Jesus said,"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."(Matthew 5:8) I take these words as a promise. However, as I look around and as I look within, I see a great amount of impurity. When it comes to the subject of moral purity, humans are hit with a double whammy. The first impact we deal with is our own carnal nature. Then the second hit we encounter is the devilís frenzied activity as he tries to do everything he can to entice our carnal nature into sin. Yes, I certainly believe that born again people have another nature, but being born again does not eliminate the carnal nature. As Martin Luther concluded, "The carnal nature remains, it just does not reign." The apostle Paul summed up his personal experience with the carnal nature by saying,"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out."(Romans 7:16,18)
As a Christian, Paul was frustrated with his carnal nature. Remember, he had belonged to a religious body that believed purity was an absolute mandate from God. The Pharisees had carefully defined impurity as a violation of any one of some 600 laws. However, the "purity" established by obedience does not necessarily represent a pure heart. I rarely say anything profound, but here goes, " The carnal heart is not pure until there is no attraction for sin." Years after Paul became a Christian he wrote,"So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me."(Romans 7:21) Carefully consider the words of this reformed perfectionist. Paul had been a Christian for about 25 years when he wrote the book of Romans. Did Paul understand the continued presence and activity of his carnal nature? Yes. Did Paul realize his carnal nature was warring against his desire to live for Christ, even after being a born-again Christian for 25 years? Yes."Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."(Romans 7:20) So, that is the explanation. As hard as it may be for some of us to admit, sin actually lives within us!
Try to understand the nature of the problem (pun intended). Jesus said,"Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."If our carnal nature is always in rebellion toward God, how can any of us ever be pure in heart ? The carnal nature is manís greatest problem. The carnal nature makes us suspicious of God so that faith in Him and obedience to His will is unnatural. The carnal nature is naturally inclined to sin. In fact, the Bible says that people controlled by the carnal nature are not interested in submitting to the law or authority of God. (Romans 8:7) Yet, a miracle happens when we experience being born again. A miraculous change takes place within the heart, and then a tremendous struggle commences. Those individuals who become willing to submit to the authority of God, also find that doing the right thing all of the time is impossible. This is why Paul lamented," . . . For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out."(Romans 7:18)
Can We Become Pure?
Has God provided a way through which we can have a pure heart if we want one? The answer is a resounding "Yes!" But the means and timing by which this happens may not be what you think. Many views within the Christian community exist about the topic of purity. At one extreme, some Christians believe that a pure heart comes through an exhaustive struggle with self. These Christians take the responsibility for purity upon themselves and do everything they possibly can to shut out all worldly influences so they will not become corrupted. This is where the notion of monasteries began and it stemmed from the idea that to be pure, a person must physically separate from all worldly influences. At the other extreme, some Christians believe that a pure heart is not possible, nor is it essential since Jesus paid the price on Calvary for our salvation. Such Christians often shudder at the thought of having a cross to bear. No doubt our personalities, religious heritage, geographic location and family traditions color our understanding of this fundamental subject. Still, the promise of Jesus remains, so how does a person obtain a pure heart so he or she can one day see God?
Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, the carnal nature has been passed down from generation to generation. As mentioned earlier, the carnal nature is manís greatest problem. This point is made again because the carnal nature means an inborn predisposition toward rebellion against God (or any authority for that matter). When a person is awakened by the Holy Spirit, he begins to see his rebellious course. If that person is willing to submit to Christís authority and if he is willing to go, be and do as the Holy Spirit directs, then the born-again experience has begun. In short, a born-again person is defined as a person who is honestly seeking to do Godís will in all matters, every day . The problem, of course, is that we have the carnal nature and are naturally rebellious toward God (as Paul confessed), and therein lies the crux of the matter. Martin Luther finally concluded after beating himself up for many years in his pursuit of purity that when a person is born again "the sinful nature remains, it just does not have full control." Luther was right. No matter how religious or sanctified a person may be, the carnal nature remains active throughout the lifetime. This is why Paul concluded that the only way for Godís will to be done in his life was for him to set aside his will so that Godís will could be done. Paul said,". . . I die daily."(1 Corinthians 15:31) Dying daily indicates the presence of the carnal nature, otherwise there would be no need to die every day to self! To die daily means death to my plans or agenda so that Godís will might be done. No person with a carnal nature has ever been able to die to self every day with success. There are times when sin within us raises its ugly head and of course, when this occurs guilt condemns the hearts of every born-again believer. Accidental sin is a type of sin that John says is not a sin unto death. (1 John 5:16,17) Yes, some people claim they are without sin, but John disagrees and says such people are deceived. (1 John 1:8) Just because we may not have knowingly sinned during the past four hours does not mean that we are without sin. Instead, it means that we did not fail a testing experience during the past four hours Ė but failures will come.
