Little children, keep yourselves
from idols. Amen. (John 5:21)
I thank God that I was raised in a home without the influence of television. However, at the age of sixteen, I started watching a few movies when visiting our next door neighbor. Needless to say, we would get glued to the screen, and during the next few days the scenes we had seen basically consumed our thought life as we went about our duties and we would talk about the movies with each other. Deep down in, we knew it was taking us down the wrong road.
I truly sensed the call of God from an early age in my life—at times it was stronger than other times. And deep down in, my greatest desire was to truly be born again, and really know it. So after one such evening of watching a movie, my brother Ray and I made a covenant together that we won’t go watch another one. Approximately two months later, we surrendered our lives to the call of Christ after a Sunday service where the Holy Ghost had powerfully anointed the messages, directly to our hearts. What an agonizing but glorious experience! We were transformed, bless His holy name! Everything changed—my goals, my thoughts, priorities, relationships, etc. That night, the Lord poured out His Spirit on me and gave me a love for Him, His Word, His people, and the lost, like I never dreamed could exist. The half had not been told!
My oldest brother Fred never got saved, and as time went by, he left home. Of course, one of the first things he bought was a TV set. When we would be in the area where he lived, we would spend the night at his house. I remember this one certain evening when he begged me to watch this supposedly harmless, funny western film with him, which I did. Afterwards, feeling heavy, I went to the bedroom to get quiet before God and to pray. And I quickly realized that it was hard to pray, and I realized as well, that this is getting between my relationship with Christ. I begged the Lord to help me be true to Him, and told Him that I wanted His relationship above all else. At the age of twenty, most of my family moved far away, and I went along. Two years later, in 1997, I returned to where I grew up for a visit.
At one point of my stay I worked for my brother Ray’s in-laws, doing construction. They had two houses rented side by side where they and the workers lived, most of the workers being relatives of theirs. Of course, the houses were furnished with cable TV. They were a sincere family from a conservative Mennonite background, but now felt they had much deeper insight than most church-going Christians. I had a lot of respect for them, especially Frank, who was my boss. As time passed, I quickly became uneasy with how freely the TV was being used, and usually made myself scarce after supper was over and the dishes were washed, going to my room to spend time in the Word and prayer. After a while, I realized they had taken notice of my general avoidance of the screen, and Frank brought his concern to me, wondering how my relationship was with Christ, and if I understood the Gospel? With tears, I told him I do have a relationship with Christ, etc. To make a long story short, in 1999, I found myself back in the same area, relating with the same family, as they were staying with my brother Ray.
At different times, I was roundly reprimanded by them for self-righteousness, legalism, “old fashioned Pharisaism,” etc.—some of the evidences being that I did not want to watch TV, and that (according to them) I liked to spend time in the Word and prayer because it made me “feel good.” I did not have much to say about this, if anything, and just took it to the Lord. I remember stepping in the door one evening after work, and Frank unloaded a barrage of such-like concerns for me. After he finished, I said “good-night” and went out to my sleeping quarters. Needless to say, sleep was out of the question for a good while. Even though, by this time, I did not have much confidence in the spirit and direction I saw him and his family going, I felt the need to receive to heart the concerns and reproof, and not be too quick to “pitch” them, even though they came from people that I did not have much confidence in. Realizing that I will never be totally immune from any of those accusations while in this body, I opened my heart to God that night and begged Him to search my heart, and to help me figure out what all this turmoil and confusion was about, asking Him to cleanse me from any and all self-righteousness, etc. However, I could not find any reproof from God for avoiding TV and spending time in the Word and prayer. Rather, I sensed this difficult time was God’s providence for more purifying and soul-searching in my life.
My younger brother Joseph had just gotten saved that year and was now courting the youngest daughter of Frank. One day, they asked me to watch a “Christian” testimony video of some women, which I did. Some of it was good, but then it went into such visual description of her past life, romantic episodes, etc., etc., that they had to fast-forward it. I strongly felt the Spirit of the Lord grieving within. Afterward, I sat down with them and shared my concern about such “Christian videos,” reading from Ephesians 5:12: “For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” As well, I shared other similar thoughts.
They justified these videos saying that this “is just the reality most people live in” and “others need to see it, so they can also be delivered,” etc. At a later time, I was again called on the rug by Frank, who had found out the concern I had, through his daughter and Joseph. That October of 1999 found me working in the apple harvest. Joseph and I were living with my oldest brother, Fred, in his little trailer. (All three of us were single.) One beautiful fall evening, I stopped at Ray’s place on my way home from work. His in-laws were there, and after chatting and saying “good-byes,” Frank walked with me out to my car. As I crawled into my car, he encouraged me to be open with them as to how it was going in my relationship with the Lord. He informed me that he thought he saw growth in me lately, but thought I should know that his daughter had recently been working with a neighbor girl who also knew me, and in the course of the conversation, they began talking about me (and my peculiarities, I guess.) Anyway, this girl had made the statement that, “Yeah, David (me) is just too good.” So he told me that I should take it to heart, as they are not the only ones that feel that way.
I felt totally undone, and told him that after all Christ has done for me, all I can say is that I’m awfully sorry for any way that I may have brought shame to His name. As I drove home to my brother’s trailer, a deep sadness and heaviness settled over me; I felt I was in a whirlpool of confusion where everything seemed foggy and grey. My brothers were not home yet when I walked into the trailer, and after a bite to eat I retired early. We had tight quarters, so I slept in Fred’s bedroom on a little mat behind his bed. I was very exhausted and sad as I went to bed, and as I tried to pray before going to sleep it seemed almost the only thing that would come was, “Oh Lord, I don’t know what is going on, but I am very sad.” And so I drifted to sleep. Suddenly, I awoke in the middle of the night singing:
This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh, precious is the flow.
