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Countering Media Influence

The pressure to conform is relentless. Everything seems to be against those who want to live in obedience to God. How can we resist?

by Jeremy Lallier

The mission was complete. The 12 men had returned from their undercover surveillance of enemy territory, and their last remaining task was straightforward. After almost six weeks of spying out a foreign country, they now stood before their fellow countrymen, who were all eager for this long-anticipated report.

“It’s impossible,” the men said. “The land is good, but its people are too strong and its cities too well defended. They could crush us like grasshoppers—we don’t stand a chance.”

The people were swayed. They abandoned their invasion plans and elected to return to the cruel enslavement from which they had escaped. When two of the spies spoke in favor of invading the land, the people responded with violent shouts, calling for their immediate execution.

Ancient media

While far from a modern-day newscast or YouTube video, the 12 spies sent to spy out the land of Canaan (see Numbers 13) were a vital part of ancient Israel’s media. We may think of television sets and Internet sites when we hear the word, but “media” is nothing more than the collection of ways we receive information. Today we look to CNN, FOX News and the like for that information; ancient Israel had spies, foreign emissaries and prophets.

The story of the 12 spies is a prime example of the influence the media can have on us. God had called the Israelites out of their enslavement under harsh taskmasters in Egypt, led them faithfully to the very doorstep of the Promised Land and then told them to go up and take it. But Israel’s media, in the form of 10 skeptical spies, convinced them that what they had set out to do (with the help of an all-powerful God who had paved their way with incomparable miracles) was not possible.

And they accepted the false report. This was despite having seen with their own eyes the capabilities of their God: Egypt devastated by 10 terrible plagues, a pillar of cloud and fire to lead them, the sea parted to make a road of escape and a great army drowned, the miraculous provision of food and water in the middle of an inhospitable desert, and a mountain ablaze with tempest and fire as the booming voice of God proclaimed His Ten Commandments. Despite all this, they believed 10 frightened men who told them, “We can’t do it.”

What should we learn from this? It’s rather easy now to criticize the Israelites for their foolishness, but what about you and me? God called us out of slavery to sin (Romans 6:16-18), is leading us faithfully to the very doorstep of a promised Kingdom (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12) and is telling us to go up and take it (Matthew 6:33; 25:34). But our media, in the form of music and movies and books and news and even educators, so often tells us that there’s a better way than the one God instructs us to follow.

Few people will come right out and say those exact words, but the message remains. We see premarital and extramarital sex glorified. We see lying, cheating and even stealing condoned. We are encouraged to experiment and determine our own personal definitions of right and wrong. “If it feels good, do it!” may have been the rallying cry of the ’70s, but it’s not difficult to see that the concept has survived unscathed through four decades of moral and philosophical wanderings apart from God.

As God’s people and seekers of His Kingdom, what should we be doing about all the garbage in today’s media?

Out with the bad

Instead of trying to stone Joshua and Caleb (the only two spies to remain faithful to God), the congregation of Israel should have instead been furious at the 10 spies who dissuaded them from taking the land.

Instead of crying and complaining (Numbers 14:1-3), Israel should have told the 10, “How dare you tell us to forfeit what God has promised us? How dare you stand there and tell us that anything is too great for God?” They should never have listened to those who contradicted God; they should have thrown them out of their midst and their minds.

We face the same choice Israel faced. Ungodly media bombards us from every angle, trumpeting sin and abominations before God. That assessment may sound harsh, but we cannot afford to see the transgression of God’s law as anything less. If we choose to let these things into our lives, if we choose to even tolerate them, they will begin the slow but inevitable process of corrupting our views and poisoning our thoughts.

If we truly wish to enter God’s Kingdom, we have only one choice when confronted with various media intent on contradicting God’s way—throw them out! It could be a TV show or movie that casts adultery in an acceptable light; it could be a song promoting irresponsible drinking; it could be a foul-mouthed comedian or radio host. Whatever it is, if it goes against the teachings of God, we must not allow it to have a place in our lives.

This is what Jesus meant when He told us, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna [a reference to final destruction]. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna” (Matthew 5:29-30, New American Bible).

God is serious about sin. If we willingly allow anything into our lives that could cause us to sin, we jeopardize our salvation. We must instead cut those things out of our lives and throw them away.

In with the good

Removing the bad influences in our lives is a start, but it’s not enough. (Doing that alone creates a void—and the nature of a void is to fill itself with whatever happens to be nearby.) We must fill in the newfound space with positive influences, in keeping with the principle set forward in Ephesians 4:28 and Romans 12:21 to replace evil conduct with good.

This doesn’t mean we have to spend all our spare time listening to sermons. We just have to be careful in choosing what we let into our minds. And remember, “positive” and “uplifting” doesn’t mean it has to be boring, though Satan would like us to think so. If you’re willing to look for them, there are media choices out there that have remained largely untainted by our adversary.

In the end, resisting negative influences comes down to just one verse: “Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, Contemporary English Version).

So, as you stand at the threshold of the promised Kingdom, what will you be thinking on and giving a place to in your life?

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