Now we come to a personal crossroad on this topic. God observes my struggle with sin. He knows my weaknesses and he also knows my heartís desire. Because God loves me and because He wants to be a part of me, He has given me the privilege of sanctification. There are several purposes behind sanctification. For example, Jesus wants me to mature spiritually so that my walk with Him might be more consistent and much closer. The closer my relationship with Jesus is, the greater will be my understanding of life and the purpose for which He created me. Jesus wants me to have and know the joy that passes understanding. He wants me to be free of the painful consequences that go with wrong doing and the suffering and pain that sin always produces. He wants my life to be an encouraging and uplifting testimony to what His transforming grace is all about. Sure, He is always willing to forgive my sins if I sincerely confess them. Sure, He is anxious to help me out as I struggle with my weaknesses, and yes, will grant me victory over a besetting sin when He deems such a gift is appropriate. (No doubt the last sentence will distress some people.) Let me explain. God does grant victory over besetting sins, but most of the time it is not immediate and it is certainly not on our terms.
Avoiding Sin is Not Victory Over Sin
Victory over sin is a gift from God. It is not something that I can actually do myself. I may be able to avoid some specific sin, but that does not mean I have victory over that sin. In other words, avoiding the commission of sin is not the same thing as victory over sin. This is a fundamental point that many Christians fail to grasp. Do not misunderstand, avoiding sin is good, but it is not a substitute for victory. Victory over a specific sin is realized when that sin has no further attraction within me.
Many Christians go through life trying to manage the carnal nature by avoiding sin. They think this will produce a pure heart. This is not true. It is like the little boy who was jumping up and down in the back seat of the car as his family traveled along. Finally his father had enough of the restless energy in the back seat and he commanded his son to sit down and be still . About five minutes later, the little fellow was bouncing up and down on the back seat again. The father, a bit irritated said quite firmly, "Sit down and be still or I will have to stop the car!" The little fellow meekly slid back into the seat. About a minute later the little fellow called out, "Dad, I am sitting still, but inside I am still bouncing up and down." We may be able to avoid the commission of sin, but that does not produce a pure heart. A heart is not pure until it is free from the attraction to sin.
Here is a problem for those individuals who had the privilege of growing up in a Christian home. Let us suppose "Johnny" was born into a Christian home and as he grew up, he was taught to avoid certain bad habits such as smoking, drinking and pornography. Somehow, Johnny becomes an adult without getting hooked on drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. Because Johnny knows nothing about drug addiction or alcohol dependency, he may conclude that he is closer to the purity that God desires than "those poor souls captured by sinful habits." This is not true. Johnny still has an inborn nature just like every prostitute and addict. Johnny avoided the suffering of addiction because of his good fortune (Christian parents). All too often, however, Johnny cannot understand the power of addiction because he has never been a slave to drugs or alcohol. But let me emphasize that Johnnyís nature is no different from that of the worst sinner. His lifestyle might be different, but his nature is not different. Johnny, like anyone else, could become an addict if he had the chance. As you may have heard, "Only but for the grace of God, there go I." I make this point because Christians sometimes get vain and pompous about their purity. If you do not struggle with an addiction, it is not to your glory, it is a gift from God. It must be stated again, "Manís greatest problem is his carnal nature."
What to do About the Power of Sin?
So, let us suppose I want to do something that I know is sin. What should I do? Here are four options:
1. Give up and sin anyway because I cannot help myself.
2. Resist the temptation and avoid sinning as far as possible.
3. Pray for help.
4. Recognize my impurity and confess it to Jesus.
Of course, all of the above options are good, except for number 1. Resisting temptation will strengthen our resolve to resist stronger temptations. However, a person cannot resist every sin Ė the carnal nature will not allow it. As Paul said so well, "What I want to do, I donít do." In my opinion, item four should have our highest priority. Ask Jesus to help me identify and then remove the impurity. Ask Jesus to do what I cannot do for myself. Then, steps three and two follow. Understand that success over sin depends on our preparedness for temptation at any given moment. If we fall into sin, admit it, face it, confess it and do not forget how it happened. The Bible says we have an Advocate who is willing to forgive (1 John 2:1,2), but the Bible also cautions us that we are in rebellion against God and He will not forgive, if we continue knowingly to do wrong. (Hebrews 10:26,27; Matthew 12:31) The point here is that sanctification, the struggle of the carnal nature while seeking a pure heart, cannot succeed without constant connection and communion with God. Do not forget, Peter quickly sank into the depths of the Sea of Galilee when he took his eyes off Jesus and we will quickly sink into the depths of sin for the same reason.
