The Threats We Face (Part 3) — Threats in the World

Thus far in the series titled “The Threats We Face,” we have considered the threats to godly living that exist within our homes and our churches. In this final installment in the series, we want to briefly consider the threats we face from the “outside” world. As we aspire to live lives that bring glory to God, we are being attacked from every side—including from the culture that exists around us. By way of introduction, let us list and define four particular threats that we face from the world today.

Threat #1: Consumerism and materialism. The first threat, simply stated, is the desire to satisfy one’s own flesh with material things—to find joy and satisfaction in life through temporal, material belongings. This threat simply begins with a desire—a desire to satisfy one’s own flesh. Of course, not all desire is wrong, but when we focus on self and on satiating our own desires at the expense of truth and righteousness, we are opening the door to find joy and satisfaction in those things that can never truly satisfy and which, in reality, can actually turn our hearts away from the one Person who does bring true joy and satisfaction.

Threat #2: The temptation to conform to the ungodly aspects of our culture. The temptation is great today, as you well know, to conform, to blend in, to uncritically embrace the culture around us.

Threat #3: The danger of embracing a secular worldview—how we view life, how we view the events that transpire around us, how we view ourselves as people and the lives of others around us. A secular worldview (as opposed to a Christian or biblical worldview) entails:

1)    Man-centeredness—“I am the center of everything.” “I am the seat of authority when it comes to my daily beliefs and behavior.”

2)    Relativism—Whatever is good for you is good for you; whatever is good for me is good for me. Absolute truth does not exist; objective, propositional truth is an irrelevant construct of a previous era; everything pertaining to the nature of truth or morality is relative. Relativism is a major facet of the secular worldview that permeates our society today.

3)    Pluralism—Because truth is relative (whatever is true for you is true for you and whatever is true for me is true for me), then all religions are equal and equally true. We can find truth from all the world religions, and we should seek to find truth in this manner.

4)    Consumerism and materialism—Pleasure is the ultimate goal in life, and money can buy it. Things can bring happiness, and what can buy those things? Money. Materialism and consumerism are a vital, integral part of the secular worldview.

Threat #4: The prevalence of sexual temptations. We live in a sex-saturated society. And, of course, I am not referring to sex in a pure or biblical sense (that which God calls “good” within the parameters of marriage), but in a lustful, promiscuous, ungodly sense. Pornography today is a multibillion dollar industry that is permeating our Christian homes and churches. Adultery among those who profess to know Jesus Christ as their Savior is permeating our homes and our churches today at an alarming rate. Fornication, homosexuality and premarital sexual activity are plaguing and threatening our homes and our families today at an alarming rate.

The threats “out there” against our homes and families that stem from the world around us begin in the heart—the desire to satisfy our own flesh; then, they invade the body as we attempt to conform to the culture around us, and ultimately they take over our heart and mind as we completely embrace a secular worldview rather than a biblical one. We are going to notice these threats to the family by looking at one particular example from the Word of God: the life of King Solomon. The account of King Solomon is an account of a man whose capitulation to the culture around him led to personal unhappiness, dysfunctional family life and, worst of all, a lack of fellowship with God Himself.

But before we get into this biblical example, let us define our terms as clearly as possible. When we talk about the threats to our homes being the “conformity to the culture” in which we live and the “acceptance of a secular worldview,” what exactly are we talking about? What exactly do we mean by culture? One author has said this: “Culture is the ways of thinking, living, and behaving that define a people and underlie its achievements. It’s a nation’s collective mind; it is our collective conscience.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines culture in this way: “The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought characteristic of a community of population.” So in its simplest terms, when we talk about culture, when we talk about worldview, culture is the prevailing thoughts, philosophies, lifestyle—worldview—that is manifested through the lives and expressions of the society in which we live. In other words, the culture is simply our worldview lived out through our behavior.

Culture and worldview are interconnected. Popular culture, or “pop” culture as it is known today—that is, culture especially as it relates to the entertainment realm—is affecting Christian families today in a profoundly negative manner. Whether or not your church is driven by the worldly culture, whether you are young or old, you will be confronted with pop culture wherever you are, wherever you go. But let me add—not all non-Christian entertainment is inherently wrong, but as Christians, we must embrace standards of living that are based on biblical principles.