And being overwhelmed with the joy of the Lord, I said, “Oh Lord, what is going on? How can it be that I went to bed so sad, and now so much joy?” I rolled over and went to sleep almost immediately. Suddenly, I began dreaming. I dreamed that it was dark outside, but I was in a room where there was plenty of light, and a lot of people strolling about the room visiting. Suddenly, I was hit with a burden from the Lord and jumped onto a box in the middle of the room, and these were the words that poured out of the burden and anguish of my soul: “Oh, don’t you all realize that the television is among the many end-time deceptions?” Upon hearing this, some people began to walk out the door into the dark, and some stayed in.
Immediately, I awoke singing the third verse of “Trust and Obey.” Full of joy and the Holy Ghost, I looked at the digital clock and it was 5:00 A.M. (My rising time.) The Spirit of the Lord said, “Get up and go open your Bible at random, and read where your eyes fall. I have a message for you.” I jumped out of bed and hurried as quietly as possible to the bathroom (where I was accustomed to having my quiet time, so as to not disturb my brothers.) I flipped the light on and, trembling, knelt down. As my Bible dropped open on the toilet seat, immediately my eyes fell on these words:
“But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Daniel 3:18)
I exclaimed, “Oh! That is what it is! It is idolatry!” I went to work that morning with an open heaven over me, full of joy and peace and the Holy Ghost. Those apple trees very likely never experienced such a worship service, as I flitted up and down my ladder, picking their luscious fruit and worshipping our Creator, from the bottom of my heart. From time to time, I wanted to sing “Trust and Obey” throughout the day, but I did not know it by heart, and all I could remember was that I was singing the third line when I awoke that morning. This made me wonder what the verses actually said. That evening after work, I drove past my Grandpa’s house and stopped in for a short visit. Only my Grandma was home (a dear, godly Grandmother she is!). Before leaving, one of us suggested singing a hymn together before parting. She asked if I had a song on my heart, and I said, “Oh, yes! Let’s sing “Trust and Obey.” She brought out the “Christian Hymnal,” and as we came to the third verse it suddenly hit me: Oh what a powerful message that contains! (Bless the Lord, oh my soul!)
But we never can prove,
The delights of His love,
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows,
And the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
I can testify in the name of Jesus Christ, that if we will put all on the altar, and trust Him and obey Him, the blessings just flow. There is more I could share, but I feel to keep it short. In closing, I think we do well to remember that under the Old Covenant, when the people of Israel started to cool off, one of the first signs that began to show up was idolatry, which seemed to provoke the wrath and jealousy of God quicker than almost any other sin, if I am not mistaken. It is still the same today, under the New Covenant, only the idols that are constantly vying for the worship of God’s people nowadays are, for the most part, quite nice-looking “idols.” And sadly, “iniquity is abounding and the love of many is waxing cold.” We can count on it, if and when our love begins to wax cold, idolatry will begin to creep up on us, and we will finally go down the road of apostasy and grieve the Holy Spirit away and never wake up to reality until it is too late. Remember Samson. He knew not that the Spirit of God had left him, until he was bound and could not break his fetters; and thus it was too late!
We must remember that we live in a pleasure and entertainment-crazed age, and this spirit has been spilling over into the Church. Well did the Apostle Paul prophesy of the apostasy of the last days in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. One of the first characteristics is covetousness (which is idolatry) and one of the last being “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” These people will even have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. There is a whole list of idols that I could list that are good at causing God’s people to stumble and bow down, but I am sure I could not even name them all. So, I’ll just name a few that I feel would be somewhere at the top of the list:
- Money and materialism
- Entertainment and music
- Praise of men
- Pastimes and hobbies
- The “good life”
- Eating and drinking and building
...all of which tend to be the robber of the excellent and anointed life.
The best safeguard is to maintain a close and loving walk with Jesus Christ, and a love for His Word, which call for self-denial and cross-bearing. And, to live under the anointing and dictates of the Holy Ghost, and fellowship with those that do the same. Thus, as those “attractive idols” ask for our homage and time, with God’s help they will be shown up for the hideous or vain monsters that they really are.
2 Chronicles 16:9 says: For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. God is still looking for men and women, young and old, who will stand for the good and right, with Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, even while the majority are falling down and worshipping the statue. Yes, you may feel all alone, or like an oddball, sometimes. You will suffer reproach, etc., but if it is for the name of Christ, He will show Himself strong on your behalf, and His glory will settle down over you. All idols need to be torn and broken down spiritually, but some call for spiritual and literal breaking. Oh, the burnings that true revival so often brings! If God is dealing with you on the TV set, please do not sell it; fix it once for all with a huge wrench or sledgehammer, in the name of Jesus.
In closing, let us hear the warning plea, from the last verse of 1 John, the apostle with a special gift of love. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. Could it be that John referred to idolatry using the following definition? “Any person, place or thing that diverts love and devotion from Jesus Christ.”
Written in weakness,
but grateful servant
P.S. Yes, we need to be alert for the dangers of self-righteousness, Pharisaism, legalism, etc., but let us not react from one ditch and fall into the ditch on the other side. The Highway of Holiness is strait and narrow, and the key to staying on it is to love the Lord with all our might, heart, soul and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God.
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