1st Peter 1:13-25
Preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God; for
‘All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the Word of the Lord remains forever.’
And this Word is the Good News that was preached to you.” 
As he was leaving his office, the well-known Governor of a western state was exposed as having sired a child with a housekeeper ten years previously. The exposure would ultimately lead to divorce from his wife of many years and a court battle over custody of their minor children. A Senator from another western state was exposed for having an affair with a staffer; then he was accused of using campaign funds in a futile attempt to keep the matter from coming to light. A man who ran as a Vice Presidential candidate and then vied for the nomination of his party to run for President of the United States was accused of using campaign funds to cover up an affair with a videographer. He conducted the affair even while his wife was battling terminal cancer. Ultimately, his actions would lead to an indictment by a grand jury and a sensational trial. A powerful Congressman was exposed for sending lewd photos to multiple young women who admired his aggressive opposition to more conservative politicians and their policies. Yet another Congressman was forced to resign because he sexually assaulted the teenage daughter of a campaign worker. All these events were being reported simultaneously within a very short period of only a matter of weeks. By no means do these particular stories exhaust the news accounts of moral or ethical failure by politicians. Nor should Canadians feel smug about moral turpitude within the political class as we have our own sordid stories.
Among the churches of North America, the incidence of moral and ethical failure appears to be as bad—if not worse—than the incidence of such ruinous actions among the powerful and the elite of the nation. Throughout the past several decades, there have been so many accounts of pastoral fraud and moral declension in the pulpit that we are no longer shocked at the announcement of a new scandal among the churches.
While there have always been accounts of individuals who lived as though they need not give an accounting for their actions, one must wonder if this generation is capable of making wise moral or ethical choices. The paragons of morality cluck their tongues at the failure of their opponents and do nothing to clean-up their own lives. What has happened?
I suggest two major contributors to this insidious problem. First, Society as a whole has embraced relativism, abandoning truth and moral certitude. Modern culture has bought into the myth that life is all about us—about fulfilling our desires. Encouraged by educators and the political elite, we have placed “self” at the center of our existence, dulling conscience and dethroning God. We have abandoned the understanding of right and wrong that once served as the foundation of Western ethics. This situation didn’t just happen; it was the inevitable consequences of a failure of the pulpit in these contemporary times. Let me explain.
Whereas there was a time when preachers would point to the Word of God, holding to the accuracy and the authority of what is written therein, it seems as if many have exchanged the truth of God for the futile imaginations of mortal minds. Contemporary preachers appear more concerned about having a job than they are about pleasing God. I remember an old preacher declaring that the preacher whose little message was “Repent,” had better pledge his head toward heaven. Whereas brashness is evident in the modern pulpit, boldness is a rare commodity. Adherence to the Word of God as truth is witnessed infrequently today. When it is discovered, we know that the brave preacher stands almost alone against the temper of the times.
WE CHRISTIANS ARE RESPONSIBLE TO PREPARE MENTALLY FOR ACTION. We are responsible to prepare for war. It is certain that we will be engaged in combat! This is not war as the world wages war; it is spiritual warfare fought with spiritual weapons as outlined by the Apostle. “Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience” [2 CORINTHIANS 10:3-6].
We recall also the words the Apostle has written in the encyclical we know as the Letter to the Ephesians. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” [EPHESIANS 6:10-19].
The Christian is engaged in protracted, vicious war. Initiated by a surprise attack on our first mother, the war began soon after the creation and has continued unabated to this day. The enemy is cunning and powerful; many fine citizens of Heaven have fallen on the fields of battle. The moment you become a Christian, you are thrust into the conflict. There is an ongoing assault against the child of God as the enemy endeavors to best the follower of Christ, taking him captive and rendering him ineffective. The great tragedy is that many of those individuals who assault the position of the faithful are not conscious of their own motivation. In fact, many would argue that they are doing what they believe is best for humanity. Though they witness the grief that arises out of opposition to righteousness, and though they are genuinely concerned at the instability marking unregenerate society, they are unwilling to insist on a return to godliness.
Let me address this matter more pointedly so that no one can suggest that my speech is somehow obscure. Teens and young adults face a daunting situation. This is not to say that older adults do not face similar challenges, but it is to acknowledge that the challenges commence early in life. Listen to the experts! Ninety percent of children—underscore this number in your mind—ninety percent of children will have viewed online pornography by age sixteen! Now get this! The typical teenage boy spends nearly two hours a week intentionally looking for pornography! I won’t embarrass anyone by asking if such pornographic materials have been cached on your hard drive. I can assure you that without seeking it out, we will encounter such evil on a regular basis.
