Drawing Near to the Lord

"No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me" (John 6:44-45)

Location: Charlotttesville, Virginia, United States

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Deception of Pornography

By Mark Larson

Pornography; the mere mention of the word ought to raise a red flag in the mind and heart of every Christian. No child of God should ever even consider partaking of such a dangerously wicked form of entertainment. Yet, despite the clear warnings of Scripture against pornography, too many Christians have allowed themselves to get ensnared by it (Heb. 12:1). This is due to the great deception of pornography. Though it may seem that Christians are above such filth and perversion, we still must beware lest we fall! “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12, NASB).

Do We Even Know What Pornography Is?

Many get entangled with pornography because of their faulty definition of it. If your concept of pornography is limited to magazines at the back of a shelf in a convenient store or a movie officially rated X, you are setting yourself up for a fall. The fact is, pornography comes in a variety of forms, all of which we must beware.

The word pornography comes from the Greek word pornographia – literally meaning “the writing about or drawings of harlots” akin to the New Testament Greek word porneia where we get the word fornication. The American Heritage Dictionary defines pornography as: “Sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.” It is the “other material” that we should be particularly aware of, understanding that pornographic influences can come at us from many different sources, some that we may not expect!

Remember, the goal of pornography is to “cause sexual arousal.” By that very definition, we can more easily recognize pornography for what it is and be on guard for its various forms. “Wikipedia” the Free Encyclopedia online, gives this description: “Pornography may use any of a variety of media — written and spoken text, photos, sculpture, drawings, moving images (including animation), and sounds such as heavy breathing. Pornographic films combine moving images, spoken erotic text and/or other erotic sounds, while magazines often combine photos and written text. Novels and short stories provide written text, sometimes with illustrations. In addition to media, a live performance may also be called pornographic. Notably, all of the above may be found on the Internet.” By this description, it is plain to see that the influence of pornography is much bigger than we realize. Though society may not label something as pornographic, doesn’t mean that it is not. What the world may call art, music, romance novels, “a word from our sponsor” (i.e., commercials) and entertainment may in fact be pornography!

Pornography Doesn’t Always Involve Nudity.

One of the great deceptions of pornography industry is the misconception that for something to be pornographic there must be complete nudity. Again, remember the goal of pornography: “to cause sexual arousal.” The truth is, many who told themselves they would never partake of “pornography” (i.e., hard core, involving nudity), ended up ensnared anyway because they believed such a lie. Pornography addicts who have sought counselling readily admit that it began first by viewing people in immodest clothing which over time increased their appetite for more and more. Indeed, the progression of lust and sin will go from bad to worse when we use such reasoning (James 1:14-15).

We deceive ourselves if we think we are not partaking of pornography when we view such things as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, the Victoria Secret models, and TV shows that dress actors like prostitutes or gigolos. If God was not pleased with Adam and Eve’s attempt to cover themselves with fig leaves (Gen. 3:6-7, 21), what makes us think we can purposefully view such immodesty and be right with God? (cf. 1 Tim. 2:9).

Pornography Is Addictive!

“Pornography consumption can be as mood altering and as addictive as narcotics.” (Richard Drake, assistant professor at Brigham Young University College of Nursing).
Like alcohol, nicotine, heroin, gambling, etc., pornography can become an addiction that will take over your life and destroy you over time. In the U.S., ten percent of adults are addicted to online porn. That’s over forty million regular users! That’s more addicts than alcoholics! We need to beware that even a “little” pornography “now and then” can easily become the first step toward becoming addicted. Sinful activity can become an addiction, and viewing pornography is no exception (John 8:34; cf. 2 Pet. 2:18-19).

Pornography Wrongly Teaches That All Sex Is Acceptable.

The viewing of pornography will, over time, retrain our way of thinking -- that sex with anyone, married or not, is acceptable. Pornographers paint the picture of fun and excitement, yet leave out the temporal nature and consequences of such behavior (Heb. 11:25b; 13:4). Pornography will effectively desensitize our resistance against extra-martial affairs, thereby tempting us to become unfaithful to our mates. Sadly, online porn now plays a major role in the cause of many divorces today (involved in two-thirds of all divorces!). It is no accident that Jesus warned against committing “adultery in the heart” in the same context of the problem of divorce in His sermon on the mount (Mat 5:27-32).

