Many developers “say” they are going to continue to support their game after launch, but what they really mean is they will provide a couple of bug patches and throw some DLC content against the wall to see if it sticks before tossing in the towel. If we are REALLY lucky, they will add some additional content on the game’s anniversary date that probably should have been part of the original game in the first place. But that is clearly NOT the case with the Halo: Master Chief Collection… it has been nearly EIGHT YEARS after the release of this title, and we are STILL getting brand new content and free updates. And considering that the base game just hit it’s TWENTIETH birthday, this level of continued support for a console game is nearly unprecedented. Now, I don’t want to sound ungrateful for all of this extra Halo goodness… I really don’t. It just feels like every time I get a hankering to dust off the ol’ MCC for some classic Halo action, my console always seems to think NOW is the PERFECT time for a 30gb update that renders my game unplayable until it has finished installing. I appreciate the extra content… I truly do. I just wish the timing of these updates didn’t always seem to find a way to coincide with the incredibly small portions of time I have available to play a game.
Now, I know what you are probably thinking. And yes, the glorious return of the Mexican Pizza at Taco Bell DOES sound delicious. Wait, that’s not what you were thinking? Well, chalk that up as another super-hero power that I do not possess. So… if your thought was NOT about the Mexican Pizza, then you were probably wondering why I don’t have “automatic updates” set up on my console to prevent this exact problem? Well, I am glad you asked. (Also, I STILL believe you were thinking about a Mexican Pizza from Taco Bell and you just don’t want to admit it.) When it comes to game updates, I prefer to make an individual decision each time for what does and does not get downloaded to my console… because on a handful of occasions, those “automatic” updates were not great. Sometimes they contained bugs that damaged the integrity of my game saves, or they broke portions of a previously playable game that I was enjoying. So, I choose to wait a little while until the update has been vetted out and tested by the gaming community, insuring I am not adding something that could potentially be harmful to my game. By consciously deciding which updates I will allow to download and apply changes to my console, I can protect my progress with the game and prevent the corruption of what I currently possess. Sure, it is a little inconvenient. But sometimes these updates do damage that can never be reversed… so I make the inconvenient choice to err on the side of caution.
This “warzone” of automatic updates vs. intentional downloads runs deeper than just our gaming preferences… it is at the heart of many of the deepest problems that can plague our lives, and I am not talking about our video game installation decisions. What we choose to “download” into our lives is of far greater significance than we may often realize… and if we are not active gatekeepers of what we allow our eyes to see, our minds to ponder, and our souls to ingest, we can unintentionally open ourselves up to harmful content that can damage those things that we value the most…our faith, our relationships, and our commitments. Jesus had a GREAT deal to say about how important the content that we chose to consume is… here is your warning for some uncomfortable truths that lie ahead.
Matthew 6:22-23 The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
Matthew 5:27-30 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
Well, things just got uncomfortable. I know, I know. This is not a popular topic, and we aren’t going to talk about what you may THINK we are going to talk about. So, before anybody reading this starts pulling their eyes out and cutting off their hands (please don’t), let’s take a deeper look at the principle behind what Christ is saying. While Jesus is absolutely and unapologetically addressing lustful thoughts and how this is equivalent to sin of adultery from God’s viewpoint, there is more to this lesson than meets the eye… extending from the relationship of lust/adultery to equating hateful thoughts with the heinous act of murder (1 John 3:15). The world around us is performing “automatic updates” into our “thought life” every single day… each time we turn on the TV, scroll through our phone, answer a call, pick up a book, or pop in a game we are receiving “downloads”. This input is processed through our eyes and ears, absorbed into our minds, and integrated into our thoughts. Our thoughts ultimately shape not only who we are (Proverbs 23:7), but they ABSOLUTLEY impact the things we say and the actions we take as we see in Luke 6…
Luke 6:43-45 For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
All of the “data” we allow to be uploaded to our lives has an impact. When the input we are choosing to ingest is harmful, hateful, negative, depressing, or anxiety-inducing we are feeding our spirit updates… content that corrupts our core and ultimately produces flawed output. Just like a bad game patch, a broken “automatic update” can make us unreliable and damage our performance, even when we were previously in a healthy and fully operational state. These updates may come from a variety of sources, but they all boil down to three core areas that reinforce all the WORST parts of our humanity…
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.
There are many different “updates” that are being pressed into our minds at any given time… some through conscious ingestion, and others through unintentional contact. If the content of these downloads falls into one of these three categories (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life), it must be rejected immediately before it has the opportunity to sink below the surface and integrate into our lives. Once it does, it can do irreparable damage to our hearts and minds, causing us to behave in a manner that is inconsistent with who we truly are and what we are being shaped by the Lord into becoming. I have found more times than I care to admit that I am guilty of reading, viewing, or listening to input that feeds my darkest temptations… and then I have nobody to blame but myself when the inevitable result of downloading and absorbing that negative, lustful, angry, prideful, depressing, or anxiety-inducing content hurts me and others around me.