What are some ways in which today’s pop culture is influencing and affecting our Christian families? (1) Television. The average television viewing time per household is astonishing. Statistics have revealed that American homes run their televisions anywhere from 3-5 hours per day! Certainly we place a great emphasis on television in our homes. I’m not anti-television; I’m not opposed to it, but I’m certainly opposed to the extent to which people are wasting their time and filling their minds with so much valueless and mind-numbing drivel; (2) Music. The music that we’ve become so accustomed to is another way in which today’s pop culture is influencing and affecting our families in a very negative manner. The lyrics often represent a worldview completely opposed to biblical Christianity; (3) The internet and video games; (4) Newspapers, magazines and periodicals; (5) Books; (6) Friends, acquaintances and co-workers. Simply holding a conversation with somebody in the workplace or on the street or in our backyard is one way in which today’s pop culture is influencing and affecting our families. None of these things mentioned is inherently wrong, but we must be aware that these are avenues through which we are being influenced either for good or bad.

What are some of the results of the influence of pop culture upon even Christian families who have come to embrace it? Number one, we have apathy toward spiritual things: “Oh, church is boring. Bible study is irrelevant. That’s boring. That doesn’t move me. That doesn’t make me feel the way I want it to make me feel.” The pop culture has influenced our Christian families to the point that it has encouraged us to think that we now do not need to study the Word of God. We do not need to be in church.  We can invent our own religion or “spirituality” that fits our own lifestyle or personality.

A second result of the pop culture influence upon Christian families is this: a desire for entertainment rather than a true relationship with God built on truth; thus we have entertainment-oriented churches. We have Christian dance clubs and bars. We have all of these things rather than the clear, faithful exposition and teaching of the Word of God to the people of God.

A third way in which the pop culture has negatively influenced and affected our families is this: We suddenly have an attitude of acceptance of all religions or all Christian programs, a tolerance and acceptance of all truth claims even in our own Christian families: “Mom and Dad, back in your generation you believed that what you have is the truth, but come on, we live in the 21st century. Get with the program. We need to learn and glean from the truth of this movement or this religion” or whatever it might be. Life now is built on emotion alone, what people feel rather than what is reality—the truth of God.

Finally, the culture in which we live has influenced us to possess an unreserved desire for things of the world. Do not think that your life and your family is immune from the influence of the pop culture that surrounds us, the society in which we live. On top of that, we waste hours and hours and hours of time watching television, surfing the Internet, playing video games, etc. I am certainly concerned about the influence of culture upon our families.

King Solomon: A Case Study

In 1 Kings chapter three and verse one we read: “And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the Lord, and the wall of Jerusalem round about.” Notice 1 Kings 11:1-8. Solomon, David’s son, began his life and his reign as a person who reverenced and respected God. So, the first lesson we immediately can learn is that nobody is exempt from falling. If Solomon who started off so well, Solomon who asked God to give him a heart of wisdom, Solomon the son of David—if he can fall as hard as he did, don’t think that you can’t fall. What was the catalyst for Solomon’s downfall? How did this spiritual infidelity, this idolatry come about in the heart of a man who years before was walking so close to his God? You see, Solomon feared God consistently through the many years of his life all the way from before he even ascended to the throne. So we know that Solomon didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “Hey, I’m going to forsake the Lord. That’s what I’m going to do.” No. It all happened slowly, gradually. He drifted as he began to rationalize his behavior, as he emulated the surrounding culture and soon found himself very, very far from his God.

As we approach 1 Kings chapter 11:1-8 with the question in mind, “How did Solomon arrive at this point in his life?” knowing that we too could end up in the same place, let us answer this question and examine ourselves to see whether or not we are guilty of drifting away from the place where we need to be. How did Solomon arrive at this low point in his life in1 Kings 11:1-8? How did he get there?