We all know that every sin has a nasty consequence. Therefore, it is in our best interest to avoid sin, even if we do not feel like it at the moment. Resisting is hard, but dealing with the consequences of sin is even worse. It is in our best interest to resist the sin, even if avoidance does not make our heart pure, because every sin inevitably extracts a high price. (Ask President Clinton.) I find that realizing my natural impurity and praying for the gift of purity is a valid approach to the sin problem. I have found that praying for purity and strength to do right is essential in overcoming sin. Here are three statements about sanctification that are very important:
1. When a person is born again, interest and participation in the struggle of sanctification begins .
2. No individual receives eternal life based on sanctification. However, everyone who receives eternal life must continually submit to sanctification.
3. Sanctification ends only when the carnal nature is eliminated.
Why the Torture of Sanctification?
God watches over each one of us. Nothing is hidden from His sight. (Ecclesiastes 12:13,14; Luke 8:17; 2 Corinthians 5:10) God measures our love and faith for Him by what we do (or do not do). James wrote," . . . faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."(James 2:17) Thus, sanctification is a lifelong school offering an education from God. When the Bible says that Enoch, Noah and Abraham walked with God, the Bible does not mean that these men merely walked with God down a country road. No, it means that these men valued the struggle of sanctification and as a result, God was pleased to commune with them as a friend. Sanctification is our way of expressing praise, honor and faith in God. Obedience is the most basic form of praise or glory that we can produce! (Ask any parent if you do not believe me.) So remember, that (a) sanctification does not merit or bring salvation, and (b) our struggle with sanctification does not end until the carnal nature is eliminated.
When is the Carnal Nature Eliminated?
The carnal nature of each tested believer will be eliminated during the Great Tribulation. By the time the seventh trumpet sounds, the sealing will be finished. The first to experience this wonderful transformation will be the 144,000, and then others will follow during a time-period of 1,260 days. Here is the process by which this happens:
During the Great Tribulation, the judgment of the living will occur. God will not judge the people living on Earth during the Great Tribulation in the same way that he judges people who have died in ages past. The judgment of the living involves a four-step process, whereas the judgment of the dead involves a review of each completed life record. Before I explain the four steps that will occur during the Great Tribulation, consider the setting: God will select, seal and empower 144,000 servants to proclaim the everlasting gospel just before the Great Tribulation commences. (Revelation 7:1-4) When they are ready, God will tear apart the Earth with enormous manifestations of His wrath (the first four trumpets of Revelation 8). These horrific events resulting from Godís wrath will quickly open the minds of billions of people to hear what Godís 144,000 servants have to say. Godís servants will proclaim three specific messages stated in Revelation 14. The four step testing process is as follows:
1. Hearing the gospel
2. Deciding for or against the gospel
3. Testing of faith
The first step involves a powerful presentation of the terms and conditions of the everlasting gospel. For example, the 144,000 will first announce that God requires our worship on His holy day each week. (Revelation 14:6,7) Further, Godís servants will proclaim that His people are to refuse to participate in the demands of Babylon Ė the crisis government that will form in response to Godís devastating judgments. (Revelation 14:8) Of course, the messages of the 144,000 are designed to separate believers from nonbelievers. So, the first step in the judgment of the living is theproclamationof the terms and conditions of the gospel. The second step in the judgment of the living is thedecisionphase. The honest in heart toward God will make the right choice. Everyone will make an informed decision about the declarations of the 144,000. Everyone will either submit to the gospel or rebel against it. The third step will be thetestingphase in response to each personís decision. This will verify that each personís faith in God is firm. Last, God willsealall who pass the test of faith. A pivotal issue during this great testing time will be over the worship of God on His holy Sabbath. This will be a very significant test of faith during the Great Tribulation because the whole world will be aligned against the worship of God on that day! In other words, those people who worship God will be isolated from those who refuse. Godís holy day becomes a line of demarcation. Contrary to what some people believe, Godís sealing is not His Sabbath. What is the seal of God? It is a wonderful gift! It is the elimination of manís greatest problem. The sealing is the imparting of a pure heart. In other words, after passing the test of faith, God will do something he has not done since sin began. He will replace the carnal nature of every saint with a pure heart and seal it within them. The struggle with sin and rebellion from within will be over by the seventh trumpet. The gift of God, a pure heart, will be imparted to every faith-filled believer. Despite your past or how wicked or impure you may have been, if you submit to God and learn lessons of faith in the school of sanctification right now, you will be able to pass the coming test of faith. After passing the test, He will then give you a pure heart Ė no more struggling with sin Ė for sin will have no attraction within you! This is pure grace! This is the ultimate gift of God: His saints will have no attraction to sin! This is what the Scripture means when it says,"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."(1 John 3:2,3) Did you notice that John said,"we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is?"Talk about a blessing! Remember the words of Jesus:"Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."The Great Tribulation will be a great testing time. If you presently struggle with sanctification, persevere and ask for Godís grace to overcome. Those who have learned to depend on God for strength over present, heart-wrenching trials will not fall away from Christ during persecution. Because they have developed the resolve to do Godís will, they will know how to walk with God. This is what the Bible means when it says,". . . And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."(Revelation 7:14) By the time the seventh trumpet sounds, everyone on Earth will either have the seal of God or the dreaded curse of the mark of the beast.
