Digging Deeper: Who Am I?

Do you know who you are? If you asked me this question a year ago, I most likely would have said “yes!” and given a list of things I like or stated something about my personality. All those things listed might be true, but this display of facts would only have given you a surface definition of who I am, and not gotten to the deeper meaning of the question. Recently, God has brought me to know myself better and thereby Him as well, through a discontentment which He has placed in my heart concerning how I spend my free time.

In the past few months, God has opened my eyes a lot and helped me better understand who I am at center. He has brought me to realize that if I want to understand the core of who I am, I need to dig deeper inside myself to find the answer. I need to peel away the layers of sinful thoughts and desires, down to that seed which God has planted in me. That seed of righteousness and true life, that new man. By the grace and strength given me by God, I have begun to understand what it means that I am a child of God.

Each of God’s children have certain sins which they struggle with every day. One of those struggles for me is how I use my free time. An example of free time would be after dinner when I have nothing planned for the evening. I have all this free time to fill before I go to sleep. During these times I would think things like: all I want to do is curl up and read a good book, watch a good movie, go on You Tube, play a game on my phone, etc. And yet when I do these things, there would be emptiness inside me. I’d find I wasn’t really content. One book would lead to another, after one movie there was sure to be another soon. One video lead to another and one quick look at Facebook lead to an hour. Why? Why was it never enough?

God works in mysterious ways. Through this battle going on inside myself, God has lead me to see a very vital part of what I need to acknowledge about myself if I am ever going to really know who I am. One video, one book, one game, one minute is never enough. Why? Because my old man will never be satisfied with just one. My sinful flesh will never reach a point when it is full and does not demand more and more wickedness. When I click on this which leads to that and then the next thing, watch movie after movie, I am feeding my sinful flesh. In order to see this I need to understand what it means that I have an old man and new man. There is a war going on inside of me every day. In Romans 7 God, through Paul, describes this battle inside the elect child of God. Verse 19 says “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”  My flesh says “Yes! I need to watch that new movie which just came out and everyone is talking about. It sounds so good. It will make me happy if I watch it! It is such an innocent story. It will teach me so much!” So I go and watch the movie. When I do fill my time with such things, I am dissatisfied and left feeling empty. The void I thought I was filling is left aching.  Why am I left so discontented?  Wasn’t that entertainment supposed to satisfy me?

It is important that I know who I am at center. When I peel away all the lies and deceits the devil has worked so hard to have me believe about what I need and what will make me feel better/ happy, when I look beyond all that, I see a little seed which God has instilled in me when He regenerated me. 1 John 3:8-10 says, “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.” This would be the old man in me who wants to watch the sin filled movie. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” This new man in me is born of God and cannot sin. While I yet live on this earth I will sin because I have my old sinful nature, but when I die, I will be freed from that man of sin and I will worship and serve God perfectly. Yet, in this life, the command of God comes to me and all of Gods children, “Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:13-16)

Who am I? By the grace of God, I am His child, who has a new man at center which does not sin. I strive to live out of my new man and put away the old. I no longer fill my time on earth feeding my fleshly desires. I do not indulge in the movies, concerts, and entertainments of this world, filling my mind with things of this earth. I will be as God calls me in 1 Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Kate Doezema

 

Samples from Seminary – De Spectaculis

Today we have a lesson from church history on the topic of entertainment.

The figure in church history that we are interested in is Tertullian. He lived into the 3rd century and is well known for his work in developing the doctrine of the Trinity. Today though, I want to call attention to another important work of his called De Spectaculis, that is, his work concerning the spectacles or shows.

In this work, Tertullian tried to convince his fellow Christians that attending the various forms of public entertainment in that day was not compatible with Christianity. This was a necessary subject to write about in his day for Christians were tempted to enjoy the sinful entertainment of Roman culture. He argued that the “things which are going on at the spectacles are all opposed to God.”[1]

That is a strong statement. What did he have in mind?

