Dealing With an Idol – My Life and Videogames


video-games

Almost two weeks ago, Tim Challies wrote in his blog here, giving a personal telling of his experience and opinions on playing video games. I highly recommend reading it, but I provide the following key takeaways:

  1. Playing video games is not inherently good or bad. This is true of all sources of entertainment – movies, television, sports, literature, etc.
  2. Christians can in good conscience enjoy the entertainment of video games, and should do so if it is their cup of tea and if it does not step on higher priorities (family, work, ministry, etc). This of course assumes that the player is wise in choosing which video games to partake. Just like any other source of entertainment, video games have their smutty options and their wholesome options.
  3. Play games with others! One aspect in which a Redeemed individual can make use of the time spent in video games is by enjoying it with others – family, friends, and fellow believers.

I interject on Challies’ behalf and add that another respectable use of being a part of the gaming community is to serve as a light to a lost world. If my experience in the gaming world has taught me anything, it is that it is desperately in need of the Gospel.  More on that in a future blog post.

The intent of this post is not to dispute what Challies said, but rather add to it from my own perspective. While he certainly notes the threat of video games to usurp the biblical priority chain, it is my opinion, that the truth of Challies article is a stumbling block to believers when not more strenuously juxtaposed with the dangerous pitfall that it presents. My personal experience playing video games as evidence, Christians can fool themselves into continued servitude to idols by repetitiously reciting that “there’s nothing wrong with playing video games”. In order to expose the great evil that can come from video games, I give a personal recounting of my history with them followed by an exhortation from scripture to flee the time-wasting idols of our life.

I got my first video game console (a Gamecube, for those interested) when I was about 11 or 12 years old. It made me very happy to not only have what my friends had, but also to enjoy the addicting fun that video games offer. In my college years I worked several part time jobs, but the vast time spent on school and work did not stop me from feeding my gaming addiction further. I added more and more games to my collection and spent countless more hours playing them. The type of games I have enjoyed the most are those that require a minimum of 40 hours to complete and upwards of 120 hours to finish all the side stories and collect all the collectibles.

Now a 25 year old man, with God knows how many hours spent on video games, I finally have put them aside. Since I became a believer at age 18, there were several times I recall where I genuinely wanted to get rid of all of my games. However, each of those times I talked myself out of it. This is mostly because it was an idol deeply ingrained in my heart, but what didn’t help was repeating to myself the excuse truth that video games aren’t inherently evil.  I am not the only one who would rationalize in such a way – in a follow up post on Challies’ blog (here) he shared a few comments he received from readers from the aforementioned post. One commenter noted that if he hadn’t already severed his ties to the video game idol, he too would have rationalized his video game playing with the truth that video games aren’t inherently bad and can be enjoyed in a sinless way.

For me, such a drastic measure was needed. I had to get rid of my video game paraphernalia. I am not proud to admit, but I have so much as neglected reading God’s word and prayer, going to church, as well as distracting myself at work with thoughts about video games, all because my life was consumed by the entertainment that video games gave me. And it wasn’t just playing video games – it was constantly thinking about them, reading about them, watching other people play them, involvement in competitive e-Sports – I was consumed with playing video games.

Ephesians 5:15-16 (NASB) says “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil”. Two quick notes to hone in on to develop the key principle:

  1. The context of chapter 5 and the rest of the book of Ephesians is key to understanding verses 15-16. In light of the truth of the “mystery of Christ” (3:4) which Paul explains is “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”, Paul exhorts believers to now behave in a new way. Starting in 4:1, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called”. So the motivation for the directives of 5:15-16 is to align our walk with the good news of the gospel. The immediate context in 6-14 has Paul contrasting the Light of the believers in the Lord that should not mingle with the darkness of the world, but rather expose it and preach the gospel (13-14).
  2. The Greek phrase behind “making the most of your time” is also found in Colossians 4:5, there translated in the NASB as “making the most of the opportunity”. The key understanding here to glean is that Paul is urging his readers to literally redeem the time, because “the days are evil”. This phrase doesn’t mean that time is an object of moral value, but rather relaying the simple truth that there are pressing matters to attend to, particularly the preaching of the gospel to the world through word and action, and any activities that take precedent in prioritization to the ministry of the gospel are evil.

