Of Gnats, Camels and TV
By Kimberly T., formerly of the San Fernando Valley Assembly. First published November 24, 2002, with an introduction by Brent T.:
"One of the many sad facts with regard to Assembly culture is the extreme attention given to petty details. In Biblical terms, this means that Assembly adherents diligently strain out gnats, but swallow camels whole!
"What follows is a glimpse inside a common dialogue between long time Assembly members. Because Assembly members are taught that God is exacting and meticulous with small details, the members reflect this and often put extreme, unbalanced emphasis on things of little import. What may seem like a petty discussion to an outsider is actually quite important to an Assembly member. As you shall see, television can lead to some pretty profound theological discourse. Yet at the same time, what might be considered important to an outsider, like a long-term friendship, is cast aside in a moment in the Assembly. Needless to say, this is not a healthy environment."
Recently, before this website went up , I had a conversation with a long time Assembly member who had left the Assembly for quite a few years, only to return again about eighteen months ago. This man struggled spiritually while he was away from the Assembly. His experience after leaving had left him defeated in his Christian walk, because he had left in rebellion, not because he had been liberated from the Assembly and it’s control on his life. When he returned, the Assembly had gained more control over him than ever, due to his prior experience of failure when out from under the influence of Assembly control.
It works like this: "After leaving I really fell into great sin. I don’t seem to have control over my life apart from being in the Assembly. If I want to have any kind of inheritance in the Kingdom, I’d better stay in the Assembly where I have discipline and am made accountable." Please note that it is the external control of the Assembly that provides this discipline and exercise, not the Holy Spirit, which should produce the fruit of self-control in a believer. Since the brother I was talking to has returned to the Assembly, he is toeing the party line more than ever.
Our conversation, for some reason, turned to the subject of the television. He said, "I heard you got cable." This is a big step towards worldliness in the Assembly. I responded, "Yeah, it’s great!" We discussed this for a while, and he made it clear what a distraction television was and that it would take away from other more profitable pursuits. I responded, "I watched more television when I was in the Assembly than now when I have cable." This must have shocked him. You see, I now realize there is no longer some rule that I must maintain, so I casually voiced this in my conversation.
Let me insert a bit of Assembly history and protocol here. There was a time, not too long ago, when almost no Assembly members had televisions. By contrast, now almost everyone has one. Some have it hiding in their closet. Still others in a back bedroom where they claim not to watch it, except for some edifying film or other. They deny ever watching any worldly television program. In many cases, the saints remove the antennas in order not to obtain reception, so if in a moment of weakness they are tempted to watch some defiling television program, they are unable to do so. At present, very few people have the courage to put the TV in their living room, where people can see. So much for walking in the light.
So I asked this brother, in a manner designed to obtain a certain response, "What does George Geftakys preach from the pulpit regarding TV?" He responded, "Well, maybe he preaches that …" I interrupted, "Maybe? Is it maybe or does he?" He responded, "Okay, he does preach that you should 'throw out that television, it is only filled with defiling, worldly things and will only distract you from the kingdom’." I asked him, "Then why do all the leading brothers have televisions in their home? It seems that the rules are shifting." (Perhaps the leaders view themselves as the only ones who have the self-control to have a television in their home.)
Here is an incident that happened to our family. Awhile ago, when televisions were not common in the Assembly, a Leading Brother (who later acquired one) entreated my husband for having a television in our home. He had come over to visit us, and since we were not home, he looked in our window and saw the television, which we did not have hidden. He then talked to my husband on a Sunday afternoon and said something like, "I saw the television in your home. I want to encourage you, that’s not what the Lord wants."
Not only did my husband not ask this person what business he had looking in our window when we weren’t home, my husband didn’t take this as an "encouragement." He came home and cracked the whip! "There is not going to be a television in our home!" This was a pattern in our home, as well as in many Assembly homes. When a leader would speak with my husband, he simply would take what the leader said to him and implement it. This is what we were trained to do, and when we did this sort of thing, we were commended for our obedience. Never once did we ask ourselves, "Did the Lord speak to us about this? Do we believe that this is what the Lord wants, or just what a leader wants?" ( We no longer operate in this manner since leaving!)
This is wacko! This leader, who had gained control over my family, is the reason my husband removed the television from our home. I know that proper Assembly protocol would say that the Lord most definitely was speaking through this Leading Brother, but what does the word of God say? Proverbs 29:25, "The fear of man brings a snare: but whoever puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe." It was the fear of man, in the form of being compelled to please this brother, which caused my husband to remove the television.
Now let me be very clear on this point. Having a television or not having a television in your home is a non-issue, it is petty and should not be considered worthy of debate, let alone theological debate. Everyone must walk before the Lord, and television is certainly not one of the major decisions one must confront in life! God has no commandment with regard to television. God is going to lead each family individually. Television is not sin. However, what a person watches on TV could be a problem.
My conversation with the brother continued as he began to relate his own, recent experience with deciding to get rid of his television. He said, "What about when you are flipping through the channels--say I wanted to watch TBN, channel 40--and I’m flipping through all the Spanish channels and I’m seeing all this defiling stuff?"
I responded, "I see defiling billboards all day long as I’m driving through the Valley. The Lord said in John 17:15, ‘I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil.’ He hasn’t taken us out of the world. Yes, there are defiling things in this world. Jesus saw those things, it didn’t defile Him." He said, "Yes, but the Lord doesn’t have a sin nature."
I asked him, "Do you have Christ within you?" He answered, "Yes." I said, "Then if you have Christ abiding within you, you will have the fruit of the Spirit. Self-control will be what constrains you to simply flip through and pass over these defiling images to get to the channel you want to watch. You see, Jesus taught that it is not what goes in to a person that defiles them, but what comes out of their heart. If a person has a changed heart, as a result of the Holy Spirit’s influence, then they are not defiled by briefly seeing a Mexican soap opera while channel surfing!" He responded with, "Yeah, but I like the Spanish channels!"
I was dumb-founded! This poor man couldn’t see that he wasn’t experiencing what the Bible clearly teaches, that every believer walking in faith will experience the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance and self-control. Galatians 5:23 says, "..against such there is no law." All of the Assembly rules (and there are plenty: television, make-up, hair length, dress, dating, etc. – you name it) cannot give life; they cannot work righteousness only death, because they are only a form of law keeping, or legalism.
"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, 'Cursed [is] everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.' But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God [is] evident, for 'the just shall live by faith.' Yet the law is not of faith, but 'the man who does them shall live by them.' Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, 'Cursed [is] everyone who hangs on a tree'," Galatians 5:10-13. We continued for a few minutes more and then he needed to get off the phone.
Our dear friends who are still in the Assembly are under bondage to the law. Although this conversation was rather humorous, when you stop to consider what has happened to these poor people, it is really very sad.
I use this conversation to illustrate what darkness the Assembly is in and what control they have upon the minds of sincere believers who simply want to walk with the Lord, pleasing Him. This desire has been hijacked and used as a tool for control, because these poor people equate God and the Assembly. They don’t see the trap they are in – they must keep the law, only it is Assembly law instead of Levitical law.
I believe the Lord will use these conversations we have with our friends, but more importantly, it is my desire that those of us who have left the Assembly and are now walking in "the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free…" (Galatians 5:1) will be an example of light and life. It is by prayer and example that they will see the difference, not by the same means the Assembly uses of verbal pressure and intimidation. These people need to see with their own eyes and know within their own hearts that what we are saying and experiencing in our new Christian walk apart from the Assembly is the truth. The truth will set them free.