No. 28: What You Read, Watch, and Listen to Matters

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No. 28: What You Read, Watch, and Listen to Matters

This episode is all about something that we tend to think is not a big deal or something we don’t give much second thought to-what we read, watch, and listen to. Why should we be aware of what we read, watch, and listen to? How can those things affect us?

Today’s episode is all about something that we tend to think is not a big deal- what we read, watch, and listen to.

Why should we be aware of what we read, watch, and listen to? How can those things affect us?

We talk about our personal experiences with media consumption and struggles, what the Bible has to say about what we read, watch, and listen to, and we close with six general principles for media consumption and evaluation.

Let’s dive in!

Our Personal Experience with Media

To give some personal, recent examples (note: these are personal convictions):

  • Xan has recently gotten into reading Colleen Hoover’s books. They’re really good, but they can be pretty explicit (we’re talking R rated). She found her mind wandering to things she never had thought about before, so she decided that for herself, she needed to fight the source of this new sin in her life. She decided to stop reading the books.

    So, is this just a conviction for Xan, or should all people avoid these books? Xan struggles to see how content like this could be beneficial. Nathaniel leans more on the side of warning or being aware to read it with caution. We want to be careful about drawing the line and saying that reading these books is inherently sinful.
  • For Nathaniel, music has been a source of struggle. He has struggled with anger, cussing, and internal lust, and at the root of it has been listening to a lot of rap music while working out. When he stopped and listened to the actual words, he realized it wasn’t glorifying God or edifying himself. If he is even only listening to it subconsciously, how did it affect his view towards women and God? So he’s stopped listening to that type of music.

We often think that what we read, watch, and listen to “isn’t a big deal” and we attempt to justify it. But whether we think so or not, these things can often play a part in molding our hearts, shaping our desires, and affecting our actions. What you’re taking in influences what you think about, which influences how you feel.

Theological Principles on Media

What does the Bible have to say about what we read, watch, and listen to? The Bible actually has a lot to say about this topic.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

We hear this verse a lot. It’s pretty explicit that every activity that we engage in should be done with the mindset and purpose of glorifying God. This is a high expectation! A similar passage, Colossians 3:1-17, talks about putting off the old self and as believers, putting on the new self. We’re called to put to death the things that lead us into the sexual immorality, passion, evil desires, and covetousness described in this passage- the actions and the source of them. Instead, we are to put on holy and compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, etc… We put to death what is earthly and sinful and put on what is spiritual and good.

Imagine if Christians sought to live this out! We are never neutral- we are always either moving away from God or towards God. Christians are closest to God when we see Him in every aspect of life.

Believers also need to understand the seriousness of sin.

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Matthew 5:29-30

This passage emphasizes just how seriously we should treat our sin. Too often as Western Christians, we treat our sin too lightly.

Studies on what we read, watch, and listen to

Let’s look at a more socio/cultural perspective on how media can and does influence you.

An article by the New York Times in 2019 highlighted the evidence that what you watch on TV affects how you think, what your political preferences are, and your cognitive ability. We hear this concept often in regard to toddlers and little kids, but media affects adults just as much (if not more)!

A study done in the Netherlands in 2011 found that not only can music affect your mood and present state of mind, but the songs you listen to can also change the way you perceive emotions and the world around you.

There are studies currently going on about how the different folklore and children’s stories in Russia and Ukraine could explain how the Ukraine soldiers have overcome immense odds to hold back a much bigger army. Check out this article published by Dr. Mia Bloom and Dr. Sophia Moskalenko from Georgia State that highlighted this phenomenon.

This concept about how media can influence us makes sense! Just think about it.

General Principles for Evaluating what you are reading, watching, and listening to  

Is what you are watching, reading, and listening to glorifying God, or is it gratifying to your flesh? Is it stirring your affections for God, or is stirring your affections for sin? This is the framework you should have in mind as we dive into these principles.

1. Remember that there is a lot of gray area

Think about 1 Corinthians 8 and 1 Corinthians 10. These passages are talking about food offered to idols- for some people, it would be a sin to eat it, but for others, it wouldn’t be.

