Under the Influence

Normally it is after 9:00pm when their deadly behavior becomes most apparent. Most of us have observed the reckless driving, as their cars veer from the shoulder of the road to the centerline. Overlooking traffic signs and swerving across multiple lanes, drunk drivers routinely display behaviors that are easily recognized. These individuals are “under the influence” of too much alcohol, and they are violating the law. They have ingested so much alcohol that it has begun negatively influencing normal bodily processes  such as memory, perception, and coordination. Every state has legislated a legal blood-alcohol concentration limit—that is, a safe amount of alcohol that can be detected in the blood system of an individual (i.e., 0.08%). Any driver whose blood-alcohol level exceeds that limit is considered “under the influence” and is unable to safely drive an automobile. They are driving while their body is being influenced by too much alcohol.

I recognize that drunk driving is not a sin for the majority of Christians (although I strongly urge those who struggle with this to get help!). However, many Christians live their daily lives “under the influence”—the Hollywood and media influence. They have ingested so much “Hollywood” entertainment and media propaganda that their behavior and speech has been altered. Day after day televisions are tuned into shows like Desperate Housewives, Sex in the City, The L Word, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, or soap operas. These vile shows encourage immoral behavior, and are filled with foul language and immodest dress. Oftentimes they watch so much that they become desensitized—similar to the alcoholic that feels nothing after just a few drinks. In addition, many Christians never think twice about viewing sexually graphic R-rated movies, and listen to music with corrupt lyrics. These individuals receive a steady diet of humanism, atheism, and immorality as they constantly feed on the latest that Hollywood has to offer. They are indeed, Christians under the influence.

All of this Hollywood influence does not come without a price—just like drunk drivers, their behavior is altered. Language becomes laced with obscenities—mimicking the language they constantly hear from Hollywood. Marriages dissolve as individuals follow after fleshly passions—passions that have been kindled and fed from weekly television dramas. Honesty and integrity are abandoned as individuals seek to fulfill their own desires. Moral behavior is jettisoned as fun-seekers imitate activities glamorized on the silver screen. Even human life becomes devalued as people become desensitized to things like abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, embryonic stem cell research and organic evolution. These Christians have become common members of a society that is practicing the mantra: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry! They are in the world, and now, of the world. What was once an influence for good has been overshadowed by a steady stream of negative stimuli.

These Christians have been so influenced by the world that they can scarcely be recognized from the world. Their desire to emulate some Hollywood lifestyle is not only negatively affecting their own lives, but also the lives of individuals with whom they come into contact everyday. Their own influence has now become hazardous—as they teach non-Christians that a life of fun and pleasure from sinful practices is perfectly acceptable. Sadly, this negative influence also impacts other Christians, causing some to believe that worldly ideals and pursuits are in accordance with God’s Will. Through their actions they propagate an attitude that religious tenets are not really important and that the church is more of a social club—all the while wearing the name “Christian.” What could have been a positive influence—an influence for good—is often the exact opposite.

What can we do to ensure that: (1) we are not allowing the world to influence us in the wrong way; and (2) that our own influence is for good? First and foremost we, like those drunk drivers, must admit there is a problem. If we refuse to acknowledge the negative influences of Hollywood and the media, then we can never cure the problem. Accepting and buying into the world’s “standards” is not a part of the Christian life. After we recognize the problem we must then take proactive steps to cure it—we should try to rid our lives of as much “Hollywood” influence as possible. Stop tuning into deplorable shows, stop supporting movies that contain filth, stop listening to demoralizing jokes. As we begin to reduce the amount of negative influence we should seek to replace it with good. Paul, in writing to the Christians in Rome admonished them: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

God knew the danger of negative influences. Observe what He told the children of Israel when they were taking possession of the Promised Land. God said:

You shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire. For you are a holy people to the Lord (Deuteronomy 7:2-6, emp. added).

Moses went on to admonish: “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations” (Deuteronomy 18:9). God did not want the negative influences of those inhabitants to distract the children of Israel. They were to be “in the world” but not of the world.

Tim La­Haye, in his book, The Battle for the Mind, suggested: “Our present society is in a state of moral decay, not because the majority of Americans love degeneracy, but because the influence of humanism has been greater on our culture than the influence of the church” (1980, p. 189, emp. added). The time has come to reverse that trend! We can once again turn this world upside down (Acts 17:6; 1 Peter 2:9). Christ said:

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.(Matthew 5:13-16).

The only sermon that some individuals will ever “hear” is what they see you do day-after-day, week-after-week. Your Christian influence should demonstrate the proper attitude and the priorities set-forth from God’s Word. People should look at our lives and see something different—because, after all we are different. We understand that our sins have been washed away by the only spotless Lamb—Jesus Christ—and therefore, we desire to live a life devoted to Him. As such, our Christian lights should stand out as a beacon in a world of darkness. How many of us have not had the pleasant feeling of doing good and having a total stranger recognize that. Opening doors, lending a helping hand, caring for others, going the extra mile, helping a coworker with a project, or befriending someone at school all because we realize the potential of our Christian influence.

Allow me to usher forth a challenge. Take one week in the coming month and determine to drastically reduce the Hollywood influence on your life. Instead of sitting in front of a godless television show spend time playing with your children or grandchildren. Replace godless material with spiritual material. Exercise your body and your mind. Replace the negative influences with positive ones. At the end of that week you will be rewarded by knowing that for one solid week your influence for good has outweighed Hollywood’s negative influence on you. You can rest assured that during that time you have made a difference your Christian light having reflected the heavenly Father.

Are you up to the challenge?

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