Rev. Gritters is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Byron Center, Michigan.
Entertainment. Leisure. Amusement. Recreation. Sports. Spare time. Fun.
Is there any more proof needed that our day is mad for pleasure?
As Matthew 24 indicates, “iniquity shall abound, (and) the love of many shall wax cold.” Paul spoke of this to pastor Timothy in II Timothy 3 when he said, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous…heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God….”
Young people must be reminded that this is taking place as a sign of Christ’s coming. Paul made that clear as well, for he begins this chapter, “This know also….” That is, be aware of what will come. Do not be surprised, young saints, if the world becomes mad for pleasure. The ministers need to be reminded of this; theelders must be aware of it; parents should be warned to watch out for it. But the young people need to know what the Word of God says about the world in which they are growing up or find themselves presently. Do not be shocked if this is what you find.
Men are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.
Pleasures are things that please men, not heavenly pleasures, but earthly pleasures. There are many of them. But the danger that must be warned against is not the pleasures themselves! It is not Reformed, but Anabaptist and monastic, to say that pleasures are evil. We may enjoy pleasures, earthly pleasures too. We may enjoy a husband or wife, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a ball game or good music; for Paul says to Timothy in the first letter, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” (Young people, “set apart? your earthly pleasures with the Word of God and prayer!)
No, the evil to beware of is not the pleasures, but the loving of these pleasures, and loving them more than one loves God. The last days are marked by this. People are mad for pleasure, live for it. “Thank God It’s Friday” is not only the name of a popular restaurant, but the motto of much of the world. Young people (and all of us), do you live for the weekend to fill yourself with earthly pleasures? Or do you desire to end your week of work so that you can worship God and fill your life and soul with spiritual pleasures?
This evil is a sign of the end of the age especially when it becomes evident in the church. Paul says that the last, perilous days come when men have a “form of godliness,” but “deny the power thereof.” This is not a description of the unbelieving world. The world openly bows to pleasures, gladly admits she loves this life and no other, and boldly proclaims “TGIF” to be her motto. But this is a description of the “church.” Their confession is ‘We love God”; their outward life is probably exemplary; they come to church regularly (except when vacation or the big ball game gets in the way); they have a form of godliness.
But they “deny the power thereof.”
Do you see it? Drunkenness, drugs, fornication, dancing, movie attendance, wasting time with trash on television and VCR? This also takes the form of enjoying legitimate pleasures, at the expense of obedience to God. There is more time on the ball field or fishing stream or hunting blind than with the family; more money spent on one’s own pleasures, unnecessary food, drink, toys, so that there is only a dollar or two left over when the plate is passed on Sunday.
When young men and young women are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, the fruit that grows on the branches of their lives is rotten fruit. They become “covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady highminded.”
Why? Because they are “lovers of their own selves.”
The root of the problem is not “pleasure-madness.” Below that branch is the root of self-love. If we are to remove pleasure-madness from our lives and our churches, we dig deep to this problem.
Whom do you love more, yourself or God? Let us take a test with the ten commandments:
1. Do you worship idols (of sports and liquor)?
2. Do you make graven images (that look more like you than God)?
3. Do you take God’s name in vain (because yours is more important)?
4. Do you desecrate the Sabbath (when the fourth commandment pinches)?
5. Do you dishonor your parents (when they “cramp your style”)?
6. Do you kill your neighbor with thought or deed (if he stands in your way)?
7. Do you fornicate (if it “feels good”)?
8. Do you steal your neighbor’s property (to hurt him or add to your wealth)?
9. Do you lie to your brother (to save your own skin)?
10. Do you covet what he has (because God hasn’t given it to you)?
We are living in the last days! Is there any doubt in your mind?
There is another teaching about the last times that claims the world will improve, that there will be great godliness in the earth, that the church will prevail, that the gospel will have an effect on the general population of the world that it will be Christianized and most will follow the teachings and power of Jesus. II Timothy 3 says otherwise.
We are living in the last days. There is evidence of that right before our eyes.
What is especially convincing is that what was condemned by the churches only 25 years ago, and for hundreds of years before that, is now approved. What was unthinkable 50 years ago is now so commonplace that if you question its propriety, you are questioned as to your sanity. Rock music (with Christian words), dancing, theater attendance, all used to be condemned by the church, but now are approved and promoted.
Do you young people understand that? Does it sink in? Never before did the church condone movie attendance, and dancing, or take the music of the world and put it to “Christian” use. Now she does. That is important for us to know if we love the Lord and His church. It was important for me, when I was in my teens, to know that the church always did (on the basis of the Bible) stand against movie attendance, dancing, and worldly music. Even though I didn’t like it at the time, I knew that the weight of history (the leading of God’s Spirit in history!) was behind that stand.
And why has the church changed its stand now? Has more serious Bible study been done? Has the church become more spiritually minded? On the contrary. The church was pressured into changing its position because pleasure-madness had caught on and everyone was doing it anyway. We are living in the last days. Will you put pressure on the church to silence its witness against the worldly pleasures?
These are perilous days! Dangerous days!
Danger for the church is not persecution. The church is not in peril because of poverty and hard times materially. Those days were always good days for the church, days that strengthened the church, days of oceans of grace for the church! Perilous days for the church are days of pleasure-madness.
These are grievous days, when parents, pastors, and elders vex their souls over the weakening of the flock and the pleasure-mad behavior of the young people, when families see it in their own lives that they have been caught up in the race for Friday, not because the Lord’s day is coming, but because Saturday can be filled with pleasure.
But these are perilous times.
God’s people are weakened by exposure to this kind of life-style, because this life-style becomes ours so easily. The danger of television and movies is as much in the lifestyle they teach as in all the vile behavior and language they present. Perilous times! Children become used to this life-style and find out soon they have no room for spiritual things. Young couples caught in this spirit want no children, or few, because there are things to buy, places to go, times to live. These are dangerous times for the church because the pressure is on to change, to adapt the teaching of the church to the life of the people, instead of the life of the people to the teaching of the church.
Oh, for the power to turn away from this!
Turn away from this spirit in your life. Turn away from those persons who would tempt you to have a form of godliness but deny the power of it. Have no friends whose lives are geared for pleasure. Do not date the young man or young woman whose principal good is to seek pleasure of this world, whose life shows that he is a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God.
“No!” to the frantic pleasure-seeking that never has enough. Like the horseleach’s daughters crying, “Give, give,” and the fire that will never be satisfied, the pleasure-mad young person never has “enough.” “Yes!” to God and His kingdom. Live the antithesis, young people!
And the possibility for all this is the cross of Christ.
The cross crucifies your self-love. The cross destroys your ego. The cross makes you a lover of God more than a lover of self. This does not mean that you will not want these pleasures, will not seek this worldly entertainment. But the cross means that this drive for pleasure will not dominate your life, will not be the all-consuming force it once was.
Fly young people! Fly for your life! Fly to the cross of Christ! There is hope! There is forgiveness! There is power! There is your God! There is salvation from the perils of these last days!