James 1:14-15 Each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, bears sin: and the sin, when it is full grown, bringeth forth death.
So…. what do we do? We can’t simply lock ourselves in a cave, wrap duct tape around our eyes and ears, and believe that will protect us. While that may SOUND like a good idea, there are several very large problems inherent with that solution. For starters, I’m just not sure if there are enough caves for all of us to have our own, and the real estate market is RIDICULOUS right now. But the biggest challenge to that idea is that even if we go to the deepest darkest cave on earth and turn off EVERY automatic update, we have still brought with us the most dangerous predator to our thought life of all… ourselves.
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Fortunately, I have some pretty good news. There IS a solution… even in those dark places. As a matter of fact, even in our darkest places, surrounded by our most shameful thoughts and knee deep in our most embarrassing motivations, the Lord is still there to pull us out of the quicksand that we have stepped into…
Psalm 139:7-10 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
We choose what we consciously download into our thoughts and minds, and on the occasions when we are not in complete control of the environment around us, we still get to decide what is permitted to REMAIN present and active in our thoughts… planting seeds that will eventually reveal themselves in the fruits of our words and actions. This is not some “think your way to a better life” concept… I’ve heard those sermons, read those books, and I got the t-shirt (it was completely free with my “love gift of $50 or more”). This is not about “the power of positive thinking”… we have already determined that as human beings, we lack the fundamental capability and discipline to sustain that. We cannot simply “over-power” our minds and hearts through sheer effort and determination… our enemy is stronger, smarter, better prepared, and has the inside track on us. We are our own worst enemies here, and the “downloads” that we accept don’t make us sin… they simply feed and empower the sin nature that we already possess. Like a faulty game update, it doesn’t completely erase the game and build it from scratch… it just takes what is there and warps it into something it was never intended to be. The source of our struggles lies on the inside (Romans 7, James 4:1), and the downloads that feed our worst appetites is found on the outside (Job 31:1, Psalm 101:3). It is time for some answers.
Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Here is the truth about game updates AND the downloads we allow access to our minds… it may be inconvenient and time-consuming to carefully review everything we absorb and ingest before accepting it, but it is also NECESSARY. Waiting for a 30gb download to be completed when I would rather get straight to playing is not FUN, but neither is having my entire save overwritten because my system downloaded a patch that completely erased my file, forcing me to start the game over from scratch. Not everything is beneficial for us (1 Corinthians 10:23) and being cautious with what we choose to look at, listen to, and meditate on is more than just a good idea… it is a requirement (Philippians 4:8). There is only one standard for downloads that are consistent with the developer of our hearts… and it is for our PROTECTION, not our limitation.
We all face different and unique temptations, which is why some of us may have convictions that others don’t. So rather than embracing a legalistic ideology that attempts to prevent sin from occurring by never playing the game in the first place, I have a better idea… let’s choose to ingest the Word of God daily so it can do what it was designed to do, acting as the gatekeeper of what we allow into our minds. Let’s allow His Spirit to be our first line of defense, piercing the thoughts and intents of our heart… convicting us when appropriate, directing us away from what is toxic, and guiding us towards His perfect will for our lives. We all struggle with different things, and we better believe that our enemy has every weakness of ours carefully scouted out. It doesn’t matter if it is lustful thoughts, hateful thoughts, anxious thoughts, addictive thoughts, depressing thoughts, or any of the other plethora of battles that each of us face. Our enemy is going to come after us each day, both externally and internally, to break us down across these specific battle lines… and the information we consciously consume and intentionally retain determines how much ammunition we feed him.
James 4:7-8a Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
We have a powerful enemy, and our body is hard-wired to a connection that will allow negative updates to automatically run free through our mind if we don’t counter this input with an even MORE powerful ally… the mind of Christ (Romans 12:1-2). Is it easy? Nope. Is it automatic when we “get saved”? Oh, how I wish it was…. but also no. The renewing of our minds to the mind of Christ is something that is a continual process throughout our time on this planet, and it is definitely not a passive process. But it is only through consciously guarding the gateway to our minds and submitting each and every thought we have, one by one, to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) that we will be able to receive the updates He has designed for us while preventing the negative input from corrupting us. Through each “download” we receive and accept, we choose if our enemy has ammunition for a rocket launcher or a nerf gun today… let’s choose what we permit to “update” us today with this spiritual warfare in mind.
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