For example, the events at the circus stirred up sinful passions. The shows at the theater were known for their immorality and obscenity. The gladiator games exhibited inhuman cruelty and brutality. Thus, neither the conduct of the performers nor the behavior of the spectators could possibly have been viewed as pleasing to God.

With this in mind, Tertullian asks: “Will the man, seated where there is nothing of God, at that moment think of God?”

This question applies to us in our day and age. We too are tempted to enjoy the sinful entertainment that our culture offers. I don’t think it’s necessary to show the parallels. Instead, I would like to end with a quote that I hope you will actually read. It is the tail end of a longer section in which Tertullian poetically calls Christians to find their delight and to be satisfied in the “exquisite pleasures” found in God. These are far greater than any pleasure or delight that comes from the entertainment of the world.

“If the literary accomplishments of the stage delight you, we have sufficient literature of our own, enough verse and maxims, also enough songs and melodies; and ours are not fables, but truths, not artful devices, but plain realities. Do you want contests in boxing and wrestling? Here they are – contests of no slight account, and plenty of them.  Behold impurity overthrown by chastity, faithlessness slain by faith, cruelty crushed by mercy, impudence put in the shade by modesty. Such are the contests among us, and in these we win our crowns. Do you have desire for blood, too? You have the blood of Christ.”

-Matt Kortus

[1] All quotes taken from: The Fathers of the Church, Volume 40, Tertullian Disciplinary, Moral and Ascetical Works, Spectacles, p. 33-107.

Spiritual songs versus songs for enjoyment

My last post was on praising God with the gift of music. In that post I expressed how music is to be used to the glory of God, and is not made for ourselves. Though it may be enjoyable to us, we do not simply make music for our enjoyment and to have a good time as the end purpose. We do not make music to “fulfill fleshly desires.” The argument was made, then, in response, that this seemed a bit fuzzy… I was forgetting to mention that we can use music for a good time with the right perspective, just as one can read books for fun and entertainment, as long as one is discretionary and mindful that God gives us these things as gifts to be used rightly. I had made no separation between the ungodly songs of the world, and fun songs. I dealt only with “spiritual” music (that is, music of worship and praise), and left out the idea of innocent entertainment, condemning then all music of entertainment as wrong. The question that arises consequently is, Is there in fact a line that should be drawn? How are we to treat the idea of songs for enjoyment?

If there is a group of children during recess that is singing a fun little chant they have just learned about the state capitols, is that a good thing or a bad thing? The lyrics surely reference nothing “religious”, but one would be quite hesitant to call the song of these giggling children secular or unchristian either. So what is the “standard?”

Scripture clearly states that we are to do all things to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).  That is what determines what is “right”, or what is “wrong.” All life apart from God is sin and vanity. Our spiritual life is not separate from our physical life–they are one and the same. For what is life but a temporary pilgrimage, wherein we ready ourselves for that life to come (Hebrews 11:13,14)? “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Hebrews 13:14). The whole of this life is a continual race that we run (Hebrews 12:1,2) with the “finish line” being “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:14). One is living for God or one is not–we cannot live two lives (one for God and one for this world) separately (Matthew 6:24).  Either what we do is for the glory of God, or it is not.

In the same way then, either we use music to glorify God or we do not.  All that we sing must be sung to the glorification of God, whether it be a little ditty that schoolchildren sing to remember their facts or a hymn sung at a singspiration.

So can we then listen to or sing “fun songs?” Or really engage in any form of entertainment? Yes. But it is less a matter of what kind of song it is, and more a matter of one’s motive and heart. Perhaps you are using such pleasures and entertainment, as Rev. Kuiper writes in “The Christian and Entertainment”, “as a means or relaxation to serve God the better”, or “as a means unto better health”, or–in the instance of the schoolchildren–to learn different facts and concepts. God has given “a time to every purpose under the heaven” and a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1). He has given good gifts for our labor that we may enjoy (Ecclesiastes 3:13).  But this is not separate from our calling to glorify God in all that we do. Entertainment can never stand as a goal in and of itself (as Rev. Kuiper goes on to speak of in his article), but as a means to the greater purpose of glorifying God in that act, word, or deed. And as such, is good, acceptable, and profitable.

