Why did Jesus say, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3)? I don’t think this means that there is going to be a sign at the kingdom entrance stating the height requirements to “get on this ride.” Jesus was asking us to become like children, not by choosing ice cream as our favorite food group and refusing to go to bed every night, but by keeping our hearts humble and pure.
While children are very young, they have wholesome and innocent hearts. It is only when they become older that they become complacent toward sin. Young children don’t swear, drink, do drugs, engage in immoral acts, etc. Our children could barely handle a Winnie the Pooh movie where the cartoon characters were fighting with each other; they asked us to turn it off. Their hearts are so innocent that the poison of the world is unwelcome to them, and so it should be to all of us.
Jesus gave us an example of how we should confront the blatant sin of this world:
Matthew 21:12 and 13
(12) Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.
(13) “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'”
When Jesus saw their evil, he didn’t sit back and say, “Oh well, there goes the neighborhood.” He aggressively challenged their actions and confronted them boldly with the standard of truth, God’s Word. To be effective ambassadors for him, we need to fully represent his heart. We should challenge ourselves to mold his character into our hearts and be as intolerant of evil as little children.
In the recipe for a godly life, character is an ingredient that cannot be forgotten. The first time I ever made cookies, I accidentally replaced the sugar with baking soda. I knew I was in trouble when I opened the oven and realized that the cookies looked more like tree bark. The end result was bitter and inedible. God has already given us HIS recipe in the Bible; it is up to us to add the right ingredients.
When we sit down with a big tub of popcorn to watch a movie, we should ask ourselves if we would invite the Lord Jesus Christ to come watch it with us. How would he feel about swearing, violence, or gratuitous nudity and sex? How about lying, cheating, and stealing? Chances are that our cheeks would burn with embarrassment and shame that our Lord would have to be exposed to such rubbish. If we know that Jesus would feel this way, then we should feel the same way, too.
If we ran everything in our homes through this sort of filter, it would be interesting to see how much the quality of our lives would improve. By burning the chaff in our lives, we make more room for the Lord to come hang out with us. We want Jesus to feel welcome and comfortable in our homes. Hebrews 4:13 tells us that “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Jesus is at the right hand of God, and I’m pretty certain he’s not sitting up there with a blindfold on saying, “What? What?” while God is groaning at our sins.
On American Idol in 2008, a 25 year old Christian contestant, Brooke White, was harassed for admitting that she has never seen an “R-rated” movie, and has chosen never to see one in the future. Dave and I were so impressed with her open commitment to honor and please Jesus that we purged our house of any movies that we wouldn’t want our children to see. That essentially left us with The Sound of Music, but I’ve seen it too many times, and Dave would much rather watch something like Monday Night Football. The funny thing is that we don’t miss these movies one bit, as our house feels much more spiritual and peaceful (except for the football).
While it is obvious to most Christian adults that we shouldn’t expose children to impurity, sometimes we are blinded to the fact that we shouldn’t be seeing it either. What we put into our brains goes right to our hearts. This includes movies, music, books/magazines, and even relationships. Our character will develop according to our surroundings. Much like a plant, the fruit of our lives will depend on the health and purity of the soil in our hearts. If we keep our hearts planted in “whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure…” (Phil. 4:8), our fruit will blossom accordingly.
Our hearts start out pure and innocent when we are babies, but somewhere along the way, we are exposed to the evil of our world. We should not then lower our standards to the world, but rather live up to the standards of our Lord. Jesus said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). If he was frustrated then, imagine how he must feel now!
Almost every popular movie of today contains sexual immorality, especially premarital sex. Even teens are regularly exposed to the concept that it is natural for young couples to have sex and live together before they are married. It has become so commonplace in movies and TV that few people give it a second thought anymore.
People even listen to music with little regard to the lyrics they are hearing. Have you noticed the huge moral decay in the effective use of words over the years? In four hundred years, we have gone from Sir William Shakespeare’s “How shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “I like big butts and I cannot lie.” I think we can all agree that was a step in the wrong direction. Impressionable children listen to these words and are even encouraged to imitate the musical “artists.” The Bible is clear that Christians are not to act like the rest of the world.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.
The word “sacrifices” is appropriate; it implies that we need to be willing to give up things in our lives that are not pleasing to God.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
The pattern of this world is fairly transparent; if you were to analyze it on a graph it would look like a downward slope! The fact is that the rotten fruit of our culture is completely unnecessary. Take movies for an example; we know what sex is, so do we really need them to draw us a diagram? Do we need swear words in every movie, book, and song, or could they possibly challenge their brains to expand their limited vocabulary? Young girls walk around with writing on the seat of their shorts (“Babe,” “Dancer,” etc.). You never read about any women in the Bible with “Prophetess” or “Virtuous Woman” embroidered on the rear end of their clothes, do you? And you can bet that Jesus never walked around “busting a sag,” with his underwear hanging out.
The culture is not going to improve on its own; the challenge to improve it is left to the Christians. It starts in our hearts and in our homes. We need to show the world that pop culture isn’t cool; Jesus is cool! He’s The Man! Who wouldn’t enjoy Movie Night with Jesus? Likewise, he would be blessed to come hang out–not just for the popcorn–but for the fellowship with like-minded, pure-hearted brethren of exceptional character.