If I can summarize this way, the application we can lift here from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is that believers cannot allow activities of the world to be a higher priority than the ministry of the gospel. This applies to more than just video games. Millennials like me have numerous venues to waste time. What this doesn’t mean is that healthy doses of entertainment are not okay to ingest. What this does mean is that if you, like me, have neglected one or more duties of the Christian life for the sake of an entertainment outlet, then you probably don’t have the right priorities.

It is my prayer that the reader would examine their own lives and ensure there aren’t any idols precluding their gospel ministry. I also pray that a biblical view of video games (and entertainment as a whole) would be acquired by my fellow believers.

I now cherish the time I have bought myself by jettisoning the video game idol. I have been extremely blessed by the extra time to read the Word and worship and pray by myself. I also am working to be more involved in the lives of those at my church – administering the gospel in the way I have been gifted to do so. This also means more time to write on my blog, which I also plan to do, hopefully for the reader’s benefit and for God’s glory.

Reflections on Galatians 2-3


Galatians 3 opens with a very serious accusation – “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you…” It is important to establish why such strong words before understanding the rest of chapter 3. Towards the end of chapter 2, Paul is recounting his experience rebuking Peter at Antioch for he feared the “party of the circumcision” (v. 12) and was not “straightforward about the truth of the gospel” (v. 14). It seems that Peter had originally been eating meals with the Gentiles at Antioch  which resulted in the violation of Jewish dietary laws. This act of Peters’ was a significant picture of the unity of the church. However, there was a gradual reduction of this occurrence due to the presence (and likely scrutiny) of the party of the circumcision. Paul says Peter even went so far as to “withdraw and hold himself aloof”. So Paul rebukes Peter, for his actions do not line up with right understanding –  there there is no favoritism with God for Jewish Christians or Gentile Christians. All Christians were justified by faith in Christ –  no need for other distinctions like racial heritage. Paul retells the rebuke in verses 14b-20. Some highlights of the rebuke:

1) Man is not justified by the works of the law (v. 16)

2) Man is justified through faith in Christ Jesus (v. 16)

3) Justification by faith does not promote the believer to sin, lest Christ, the spotless lamb, be made a promoter of sin (v. 17)

4) If a Christian returns to the law, i.e. tries to justify himself by the works of the law, all he does is prove himself to be a transgressor (v. 18)! For there are none that are righteous (Cf Romans 3), and the function of the law is to identify the need of justification, not to actually do the justifying.

5) The Christian has died and has been resurrected with Christ – died to the law for it demanded such a punishment for those who broke it, and resurrected to live for God freely by faith (v. 19-20).

6) Paul lastly points out that if the law is the source of justification then Christ’s death was unnecessary (v. 21)

Back in Chapter 3, it seems, then, that Paul so shockingly confronts the Galatians is because they too have returned to the law. And so Paul continues to defend the doctrine of Justification by faith in Chapter 3.

First, by a series of piercing questions, Paul reminds the Galatians about why they ought to act in faith and not by trying to please God by conforming to the Mosaic Law.

  1. 3:1 – Did the gospel message you first hear preach the works of the law or faith in the work of Christ? This reckons back to the prior verse in chapter 2 where Paul says that Christ’s death was needless if we are to be justified by the law. Paul is trying to remind them of the gospel they first heard.
  2. 3:2 – Did the Spirit come upon you by the law or by faith? Paul then asks whether at the point of conversion, after hearing the gospel, did the Galatians receive the gift of the Spirit from the work of the law or by faith in Christ?
  3. 3:3 – Does sanctification come by works of the law? If the answer to the second question is by faith (hint: it is) then how can one be perfected (made complete, sanctified) by the works of the law? If the law can’t justify you then it certainly can’t sanctify you.
  4.  3:4 –  Did you suffer in vain? This question was aimed at juxtaposing their current understanding with their former. If they were to believe now that they are justified (and sanctified) by the law, then their previous position was an error (i.e. justification by faith). What more helpless a situation is there than to recognize one has been persecuted for a belief they no longer hold? Such would have been the case if the first century church was to walk away from faith and to the law.
  5. 3:5 Did the miracles performed in your presence come about via works of the law or by faith? Paul recalls the Galatians to the miracles they saw performed by divine power also did not come about through adherence to the Mosaic Law, but rather through faith.