1.    Solomon capitulated to the ungodly aspects of culture

First, Solomon emulated the culture around him. We need to understand that most likely the majority of Solomon’s wives were taken as a result of the custom, the culture of the day. Tens, hundreds of wives could have been given to Solomon at one time. He had a total of a thousand wives and concubines, and while we might have assumed that Solomon courted them and picked them and dated them one at a time, actually he could have acquired tens, hundreds at a time. Solomon may have been somewhat puffed up with pride, for as we saw in chapter three, an Egyptian Pharaoh actually gave Solomon an Egyptian wife—something never done heretofore by an Egyptian. This could have caused Solomon to continue this practice—“Whoa, look who I am. I was given a wife by an Egyptian Pharaoh.” Solomon emulated the culture around him, and then he began to rationalize his actions. It’s very clear from the Word of God that Solomon knew God’s Law, yet he went ahead and rationalized his capitulation to the culture.

Many today claim that nothing is wrong with the culture. We just need to “Christianize” it when, in reality, this is simply rationalizing cultural capitulation. God has told us to stand out and think differently from those who embrace an unbiblical worldview. Solomon should have stood out from the cultural conditions of the heathen world, but he did not. What about you? What about me?

So Solomon first capitulated to the culture, verses one and two: “Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; of the nations concerning which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them. … Solomon clave unto these in love.” He first capitulated to the culture.

2.    Solomon engaged in forbidden fellowship

In verse three we read that Solomon then engaged in forbidden fellowship; “He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.” Solomon’s cultural capitulation led him to grow attached to the forbidden things of the world, the things God had told him not to do. Solomon took many wives and concubines even though God had forbidden this in Deuteronomy 17. Solomon entered into relationships with pagan wives and concubines even though God had forbidden this in Deuteronomy 7. You see, I believe that Solomon likely really felt strongly about many of these women. I’m not going to judge Solomon’s heart and say he didn’t really love them, he didn’t really have feelings for them or that they were just objects to him. We see that Solomon “clave unto these in love.” He felt strongly about these women. Don’t judge his feelings. They were real; they were really there. This is what happens when we dabble in the things of the world forbidden by God. We begin to grow attached and have strong feelings toward the things of the culture forbidden by God.

Emotion or feelings for another, however, is not the key. The key is obedience—it always has been, and it always will be. By capitulating to the culture and engaging in fellowship with what God forbade, Solomon completely disregarded the Word of God to him. Do we find ourselves today blatantly disobeying God and disregarding the teaching of His Word by joining with those, whether physically or spiritually, who will harm our relationship with our God? Solomon did. Solomon first capitulated to the culture. That’s how he got himself into this mess in the first place.

3.    Solomon forsook his God

Solomon’s problem was not that he had an affinity for fine women and had a little problem with lust. No. Solomon engaged in forbidden fellowship because of his cultural capitulation, and the result (vv. 4-8) was that Solomon then forsook his God: “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father” (v. 4). And then we see Solomon build high places for horrendous, horrific pagan gods. This is pure spiritual infidelity and idolatry. You see, we need to understand that idolatry is synonymous with spiritual infidelity because an idol is anything that usurps the place of the one true God, and putting anything in the place of that one true God is not only committing idolatry but it’s leaving our God and committing spiritual adultery as well. Solomon committed spiritual infidelity and engaged in idolatry long before he ever began worshipping the heathen gods. It began in his heart when he became more enamored with the world and his wives and his prestigious position than with his God. You see, these women were the ones who turned away his heart.

It has been rightly said and it is so true: Today’s idols are more “in the self” than “on the shelf.” That’s true. They begin inside. Solomon’s idolatry began with a desire to find harmony with the sinful pagan world around him, to capitulate to the culture and rationalize his actions. “Oh, I’m really something. I was just given an Egyptian for a wife. I’ve got to be something. That’s never happened before. The leader of the Hittites over here is offering me 50 wives for allegiance. That’s what they do in the culture, so I’m just trying to have a good rapport.” It all began with a desire to find harmony with the sinful pagan world around him and rationalize his actions, yet the vehicle that led Solomon to actually forsake his God was his relationships with others. You see, it starts in the heart but works itself out in relationships. It was his relationships, it was the women who turned away his heart after other gods. I believe that is why God’s Word that we have in hand today is full of instructions concerning relationships, concerning how we are to relate to one another in the church, in the home, in the world, husbands and wives, parents and children, pastors and lay people. Relationships are important. God knows that those with whom we associate have a profound impact on our thoughts and our actions and our beliefs—so watch out!