However, don’t imagine that the Internet is the only danger zone for those endeavoring to be godly. A sex scene appears on television every nine minutes! Stop to think of the network and cable shows that you have watched in the past week, asking how frequently suggestive scenes have been presented for your entertainment. Does it surprise you if I tell you that one in three teenage boys admits to having nude pictures sent to them on their phones!
The consequences are about what any sane person might predict. The majority of high school students have sexual intercourse by graduation, and almost eighty percent of male high school students say they feel pressured by society to find a girl who is willing to have sex. Thus, one in four young people will have contracted a sexually-transmitted infection before turning twenty, and one-third of girls will become pregnant in that same time frame. Forty-one percent of all births are outside of marriage; and in some communities, the percentage of pregnancies out of wedlock exceeds seventy percent! Christian youth are not immune to this assault on purity; they are ill-equipped to engage the enemy in this battle for purity and righteousness.
I haven’t even addressed such issues as the saturation of our culture with violence. Though the high priests of contemporary culture—psychologists, sociologists and community organizers—assure us that viewing violent acts have no impact on us as individuals, we are witnessing several generations that treat violence as though it were a video game. Children seem unable to understand that stomping on the head can result in death, and apologists for the cult of youth hesitate to hold anyone under the age of eighteen accountable for his or her actions. Nevertheless, we are assured that when these youth turn eighteen, they will magically mature and realize the gravity of their actions. How many violent acts do we witness on a daily basis just entertaining ourselves? Whether we are watching a television drama, attending a movie or playing an online game, violence seems mandatory. By the time a child is six or seven, she will have witnessed multiple murders, countless assaults and numerous sexual assaults just through what is called entertainment! And this is supposed to have no effect on their maturation!
Early believers were distinguished for their opposition to the violence of the games! It is well documented that “Christians were tortured during the violence of the Ludi Circenses (circus games) by gladiators or wild animals. Tacitus wrote that ‘the Christians … were dressed in the skins of wild beasts, and exposed to be torn to pieces by dogs in the public games … they were crucified, or condemned to be burnt; and at nightfall served in place of lamps to lighten the darkness, Nero’s own gardens being used for the spectacle.’ Augustine wrote against its lure, speaking of how he lost his friend Alypius, who was drawn to the blood lust of the games of the gladiators. Christians had seen their friends martyred for the pleasure of the public shows while other people were lost to its lusts. Paul wrote in 1 CORINTHIANS 4:9 that ‘God has exhibited us Apostles at the very end of the procession [Godspeed] … like doomed gladiators in the arena! [Moffatt] … to be gazed at in a theater by the whole world, both men and angels” [Conybeare].’”
Language is degenerating at a breath-taking clip. Our culture admires the cutting retort, the quick put-down; even if we don’t resort to cursing and swearing, we delight in ridiculing one another as though such retorts demonstrate prowess or virility. Modern comedy is dependent upon either the use of bodily functions normally performed out of sight of others or through mindless debasement of an individual through ridicule and slander. Consequently, our inability to express ourselves adequately is witnessed even within the congregation of the righteous.
Our spiritual forebears were distinguished by their speech, which was holy and pure in contradistinction to the culture about them. The influence of Christians on speech persisted for centuries among English speaking nations, ensuring decency in speech long after Christendom was influential in morals and ethics. There was a time when we who name the Name of Christ took seriously the admonition of the Apostle given in EPHESIANS 5:4-21. “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Christian speech should be marked by expressions of gratitude, joyful singing and respect for each other; Christian speech should not be characterized by the dark associations of this fallen world. I admit that earlier generations may have been extreme in some of their language prohibitions; nevertheless, I must believe that their caution was more praiseworthy than is the excesses that mark contemporary language. When people working as professionals, supposedly trained to communicate, are incapable of doing so without resorting to language that would have been eschewed by even drill instructors at Quantico, there is a serious problem.
I’m about to quit preaching and go to meddling. Much of modern Christianity is influenced negatively by Hollywood. We assume a worldview that is dictated by Hollywood. It isn’t just the violence and the ubiquitous sexuality, but the underlying dissolution of speech that is foisted upon an incautious society. Regardless of real life, Hollywood is determined to introduce degraded language into the mix. Lifeway Stores recently removed DVDs of the movie, “The Blindside” from its shelves. The reason was the incorporation of “street language” (profanity) and degrading racial references.
We really need to check our motives and practices before its to late. The “Truth” is speaking load and clear and man is and will be without excuse when our time is up.
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