One thing struck me though. Even though all these girls were Christians, even though most of them had grown up in Christian homes, as they shared things in their lives and things they were listening to and watching on TV and at theatres, we realized they, like us, had been deceived by Satan in regards to what holiness and purity really are in God's eyes. They still didn't grasp the significance of being chosen by God, before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight (Ephesians 1:4).
I think I know why. Even more so than our generation, these girls are growing up in a world surrounded by lies! They are bombarded by television, music, computers, movies, talk shows, books, magazines, conversations and every different type of media telling them the lie that they have choices. They have been told they have the choice to cheat on tests, they have been told they have the choice of being disrespectful to their teachers and parents, that they have the choice of lying anytime and for any reason, that they have the choice of living a homosexual lifestyle, that they have the choice of having a child before marriage, that they have the choice to sleep with their boyfriends, that they have the choice to partake in any type of sexual activity, that they have the choice to gossip, that they have the choice to dress immodestly, that they have the choice to be greedy and selfish, that they have the choice to be arrogant and prideful, that they have the choice to curse and use crude slanderous language, and that they have the choice to get drunk, do drugs and cut themselves.
Why do they believe that they have these choices? Who is telling them they have these choices? We are. We can try and blame this on Satan, media, Hollywood, magazines and other outside forces and yes, those things have played a part in this lie, but in truth, we as "Christians" own that our children and their friends think they have been given these choices because sadly, if we're honest, we live as if these choices are ours. God never offered these choices - not to them, and not to us.
Jesus clearly said:
For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness (coarseness, profanity), envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean. (Mark 7:21 NIV)
Jesus calls them "evils" — we call them choices.
I wonder how many Christians will try, like me, to deny that we have played an active role in Satan's lies. I was defensive when God revealed to me that I had selfishly chosen to stay blind to what He has defined as evil. He graciously (yet painfully) showed me by my thoughts, my actions, my words, the things I buy, the relationships I have, the things I read, the things I try to justify, the click of my remote and the lyrics of the songs on my CD's that I too had embraced the lie that we have been given these choices. He revealed to me through my pride and my fleshly desires that I had chosen the lie that I can "filter" the evil instead of simply choosing holiness. I had chosen sin and evil over God.
Just one of the huge eye openers during our retreat was when the girls shared that they loved watching Grey's Anatomy. Some of them even said, "It is so good!" Since millions of Americans seem to agree that this show is "so good," we decided to write down all the things they had seen or heard while watching Grey's Anatomy episodes — so we could all see what was so good. Here was our list: adultery, pre-martial sex, lust, greed, rape, self-centeredness, profanity, masturbation, sexual body parts, taking the Lord's name in vain, irreverence, condoning of homosexuality, alcohol abuse, lying, stealing, cheating, abuse, nudity, gossip, slander, arrogance and pornography.
As we all sat staring at the list on the wall, I wondered which of these things God would say was good. God challenged his people long ago with these words: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness" (Isaiah 5:20). As Christians, have we become so desensitized to evil that we are now, like the rest of the world, calling it good? Have we too confused darkness for light?
God commands His children through the apostle Paul to "avoid every kind of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22) — yet the last thing we've done is avoid it. In reality, we've chosen it, we've condoned it, and we've anticipated and enjoyed it, because once again we have claimed evil as our choice.
When Jesus was in the temple courts and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery and wanted to stone her, Jesus said to her, after the Pharisees had all left, not being able to cast the first stone because of their own sin, "Neither do I condemn you, go now and leave your life of sin" (John 8:1-11).
We want to only acknowledge the grace and forgiveness he bestowed on her, but want to ignore the truth of His words when he told her to leave her life of sin. She was an adulterer. Pick your definition of adulterer — fornication, adultery or homosexuality. In God's eyes they are all sin, and as His children, the choice to live in sin is not ours. Jesus' words ring true to you and me today, "Go now, and leave your life of sin."
Paul reminded the Corinthians:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you WERE. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9, emphasis added).
Have we deceived ourselves into believing it is not sexual immorality, that it really isn't wicked or evil as long as we're just putting it into our spirits by listening to it, watching it and anticipating it on television and in our literature?
Is it only sexual immorality, is it only wicked and evil, if it's coming back out — if we are, in our flesh, "doing it?"
During Jesus' entire ministry on this earth, He talks in length of what is in our hearts, not just our overt acts of sin. He shares with us all through His gospels about the way we as humans are choosing to define sin. In His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), he compares murder and being angry as coming under the same judgment. He does the same thing with the act of adultery and just looking at someone lustfully. Our overt acts of sin are no different to Christ then the sins in our hearts and in our minds.
Jesus wants us to know that we can't watch evil, listen to evil, talk about evil, anticipate evil, and then live a life of purity and holiness. We can't hunger for holiness if we don't even recognize and acknowledge that we have chosen unholiness. That's why God continuously tells us to "hate what is evil." That's why God says through the psalmist, "Let those who love the Lord, hate evil" (Psalm 97:10 NLT). We can't hate something and continue to purposefully choose it thinking we can filter out all the evil. That is why Paul writes "that is what you WERE" — that's past tense, something God changed in you and now expects to see lived out in your life.
So the question for those of us claiming Christianity is this: If we love the Lord and we are striving as a Child of God to live as God has ordained, chosen for holiness and purity, if that is what we "were" and the old has gone and the new has come, then what choices DO we have?
We have been given the same choices as the one who gave his life for us. We have the choice of Truth; we have the choice to obey God, to be holy as He is Holy, to be pure as He is pure, to be righteous as He is righteous, and to be set apart as He is set apart. Ultimately, as we shared with the girls last weekend, we have the choice to be like Jesus Christ — the amazing, undeserved choice to honor and glorify God forever in our thoughts, actions, decisions, relationships and life. As God's children, we have choices. The choice of lies or the choice of truth — which will we choose?