“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2Th 2:11-12).
The question has often been asked, “Which comes first—the chicken or the egg?” This question has been around for generations, but what does come first? The egg really does come from the chicken. But the chicken comes from the egg. To have chickens or eggs, we must conclude we need both chickens and eggs.
Which comes first—heart responses or behavior? Does the heart regulate the actions, or do the actions regulate the heart? Why do we do the things that we do? Most of us rightly believe that our actions are a response from the heart. We glibly say that if the heart is right the actions will be right. If our heart is right, we can discern unrighteousness in behavior. However, similar to the debate over the chicken and egg, we must have right actions for the heart to be right. A heart that is right will have right actions, but actions that are right will influence the heart to be right. As in the chicken and egg controversy, we must conclude that the heart responses and what we do are both necessary to produce godly righteousness.
An undue emphasis on the heart tends to make us reckless in behavior. There are many fringe activities we can engage in. If our heart is right, so we say, we can entertain ourselves with a day at the air show and discern the bad from the good, or we can listen to a worldly gospel music concert and not influence the heart. Is this really the way it is? The question is best answered by another question. Can we do these things without being affected by them? The prowess of the military trained pilots and the skill of the musicians and the beauty of the music will give pleasure to our flesh. Pleasure that will soften the convictions of the heart to the point where we will see these behaviors as less wrong or even harmless.
What happens when a person whose heart is right has a propensity toward national pride and a craving to follow world events? What about watching the news just for a few minutes, and the tantalizing, well done commercial embellished with suggestive dress and catchy sound bites grabs our attention and fills our flesh with pleasure? The flesh is urged to respond and often does respond. We cannot have pleasure in unrighteousness and not be affected by it. The actions of watching the news have influenced the heart! “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
Every person and church takes its cues from somewhere. We are not self-sufficient heart guardians like we think we are. We are influenced by the social and economic spiritual environment we live in. We, like Eve, are curious by nature and want to experience what is “pleasant to the eyes.” The last days are characterized in scripture as being a time of spiritual deception. We believe we are living in those last days. The gripping reality of the last days is that they are filled with pleasure and fun.
The Anabaptist stream of faith has attempted to limit exposure to the unrighteous actions of the world by placing limitations on music styles, radio and television use, and limiting and curtailing use of the internet. These standards are beneficial but still seem to fall short of God’s desire for His people.
What should be the alarm clock that jolts us awake and makes us alert to the day in which we live and exposes the real danger lurking behind the attractive culture around us? Here are some check points:
1. When we love the comfort of economic security and the pleasure this world offers to those who excel in business. We buy out the competition, we add another store, or we purchase another farm. These actions seem harmless and a normal growth of good business, but they compete for a portion of the heart. The mind begins accepting the business world dictating to it the standards for business, and almost subconsciously the heart accepts cues from the business world and is less fearful in other aspects of life. In all seriousness, which came first—the purchase of the additional business or the heart adjustment toward worldliness?
2. When our people attend events where thousands of people who are primarily focused on entertainment find satisfaction. Jesus clearly says that the broad way has many people. It is fun and it is popular to be on the broad road!
3. When we attend the popular attractions of our day such as air shows, county fairs, home shows, tractor pulls, etc. We would never join the military and become pilots of fighter jets and bombers, but we are fascinated with the advanced technology and the bravery and skill of the military trained pilots. The aerial acrobatics blend with throbbing music and the festive atmosphere to give us pleasure and break down our resolve for Christ’s kingdom. One of the cardinal teachings of New Testament scripture is to resist not evil. To be nonresistant toward evil is an unchanging truth. God’s people love that truth!
The Biblical writers are almost unanimous in warning of the threat of spiritual drowsiness. Take heed, awake, beware, are words and phrases that urge their audience to vigilance. Pleasure seeking is a cause of spiritual slumber.
Brother Paul is forceful and explicit in his warning of having pleasure in unrighteousness! Which comes first—heart responses or behavior? We can conclude that both are vitally important for Christian life to flourish! “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph 5:14). Has pleasure induced us into spiritual slumber?