As mentioned earlier, the sealing does not occur for everyone simultaneously. It does occur for the living (except for the 144,000) during the 1,260 day time-period of the Two Witnesses. When the offer of salvation is finally closed, the saints will no longer need a mediator. In fact, there will not be any further mediation in Heavenís temple. The seal of God is the sealing of a new nature within. A pure heart will be put within every believer, just like Adam and Eve had before they fell into sin. All that was lost will be restored. In contrast, the mark of the beast will be a permanent tattoo marking those who knowingly and willingly defied the authority of The Lamb, who is King of kings and Lord of lords.
Paul knew this marvelous transformation was coming. He did not know exactly when, but he knew it was promised. He quotes from Jeremiah 31,"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ĎKnow the Lord,í because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest."(Hebrews 8:10,11)
Sanctification is Revealing
Paul understood the importance of sanctification. He said,"Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord."(Hebrews 12:14) Sanctification is a struggle that allows God to have His way in our lives. Sanctification produces fruit. The fruit may not be perfect fruit, but there will be evidence of spiritual growth and character refinement when sanctification is taking place in a personís life. Notice what the Bible says of the uneducated fishermen from Galilee:"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus."(Acts 4:13)
Sanctification is a daily testing experience. Sometimes, it comes in the form of an embarrassing experience. Sometimes, it is painful. Sometimes, we fail. Sometimes, we see a miracle. Sometimes, we suffer. Sometimes, we succeed! Why is it this way? Sanctification can be compared with a preparatory school. God is preparing His children for wonderful assignments in the life to come. He is forging out of our lifeís experiences a character that is noble and worthy of praise and honor. He is developing a kingdom of priests and kings that will govern throughout His extensive universe. Earth is a preparatory school for eternity! Why do so many people refuse to cooperate with the process of sanctification? Why do so many people confuse and corrupt the purpose of sanctification? Why do we dread sanctification? The answer to all these questions is quite simple. Our ever present carnal nature is in rebellion against God. Unless we are constantly seeking the will of God and being renewed each day by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, we will eventually turn away from sanctification. (Read that last sentence again and thoughtfully ponder its profound meaning.) Our carnal nature does not like sanctification. The devil knows this. He understands the carnal nature and he knows that if he can cause us to drop out of the School of Sanctification (or even skip class), he can eliminate our walk with Jesus. Many Christians are Sanctification School drop outs. Let me use the following illustration to show how this happens.
An Attractive Nuisance
If you have a swimming pool on your property, according to civil laws in some states, you have an "attractive nuisance." The owner of an attractive nuisance can be held liable if the attractive nuisance is involved in an accident, although you may have had nothing to do with the accident. Consider this example. While you are away from your home, a boy trespasses on your property, climbs the fence and falls into your pool, causing himself harm. In most states, you could be found responsible for the simple reason your attractive nuisance enticed the child to go where he did not belong.
