“Are You Not Entertained?” The Pseudo-Kingdom Versus the Kingdom of God

Image courtesy of Dreamworks Pictures;  MovieStillsDB.com

Image courtesy of Dreamworks Pictures; MovieStillsDB.com

Are you not entertained?

In the unforgettable line of the movie Gladiator starring Russell Crowe, he looks at the bloodthirsty spectators of the gladiatorial battles, wondering what else it will take to entertain a crowd with insatiable desires. Young men can get a sense of manhood from watching such a movie. Yet, I have found myself wanting to gather the young men of today’s church and yell, “Are you not entertained?”

Oftentimes as a pastor, I have had the great privilege of discipling men from their late teens into their mid and late twenties. While some grow into men who love God, are committed to a local church, and are faithful in their workplace, the alarming truth is that many of them have settled for a pseudo-kingdom rather than the kingdom of God.

Many young men have settled for a pseudo-kingdom.

What is this pseudo-kingdom? It is a kingdom where they are the king. It is a kingdom where they are the self-sovereign that plugs in and takes on an avatar, letting their fidgety fingers control the kingdom they rule over. With a flick of a button they can be a Navy Seal sneaking in the shadows. In connecting to Wi-Fi, they can join with others over their headset to accomplish a common mission without any real cost of life—at least of which they are aware.

This is where the danger begins. If you couldn’t tell already, I’m referring to video games. Please understand me, I do not believe video games are evil in and of themselves. What I have witnessed for over a decade, however, is “men” who are depressed, isolated, and anxious in real life. Yet, when they plug in to their game systems, it’s as if they come alive. Their lifeblood begins running, their hearts start pumping, and they unite with those around the world to accomplish the mission. And although depression, isolation, and anxieties take their toll, there is a greater cost on the line when it comes to participating in these pseudo-worlds.

Tech-billionaires limit their children’s access to smartphones for good reason.

In Ben Sasse’s book Them, he opens a chapter on the danger of current technology in general. He writes,

Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, refused to allow his children to have an iPad: “We limit how much technology our kids use,” he told the New York Times, “We think it’s too dangerous for them.” [1]

Sasse continues,

Last year I started asking tech billionaires and other Silicon Valley entrepreneurs if they allow their kids unfettered access to smartphones. “Hell, no,” one responded. “We know how powerful those things are.”

Let this sentence of his sink in:

The paradox here is painful: As Americans are increasingly tempted to buy into the idea that more tech saturation is a cost-free escape from boredom and inconveniences of life, the creators of these new technologies are themselves increasingly guarding against letting technological devices cut them off from those essential parts of life. [2]

The pseudo-kingdoms we create divert us from the eternal kingdom.

Yet, this escape is far from “cost-free.” Indeed, it is impossible to calculate the actual cost of missing out on the greatest mission in all of human history. It is a mission that takes humility and service to another King. It is a mission that demands uniting with others around a common purpose. In many ways, the greatest mission in all of human history has much overlap with the pseudo-kingdom; but that is how the adversary works, isn’t it?

Young men, please listen to me. The Lord Jesus Christ came in the flesh, lived the perfect life, died in your place, rose from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of God—for you. In doing so, he sent the Holy Spirit into his people, equipping them for the mission to call others into the kingdom of God. The mission for which you long, the insatiable desire to conquer, and the pursuit of relationship are all things to which Christ himself has called you. Yet, it does mean a change in your allegiance must happen.

We must die to ourselves as the self-sovereign.

You have to die to yourself as the self-sovereign and obey the King who loves you, has justified you, and has purchased you for himself. As 1 Peter 2:9 says,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light.

The innate desire to connect with others around a common purpose is woven into your personhood for a reason. God wants you to join him. You have just settled for a “fugazi”—a fake. Only the ways of his kingdom can fully satisfy, being filled with real people all united around God’s eternal purpose.

We must turn from our unending appetite and almost unquenchable desires to God our King.

So, what’s the way forward? Obviously, repentance has its place for the young man who has forsaken his mission from the great King. However, I think we can learn something from the man who had an unending appetite and almost unquenchable desires. King Solomon had tried money, entertainment, alcohol, and women. He had an unlimited amount of them all and concluded in Ecclesiastes,

And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. (Eccles. 2:10-11)

In the last chapter of the book, the wise king gives wisdom to the youth:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.” (Eccles. 12:1)

Young men, true wisdom realizes that one day you will look back on your life—either in regret that you lived for yourself and forgot your Creator, or with humble gratitude that the God of all creation included you in his mission and you sought the best you could to love and honor him. As J.C. Ryle warns,

What young men will be, in all probability depends on what they are now, and they seem to forget this. [3]

Will you join Jesus or continue in your pseudo-kingdom?

There are a host of people in your sphere of influence. Whether they are friends at school, co-workers, or teammates, Jesus is calling you to join him in his ministry to proclaim the gospel that might reconcile others to him the way you yourself were reconciled to him (2 Cor. 5:17-21). The question is, will you join him or continue in your pseudo-kingdom?

Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. (Titus 2:7)

I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. (1 John 2:13b)

I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. (1 John 2:14b)

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Wes Van Fleet is Editor at Large for Beautiful Christian Life, the pastor at Kaleo Church in El Cajon, California, and author of Father of Lights: Daily Meditations on Scripture for New Dads.

[1] Ben Sasse, Them (St. Martin’s Press: New York, NY: 2018), 167.

[2] Ibid., 167-68.

[3] J. C. Ryle, Thoughts for Young Men (https://www.preachtheword.com/bookstore/thoughts.pdf), 6.

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