Pornography is not Harmless Fun!

“Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?” (Prov. 6:27). The biggest deception of pornography is that it is a harmless activity for those who view it. Yet, in reality it can cost a person’s soul! (1 Pet. 2:11). Pornography is a form of lasciviousness (lewdness or sensuality), an unrestrained, shameless public display of sex acts. To willfully look at it makes our hearts morally unclean and we offend God and lose our fellowship with Him (Mark 7:20-23; cf. Isa. 59:2). Ultimately, those who continue to partake of pornography will be denied entrance into Heaven itself: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality ... those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). Let us beware of the deception and dangers of pornography and take heed lest we fall!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Have You Read the Book?

By Mark Larson

“Conservative” and controversial talk-show host, Glenn Beck, known for his wacky presentation of political issues, recently had Dinesh D’Souza, the author of “The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11” on his radio show. As an opener to the interview, Beck begins with a criticism and follows it with a confession: “Dinesh, I have to tell you, I’m disappointed in this book” and then the next moment, in a mischievous sort of way admits: “Though, I haven’t read the book!”

How many people today dismiss the Bible as the word of God, as God’s saving message for mankind, all because they did not read the Book! How ironic it is that some of the harshest critics of the Bible, of God, of Jesus Christ are people who have never sat down and read the Bible. Too many people reject the Scriptures as the guide for living because they have never taken the time to truly consider the wisdom the Bible offers. Many do not believe in the gospel because they have never heard the evidences that the Bible reveals that prove that Jesus is the Son of God.

Have You Given the Bible a Fair Hearing?

“He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him” (Prov. 18:13, NASB). What sense does it make for a person to express his views on the Bible before he has actually taken the time to read it? Furthermore, doesn’t such a potentially important, life-changing book, deserve an honest, open-minded look? For only for the person who does will benefit from reading it: “And the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15). A friend of mine, during my college years, boasted of reading the entire New Testament just before his tour of Jerusalem, yet came away with very little knowledge of its contents. This goes to show that the attitude we bring in our reading of the Bible can make all the difference in the world. “This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19). Are we so quick to say what we think and feel about the Bible before truly listening to what God has to say first (as revealed in the Scriptures)?

Do You Love the Truth?

Quite often, the person who is not willing to pick up a Bible and seriously consider its contents is a person who is not actively searching for the truth. In contrast, the genuine truth seeker who loves the truth will leave “no stone unturned” and will diligently search for the truth wherever truth can be found. Before ruling out the Bible, the seeker of truth listens with an open heart to the voice of Jesus: “Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’” (John 18:37).
Ninety percent of Americans own a Bible, yet most people rarely take the time to read it and take it to heart. We are given this promise in Scripture: “When you read, you can understand” (Eph. 3:4). When is the last time you read the Bible with the goal to understand?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Our Quest to Be Spiritual

By Mark Larson

Now, more than ever before in our country, there is a desire to be “spiritual.” While the interest in churches or organized religion is in decline, the pursuit of spirituality has become ever more popular. So popular in fact, that spirituality has become recognized by society as a legitimate need to be met for our complete happiness. In the past, if one spoke openly about their need to be spiritual, they could expect ridicule and accusations of being strange, odd, or radical. Today, there is acceptance and mutual respect of each person’s quest to be spiritual.

Many Look to Our Religious Diversity for Answers

Religion in America has changed dramatically in the last thirty years. The change in laws of immigration has opened the door to make it much easier to come to our country and become a resident. This change in law not only resulted in millions of new residents, but also “new” religions that have been brought to America by the people of other nations.
America, which was once a solely “Judeo-Christian” nation, has now become the most religiously diverse nation in the world, which now includes Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism.

