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 (Manna 33: One Faith)
Overcoming Society's Subtle Influences
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With the rapid disintegration of ethical values in modern society, it is hardly surprising that today we face ever-greater challenges to our faith. What the liberal world offers to humankind continues to corrupt in all conceivable aspects of life. Beginning with the basic family unit through to the society at large, domestic problems such as broken marriages, teenage pregnancies, and child neglect are ever on the increase, compounded by an increase in violent crimes and a decline in moral standards. Even among Christians, God's principles are often ignored. Keeping faith today has become a much more difficult struggle in comparison to generations past.

The Lure of Material Wealth

With regard to our own obedience to God, there are, without a doubt, big holes in the fabric of our personal faith. In the past people lived much simpler lives, with less cares and concerns. But now, in our economically confident society, we feel the need to keep pace with the modern lifestyle and its inevitable demands for more material prosperity. Without even realizing it, we are easily influenced by this world, and we find ourselves yearning for that "little bit more"—a bigger house, a faster car, more designer-labeled products, and more stimulating entertainment.... The list goes on. It is not surprising that our value system changes under such conditions, causing us again to embrace the worldly ideal that we once discarded, and to become materialistically inclined (cf. Phil 3:7-9). The time we allocate to God decreases in proportion to the amount of time we put into secular pursuits. As our love for God grows cold, our faith in Him subsides. Taking care of our daily necessities becomes our principal priority, and when there is time left (which rarely happens), we half-heartedly seek for His righteousness and kingdom (cf. Mt 6:30-34). When we pursue material prosperity, we can never pledge total allegiance to God. Although we are well aware of the plight we are in, we nevertheless turn away from the principles of God.

The Corrosion of Entertainment

Our prosperous existence has exposed us to the corruption that TV and the popular entertainment world bring forth. This corrosive influence has ensnared both children and adults alike. As TV programs become increasingly amoral, we become less sensitive to their destructive elements. For example, TV soap operas, which often highlight extramarital affairs and loose relationships, have become part of our everyday leisure enjoyment. As a result, our moral judgment and discernment are losing focus. Instead of reducing the chance of drifting further away from God, we use our prosperity to buy even more, so that the TV set becomes a treasured item not only in our dining or living rooms, but even in our bedrooms. To worsen the situation, we feel the pressure to install satellite, digital, or cable TV. In the name of relaxation we engross ourselves in an endless diet of movies that reveal nothing but the products of depraved minds, the anarchy in the streets, the violence and immorality of contemporary society. This stream of unrestrained behavior directly affects the younger minds in our families. But parents still provide what their children ask for. Playstation and other video games are filled with violent elements, and yet long stints in front of the box have become integral parts of the daily habits of young people today. They have absorbed this visual garbage all of their lives, which has rendered them virtually no different from nonbelievers. We have lost our moral sense of direction and spiritual moorings. When it comes to worshiping God, we feel that His word is monotonous and hard to digest. His grace becomes only vaguely visible to us, and like the Israelites, we find murmuring and complaining against God to be the only available option in life. Such latitude in our spiritual observance results in the dismantling of our faith.

The Confusion of Relativism

The problems we face are further compounded by the influence of secularism on the family and church. With Christian values and devotional time for God quickly vanishing at home, there is much room for moral relativism and individualism to seep in. When this change occurs, we tend to shift our focus away from God and His church, toward our nonbelieving friends and their attitudes. Lacking a moral compass and a true love for God (1 Jn 2:15-17), we find it difficult to make sense of our own belief. Our faith is further compromised by the wider social belief that every way of life is legitimate and acceptable, as long as everyone is happy, and that no one should pass judgment on others. This attitude tremendously weakens our resistance to sin-instead of having God as our absolute moral standard, we adopt a secular model. As a result, many believers fall back to their old habits, such as gambling, drunkenness, and acts of immorality. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, then having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: 'a dog returns to his own vomit,' and 'a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.'" (2 Pet 2:21-22)

Standing against the Tide

Although the world presents constant subtle influences to draw us away from the right path, we have the promise of Jesus—with God all things are possible (Mt 19:26)—to root us steadfastly in Him. The only thing that stands out in this promise is God Himself, who works in and achieves all things for us, if we allow Him to take full control of our lives. This promise truly has come to pass for those who fully trust in Him. Some examples include the transformation of the people of Nineveh, who responded to the call of repentance preached by Jonah, and the willing repentance of the Corinthians after the stern warning of Paul.

Return to God

For the transformation of the church to take place, all members of the congregation need to be awakened to the necessity of changing their lifestyles (cf. Rom 12:1-2 ; Eph 4:21-24; Col 3:10), to recognize that it is wrong to be busy at the expense of serving God. We need to return to observing His commandments and looking after the spiritual welfare of our children. If we can confess our wrongs in prayer, we can rediscover the path of divine strengthening and reestablish a solid relationship with God (Neh 1:5-11). This is an urgent matter. We must start now.

Live a Simple Life

Right and wrong are clearly differentiated in the Bible. "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter" (Isa 5:20). This same confusion was equally devastating during the time of Malachi, who witnessed the staggering problems that occurred among the people of God when they mistakenly thought that "...everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord" (Mal 2:17b). With courage from God, we must dare to return to a simple life, one that is pleasing to God, as opposed to our present life full of worldly cares, which repels Him.

Redeem the Time

A simple life starts with making the most of our time in order to understand the will of our Lord (Eph 5:16-17). We must strive to live a prayerful life in the Spirit (Jude 20), with a greater emphasis on inner transformation. The Bible defines a normal life as one of holiness (Lev 20:7; 1 Pet 1:13-16; Eph 1:4; 2, Cor 10:12). It is a life in which we can thrive in the abundance of God. We must return to this life of normalcy by reducing the influences of TV and movie viewing to a level that is harmless to us spiritually. Spending more time with our children and conducting regular family service, rather than watching TV or playing computer games, can undoubtedly achieve this goal. God desires all of us to live up to this eternal command. We must strive to be as perfect as our heavenly Father is (Mt 5:48).

Adopt God's Values

When we strive to abide by God's principles, we take His values to be our own. This is a natural defense against the creeping influence of moral relativism and individualism. God is our compass in everything we do, for God's word embodies complete veneration for Him and denial of ourselves, and it offers protection against worldly influences. Through practicing the truth, we can form a strong moral character. A classic example of this strength is Joseph, who resisted the seduction of Potiphar's wife. Her repeated efforts to trap Joseph were foiled by his fear of God. His strong moral character simply would not give in to the persistent amorous advances of the temptress: "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Gen 39:9). His uncompromising moral value, even at the risk of imprisonment, is a lesson to us all.

We consider ourselves to be the saved ones, whom Jesus has called into His kingdom out of the multitudes in this world. Most of us are aware of this God-given grace, yet today the pursuit of material prosperity has become our only object of adulation. Our hearts are not with God: we have forgotten our heavenly status, our obligations and commissions. Instead of spending time in fear, servitude, and cultivation, we are too preoccupied with what secular entertainment can provide. When God is replaced, our families become fragmented, subject to the influence of the world. Our children turn rebellious, demanding the right to do as they please. They begin to accept alternative lifestyles that are contrary to the way that Christians should live. In view of this precarious position, it is time to champion the idea of following God's way, with the leaders of the church making the first moves. Since God has given us a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind, it is not at all impossible for us to live a simple life that revolves around Him. Through constant prayer and spiritual refinement, we can then surely build up a strong moral character in the face of worldly depravations, standing firm in the Lord.

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Publisher: True Jesus Church