I use this sobering concept because there is a strong spiritual parallel. We are like children. Because of our carnal nature, we are naturally inclined to do wrong. The devil knows this and has created a countless number of attractive nuisances for the human race. The devil is keenly aware that he is ultimately liable for his wicked trickery. He also knows that there is no possibility for a stay of execution for all the crimes he has committed against God and Heaven. His sentence will be carried out in due time. He will suffer a terrible and painful end. Therefore, his only satisfaction in life is to take as many people with him to destruction as he possibly can. I believe every time a human being trespasses over the fence of Godís law and gets into trouble through sin, the demons rejoice with dancing and they have an in-your-face defiance directed at Jesus. The devilís strategy is simple: Entice Christians to drop out of the School of Sanctification and separate themselves from Christís power through attractive nuisances. The devil also uses many attractive nuisances for non-Christians as well, to keep them from wanting anything to do with Christ and sanctification. To the carnal heart, sanctification is a killer, a galling yoke or burden. So, it appears that the devil has the upper hand in this world right now. I do not have to tell you he is an expert at inflicting harm and suffering upon the human race. The newspapers confirm his success each day.
The Devil is a Good Student
The devil has intelligently studied the human race during the past millenniums and he knows all about the carnal nature (after all, he was first to have one). He knows how to enhance and expand the appetites of the carnal nature. He knows that self-indulgence and selfish gratification is the first priority of the carnal heart. He knows the carnal heart cannot refuse anything that might satisfy its natural focus which is: "me-want," "me-first," "me-best" and "me-king." The devil knows how to stimulate our minds so we will become captured with passion. He knows how to stir up our emotions so we will burn with immoral and impure desires. He knows how to manipulate our thinking so we will justify wrong doing. He knows how to deceive us with foolish logic and ideas so we cannot tell right from wrong or good from bad. He is a master at making purity look too restrictive and wrongs too attractive. Think about this for a moment. If Lucifer were intelligent and sophisticated enough to deceive one-third of the angels and also Eve in their unfallen state, he certainly knows how to deceive a world of degenerate human beings 6,000 years later. The proof of his success can be found throughout 6,000 years of Earthís history.
The devil knows the carnal nature will minimize either the significance of wrong doing or when confronted with the truth, it will usually justify wrong actions with logic, excuses or lies. But, this is not the limit of the devilís game. He has infiltrated every dimension of life and unfortunately, humanity does not even suspect his manipulation. I know that it seems like I am giving the devil much credit, but frankly, he deserves a lot of credit . Jesus did not call him the prince of this world for nothing! (John 12:31) Everything that God put upon the Earth has been contaminated by Lucifer. I will say it again. The devil is extremely clever and highly intelligent. He was the first and highest created being Ė Lucifer, the son of the dawn. Regrettably, he exchanged his righteous ways for carnal indulgence and became Godís great adversary. (Ezekiel 28:13-17) Through skill and political cunning, he persuaded one-third of the angels to join him in rebellion against their Maker. Therefore, we should be keenly aware of what this wily foe can do and accept the fact that his skills of manipulation are worthy of our attention.
The subject of Lucifer is a very compelling study. It is essential that everyone understand his role in Earthís history because the devil will soon physically appear before the people of Earth claiming to be God. (2 Thessalonians 2) Billions of people will receive him and his miracles as proof that he is God incarnate. Therefore, it is time we deal with the ignorance that surrounds the stealth enemy of man. Soon, demons will rule the world and no one can prevent them from doing what they please with the human race. (Revelation 9:4,5) The weather-satellite of Bible prophecy is sending out signals that are constantly warning us right now that Lucifer and his angels are about to overtake the world in a furry of events equal to a hurricane strength storm. Unfortunately, few people are tuning in, and even fewer are prepared. A horrific battle is coming for the souls of people and few have any idea of this conflagration. (Revelation 13:15-18) As far as most Christians are concerned right now, it is just another sunny day like yesterday. Ignorance, ignorance, ignorance Ė ignorance and unbelief regarding these essential matters are everywhere, especially within the Christian church. It is so distressing to me that people are ignorant of these matters. Most do not have a clue about what the Bible predicts and whose fault is it? Oh yes, some Christians will intellectually agree that the devil is coming until they are asked to do something about their belief. Then, they offer a host of reasons why they are doing absolutely nothing to warn the people around them.
