We learned in Part I of this article that while Moses was on the mount meeting with God, the children of Israel became restless. The people came to Aaron and declared that they had to do something! So he told them to bring to him their golden earrings, and he fashioned for them a molded calf, which was declared to be Israel’s god. (Exodus 32:2–4.) They believed they really were still worshipping Jehovah. They did not think that they were rejecting Jehovah. The golden calf was simply a symbol of Jehovah; that was what they had grown up with in Egypt.
“And the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Exodus 32:6. After you have worship, then you need to have something for the young people too. So they rose up to play.
Today, of course, we do not have idols like the golden calf, but I have often thought about all of the people who eat and drink in front of their idols. Now, they do not worship them, and they are not golden calves, but how many people are eating and drinking in front of their idols, their television shrines? How many people go to their stadium shrines where they eat and drink? You know what else they do there? They yell! They get up early sometimes; they stay up late sometimes. Whatever it takes; they are interested; they are enthusiastic.
Were the children of Israel enthusiastic about what they were doing? Oh, yes, they were enthused! They got up early. Likewise, today, people are enthused about their idols. They are fanatical about their idols.
Today, the devil is doing a number on our young people with games, with playing, with amusements, with activities, and with sports. All of these things are being introduced, and the saddest thing is that, in many places, it is actually being done in the name of the Lord.
I have seen competitive basketball games where, before the games start, the teams pray together and say, “We are going to be witnessing for the Lord today.” And then they go out and try to beat the other team with all they are worth.
We are living in a serious day and age, are we not? We are on the way to Canaan, and anything that engrosses our minds so that we lose sight of our heavenly goal and our heavenly mission is something to be avoided. But how easy it is to rationalize.
Some time ago I copied an article from the Review and Herald. A lady wrote in explaining why she had changed her habits. Whenever we change our habits, we always have good reasons for doing so, even if we change them for the bad.
She wrote, “There once was a time when I thought I would never see a television set in my home.” I have noticed how many people sit around television sets. I did not grow up with a television. In the limited experience I have had with television, I have noticed how, when I am watching the programs, I am never thinking of the Lord; I am never studying my Bible. My Bible becomes less interesting.
This lady continued, “There once was a time when I thought I would never see a television set in my home. I condemned all television. And then we had children. Living in a neighborhood with 21 pre-schoolers, we discovered our son, Sean, to be a very social creature, as most three-year-olds are. We mothers became friends too. Our family believed that, like salt, Christians must mix in order to be useful. In our neighbors’ homes, I discovered with dismay how entranced our son was with their television sets, which seemed always to be on. He mimicked what he saw. He began asking to visit friends so he could watch TV at their houses. At that point, we faced a dilemma—either take the salt out of the neighborhood and isolate ourselves in a home with no television, or we would have to teach him to become a discriminating television viewer. So we bought our first television, and began an experiment that has lasted for ten years. I will admit it has not been a hundred percent successful a hundred percent of the time. It would still be easier to say no to television all of the time. Determining which programs are acceptable for viewing is a process that involves our whole family. Instead of saying a flat no to a program, we watch it together, and later discuss why the program should or should not be a part of our family’s diet. Monitoring the television is a continual project. We try to limit television-viewing time. Doing so is a challenge, because too many programs fall in the ‘good’ category.” They must have been living in a different country! “What do we watch? My husband and older son are history buffs, so they enjoy history documentaries. Watching a World War II program together gives them the opportunity to discuss history, prophecy, and the Bible. So, yes, we have a television in our home, and our family is learning to choose daily, for eternity. Learning this kind of self-control is important to us.”
That is an interesting philosophy! It is interesting how we can rationalize everything.
Read the letter through again with my added comments. I could not help putting some comments in!
She wrote: “There once was a time when I thought I would never see a television set in my home. I condemned all television. And then we had children.” Studies show that children are the most damaged by television. I would much rather see someone have a television when they did not have children than when they did have children.
“Living in a neighborhood with 21 preschoolers . . . .” We do have counsel, of course, on city living and on country living. But, anyway, she continues, “We discovered our son, Sean, to be a very social creature, as most three-year-olds are. We mothers became friends too. Our family believed that, like salt, most Christians must mix in order to be useful.” What did Jesus say about salt that has lost its savor? (See Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:50; Luke 14:34.) It becomes like the world. Do we witness by becoming like the world?
“But in our neighbors’ homes, I discovered with dismay how entranced our son was with their television sets, which seemed always to be on.” They also probably had beer in their refrigerator; they probably also had parties on the Sabbath. I wonder why she did not consider getting beer or having parties on Sabbath too, so that they could be like their neighbors.
“He mimicked what he saw.” That should have been warning enough.
“He began asking to visit friends so he could watch television at their houses.” As I read that, I could not believe why, with a three-year-old, she could not have simply said no! But here is a three-year-old that is ruling the roost.
“At that point we faced a dilemma.” I mean, what do you do with a three-year-old that wants to go to the neighbors? “Either take the salt out of the neighborhood . . .”—this kid was becoming a real witness—“. . . and isolate ourselves in a home with no television, or we would have to teach him to become a discriminating television viewer.” Well, they could teach him to become a discriminating beer drinker too.
“So we bought our first television, and began an experiment.” Now she goes on to say that instead of saying a flat no to a program, they watch it together, and later discuss why the program should or should not be a part of their diet. Can you imagine watching a program, then deciding whether or not you should have watched it?
Then she says, “Doing so is a challenge, because too many programs fall in the ‘good’ category.” I could not help thinking, they have really been bitten. They must have been affected! I cannot find anything on television except the Steps to Life program that is worth watching. Even the news, most of the time, is sensationalism. The news can cause people’s minds to start wandering in areas of sex and violence and other things, of which they should not be thinking.
