In part one, I made the following statement: “Gods at War;” the title says it all. Author of the book Kyle Idleman states, “What if I told you that every sin you are struggling with is because of idolatry.” He is absolutely correct...idolatry is a consistent distraction for God’s people. We were created to worship. Idolatry is simply worshipping the wrong thing or things. False worship is when an entity, person, or object has a greater place or value in our lives than God—our passion for “something” outweighs our passion for Him; it draws us away. Most of us don’t have idols on our shelves...they are parked in the garage or consumed on a daily basis. We don’t pay homage to a statue in the living room, but we are mesmerized by a 50” box affectionately known as “the entertainment center.” We don’t sacrifice things on the altar, but we do sacrifice our time (and time with of our children) on the altar of misguided priorities. Idols promise life but bring death, promise peace but bring confusion. In Hosea9:10, God warns that we can become “an abomination like the things we love.”
Idolatry is one reason why Jesus encourages us to remove anything that causes us to stumble: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29). Over time, idolatry will demand more and more and ultimately consume you.
The Bible admonishes us to avoid people, places, or things that promote idolatry; to remove and to dethrone them. Confession and repentance of idolatry brings this sin into the light. What grows in the dark will die in the light. Light extinguishes darkness.
Part one addressed sex, money, power, and fame...demonstrating how idolatry promises fame and fortune but delivers depression and hopelessness. When our idols die, our zeal for life often fades as well. The god of entertainment is on the rise in our culture today. It robs us of precious time; most of our time, energy, and resources are spent chasing this elusive idol. We often comment, “Where did the time go?” as we watch our lives vanish before our eyes. It’s not until later in life that we often regret the weeks, months, and years spent on things that really do not matter.
Are relaxation, enjoyment, and entertainment bad? Absolutely not...they can recharge us spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Entertainment, for example, can also build families and motivate repentance. Take, for instance, the new movie Grace Unplugged being released Oct. 4th. Greg Smalley, of Focus on the Family, writes, “A moving and meaningful film that parents and teens should see together. One of those all-too-rare movies that entertains while bringing families closer together.”
Sadly, most entertainment outlets encourage lust, violence, and laziness. They become a controlling and destructive influence. Even relaxation and enjoyment, if left unchecked, can become an idol. Many couples spend most of their lives trying to “keep up with the Jones”...competing for vacations, pleasures, and entertaining venues.
The effects of entertainment on young adults are just as devastating. The news outlet, The Raw Story, reported the following on March 13th, “A 14-year-old in Washington State has been charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting both of his parents in the head after they restricted him from electronic devices. Grant County prosecutors asked the court that the 14-year-old be tried as an adult on attempted murder charges. According to a Moses Lake police report, the 14-year-old told police that he had been considering killing his parents since the age of eight. What finally provoked him was being grounded for two weeks from using electronic devices. During his interview with police, the youth told them that he was ‘obsessed with video games.’ Moses Lake Police Sargent Mike Williams wrote in his police report: ‘I asked him how much he played video games, and he told me ‘24/7,’ up until he got his electronics taken away.’”
Ironically, the following headline appeared on the Drudge Report as I was writing this on September 13th: “Washington Navy Yard gunman ‘obsessed with violent video games.’” When the mind is stimulated beyond what is healthy and normal, there are consequences. Not only does obsessive entertainment rob us of life, it systematically pulls us away from God. If left unchecked and unguarded, this idol promises fun and relaxation but often brings devastation and destruction. Again, “They became an abomination like the thing they loved” (Hosea 9:10). What or whom do you love?
Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” What you think provides the framework for whom you become—thoughts become words, words habits, and habits a lifestyle. The list of acceptable entertainment is small, very small. For some, the best policy may be out of sight, out of mind. You’d be amazed at what a week or two of limited entertainment will do for your spiritual life. Sadly, most are not willing to give up this idol. No wonder families are disintegrating—we’ve embraced idolatry in our nation, and even more sadly, in our homes.
Shane Idleman, is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, Ca. He currently resides in Southern California with his wife and kids. More can be found at www.wcfav.org.