So often what becomes normal for the culture that surrounds us is what becomes normal for the Christian. We see it in the way we treat work or family. Or in how money has become a little green god for so many. Music, art, industry, technology - what is good for culture so easily becomes good for the Christian. Speaking specifically to entertainment and media, how many different television shows or sports teams do you currently follow? How many podcasts subscriptions or audible credits do you get a month? How many times a day do you check your likes or favorites on Instagram or Pinterest?
Normal for culture has become perpetual consumption: consumption of media, consumption of social media, consumption of entertainment, books, movies, tv shows, sports, even excess physical consumption of food and drink is normal. Obesity and drunkenness in our country are as high as they have ever been. It is all too easy for the Christian to drink at the well of cultural entertainment and empty distraction, and neglect the infinite well of joy that gave us life in the gospel. It is also far too easy to consume, consume and consume without ever contributing or producing anything of value or spiritual significance. We can see we have two major problems here: 1) what we consume, 2) what we contribute.
What We Consume
Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Romans 12:2 also says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” In the Romans 12 passage, Paul just finished exploring the gravity of God’s immeasurable sovereignty in turning each individual Christian soul from oblivion to life. In Romans 12:2, is Paul urging the Christian to respond to the grace of God’s election with a mind focused on the glories of the gospel and perfection of life in Christ. This stands in great contrast to the temporally satisfying kernels of happiness the carnal culture offers.
Your consumption will reflect what you are feeding. Are you feeding the new self? The self that isn’t a self anymore? The self whose identity is in the Savior Christ? That self needs the gospel, it needs scripture, it needs community, it needs intimacy in Christ exalting relationships. Or are you feeding the old flesh, the flesh that consumes and consumes, the gluttonous flesh never satisfied always left wanting and needing more? Turns out you actually are what you eat.
This isn’t a call to throw out your TV’s and phones, but Paul does remind us that we should take note on what it is that captivates and engages our minds.
What We Contribute
As previously stated, our culture exists in a perpetual state of media and entertainment consumption. And the irony is that same media is constantly preaching and advertising that we need more and more. What we have become are creatures of consumption, lacking any kind of meaningful contribution or production. You see humans are worship factories. We worship with our wallets, our time, our energy; we worship with our minds and thoughts. There is a great connection between the product which flows out of our “worship” and the content which goes into our life.
If you consume food, if you eat something, that something feeds your body; but it also leaves your body. What you feed your mind and soul will also result in a product that will inevitably flow out of you. If you constantly feed your mind the emptiness of our secular culture, the product will likewise be empty. But if you fill your soul with the good and righteous things of God and Scripture, the result will be a glory not our own, a glory of the God who saved us. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Likewise Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Christians are to be in a constant state of glory production. Our worship factory should forever produce glory to God for our joy and our good. Our contribution to culture is a giant arrow pointing to the gospel, pointing to the joy and good of perfection in Christ. A life of Christian contribution includes intangible worship of God, and also tangible service to those around us.
This is not to say pull the plug on your TV, sell your season tickets, toss the smartphone and grab that old flip phone. We are still called to be ‘in the world.’ But, being ‘not of it’ is a matter of consumption, a matter of constant worship. God’s sovereignty has placed each of us where we are, and this is for our good and his glory. The challenge I make you to and to myself is to guard your consumption. Keep watch on what has become important to you, what has become essential to you, what kind of worship you are producing, and where that worship is headed. Paul was so joyed in Romans 12 over the immensity of salvation, his response was willing submission to the holiness and righteousness offered by the gospel. Nothing will produce greater joy or happiness than continual consumption of the gospel.