Such great religious diversity has been seen by our youth as very appealing. In the search for “true spirituality,” many people are now turning to other religions for help. Instead of the Bible as their guide, many now believe that spirituality can be achieved in different ways through most any religious method or means. The prevailing attitude is: “What can I learn from each religion to enhance by spiritual life even more?”

There Are Many Different Ideas of Spirituality.

The majority of Americans associate spirituality with religion. However, there are a growing number of people who believe spirituality has very little to do with organized religion. For them, being spiritual is highly individualistic and personal. Each person decides for himself what is spiritual and thus defines it according to one’s own personal desires, feelings, and experiences. This is why New Age and Existentialism has become more popular in recent years or why books or magazines on the topic of spirituality have received more fanfare. The common belief now is: “Whatever feels good is spiritual!”

Let’s not Forget Our Spirit in the Word Spiritual!

In all of the talk about spirituality, it is a wonder how people often lose sight of their own spirit! To best understand spirituality, we need to remember our spirits as given to us by God (Prov. 20:27; Eccl. 12:7). Everyone has not only a body, but also a soul and a spirit (1 Thes. 5:23). The soul represents life (Gen. 2:7), but the spirit is much more. The spirit is that limited expression of God Himself. The spirit each person has is in a likeness image of the Creator (Gen 1:26-27). Simply put: To be spiritual is to be like God! Hence, a person who is spiritual is a person who submits his or her spirit unto God. Spirituality by each person will be seen as he or she walks by the Spirit and obeys God’s word as revealed in the Bible. This will result in the development of the spirit to the glory of God, the bearing of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 22-25).

Why Choose Christ as the Way to Be Spiritual Over Others?

Why should the way of Christ be given first consideration? After all, there are so many religions we can now choose from in America, so many paths or methods toward “spirituality” offered that it may seem almost absurd or ridiculous to restrict ourselves to just one religion. What compelling reasons do we have that should motivate us to choose Christ over any other way to be spiritual?

Jesus’ Claim to Be God Is Backed Up by Historical Evidence (Heb. 11:1).

No other religion in the world has the historical evidence Christianity does to support its claims in spiritual matters. Why believe Jesus over, for example, Muhammad, Buddha, or Guru Nanak on what it means to be spiritual? Because only Jesus has proved to the world that He was God. After Jesus was crucified, he was raised from the dead by the power of God (Rom. 1:4). This historical fact is supported by the eye-witness testimony of the apostles (Acts 2:32; 3:14-15; 5:29-32; etc.) who pass the test as credible witnesses in every way (1 John 1:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:1-8; 30-32; Luke 1:1-4 – i.e., accuracy).

Spirituality Is Possible by Grace Through Faith, not by Personal Merit.

Christianity is unique from every other religion in the world in that it is the only one that offers spirituality and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). Other religions, each to a certain degree, have a meritorious system in which a person must achieve spirituality by one’s own personal efforts or earn salvation through personal merit. In contrast, spiritual life and salvation is made possible by Jesus and His atoning blood of the cross (Eph. 1:7; Rom. 6:3-11). In Christ, it is possible to be wise, righteous, holy, redeemed, and thus spiritual with no room to boast in ourselves (1 Cor. 1:30-31). By a living (obedient) faith in Christ (Rom. 5:1; cf. James 2:24, 26), a person can receive eternal salvation as a free gift, otherwise impossible to earn (Rom. 6:23; 3:23).

Spirituality in Christ Is Clearly Defined by God’s Spiritual Law.

Instead of basing spirituality on our feelings, which are unreliable (Prov. 14:12), or strictly on the basis of individual opinion, which is highly subjective, true spirituality can be learned by God’s spiritual law. “The law is spiritual” (Rom. 7:14), therefore “the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21) is spiritual. Thus, when we apply His law, as revealed in the New Testament, to our lives, we can discover what it means to be spiritual!

To truly “live in the spirit” (1 Pet. 4:6), only the gospel will do, which has the power to save us from our sins (Rom. 1:16). When we follow God’s spiritual law, we can live the kind of life we were meant to live (Eph. 2:10), as people who were made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and enjoy all the spiritual blessings in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3).