My elementary and high school years were from 1955-67. My generation was post World War II and it was during the time of Hollywood’s “greatest” years. It was a season of epic movies that became events to entertain and excite. Many of those movies like Ben Hur and The Alamo were three hours long. They began with several minutes of prelude music, had a ten to fifteen minute musical intermission and also ended with postlude music. Before television was widely accessible, movies were a large part of American lives and remain so today. The original plan of movie moguls was to simply entertain the audience, but their amazing popularity ultimately triggered a conscious agenda to push the envelope in every faction of life. Many factors have contributed to the slow dissolution of the church’s influence on our nation over the last 75 years, but I believe the entertainment industry has carried the lion’s share. The movie industry has made a formidable negative impact not only upon American religious beliefs, but also on our social image.
The church unwittingly allowed its love for entertainment to melt its resolve for the pursuit of holiness while the entertainment industry helped sway its lifestyles, clothing, home life and sadly, its Biblical faith. Teenagers in the 1950’s and 60’s tried to conform to the image of their favorite movie star’s fashion, hairstyle or “look” and today it is no different. The music industry also helped thrust the agenda of the world upon an unsuspecting and unguarded generation. The two waged a formidable attack on the faith of believers unaware of the slow dulling of their Godly conscience and Biblical standards. Limited by the influence of feelings and rational thinking, unbelievers are emotionally driven while the church is supposed to be led by the Holy Spirit. Presently, most movie themes express language, show explicit scenes and violent behaviors in direct opposition to the holiness God expects. Current social trends not only defy morality, they mock those leaders who represent the churches holding on to Biblical moral and ethical standards.
Immorality and unfaithfulness to God invaded the church as evidenced by the divorce rate which reports say has reached 60%. Alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes in the movies added a “sophistication” to the lives of their characters while the quest for wealth and materialism began to erode our trust in God. The church soon looked no different from the world and as a result, our God-given image and influence was exchanged for that of the world. We who were once Living Stones became stumbling stones to those seeking authentic Christianity. Many American churches lost their effectiveness as they settled into a form of religion minus the power and life of God.
The underlying result is the alarming fact that America is no longer a Christian nation. It has become a secular society where Godly beliefs and standards have begun to be persecuted within the last several years through changing federal and state laws, IRS targeting, and negative public opinion. The worship of God was exchanged for the worship of creation and many have become deceived and have fallen away from the faith. There would be no Christian church today except for the Lord’s intervention!
The Lord had a plan for the image of mankind at the beginning of creation and He is in the process of restoring that image to all who will believe. Genesis 1:26 states, “God said, Let Us [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] make mankind (male and female) in Our likeness, and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the earth, and over everything that creeps upon the earth.” (Emphasis mine).
Jesus Christ did not suffer the agony of the cross simply to pay the penalty for our sins so that we might go free. His resurrection has given us the power to become the sons of God! Resurrection Life is granted to all who truly believe and provides the grace and power to be transformed into the image of Christ Jesus. The Apostle Peter proclaimed, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people [at all], but now you are God’s people; once you were unpitied, but now you are pitied and have received mercy.” 1 Peter 1:9-10.
Peter continued to strongly charge all believers to press steadfastly into their calling from God. “Beloved, I implore you as aliens and strangers and exiles [in this world] to abstain from the sensual urges (the evil desires, the passions of the flesh, your lower nature) that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves properly (honorably, righteously) among the Gentiles (unbelievers), so that, although they may slander you as evildoers, [yet] they may by witnessing your good deeds [come to] glorify God in the day of inspection [when God shall look upon you wanderers as a pastor or shepherd looks over his flock].”
My husband spent 35 years in the home building industry. He ran a local division of a nationwide home building company. He learned every aspect of the homebuilding business from land acquisition and development to construction, sales and closings. Twenty-three years of his career were spent in the state of Florida. The homes in Florida had cinder block construction on their outer walls because of the threat of hurricanes in the state. Local wind construction laws varied because of the propensity of a direct hit from a hurricane. Miami’s Dade County had wind construction regulations for 165-185 mile per hour winds. This process required steel rebar to be imbedded in the foundation of the home every several feet to connect the foundation to the outer walls. Blocks of cement with two open chambers were placed over the rebar and as the walls were raised, more rebar was added for solid connections all the way to and including the roof. Cement was then poured inside the blocks with rebar to establish a solid hold that would withstand hurricane strength winds. The steel rebar and straps were eventually attached to the roof to make a secure structure from top to bottom. The outer frame of the building was interconnected so that each block held its own place while additionally helping to support the other blocks. The principles are Biblical.
The Bible declares Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone. “This is the gate of the Lord; the [uncompromisingly] righteous shall enter through it. I will confess, praise, and give thanks to You for You have heard and answered me; and You have become my Salvation and Deliverer. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is from the Lord and is His doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” Psalm 118:22-23. Jesus also mentioned this prophecy in Matthew 21:42-44 and challenged the Jewish people and leadership, “I tell you, for this reason the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this Stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom It falls will be crushed to powder [and It will winnow him, scattering him like dust].” (See Isaiah 8:14 and Daniel 2:34-35). (Emphasis mine).
We were not given the invitation to become citizens of God’s kingdom simply to be forgiven of our sins and live our lives as we see fit! We were called to a purpose. We were called by God to become Living Stones with Him as our Cornerstone, our example, our image. Ephesians 2:19-22 charges us, “And He came and preached the glad tidings of peace to you who were afar off and [peace] to those who were near. For it is through Him that we both [whether far off or near] now have an introduction (access) by one [Holy] Spirit to the Father [so that we are able to approach Him]. Therefore you are no longer outsiders, (exiles, migrants, and aliens, excluded from the rights of citizens), but you now share citizenship with the saints (God’s own people, consecrated and set apart for Himself); and you belong to God’s [own] household. You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself the chief Cornerstone. In Him the whole structure is joined (bound, welded) together harmoniously, and it continues to rise (grow, increase) into a holy temple in the Lord [a sanctuary dedicated, consecrated, and sacred to the presence of the Lord]. In Him [and in fellowship with one another] you yourselves also are being built up [into this structure] with the rest, to form a fixed abode (dwelling place) of God in (by, through) the Spirit.” (Emphasis mine).
The Lord is building His church with living stones. These stones He is preparing are alive, strong and filled with passion for their first love, Jesus. They have the Word of God written upon their hearts and they are His witnesses in the earth. They abide continually secured to the Vine, attached with spiritual rebar to their Cornerstone, and they bear fruit of righteousness, the works of a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. They pray with authority from heaven and they speak the Words of the Lord their God. They are emboldened with His love to be the salt and light to the world. They refuse to be hidden and silent. They press on with birth pangs to be transformed into His image and they reflect His nature and His character. They are filled with and moved by His Holy Spirit and they are fountains that disperse His Living Water to a broken and fearful world.
The Lord is calling us, His church, to come out from among the world. He has invited us to His banquet table where He has provided all the supplies we need to be filled with His love, power and strength to withstand the attacks of the enemy who would try to thwart the church in making disciples. When our hearts become fully consecrated to Him we will be emboldened to trust in Him completely and miracles, signs and wonders will follow all who believe.
We must choose to lay down the image of the world and rise up to the image and stature of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is looking for those who will die to the world and choose to believe in Him, walk in His ways, live in peace and be peacemakers who reconcile the lost to God. They will thrive through resurrection life and as Living Stones, they will be called the sons of God!