In connection with this we must be critical of ourselves as we sing “songs of entertainment.” First, that we must watch our hearts and our motives for singing such songs, lest we deceive ourselves with excuses and justifications that we are doing it “for God’s glory,” when we are really, in fact, only using such reasoning to justify our own original desires. If this is the case, our motive is hardly God’s glorification, but rather our own wants justified with secondary excuses. In doing this we are not seeking to serve God, but rather ourselves.

This is a hard race to run. We as depraved sinners on this earth so often fall into the trap of seeking after our own desires and the things of this earth, “where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal” (Matthew 6:19,20). Sin “doth so easily beset us” (Hebrews 11:1). Indeed, we must “watch and pray,” for our spirit may be very willing to serve our Lord and Savior, but our flesh is utterly weak (Matthew 26:41).

We too are so easily deceived with the idea that we need to be happy in this life. We easily make pleasure a goal and motivation. But our goal is not a happy, easy, and pleasurable life. Our goal is not to have time to relax or to have fun in life, though we may enjoy that rightly and thankfully, as I have stated, when we are gifted with it. Prof Hanko rightly reflects this idea in “The Christian and the Film Arts,” wherein he states, “We have interpreted joy and happiness in terms of a can of beer at a local tavern, a bloody game of professional football, forty miles an hour on water skis behind a speedboat (or, more in connection with the context of this post, perhaps, the music rolling from our car windows as we drive down the road; ADV). We have forgotten and denied that true joy and pleasure is to be found in the keeping of God’s commandments and in seeking the things which are above. The joy of the Lord is lost in the superficial and hollow laughter of pleasure.” And when it comes to our physical or emotional health, Dr. Larry Crabb in “Finding God” writes, “Feeling better has become more important than finding God…” But as we read in Luke 8:14, “That which fell among the thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.”

In reality, even to strive for a life of happiness and pleasure, above striving first for God and His promises, is vanity. This life, because of the curse of sin, will always be one of sin, suffering, and imperfection.  We always will have troubles, discontents, boredom, and what have you. “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also (emphasis mine), which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:22,23). However, whatever our troubles in this life may be, if we look to God rather than our own “control,” we have the promise that “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7). Just as He is the only source of true life, He is also our only source of true comfort and pleasure in this present life.

The second thing that we must be critical of, concerning the songs and music that we make, is the contents of what we sing as entertainment. Is it suitable for the lips of the servant of God, or does it like the comely meat of Babylon, which was offered to Daniel, give glory to idol gods of this world (Daniel 1, and see also “Refusing the King’s Meat” by Rev. Allen Brummel)? It may look good and very attractive. Like the meat of Babylon it may look nourishing to the soul. But who does it serve? And now one may say, “Yes, but cannot I partake, knowing that those idols are not God, and that I in my heart choose not to worship them in eating this meat?” Ah, but do you still partake? And who do you serve by doing so? And is not the life more than meat (Matthew 6:25)?

What a difficult race we have to run, and discerning we must be in all that we do! But yet, what a wondrous God we have! We are a “contradiction of sinners” (Hebrews 12:3) with bodies that are “dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10)! We have a Lord who is faithful in His promises, and though we be sinful, He is the Lord and He changes not, so that we His people be not consumed (Malachi 3:6). He is our Guide, and as His sheep it is His “good pleasure to give” us “the kingdom.” He will come for those who put their hearts and treasure in Him and will sit them down with His meat, “and will come forth and serve them.” He will always be with us as we run this race, and we will find true nourishment, pleasure, and contentment, in Him.

 

“At Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.” –Psalm 16:11

 “O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.” –Psalm 51:15

 

ADV