But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Romans 14:23

Sometimes eating can be sinful, and sometimes it isn’t- sometimes it is glorifying to God. These things aren’t inherently sinful, but they can be. When it comes to what we read, watch, and listen to, it’s important to realize that what is a problem for me, may not be for others. And vice versa!

For example, for Nathaniel, tv shows with cussing aren’t really a stumbling block, but they could be for others. However, anything with nudity in it is a no-go, because of his temptations (side note: it probably should be a no-go for all guys).

There is a lot of grey area and these decisions can be hard to wrestle with!

2. Is what we are consuming glorifying God?

If 1 Corinthians 10:31 is our bar, we need to evaluate if what we are watching, reading, and listening to is glorifying God. If we are to do all things to God’s glory, this is an important question!

Just as a caveat…. Not everything you listen to has to be explicitly Christian and glorifying to God. This is still something that we’re wrestling through. Nathaniel loves country music but a lot of country music about getting drunk, getting girls, etc isn’t glorifying either. This isn’t a “do this, don’t do that” talk, just an encouragement to wrestle through and think through whether the media you’re consuming is glorifying to God.

If we’re being honest, when we filter our movie, TV, book, etc… choices through this idea of doing all things to God’s glory, the pickings are slim. Being a believer doesn’t mean being easily aligned with this world and pop culture. Popular media today is likely not going to be glorifying to the Lord.

3. Ask yourself if what you are consuming is stirring your affections for God or for sin

What we consume affects us more than we know.

Nathaniel was amazed at how many Christian guys that struggle with pornography also watched Game of Thrones considering how much nudity is portrayed in it. This isn’t coming from a judgemental place, but if you recognize that you struggle with something- what media are you watching/listening to that could cause you to stumble into temptation?

These temptations are not difficult to find or even stumble across, so you need to be actively fighting against that temptation.

4. Remember that even the things that don’t explicitly celebrate sin can tempt you to sin

Something may not be inherently sinful, but it could be the source of creating sin in your life. It doesn’t have to explicitly promote sin to be sinful.

For example, social media isn’t inherently bad- it can be used for a lot of good. However, it is very powerful and tempting for different sins. For example: sexual immorality, materialism, comparison, coveting, etc… How you interact with social media and are exposed to it could be very dangerous.

Or take sports! Sports can be good, but if you spend all day every day watching sports, this is sinful, even though sports aren’t in themselves sinful.

5. Treat sin seriously

We talked about this earlier, but you need to take drastic measures when it comes to sin.

As Christians, we can often view sin as an inconvenient paper cut rather than a pierced artery.

  • We need to have a proper relationship with sin
    • Some view it with shame and follow in the footsteps of Adam and Eve trying to run and hide from God. (This was me in college struggling with masturbation)  I can’t believe that I sinned against God again, I need to wait before coming to him praying and reading the Bible

We need to have a proper relationship with sin. Some view it with shame and follow in the footsteps of Adam and Eve-trying to run and hide from God. We can’t believe that we sinned against God again, so we think we need to wait before coming to Him, praying, and reading the Bible. Other people view sin as too lax. “Oops, my bad, try again next time.” Yes, there is grace, but we should also have reverence for God.

This is a proper view of sin: sin separates me from God, and is against the Creator of the universe, We deserve death because of our sin. But, this is also a sin that Jesus died for on the cross. We need to recognize both the weight of our sin and the weight of our cross.

We don’t minimize our sin, but we also know that we can immediately run to God, confess our sin to Him, and walk in the newness of life. 

6. Eliminating something negative is only as good as what you replace it with

If I replace watching sports with scrolling through insta reels, it isn’t very beneficial.

Consider Matthew 12:43-45. We want to be careful because what Jesus is talking about here is believing in the gospel. But it is a good analogy for how we should fight sin and temptations. If we remove something (i.e: spending too much time on social media), we need to remember to fill that time with something beneficial- otherwise, it will be wasted.

One Degree Shift

Evaluate what you watch, read, and listen to.

We likely all have something that we can remove from our lives. Something that is stirring our affections for sin rather than God. Determine one thing in your own life where that is the case AND decide what you are going to replace it with.

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