She says, “This is a continual project.” I wonder what happened to their witnessing program? They got the television so they could be a witness in the neighborhood, but monitoring of the television became a continual project. Whatever happened to the salt? I was surprised, when I read this part of the article where she admitted that all of their time was taken up with the television, that she did not see through her own arguments.
“What do we watch?” She mentions World War II documentaries. There is nothing much more “blood and guts” and violent than World War II programs!
Consider a few thoughts from the pen of inspiration. “The world is flooded with books that are filled with enticing error. The youth receive as truth that which the Bible denounces as falsehood, and they love and cling to deception that means ruin to the soul.
“There are works of fiction that were written for the purpose of teaching truth or exposing some great evil. Some of these works have accomplished good. Yet they have also wrought untold harm. They contain statements and highly wrought pen pictures that excite the imagination and give rise to a train of thought which is full of danger, especially to the youth. The scenes described are lived over and over again in their thoughts.” The Ministry of Healing, 445.
I know what happened to me. I did not watch many programs, but I saw a movie at Union College [Lincoln, Nebraska] on the Civil War—one that had been shown in the theater. I probably relived that program a hundred times in my mind; I can still remember every detail of it. Did you ever see any programs that you relived afterwards in your minds? Do you remember every detail? Did you ever notice how hard it is to memorize the Bible and how easy it is to remember what you see on television?
What does the Bible say? “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8.
Mrs. White wrote that people think of these things over and over again in their thoughts. Such reading unfits the mind for usefulness and disqualifies it for spiritual exercise. Is there any wonder why our young people today are not interested in spiritual things? Such reading—and television programming—destroys interest in the Bible. Passion is aroused, and the end is sin. We are living in an altogether too crooked world to be leading our children into paths of sin in our own homes.
“It is often urged that in order to win the youth from sensational or worthless literature, we should supply them with a better class of fiction. This is like trying to cure the drunkard by giving him, in the place of whisky or brandy, the milder intoxicants, such as wine, beer, or cider. The use of these would continually foster the appetite for stronger stimulants. The only safety for the inebriate, and the only safeguard for the temperate man, is total abstinence. For the lover of fiction the same rule holds true. Total abstinence is his only safety.” The Ministry of Healing, 446.
There is another thing that led the children of Israel to defeat. Do you remember the story of Achan? What was it that he coveted? The garments of the Babylonians and the Egyptians. It is one thing to take the person out of Egypt and Babylon; it is another thing to take Babylon and Egypt out of the person. It is interesting that as these people rose up to play, Exodus 32:25 mentions how some of them became naked in their play. Their garments became a little skimpier; they became a little more like the world.
James 4:4, 9, 10 says, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” “Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and [your] joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
Who will Stand?
Who will be able to stand? Will it be those who fill their minds with thoughts of worldliness? Do not make others your standard, because most of them are not going to make it to heaven. They all can—God would love them all to, but it is not going to happen that way.
In 11 Corinthians 6:15–17, we read, “What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’ ” Listen, if the salt has lost its savor, what good is it? It is worthless, except to be tossed out. If we become the salt of the community by becoming like the community, we are worthless. He says, touch not the unclean, and “ ‘I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’ ”
Either we are all for God or eventually we are going to be all for Satan. Steps to Christ, page 33, says, “What we do not overcome, will overcome us and work out our destruction.” The next page in Steps to Christ says, “Even one wrong trait of character, one sinful desire, persistently cherished, will eventually neutralize all the power of the gospel.”
As you look at your life, is there any place that you are holding on to something that the Lord has, at least at one time, convicted you of? If you are, that thing, unless you overcome it, will eventually destroy you and work out your condemnation. We have to be complete overcomers to be among the 144,000. Whatever can be shaken will be shaken. And there may be something different for each one of us. You might have something in your diet that you have never really surrendered. You may be practicing it, but you have never really surrendered it. Whether or not you are practicing it, if you have not really surrendered it, a time will come when you are going to find reason and rationale for doing what you want to do, such as the children of Israel did after Moses was gone for 40 days.
Is it possible to quit doing something that you have not really surrendered all the way to the Lord? Is it possible for a person who may be in love with somebody they should not be in love with to give that up and never really surrender? Is it possible to quit smoking and never really surrender it? Many people who quit smoking never really surrender. Somewhere in the back of their minds, that habit is still there, and every so often they think about how wonderful it would be . . . . There are people who do that with drugs and with alcohol. Every single person who holds on, in the back of their mind, to that cigarette, whether they have quit or not, sooner or later will start smoking again.
Is there some sin in your life that you have never surrendered? You may not be practicing it; you may not be doing it, but do you never really surrender to the Lord? What we do not overcome completely will eventually completely overcome us and work out our destruction.
In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter says, “But you [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praise of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
The Lord has called you and me to a higher plain of living than just nominal Christianity. He has called us to be clothed with the robe of Jesus’ righteousness. He has called us to be separate in practice from the world. He has called us to have pure thoughts. He has called us to have the love that Jesus had—love that turns the other cheek, love that never gets upset or irritated. We must develop the character with which we can stand before God and He can say, “These people are without any guile in their mouth; they are without fault before the throne of God.” (Revelation 14:5.)
Paul says, “Let you who think you stand, take heed lest you fall.” And the time to take heed is not when you are stumbling, it is when you think you are standing tall and firm. Today is the day to take heed, to review our lives, to see if there is something there that we are cherishing, some area that God has been trying to lead us to surrender, repent of, and overcome.
Pastor Marshall Grosboll, with his wife Lillian, founded Steps to Life. In July 1991, Pastor Marshall and his family met with tragedy as they were returning home from a camp meeting in Washington state, when the airplane he was piloting went down, killing all on board.