A Roaring Lion
Let us consider some of the devilís "attractive nuisances" for a moment. Obviously, I cannot explain every aspect of the devilís sophistry, for I do not understand all of his cunning. However, there are some very obvious nuisances for which we should be aware. My primary purpose for writing this article is to put you on guard because this evil lion is energetically dedicated to your eternal destruction. Just like a hungry lion, he lies in wait at the watering hole to snare his next victim. Why does he do this? The only way left for the devil to hurt God is to hurt those for whom Jesus died. Satan lives for only one purpose and that is to lead man into rebellion against God. Therefore,"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:"(1 Peter 5:8, KJV)
Let us consider the devilís number one attractive nuisance in the United States: TV. I believe the technology of television has been in existence for little more than 50 years, yet it is almost totally corrupt. Almost every house in the United States has a TV. I am not saying that a TV is an evil object, nor am I saying that everything on TV is evil. Rather, what I am saying is that the TV is an object through which evil is made very attractive. The devil has filled the airwaves with scenes of immoral sexual behavior, violence of every imaginable description, dishonesty and deceit beyond measure, materialistic envy and unlimited foolishness and nonsense. To see what I mean, turn on the TV and then, turn off the sound, so you will not get involved in the program. Try to stay disconnected from your viewing during this test. Surf through the TV channels anytime, day or night. Pay close attention to what you see because you are looking for an attractive nuisance. Perhaps you will not see vile behavior on every channel, but there is a strong possibility that you will find something visually attractive to watch. Never mind whether it is harmful or good Ė the point here is that there is usually something that will interest you on TV if you have enough channels to surf.
So, the question rises: "What captures the interest of your heart?" What entertains and thus detains you at this electronic watering hole? The devil has studied each of us quite carefully and he knows our weaknesses and vulnerability. He is especially focused on young people, but he has prepared an attractive nuisance for everyone. Remember his objective? He seeks to entice us away from God and to harm ourselves. The little child, who climbed over the fence to enjoy a little fun in the swimming pool, did not suspect any danger. However, many children have drowned because of ignorance and neglect. In a parallel way, the world is full of people drowning in sin because of spiritual ignorance and the lack of moral enlightenment. Remember, the devil was in Heaven before he was cast out and he knows the incalculable value of eternal life. Satan is angry with God. He is obsessive about his own forthcoming destruction and he is energized and determined to hurt God. As I said earlier, Satan lies like a lion in camouflage, waiting to pounce on his victims at the watering hole. When it comes to ensnaring human prey in his sophistry, the devilís trap does not always hurt immediately and may not seem deadly at first. If it was so obvious, people would catch on. No, the devil is much more sophisticated than that to lose his cover. So, the hurt caused by the devil does not take place at the watering hole, but happens elsewhere. Thus, the watering hole continues to be an attraction for more victims. This tactic only makes his deceptive works more secure.
The number two nuisance that brings the devil more delight than TV is the cinema. The devil succeeds with cinemas where he fails with TV. Using the big screen, he trains and develops the appetites of children. In just a few years, they graduate from "G" rated movies to "PG-13," "R" and maybe "X" rated movies. The devil is a master at gradualism. He understands the long-term psychology of consistently exposing young minds to every imaginable evil, because the minds of children are formative and fertile. The devil knows the first law of psychology: "By beholding we become changed." This law is the basis for ethnic culture. For example, Chinese children grow with different values than Hispanic children, because they experience different languages, religions and social customs. The devil has seen how quickly children absorb carnal ideas. Of course, they have carnal natures, whatever their ethnic origin. They may forget the details of a particular movie, but the sinister attitudes of rebellion and self indulgence are continually reinforced in movie after movie. Best of all, the devil knows that children do not have the judgment or reservations that come with maturity. They are little copycats. What they see is what they mimic or try to do. Childrenís ability to reason from cause to effect has not had time to develop. They cannot distinguish between right and wrong effectively when there is almost no training in the home or school. So many parents are blind to the sneaky ways of the devil. The devil knows that attitudes are caught, not taught. This is why the cinema is such a valuable tool in his arsenal.
The cinema is an area where an individualís carnal heart can use its degenerative creative powers without reserve or rebuke. "After all," the owners and producers of cinema say, "it is only a movie." If you review the history of the cinema (which is less than 100 years), you can see the slow slide toward immorality in every aspect. At first, the movies were not as base as the ones shown today. Now, please understand, I am not saying that every movie made today is without merit. What I am saying though, is that there has been wholesale degeneration. When big money took over the cinema business, the race toward hell escalated. In one century we have gone from silent movies to thunderous, multichannel stereo. The screen has changed from a flickering black and white display to Panavision, exploding on a giant wall with computerized effects that boggle the mind. The stories have degenerated down the slippery slope of sin and now exalt gross behavior, senseless indulgence and sexual immorality. How else can one explain this phenomenon when early movies did not display nudity, use gutter language or dramatize violence? It is well known that young people soon want to go beyond the "G" rating to see "PG-13" or "R" rated movies. Even the blockbuster movie, Titanic , received a "PG-13" rating. I am told the nudity and foul language in that movie were totally unnecessary to tell the story, so why were they included? If you were the devil, what would you want teenagers to see and hear? Consider the long term psychology of manís enemy and you will find the cinema to be a booming business for creating attractive nuisances.