4.    Solomon’s testimony was ruined for generations

Finally, Solomon’s idolatry and immorality was infamous. His testimony was ruined for generations. If you notice in Nehemiah 13:23-27, Solomon was known by subsequent generations as the king who was once great but became controlled by his ungodly relationships. He lost his ability to discern. When not walking with God and fearing Him, Solomon was powerless. He was a pawn in the hands of his idols. Do you want to be powerless today? Do you want to be a pawn in the hand of the idols that you worship? Spiritual infidelity, idolatry has serious consequences: Number one, lack of communion with God; number two, lack of fruit in our life that is pleasing to God; number three, lack of power to live a victorious Christian life; number four, lack of a godly testimony before others.

I don’t want to be known as one who started off really well but then eventually loses the “good fight of faith.” I don’t want others to say, “Look at the upbringing he had, and look where Matt is now.” Solomon had David as his father, yet that didn’t mean anything to God. It’s how we do now, how we finish the course that God has set before us. It doesn’t mean anything to God what kind of heritage you have or what you’ve done at some point in the past. What are you doing now for Him? How are you going to finish? Paul said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). Paul stayed true to the end. He didn’t cut corners. He didn’t take shortcuts. He didn’t compromise. “Henceforth”—that means because of that—“there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day” (v. 8).

What can we learn from Solomon’s life?

First, don’t take the world as your model for life or ministry. That’s what Solomon did. Romans 12:1-2 tells us in a nutshell not to take the world as our model for life or ministry: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world”—that’s an imperative; it’s a command by God—“but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind”—worldview—“that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Don’t take the world as your model for life or ministry. The apostle Peter tells us that we are to be holy as God is holy.

Second, don’t build relationships with those who will lead you away from God, regardless of whether or not you really feel attached to someone. Feelings and emotions, once again, are not the key here. It doesn’t matter if we’re dealing with physical relationships or whether we’re dealing with spiritual relationships (worship or ministry endeavor). Don’t build relationships with those who will lead you away from God even if you really do feel strongly about them: “I have a feeling for this person. I cleave to this person in love though I know they’re an unbeliever” or “I know their actions are not what they should be” or “I know they’re involved in this compromised ministry, but I want to join with them.” Don’t do it. Do not do it. Always live with a reverent fear of God. This, my friends, is the beginning of wisdom.

We’ve seen the threats, and we’ve seen that even God’s people are very vulnerable to them. What is our line of defense? We have already considered our line of defense against threats in the home and threats in the church, but what should be our line of defense against the threats we face from the world? Let’s notice four principles we must understand if we are to have victory over the influences of worldly pop culture that is seeking to destroy godliness in our homes, families and churches:

(1)     Understand and view everything through the lens of Scripture. Possess a biblical worldview, not a secular or worldly one. Understand that Satan is the god of this world. Believe it. Understand it. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul describes Satan as the god of this world who has blinded the eyes of mankind from seeing the glorious gospel of Christ. During the past 60 years in particular, the church has been trying to play catch-up with the world. The world sets the tone, and the church tries to reach it and emulate it. It’s never the other way around. But when is the church going to wake up and realize the fact that Satan himself is energizing this world system—its philosophy, its behavior, its beliefs? We need to understand, friends, and view everything that happens around us, in all the doctrines and beliefs, that Satan is the god of this world.

(2)     Understand that what we believe determines how we act. You see, as fundamentalist, Bible-believing Christians, we need to understand that what we believe determines how we act. This is why doctrine and theology are so important. The world acts a certain way because it thinks a certain way. We’ve all heard it—we’re just animals; we’re just advanced primates. Remember, the world acts a certain way because it believes a certain way. The world develops art and music and philosophy and theology that reflect its beliefs—beliefs that are chaotic, humanistic, rebellious, etc. Doctrine and theology are important no matter what the world or even the professing church today may say. As the body of Christ, we need to develop art and music and philosophy that reflect our Christian worldview, not an emulation, not a copy of the world’s culture.

