Martin Lloyd-Jones on keeping with the culture:
What always amazes me about these people who are so concerned with modern methods is their pathetic psychological ignorance; they do not seem to know human nature. The fact is that the world expects us to be different; and this idea that you can win the world by showing that after all you are very similar to it, with scarcely any difference at all, or but a very slight one, is basically wrong not only theologically but even psychologically.
What does it mean to be in the world but not of it? Certainly the follower of Jesus Christ does not live under the same purpose as those who live and sow to the flesh. Instead he lives to Christ, having died to sin, and sows to the spirit, that he might reap a harvest of thanksgiving to God. But just how much is insulation from the culture to which we are to minister, and how much is being so into the surrounding culture that the church’s voice becomes absolutely nothing but an amplifier of what everyone else says?
The body of Christ is called to minister to the world, to be in the world. We are called to be faithful to the truth of the gospel and speak it in ways that people understand as well as to create conceptual frameworks that are lacking in our worldviews from lack of saturation by Scripture.
John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople in the fourth century, criticized Christians for taking part in popular pagan amusements, including the pagan theatre, the horseraces and the revelry of pagan holidays:
If you ask [Christians] who is Amos or Obadiah, how many apostles there were or prophets, they stand mute; but if you ask them about the horses or drivers, they answer with more solemnity than sophists or rhetors.
If we pay more attention to the popular basketball players, the popular television shows or even the popular philosophers of the day — I shall not extend this title to Oprah Winfrey — than to how the Lord has worked through His bondservants in the past, how He works now and how He wants us to work, is that not idolatry and nothing less?
Diligence for Vanity
For many of us work very hard for many things, but when it comes to getting to the level of knowing God’s word where it hurts our sensibilities and superficial desires, when it conflicts with our dearly held “views” and we want to disagree with God and say something is debatable and that God isn’t saying to us what He is, this is where we will not devote the time — though all our time is to be consecrated to Him — or the labour — though all our work is to be set apart for His holy purposes.
Such a posture is not sloth but failure to live as we claim, as we sing, as our very spirits urge us to do in the Lord. When I keep browsing around YouTube and never stop to think about its effect on my sanctification and then take no time to be fed from His word, or if you think more enthusiastically about poker than about knowing truth and, to borrow a term from J.R.R. Tolkien, subcreating beauty, we are equally serving that other master, self.
God Has Rejected You as King
How we love then to smother ourselves in hypocrisy! How we love to be like Saul in his downfall, not admitting our wrong motives but insisting that our actions are good, or not admitting what we know to be folly and lamely claiming that our motives were not evil! How even, when it gives us pleasure, even when it dulls us to the pleasure of higher things, do we love to say that we have the freedom to do things of no value, when we could be thinking about how to dedicate everything to the Lord!
Call to Know Good
What God has sanctified, can it be anything but good? Or what He has called foolish, dare we consider it anything but bad? God is not a mere giver of human advice. He is God, Lord of heaven and earth and hell, with authority over us and all knowledge and wisdom. Perhaps in the West we are accustomed to take our parents’ words as advice and not ever, once we consider ourselves our own authority — for Ariel in The Little Mermaid this seems to have been the age of sixteen — as backed with the weight of authority, but if this is questionable even with human parents, how can we hope but as fools to extend this to the mighty God?
It Does Matter
Yet we say God cares not what we wear, what we eat, what we say, what we watch, what we use to relax our brains after a long period of intense work. God forbid that He should not care what we wear, what we eat, where we live, when it is He Himself who provides these things for us! For if we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, these things too are for His kingdom and His righteousness, and anything that cannot advance His kingdom in the world or in our own hearts by our sanctification is something we can cut off.
Worth Only Their Eternal Value
Maybe they once were gain to us, but now they are loss. Maybe they once were assets to our accounts, but what good are they, as rubbish, as crap, as so many stores of excrement, to our heavenly treasure? For a cartload, even a whole caravan, of shit cannot buy anything where only currency with the king’s name on it can be used. The patriarch of the golden mouth once also said:
Do you pay such honour to your excrements as to receive them into a silver chamber-pot when another man made in the image of God is perishing in the cold?
But what are our pursuits but such things that we receive into a silver chamber-pot? Child of God, a man or woman your Father loves is suffering. Will you waste your time on Desperate Housewives or Korean dramas that do not draw your heart to love for God and awe of His goodness? Our iPods make us no younger, nor our movie-going, nor our casino visits. Shall we rethink how God’s lordship over our entertainment affects our choices?
We in this time when everything is argued for as a more lucrative opportunity than the last, but for no clear reason but a nebulous appeal to “success”, may need to reclaim God’s consecration of our entire beings, not just from something but to a better life, unless you regret having been adopted as a son or daughter of God. Our academics. Our jobs. Our romances. And yes, our entertainment, both our quantity and quality thereof. We cannot expect everyone to already be at a stage where he has despised what does not bring him into closer dependence on God’s wisdom, but we need to start somewhere.