You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14.
Jesus has called Seventh-day Adventists to be representatives in this world that has no moral rudder and is going to eternal ruin at lightning speed. As His representatives, we are to be holding back the tide of evil that is sweeping our world. Those who are standing for truth and righteousness will be “the salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13. “In many different ways His grace is also acting as the salt of the earth; whithersoever this salt finds its way, to homes or communities, it becomes a preserving power to save all that is good, and to destroy all that is evil.” Review and Herald, August 22, 1899.
As God’s ambassadors, we are to glorify God in every activity in which we engage. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31. [Emphasis added.] I would like to examine this phrase, “whatever you do.” Would this include everything that I read? Watch? Listen to? Would it include every recreation in which my family and I engage? Yes, this phrase must encompass every activity in which I engage.
The Greek word for glory is doxa, which means, “to honor.” In other words, I am to promote the honor and glory of God in everything I do. Those things that would not bring honor to the name of God would need to be abandoned, so I do not fall even farther from the glory of God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23.
“Seventh-day Adventists, above all people, should be patterns of piety, holy in heart and in conversation. To them have been entrusted the most solemn truths ever committed to mortals. Every endowment of grace and power and efficiency has been liberally provided. They look for the near return of Christ in the clouds of heaven. For them to give to the world the impression that their faith is not a dominating power in their lives is greatly to dishonor God.” Maranatha, 113. [Emphasis added.]
Because of the increasing power of Satan’s temptations on the people of God, we are in constant danger of having our faith overthrown by the enemy of souls. God’s people need to be constantly on their guard, watching to make sure that every step is in harmony
with our Great Pattern. We should be analyzing every activity in which we participate, making sure that what we are doing is in harmony with heaven, that angels may be by our side as protection from the enemy. Paul predicted, “that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” 11 Timothy 3:1, 2, 4.
The Natural Mind
It is necessary for God’s professed people to choose carefully the recreation in which we participate. “Satan is a persevering workman, an artful, deadly foe. . . . He is in every sense of the word a deceiver, a skilful charmer. He has many finely woven nets, which appear innocent, but which are skilfully prepared to entangle the young and unwary. The natural mind leans toward pleasure and self-gratification. It is Satan’s policy to manufacture an abundance of this. He seeks to fill the mind with a desire for worldly amusement, that there may be no time for the question, How is it with my soul?” Review and Herald, August 29, 1912.
Notice carefully that Satan is trying to entangle our souls in worldly amusements that will keep our minds occupied, so that we have no time to examine our hearts to see what our standing is before God in this judgment hour. “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” 11 Timothy 2:3, 4.
Satan wants to fill our minds with the amusements that control our world to divert our minds and to bring us down to a low level. “Everything that Satan can devise to divert the mind of man from its accountability to God he will devise. Look at the many amusements and pleasures he has set in operation to keep men from thinking.” The General Conference Bulletin, April 1, 1899.
Ellen White also stated, in the previous Review and Herald statement, “The natural mind leans toward pleasure and self-gratification.” This is spoken of the unconverted people, the ones whose affections are set on earthly pleasure. They love what the world loves and hate what God loves. They are unmindful of what pleases God. The gratification of self is their ultimate goal. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh.” Romans 8:5. “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” Ephesians 2:2, 3. “(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, [that they are] the enemies of the cross of Christ: . . . who mind earthly things.)” Philippians 3:18, 19.
In order for us to choose amusements that are approved of God, we must first ask God for a true conversion in our lives. The unconverted will not be able to understand in what activity God would have him engage. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14. Without being converted, we shall surely make the wrong choice in what activity we are to be engaging as individuals or families. Our only safeguard is to be converted daily.
What amusements are unsafe for our participation?
Ellen White provided counsel regarding the pursuit of pleasure and amusement centers in the cities: “Many parents who choose a city home for their children, thinking to give them greater advantages, meet with disappointment, and too late repent their terrible mistake. The cities of today are fast becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah. The many holidays encourage idleness. The exciting sports—theatergoing, horse racing, gambling, liquor-drinking, and reveling—stimulate every passion to intense activity. The youth are swept away by the popular current. Those who learn to love amusement for its own sake open the door to a flood of temptations. They give themselves up to social gaiety and thoughtless mirth, and their intercourse with pleasure lovers has an intoxicating effect upon the mind. They are led on from one form of dissipation to another, until they lose both the desire and the capacity for a life of usefulness. Their religious aspirations are chilled; their spiritual life is darkened. All the nobler faculties of the soul, all that link man with the spiritual world, are debased.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 54.