(3)     Understand that our human creativity has been warped and influenced by sin. You see, there are many professed Christians today who attempt to clothe the world’s culture in Christian garb, and they consistently argue that God has made us creative people so He likes whatever we do, as long as we put a “Christian” spin or label on it. Just read interviews with contemporary Christian artists and musicians or the new emerging church artists, and you will discover that this line of reasoning prevails. Yet the fact is this—our human creativity has been warped and influenced by sin. Yes, God has made us to be creative people, but the unsaved man’s creativity is warped and influenced by sin and the god of this world. It is, therefore, possible even for us as believers to be creative in a way that is dishonoring to God just as we can live lives even as believers that are dishonoring to God.

(4)     Realize that the professing church today will not aid us in our battle. The liberal and the new evangelical churches of our day are right at home in our world, and they embrace pop culture, although they give it a Christian spin. We cannot rely upon the professing church to aid us in gaining victory over Satan’s attack. We need to support and be a part of Bible-believing churches that will exercise discernment in this matter.

We have a grave responsibility today as children of God in a dark world. We must view all of life through the lens of Scripture. We must refuse to conform to the culture. Solomon didn’t refuse. The Israelite remnant that returned to Jerusalem didn’t refuse, and look what happened. There are examples of many, many others in Scripture who did the same. Refuse to conform to the culture. Instead, put on the mind of Christ. The secular culture in which we live does not do this. It can’t. We have the mind of Christ. Put on the mind of Christ. Live your life with eternity’s values in view, that is, the approval of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The secular culture in which we live does not do this. They don’t live with eternity’s values in view. They don’t live for the approval of the Creator and Savior of mankind. Refuse to conform to the culture. Live with a fear of God, an ever awareness of His presence—that He knows everything you think, everything you see, every place you go. When you are ever aware of the continual presence of God in your life, you’re going to fear God. The secular culture doesn’t do this. Flee sexual sins. The secular culture in which we live does not do this. Do not believe the lies of the culture. Do not believe the lies of the secular worldview that biblical morality makes people unhappy, that the Hugh Heffners and the Madonnas are the truly happy ones in life. Don’t believe the lie. Don’t believe the lie that unrestricted sex, casual sex is normal and abstinence is abnormal. Don’t believe the lie that sin is always fun and carries no hidden charges to be paid afterward. Don’t believe the lie.

Refuse to conform to the culture. Put on the mind of Christ. The world doesn’t do that. Live with eternity’s values in view. The world doesn’t do that. Live with a fear of God. The culture does not do that. Flee sexual sins. The culture does not do that. We are called to be truly counter-cultural as Christians. We are not called to try to emulate it or attempt to put a “Christian” label or a “Christian” spin on it.

Dr. Francis Schaeffer said: “In the Roman era, when one became a Christian, it meant he stood not only opposed to the surrounding religions but to the entire culture built on those religions. This did not mean they isolated themselves from the world but they opposed those things that stemmed from and embraced a culture opposed to God and his Word.” Today we don’t have first century Christians who stood not only opposing the surrounding religions but the entire culture built on those religions. We need to follow God’s Word and the example of the early church and live as people who oppose the ungodly culture in which we live. We need to exercise discernment in that which we see, hear, read and embrace.

Referring back to the children of Israel, we notice that when confronted with God’s Word, the remnant took appropriate action. They realized they had sinned greatly against God. They then put away from them the strange gods and separated from the Gentile pagans. They did not attempt to put a Jewish spin on the ways of the pagans in order to make it acceptable to God like the church is doing in the world today. The key to a strong family is to be aware of the threats in all three realms—the home, the church and the world—and to do whatever is necessary to defend against these threats. As God is my witness, I can say to every single one of you that I love you in a biblical agape sense, and because I love you, I want your homes, I want your families to be ones that are strong and God-honoring. Be aware of the threats and do what it takes to protect your family. — Matt Costella