"Jesus Would Not Go to Movies"
When I was in highschool (a parochial school), the faculty told us that going to the movies was evil. We were told that Jesus would not watch movies. (Even then, I wondered how Jesus could be up in Heaven, see me on Earth, yet not see what was on the screen.) We also were told that we should not associate with those people who went to movies. (I wondered about that, because most of my friends went to the movies every chance they got and they seemed all right to me.) I was told that my guardian angel never went inside a theater, and if I chose to go, my angel would not go with me. (I thought, why should I anticipate anything serious happening while I was inside the theater. Besides, my angel would only be 30 feet away if he needed to rescue me.) We were told that movies were a bad influence on our young minds. (I also wondered about this, because it was common knowledge that if we waited long enough, that same movie could be seen on TV.) I could not figure out what was wrong with going to a movie. The religious reasons given back then lacked serious logic, or at least, so I thought.
Now that I am older and somewhat educated in the ways and forces of life, I now understand the logic of the faculty. They were interested in the avoidance of sin while the real problem remains purity of the heart. I do confess their efforts had some merit for me, but this appreciation only became possible when I finally allowed the Holy Spirit to create a born-again life. If I had not received Jesus into my life, I would be like many of my classmates who continue to harbor resentment toward their former teachers for their fanaticism. Actually, I can only offer one reason to avoid movies. It is the enticing problem or as described before, the attractive nuisance. We cannot be enticed by what we do not see. We cannot easily process ideas for which we have not been exposed. In short, the cinema is a highly attractive nuisance. Why feed the carnal nature with anti-sanctification excitement? Why give the devil an inch, knowing he will extract a full yard? Perhaps there are some movies worth watching today, but it is the watering hole proposition that is the "gottcha." Is that movie really worth the risk of being injured in the jaws of a camouflaged lion? The significant problem with movies is that one cannot predict the value of a movie until one sees the movie. Tell me, when was the last time you saw someone with the moral courage to stand up and walk out of a movie when the language and scenes are unacceptable? The devil has gained control of everything and he is hoping that he can entice millions to stay seated and consequently, feed the carnal nature through this medium."For everything in the worldĖthe cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and doesĖcomes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever."(1 John 2:16,17)
One last thing about the cinema nuisance: The devil is fascinated with sex and rightly so. The creation of sex is a very interesting process on a planet where every complex form of life owes its presence to sex. This means that everything from flowers to birds, from bumble bees to whales, from trees to human beings, is dependant on sexual reproduction. Since angels are not male or female (Matthew 22:30), they cannot experience the emotions that go with being a sexual being as humans do. As I said before, the devil has carefully studied the human race, and he has thoroughly studied the role of sexual hormones upon the carnal heart. He has succeeded in twisting Godís ideal into a nightmare, so that (a) the human sexual experience rarely fulfills the purposes for which God created it, and (b) sexual expression has become one of the worldís great obsessions. (Other obsessions include the acquisition of wealth, power and position. These are nuisances too, but sex seems to get greater media attention.) The issue of sex is mentioned here, because the cinema is a perfect vehicle for putting ideas and notions into our minds about sex that grossly distort Godís purpose. Furthermore, the devil understands how easy it is to ignite and arouse passions for a sexual experience in emotionally empty or immature youth. Obviously, sexual relations outside the marriage relationship always bring harm, dysfunction and suffering. Yet, writers and producers of movies present sex just the other way around. This generation views sexual freedom (e.g., freedom from Godís rules) as a wonderful expression of love. However, the truth is that sexual freedom is the product of carnal lust. The human race has ignored Godís rules for sexual conduct and this has produced AIDS, abortions, broken homes, broken relationships, unshakeable guilt, sorrow and the loss of self esteem. The cinema cannot be beat as a means to entice people with deeds of impurity. Again, I am not saying that cinema is inherently evil and that it has no merit or value. I am saying that cinema is extremely powerful, and the devil has gained control of a very attractive nuisance. Perhaps the potential for cinema to do well can be measured by how much harm it continues to do. It is a filthy spring that pollutes the minds of millions of people each week.