Since television was an invention of the future in Ellen White’s day, she wrote of the theaters. These were places where people went to watch the drama of their choice. The same principle would apply to television viewing as to theater attendance. The television is in nearly every home in the United States, bringing to the minds of its viewers its soul-destroying vice. The television is referred to by some as the “home hypnotist.”
“Television viewing, because of the time it takes, can keep us away from other meaningful activities and pursuits, including spending time with God. When we look at an average person’s weekly activities before and after the arrival of television, we see that the amount of time in church or in reading spiritual material such as the Bible, has noticeably decreased.” Joe L. Wheeler, Remote Controlled: How TV Affects You and Your Family, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Hagerstown, Maryland, 1993, 45–50.
If you are interested in learning more about the harmful effects of television, read “The Frontal Lobe,” chapter 12 of the book, Proof Positive. A detailed study of the adverse effects of television is given there. (Dr. Neil Nedley, Nedley Publishing, Ardmore, Oklahoma, 1998.)
Effects of Television
For now, following are 17 harmful effects of watching unprofitable television for you to ponder. Television
- produces a hypnotic effect, bypassing frontal lobe filtering.
- reduces time spent in interesting reading and learning.
- weakens brain power.
- encourages poor lifestyle habits.
- encourages obesity.
- increases daydreaming.
- weakens creativity.
- may reduce our powers of discrimination.
- trains in non-reaction.
- influences viewers to regard violence lightly.
- makes children more irritable.
- increases aggressiveness.
- accelerates sexual activity.
- is addictive.
- reduces time available for productive achievements.
- steals time from family interaction.
- adversely affects spiritual pursuits.
Television viewing is the recreation of choice by many people in our contemporary world, but Christians are to separate completely from this sort of recreation. The same principle, I believe, should also be applied to the time that we spend on the Internet.
We are to guard carefully our five senses, especially our eyes, ears, and mouth. “We are to watch every avenue of the soul, lest Satan come in and desecrate the temple of the heart, which should be wholly consecrated to God. We are to watch lest passion take possession of the soul, to watch lest selfish thoughts are cherished. The reason why there is not more vitality and power in the church is that we do not work and watch as we should. We should stand as faithful sentinels at the post of duty. I pray that the grace of Christ may come into our hearts, and that we may be ever watching for opportunities to do good.” The Signs of the Times, August 6, 1885.
Jesus said, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are [the things] which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.” Matthew 15:18–20. A person would have these kinds of sins in his or her life because of the time spent in viewing and listening to questionable things.
“They will talk of what they love most, and give thought and study to that, until by beholding they are changed to the same earthly image. Their conformity to worldly customs holds them in captivity to the god of this world; for ‘his servants ye are to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey.’ [Romans 6:16.]” The Signs of the Times, March 31, 1887.
“I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” Psalm 101:3.
“He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil.” Isaiah 33:15.
“And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” 11 Corinthians 6:16–18.
Many Christians, wearing their necklaces and bracelets with the inscription “WWJD” (What Would Jesus Do), may be seen entering the theaters, playing the card game, Solitaire, or other games on their computers, or patronizing the sports arenas and musical concerts. These things divert the mind away from the eternal realities and cause us to neglect the necessary preparation for heaven.
“Many of the amusements popular in the world today, even with those who claim to be Christians, tend to the same end as did those of the heathen. There are indeed few among them that Satan does not turn to account in destroying souls. Through the drama he has worked for ages to excite passion and glorify vice. The opera, with its fascinating display and bewildering music, the masquerade, the dance, the card table, Satan employs to break down the barriers of principle and open the door to sensual indulgence. In every gathering for pleasure where pride is fostered or appetite indulged, where one is led to forget God and lose sight of eternal interests, there Satan is binding his chains about the soul.” The Adventist Home, 515.
