A. T. Schofield
Plain Papers for Young Believers
We have seen in a previous paper that the Christian is not to identify himself with the world, as such, religiously or socially, and have had abundant Scripture proofs that all such associations are condemned by God. If such connections then with the world, many of them for good and unselfish objects, are condemned by the Word, it is easy to see there can be no justification of joining with the world merely for one's own pleasure.
Clubs, Societies, and Lodges
In the present day, when nearly all forms of recreation and entertainment have their special clubs and organizations, a young Christian is often very hardly pushed to join one or another. Some, indeed, may join willingly from various reasons, such as better to enjoy themselves, or perhaps thinking to do others good by a little Christian influence, etc. Instances, however, are exceedingly rare where any good has been effected by this means; too often the result is the other way, and the Christian soon acquires the worldly tastes that characterize his associates. When this is the case, he has only himself to blame for taking the wrong step at the outset; for with the Bible (2 Cor.6) in our hands, we must characterize as wrong, contrary to, and beneath true Christian walk, any alliance for pleasure with the world.
In this, reluctant as we are to lay down any law, or to make any path narrower than God has made it, we must repeat that for any to join a worldly club for any purpose of pleasure or amusement is beneath their calling as Christians, and contrary to the Word of God.
Recreation and Exercise are Profitable
Recreation and exercise are recognized by the Word as profitable for a little (1 Tim.4:7; JND Trans.), meaning, we believe, for a short time (that is, this life); but these can be taken and enjoyed without joining clubs. No doubt there is not the same scope or the same advantages that there would be, humanly speaking, where larger groups are brought together. Whether this is true or not, the child of God must here take his stand and, deliberately counting the cost, be prepared to suffer all inconveniences that may arise from his being true to Christ.
An old Christian may not think it much for a young man to refuse one club after another, that is pressed upon him, for he, if not too devoted a Christian, is at any rate too old to care for such things. But Christ knows, and Christ will not forget, what it costs at such a time to refuse resolutely for His sake, and His smile and approval is surely well worth the inconveniences that may follow. As the Christian grows in years, however, he begins to feel that to spend hours in mere recreation and amusement is no longer necessary; and he finds that he can combine some variety of work for the Lord with his recreation, so as not absolutely to spend all the time on himself. Long walks can often be combined with profitable visits, and change of scene and air with looking up the scattered saints of God, that seldom get a help; in many ways the believer who seeks to redeem the time, and who feels that “the Lord is at hand,” can and will seek to turn even his hours of recreation to good account.
A Christian in the World
But what shall we say if we look at the other side of the picture, no longer considering those who desire in all things to glorify Christ, but those who, though still His (at least professedly) are worldly in heart, who seek the world's entertainment for its own and if not actively engaged, at least pleased spectators, surrounded with worldly friends, and being for the moment not only in but of the world? What a description we get of the world in Job: “They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways” (ch.21:12-14)! And can you, dear reader, feel happy in making one of such a company? Oh, how true it is for a believer when seeking his amusement in such a way, “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.” Prov.14:13. The reflections next morning when the Word is opened, and we are alone with God, are not pleasant; and too often the amusements of the evening lead to the neglect of the Bible in the morning. This is repeated until the soul becomes deadened under the round of worldly gaiety and want of spiritual food, while the outward course can only be characterized by “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Tim.3:4). Surely all would shrink from such a brand!
But Satan is clever; he is subtle; and if we turn from worldly amusements, he will mix them with religion to suit us; and the deluded Christian, following his own will, and not guided by the Spirit, substitutes that which may sound pious, for that which is openly worldly, and thinks himself at last consistent. Alas, he has only made matters worse! At first sight it certainly does seem incredible that any true Christian could be found willing to listen to precious portions of His Word used or sung, even by the most talented of professional entertainers. The mixture seems too horrible that surely it is a masterpiece of Satan's skill to lead Christians to believe that their presence at such occasions is commendable. In Christendom we often see the church adopting worldly customs on account of not discerning that in the Word of God the cross of Christ has clearly separated His Church and this present evil world. The one who is following Christ could not go on with these things with a good conscience; he could not have pleasure in them. His happiness is in Christ and in Christ's people. How then can he find it in that world that crucified his Lord? Besides, he is better employed. He does not stand about idle, waiting for Satan to send him off on some errand, for surely it is true that “idlers are the devil's workmen”; but he is busy of every day that he lives, and to account to Him fully for every talent entrusted to his charge. We trust enough has been said to show that although recreative exercises are perfectly legitimate and needful for the young Christian, all distinctly uworldly amusements, clubs, and other associations are not for the one who desires to be true to Christ, and to obey the Word of God.
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