The devilís third attractive nuisance is found in the publishing arena. There is enough garbage in print to fill all the landfills of the world (not to mention all the minds of the world). There are magazines for everything from gardening to hard-core pornography. Standing in the grocery line, the tabloids scream for our attention as they use sex, weight control or sensational and defaming gossip about celebrities. Too, there is a never-ending stream of mail order catalogs that feed our materialistic appetites. Whatever our passion, whatever our interest, there is a glossy magazine to feed it. Do not overlook the subtle attraction of the recent emergence of electronic publishing. Whatever we want to see or know about, there is an unlimited access on the internet. We live in a totally saturated world. The devil uses the printing and publishing industry, much like cinema and TV, to introduce, indulge, sustain, entertain, and glamorize sin.
The fourth attractive nuisance is the radio and evil music. The devil presents degenerate sentimentalism and lust, as though this is what love is all about. Music has power. Songs are memorized if they are heard often enough and their messages are subconsciously impressed in our brains. Some people simply like the companionship of noise. Unfortunately, there is little silence in our world today and precious little time to think things through. People are listening without thinking. This is just what the devil wants. The devil is pouring garbage into the minds of people when they are not even aware of it. For the most part, radio serves a meal of nonsense and meaningless chatter. As a result, many peopleís minds have become dull or numb to what Satan is trying to accomplish. The still, small voice of God is often drowned out by useless noise.
Even religion can be a nuisance! As I consider the diversity of six billion people around the world, I am compelled to believe that four universal laws govern all religion. These laws operate upon all humankind and they produce the following effects:
Law #1:Religion, by its very nature, almost always narrows the mind to new thoughts. Therefore, 95% of the worldís population stays within the religious system that they were born or raised in. Moslems tend to stay Moslems, Jews tend to stay Jews, Catholics tend to stay Catholic, etc. Because of religion, many people cannot have their views regarding God challenged without getting angry or emotionally upset. In this light, the following statement is very true: Truth hurts.
Law #2: Religion, by its very nature, stifles the investigation of new ideas. Christians were expelled from Judaism because Judaism could not change. Protestants were expelled from the Roman Catholic church because the Roman church could not change. In recent years the Worldwide Church of God (Armstrong) literally disintegrated when leaders changed a few key doctrines. What does this say about the possibility of spiritual growth and radical change within a religious body?
Law #3:Religion, by its very nature, encompasses a body of knowledge that is far larger than most of its members care to understand. For this very reason, few people do not question the origin or foundation of their beliefs; rather, they turn to a religious authority figure and accept whatever they say. Religious leaders recognize the importance of establishing their own publishing houses because laity prefer to read material produced within their denomination. Of course, this process also keeps the views of the laity limited and narrowed.
Law #4: No one can live without religion. The devil knows that God made us this way. Every person is born with an inherited need for the elements of religion. And, in some form, they are manifested in each person. The basic elements of religion are:
a. Admiration of someone or something greater.
b. Submission to someone or something greater.
c. Association with others loving the same someone or something.
Religion, by its very nature, has compelling power for good and bad. Unfortunately, religion has blinded billions of people from knowing the truth that is found in Godís Word, the Bible. People end up worshiping their "old-time" religion, instead of God. (They are not the same.) Truth moves forward, but religion cannot. The devil knows this, so he has made religion an attractive nuisance in two opposite ways. First, many are drawn astray either to new and interesting ideas that promise an "enlightening" experience or on the flip side, the devil uses the four laws of religion to keep people in darkness. Where are those people who walk with the Lord "in the light of His Word" and follow Him wherever He may lead?
We have examined several issues in this study. My purpose in this presentation has been threefold: First, a few ideas about the importance and necessity of sanctification have been presented. Second, some of the devilís attractive nuisances that militate against sanctification have been considered. Last, I wish to encourage the reader literally to keep fighting the good fight of faith. Do not quit now! Whatever your battle, whatever crosses you bear, do not give up. Heaven will be cheap enough! Heaven and Earth will pass away before the words of Jesus will fail. So, renew your faith and commitment to Christ by asking the Holy Spirit to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. Resist the devil and God will see to it that Satan and his demons will flee from you. In closing, I would like to point out a text that means a lot to me while I struggle with the carnal nature:"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to Godís law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead[to sinís dominion]because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of[Christís empowering]righteousness."(Romans 8:5-10)