Five rhetorical questions that all point to the correct understanding of the Christian life – we hear the gospel of justification by faith, we are converted through faith, and we live our Christian lives through faith.

Personally, I felt so encouraged by Chapter 3 verse 3 when reading today – “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Recently, I have been struggling to reconcile my sin with my faith in Christ. I think this passage enlightens me to what my erroneous thinking has been. It seems that I, like the Judaizers that misled the Galatian church, am trying to add works to my faith to find favor with God. But by doing that I am not only discrediting the finished work of Christ, but I am also reaping what I sow by returning to the law, as it were. Like 2:18 says, when I abandon faith and try to please God by doing good things, I merely find myself to be a sinner, for all the law can do is show me that I am not good enough to please God. The only response then is to return to my former state of thinking – that I can only be right with God because one Man was right with God. Jesus of Nazarene, the only begotten of God, though no sin was in Him found, was unjustly murdered for crimes He did not commit. His righteousness is applied to my account, and my sins are blotted out only because of the faith that God has given me, and nothing else. Only when that thought gets ingrained in my thick head will I truly grow in Christ.My prayer is that I would grow in this area – ceasing to try to please God with my actions and instead praising Christ who pleased God on my behalf with His actions!

Let me know what you think!

 

-Robert Tingle

 

2 Corinthians 12:7-10


2 Corinthians 12:7-10 :

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

As I was reading this yesterday, I couldn’t stop reading it because of how encouraging it was to me. A little interpretive work first, then I will bring it home.

At first glance, verses 7 and 8 might seem hard to understand, but I think the key is in understanding Paul’s specific call to ministry. And for that, we must look at Acts chapter 9. Verses 15-16:

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

God is speaking to Ananias in this verse, and He is calling Ananias to lay his hands on (formerly named) Saul. Ananias wonders why, for Saul was an avid persecutor of the church. But God tells Ananias exactly why He was calling Saul to be saved and to be a minister of the gospel. Paul is a “chosen instrument” of God, a very special worker in the early church because he was to boldly preach the gospel before the Gentiles, the kings, and the sons of Israel. Then God says “for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

Paul’s calling was special in that he was called to a life of intense suffering and affliction. So, I think in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul is explaining exactly why he was to suffer so much, “to keep me from exalting myself!”.

So then, what was the comforting words that God gave in return, instead of removing the suffering? “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness”. Because of this truth, Paul will gladly boast in his weakness, so that the power of Christ would dwell in him. And on top of that, he is now content in all types of suffering for Christ’s sake. Why? Because when he is weak, then he is strong. Not that there is an inherent strength in suffering, but that he receives a surpassing strength, that is the power of Christ.

 

So what do we take from this? I think this is the lesson Paul learned in Phil 4:11 of contentedness. God will use whatever means necessary to sanctify the believer, but it is for our good! (Romans 8).

Personal example: my recent run-ins with health issues (seizures). Many times I have prayed that God would remove this suffering away from me. But I must realize that God’s grace is sufficient for me, and that the power of Christ is perfected in my weakness. And since God’s grace is sufficient for me, I will not grumble or complain over momentary light affliction, but instead will boast in my weakness so that the power of Christ may dwell in me! Therefore I can be content in suffering, weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties for the sake of Christ! Because through my weaknesses, Christ power is made perfect! Not that I have earned merit of anything on my own, but that Christ saved a wretch like me, o wretched man that I am! Praise the Lord for His everlasting love and grace.

Let me know what you think!

-Robert Tingle