HOW SHOULD A PASTOR/TEACHER RESPOND TO THIS ISSUE?
It’s scary how your experience with movie going was just like mine. Movies in the 50's were not really so bad either. I went to one movie in 40 years, and not more than ten in my life. My kids go all the time. (I am respond to another blogger on this issue)
True believing Christians can and should do what their hearts desire. It’s pure legalism to simply conduct oneself in a manner that is not in character with their inner spirit. If your conduct or performance is in any way out of guilt to fit in with fundamentalism it is pure legalism. But if there is a bona fide hunger for righteousness that will glorify the Lord, then your conduct or performances or appearance is godly and not legalism.
What I preached about Christian behavior, I believed was correct. Christian conduct in a lost world is necessary. Our conduct should reflect a Christ-like character. But our behavior is not to be legalism but must come from the genuine heart of love for Christ’s glory.
It’s pure legalism on the other side as well for the non-fundamentalist who says it’s okay to wear jeans or shorts and preach on Sunday, go to movies, dance, watch movies any place. If you conform to that just because you want to fit in, it’s still legalism.
Can I personally go and see a Star Trek movie and not feel guilty? Personally I can’t because of my background. Is it biblically wrong to go? I don’t think so. Is it going to certain movies that make going to a Cinema wrong? Are you a better believer if you see "The Legend of Zorro" 2005 rather than "Kill Bill, 1 and 2" ? On Cable or at a Cinema? What if I say I like both movies? Of course, I like the "Duel" Dennis Weaver movie. Or the "Fugitive" with David Jantzen or Harrison Ford. Did I go to the Cinema to see them? No. But on Cable I have. Is there a difference?
Now how should I as a pastor/teacher approach this issue? How did I?
I don’t feel guilty in teaching/preaching biblical godliness or standards (some call this legalism)
Up until 1983 I truly believed my responsibility as a pastor/teacher was to teach biblical godliness and practical Christian behavior for believers, on a regular basis. A true fundamentalist preacher mindset.
I still believe what I have always believed. The difference is my approach to any subject in preaching expositional preaching. Rather than preaching/teaching my point of view of Christian behavior, my approach was to teach the scriptural approach to Christian living.
What I learned from John MacArthur was that the pastor/teacher’s authority was only to teach the Word. The preacher has no authority outside of preaching what the Scripture teaches, and he is to teach the scripture as the scripture teaches within the context of the text before him. Ouch! I had to disregard hundreds of good sermons because of this change of opinion.
I started on a Sunday Morning in the book of Matthew and Sunday Evening in the book of Romans. And I was determined to start from chapter one verse one and teach through the New Testament. I was determined to only say what the text was saying within the context of the Book.
I would study and teach the meaning of the text, primarily, then make application of the text only after make an effort of showing the meaning of the text.
I remember after several months, I had not mentioned once, going to movies, long hair on men, short dresses on women, and kids going to dances or getting drunk with beer, or using drugs, and don’t listen to Rock n’ Roll music. Some of the members were saying I had quit preaching altogether. I had quit preaching on sin. I had lost my focus, and had left fundamentalism altogether. I had quit preaching and starting teaching.
My responsibility was to dispense the Scripture as it was taught, and then let the Holy Spirit teach each person the application of the principles set forth in the Scripture.
Legalism is the pressure to please God with certain kinds of behavior to gain favor with Him. It’s worst when you want to please men with your behavior rather than the Lord.
What is so hard is to keep your own opinion to yourself. I have been good giving what I believe. Does the Bible actually say "Don’t go see a movie at a Cinema, don’t see a movie? Only see certain movies?
The members of our church thought we were genuine Christians who really love the Lord. They believed we tried to lived what we taught. They believed our behavior was in line with what we preached on Sunday. And we really tried to be honest, real, and obedient to the will of God for our lives and our family’s life.
As long as I was a pastor/teacher I would not do a lot of things I knew were not necessarily sinful.
I didn’t want to go to a movie. I didn’t want to drink a beer. Most of what I personally did was out of a strong biblical conviction. I believe as a pastor/teacher you have a responsibility that you don’t have if you are not. I believe you should live and behave as an example.
Culture today has changed. Example, there was a time that women wore dresses and men wore a suit and tie to church. Today in our society everyone dresses like they want to. No one says, "Christians wear outfits that are different than the rest of the people" What has changed, the principles in the Bible or society? It all depends if you are a Fundamentalist or a Reformed Christian. So what sets our standards? The culture?
Nevertheless, our approach should be formed from a biblical mindset. What is hard is allowing a person to discover from his own personal conviction of behavior from an encounter with the Lord. When the Scripture is silent we need to be silent. If the Scripture is clear about certain behavior, we need to address it clearly.
I should not tell a person not to go to a Cinema. I could tell then to be careful what they put before their eyes on a huge screen. I could tell them to be careful of the message that is coming across in the film. I could say be careful how you entertain your mind and time. I could say be careful how you spend your time and money and the friends you are with. I could say, realize what you are watching is from a world view and not from a Christian-biblical point of view, be careful what you believe as truth.
Personally I am still a legalist in my mind from years of legalist preaching. I still can’t sit in a theater and not feel guilty. But now I realize it’s okay. Did I really say it’s okay? Generally, I really just don’t want to go.
Drafted 10 29 06 by Charles E. Whisnant Proof read by Charity and posted October 31, 2006