-3 , 6 , 9; top ) If we would be confident, strong and blessed of the Lord in times of suffering and hardship, which do indeed come upon all true Christians, then we must learn to be quiet and still before Him before the tragedies and hardships occur. To do any less is to invite disaster and, ultimately, God's judgment. When we consider how long we have been disobedient to God's Word it is quite apparent that our judgment is not undeserved and it is not sleeping.
There is yet even one more aspect where the emptiness of entertainment is invading the church. Our culture, accustomed to the ever-increasing shock value of entertainment, that is, the need for greater thrills, more horrifying shocks, etc., is being taught to believe that quietness and stability are somehow wrong, old-fashioned, and out-dated. Unless a preacher comes up with a new and fascinating way to present the gospel, he cannot be speaking for God. I am not arguing for preaching that will put you to sleep for that is as dead as can be the loudest shouting and most energetic jumping around. What I am saying is that when the solid, foundational teaching of the deep truths of God's Word become boring to any people, they are not far from error, heresy, apostasy, damnation and judgment. When pastors and teachers feel pressured to resort to entertaining the congregation or else watch them go to the church down the street, the enemy has infiltrated the church to a grave and dangerous point. We must learn to avoid the attitude programmed into us by our entertainment-oriented culture - we must not seek the latest and greatest thrill, that spiritual spine-tingling, that ear-tickling humorous dribble. Let us get back to that "old-time religion" that "was good for Paul and Silas" as they sat in a Philippian jail after being beaten with rods and sang praise songs at midnight. These were men of God who wasted no time on entertainment thrills - their life was adventure enough so that they did not need to vicariously experience the adventures of anyone else, real or fictional.
It is almost too late to ask, "Where are the heroes of faith who quietly give their all to meet the needs of those around them?" Oh, to be sure, the relatively few that exist are still around. But we as a culture do not honor or support them. We have grown so busy and so noisy that we have lost our need for quiet heroes. Now we must have blasting noises, emotional events, ever-increasing thrills and shocks or we are not being entertained. Consider the progression from sock-hops to rock concerts to moshing to see the need for more noise, action, and now even violence. Consider the increasing degradation of standards for movies and television. Clark Gable as Rhett Butler caused a stir of protest over one expletive in "Gone With the Wind" and William Shatner as Captain Kirk in "Star Trek" caused a sensation when he first kissed his female Negro lieutenant on national television. But now, unless a number of expletives, several profanities, and at least two blasphemies are used, and unless we get to see much flesh and most if not all of some sex act performed, we are not entertained.
Let me remind you of Jesus' warning regarding His soon and sudden return:
"Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if the servant says in his heart, `My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and maidservants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!" ( Lk. 12:42-49; top )
Perhaps it is our false picture of "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" that encourages our sinful laziness and arrogant disregard for the needs of our dying society. Perhaps it is our dogged insistence upon the misleading "once saved, always saved" doctrine that fosters our indifference to such "trivial" matters as fervent prayer, self-sacrificing love and personal holiness before God Almighty. Perhaps it is our fascination with being hypnotically entertained that has blinded us to the realities of eternal damnation. Perhaps it is our blatant self-centeredness that causes us to be blind to the things of God and the needs of those around us. Whatever our excuse, it will be woefully inadequate on judgment day.
Let us join our prayer to the heart cry of Tozer:
"Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach... The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned! For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim." Amen. Amen.
Let us echo, substituting in the name of our own country, the prayer Daniel prayed for his people:
"O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with all who love Him and obey His commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from Your commands and laws. We have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
"Lord, You are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame - the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where You have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to You. O Lord, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against You. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him; we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws He gave us through His servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed Your law and turned away, refusing to obey You.
"Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against You. You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to Your truth. The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything He does; yet we have not obeyed Him.
"Now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for Yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. O Lord, in keeping with all Your righteous acts, turn away Your anger and Your wrath from Jerusalem, Your city, Your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and Your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
"Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of Your servant. For Your sake, O Lord, look with favor on Your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open Your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears Your Name. We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of Your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For Your sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people bear Your Name." ( Dan. 9:4-19; top )
Let us heed, again substituting in our practices and our name, the warnings of the prophet Amos to apostate Israel:
"Come to Bethel and transgress, At Gilgal  multiply transgression; Bring your sacrifices every morning, Your tithes every three days. Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, Proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; For this you love, You children of Israel!" Says the Lord GOD.
"Also I gave you cleanness of teeth  in all your cities. And lack of bread in all your places; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD.
"I also withheld rain from you, When there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, And where it did not rain the part withered. So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, But they were not satisfied; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD.
"I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, Your vineyards, Your fig trees, And your olive trees, The locust devoured them; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD.
"I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; Your young men I killed with a sword, Along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD.
"I overthrew some of you, As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD.
"Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; And because I will do this to you, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!"
For behold, He who forms mountains, And creates the wind, Who declares to man what his  thought is, And makes the morning darkness, Who treads the high places of the earth - The LORD God of hosts is His name.
Hear this word which I take up against you, this lamentation, O house of Israel: The virgin of Israel has fallen; She will rise no more. She lies forsaken on her land; there is no one to raise her up. ( Amos 4:4-5:2; top )
Let us learn, seeing the obvious similarities to our own nation, the lesson of Sodom, which was destroyed with fire by the Lord God of heaven because there were not ten righteous men to be found in her (compare Gen. 18:32 with 19:24; top ). Let us see, as it is so strikingly comparable to our culture, the root cause of her sin as God saw it:
"Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit." ( Ezek. 16:49-50; top - emphasis added)
Let us remember, knowing our own personal condition before God, Jesus' dire warning to the Laodicean church:
"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked - I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see." ( Rev. 3:15-18; top )
Let us do nearly anything rather than be caught hypnotically mesmerized under the spell of some sinful entertainer on the day when Jesus returns for a bride that is spotless and without blemish.
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