One of the most popular vaudevillian teams in the 1920s was Montrose and Allen. Belle Montrose was a brilliant comedienne, and her husband, Bill Allen, played the straight guy. The two kept audiences rolling in the aisles. In 1921, their son, Stephen Allen, was born.
Steve Allen’s earliest memories were of vaudeville. His own television show debuted in 1950; three years later he hosted a late-night program from New York City. It was The Tonight Show, and Steve Allen is credited with virtually inventing late-night television.
Late in his life, Allen became disgusted with his own industry. The entertainment business, he felt, had taken a turn for the worse. I wonder what Steve Allen would say now. Many Christians in Hollywood today are having a hard time finding roles that won’t mar their testimony, and believers everywhere are finding it hard to draw the line between being “in” the world but not “of” it.
In John 17, Jesus said that His followers had been called “out of the world,” yet were still “in the world” (verses 6, 11). He warned them, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).
The old Puritan Thomas Watson used a good analogy when he said that a Christian in the world is like a ship in the ocean. It’s one thing for the ship to be in the water, but when the water gets into the ship, it tends to sink.
God’s grace teaches us to keep ungodliness and worldly lusts from seeping into our lives (Titus 2:11-12). When we understand what Jesus has done for us, we begin to say, “I’m not going to live like that anymore.” I’ve told people over the years that when we become Christians, God installs something in our souls called “The Automatic Sin Alarm System.” It’s like a buzzer that rings in our consciences. The attitudes and habits that once pleased us now make us uncomfortable. With God’s help, we learn to make strategic exits from certain relationships, environments, situations, or invitations. It takes wisdom to know how to be part of the world, yet not of it; but with God’s help we can do it.
Our activities play a role in being in the world, but not of it. In coming to Christ, we have to un-learn our former way of life and develop a new role. This was a constant refrain of the New Testament authors. Peter, for example, told his readers: “You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.”
“Of course,” he added, “your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do.” (1 Peter 4:3-4, NLT).
Unbelievers may not understand this change in you, but when friends encourage us to do things, go places, think thoughts, say words, plan deeds, or engage in activities that would damage our testimony and displease our Lord, we need to say No.
The greatest role-reversal occurs in our attitudes. Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Before knowing Christ, we were prideful, selfish, unloving, and alienated from God. Now we are developing love, joy, patience, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.
Sometimes it is necessary for us to withdraw from a situation that isn’t healthy or holy. There are ways of doing this without being angry or antagonistic to others. Why not select some of these phrases, memorize them, tuck them away in your mental file folder, and be ready to use them when your situation calls for a graceful exit:
Remember, our ultimate destination is heaven!
David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God, and serves as
Senior Pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
For more information about Turning Point, go to www.DavidJeremiah.org.