In what kind of recreation should a Christian be involved? Is it acceptable to be found playing volleyball, softball, or basketball, for example? Ellen White wrote: “I do not condemn the simple exercise of playing ball; but this, even in its simplicity, may be overdone.” Ibid., 499. If these games are conducted correctly, they can be beneficial to our health and provide a wholesome atmosphere for children and for adults. These types of activities, if played without a spirit of competition and frivolity, are a good source of fresh air and exercise. They must be, as Ellen White described, “played in a good spirit.” Arthur L. White, Ellen G, White, vol. 6, The Later Elmshaven Years 1905–1915, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington, D.C., 370.
Mrs. White gave counsel regarding acceptable activities for the family.
“Fathers, . . . Give some of your leisure hours to your children; become acquainted with them; associate with them in their work and in their sports, and win their confidence. Cultivate friendship with them, especially with your sons. In this way you will be a strong influence for good.” The Adventist Home, 222.
“James White greatly admired Canright; it was a natural gesture to invite them to come to the mountains and join them in regaining their health. The two families enjoyed worshiping, hiking, horseback riding, and picnicking together.” Arthur L. White, vol. 2, 386.
“Nothing can increase the strength of the young like proper exercise of all the muscles in useful labor.” Child Guidance, 340.
“In pleasant weather let parents walk with their children in the fields and groves. Amid the beautiful things of nature tell them the reason for the institution of the Sabbath. Describe to them God’s great work of creation. Tell them that when the earth came from His hand, it was holy and beautiful. Every flower, every shrub, every tree, answered the purpose of its Creator. Everything upon which the eye rested was lovely and filled the mind with thoughts of the love of God. Every sound was music in harmony with the voice of God. Show that it was sin which marred God’s perfect work; that thorns and thistles, sorrow and pain and death, are all the result of disobedience to God. Bid them see how the earth, though marred with the curse of sin, still reveals God’s goodness. The green fields, the lofty trees, the glad sunshine, the clouds, the dew, the solemn stillness of the night, the glory of the starry heavens, and the moon in its beauty all bear witness of the Creator. Not a drop of rain falls, not a ray of light is shed on our unthankful world, but it testifies to the forbearance and love of God.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 358.
“Gymnasium exercises may in some instances be an advantage. They were brought in to supply the want of useful physical training, and have become popular with educational institutions; but they are not without drawbacks. Unless carefully regulated, they are productive of more harm than good. Some have suffered life-long physical injury through these gymnasium sports. The manual training connected with our schools, if rightly conducted, will largely take the place of the gymnasium.” Christian Education, 211.
“Vigorous exercise the pupils must have. Few evils are more to be dreaded than indolence and aimlessness. Yet the tendency of most athletic sports is a subject of anxious thought to those who have at heart the well-being of the youth. Teachers are troubled as they consider the influence of these sports both on the student’s progress in school and on his success in afterlife. The games that occupy so much of his time are diverting the mind from study. They are not helping to prepare the youth for practical, earnest work in life. Their influence does not tend toward refinement, generosity, or real manliness.” The Adventist Home, 500.
“The healthful exercise of the whole being will give an education that is broad and comprehensive. Every student should devote a portion of each day to active labor.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 308.
“Some months after getting settled, Ellen White made an earnest appeal to the believers to establish a church school. She was particularly gratified that she could make available nearly an acre of land in a little triangle near the Sanitarium Road. This she set aside for the church school for as long as it should be operated there. On it a building was erected and eventually enlarged to accommodate a ten-grade school. She was pleased that her own grandchildren could attend this school. Part of her cow pasture just across the Sanitarium Road was soon serving as a baseball field.” Arthur L. White, vol. 5, 36.
More information on this subject is available in the pamphlet by Ellen White entitled Recreation.
“Let the professed Christian ask himself, Can I seek God’s blessing upon the scene of pleasure? Would my Master be a guest at such a place? Will angels minister to me there? Can I there let my light so shine before men, that they may be led to glorify God?” The Signs of the Times, February 23, 1882.
May the Lord help us guard the amusements in which we engage so that we will not be swept away by the popular current of today.