The Enemy Inside Your HomePastor Lutzer | July 14, 2013
We have to set biblical family standards and boundaries for the media.
Selected highlights from this sermon
Our families are being seduced by other gods through the power of the media. Sadly, even if parents are aware of the problem, many are personally paralyzed by their own entertainment addictions.
We must set up biblical standards and enforce godly boundaries to protect our homes. If we do nothing, we’ll continue to admire the things that God hates and submit our control to our desires. It’s time for us to respond by seeking help from other Christians and by pursuing spiritual disciplines.
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I want you to visualize for a moment that you tuck your children into bed. You say your evening prayers with them and you say goodnight to them, and then you wake up in the morning and they’re gone. An intruder came through the window or through an open door and stole your children. Well, of course, what you would do is you would call the police and immediately after that, you would organize neighborhood searches and all the rest to find your kids, and you would be desperate.
Well, what if I were to say to you that inside your home there is a thief that is stealing the hearts of your children? So you wake up in the morning and the kids are there. You get them ready for school. You interact with them but their hearts already are worshipping other gods. That’s what happening, and oftentimes parents are accomplices to those other gods, and the child’s heart belongs somewhere else.
Today I’m speaking on a very serious subject as I always do, but I’m thinking particularly so today as I speak about technology and the entertainment industry. This is a series of messages entitled Fighting for Your Family and we do have to fight like never before. We have never before had a society in which we have such things as the tablets, the iPads, the smart phones, Internet and television. All of these things are stealing the hearts of our young people, and stealing the hearts of parents too, and that’s why we have to address this subject.
But I have to warn you that we are going right into Satan’s territory. This is where he rules. This is where he says, “This dominion is mine. I own this.” And that’s why it’s so important for us to be prayerful, and the message that I am speaking today is for you but it’s also for me. Every one of us has been affected by this. I suppose of the thousands of people who are listening to this message and will listen to this message, there are probably only a few that have not been affected by the entertainment industry and the media that is out to steal our hearts, so we must listen carefully. And even though we have prayed before already in this meeting could we pray one more time, asking God for enlightenment and strength because we are speaking about a very formidable foe? Please join me as we pray.
Father, I ask that your Holy Spirit who has been given to the Church may be here to instruct, to convict and to deliver, because without Your help we are powerless. We cast ourselves upon the strong name of Jesus. Amen.
I’ve decided not to spend a lot of time telling you what the problem is. Twelve years ago, according to a survey, 80% of all children under the age of 17 had seen R-rated movies, and 25% said that they began to act out what they saw. I’m talking about the fact that it used to be that children were introduced to pornography at perhaps age 15 or 18. Now the average age according to the statistics is about 9 or 10. Where do we go from here?
And so the question is what do we do? Remember this - that all of the entertainment industry is looking for addicts. They want addicts. The gaming industry says, “We need addicts who are hooked on gambling because they are the ones that pay for these casinos. They are the ones who really pay our bills. We need addicts.” The pornography industry says, “We need addicts. We need them in order to sustain our lifestyle and our great organization.” So Hefner’s organization is looking for your sons. He is trolling the waters to see if he can hook your boy so that he can have another addict to help finance the empire. That’s where we are.
The music industry – the addiction to certain kinds of music, to rap music, many of which have terrible lyrics - is dedicated to this question. How do we snare your child as early as possible and keep him all the way because he has to fund what we are doing? And that’s what we are up against today.
Why is it that we don’t do something? There are a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s because parents themselves may be paralyzed. It’s personal paralysis, because you see if the parents themselves are intrigued and seduced by the entertainment industry at whatever level, it is very difficult for them to say to their children, “You shouldn’t do this.” I’m thinking of a man, for example, who subscribes to Sports Illustrated who said that when the swimsuit issue came out he noticed his 12-year old boy was very interested in the pictures. But how does he as a father tell the boy that he shouldn’t be looking at them when he does? That’s the question when people themselves are snared by the very thing that they’d like their children to not be a part of.
And so you have personal paralysis. You also have another problem and that is denial. Somehow we know that this is huge. We know that we can hardly begin to attack it because it is so much a part of our lives and our children have bought into it so much but if we turn the other way maybe it will no longer be there. And so what we do is we put our heads in the sand.
And then there’s another reason. We don’t understand the nature of the spiritual conflict. We don’t understand that behind all these things, as the Bible says, there are principalities and powers and the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience. We don’t get that.
I remember decades ago when Nancy Reagan told us regarding drugs, “Just say no.” Well that’s wonderful advice but how do you just say no? This past week I spent some time with a friend whose son has had those struggles with drugs. How does he just say no? When the euphoria and the desire and the appetite have been inflamed you don’t have the power to say no. So people don’t understand that, and oftentimes our advice to them is very superficial. A person in New York who was hooked on heroin said, “Heroin has a voice and when heroin calls I must go.” But so do all addictions have a voice, and when those addictions call we begin to obey them.
Well, today what I’d like to do is to give you some criteria, some tests for the media. How much of Hollywood should we let into our home? How much of the media are we able to tolerate? Today I’m going to give you three tests and then I’m going to give you five imperatives – things that had better be done. This, by the way, is number six in a series of messages entitled Fighting for Your Family, and how important it is that we fight for our families. And regarding next time, don’t even think of being absent because I’m going to be speaking about abuse in the home, and I do that because it is so widespread. I’m shocked by what I read and the understanding of the abuse that is taking place in our culture, so you be sure to be here.
But today three tests! Those of you who have good memories may remember that many, many years ago these tests appeared in a different message, and this message has been updated, but if you recognize some similarity, it may be because there is that similarity. Are you ready for the tests? Number one, please take your Bible and turn to First John. I assume often that people know all these verses by memory but you know, maybe they don’t. Maybe you’ve never memorized these important verses. Turn to 1 John 2:13-17 and this is the content test. 1 John 2:15 and following says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life — is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
I don’t have to spend a lot of energy and discussion of these three expressions of the world. The lust of the world, the desires of the flesh and illicit sensuality are everywhere. They are on the Internet, on our iPads and smart phones and elsewhere. All of these things are available today. It’s their availability that makes them so seductive. And so what you have is the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes (That has to do with covetousness.). It can also include sexuality, but a lot of other things too because remember the whole advertising industry is based on covetousness. If you didn’t covet they wouldn’t have a job. It’s to make you dissatisfied with what you have and then tell you why you should have something else. And then, of course, you have the pride of life, which is at the center of it all – unacknowledged self-absorption. And remember, it is unacknowledged, it is unseen, but it is there - the desire to be number one, the “me” generation.
Now what does James say? James says, “You adulterous people, do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Friend of the world! Now you just think back over the television programs and the entertainment industry, and they are filled with what? They are filled with occultism, sensuality, and violence. And when you look at it, it’s the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. That’s what fuels the entertainment industry by and large with few exceptions.
And you’ll notice that whoever is a friend of the world, James says, is an enemy of God. I don’t want to be an enemy of God. I hope you don’t either, and yet if we befriend the world, that’s what the text says because it was the world that nailed Jesus to the cross. It was sin.
Let’s suppose you were to come to a home and there was couple there and they had a box in which they kept a knife – a glass case. And they said, “We just want you to admire this knife. Notice how symmetrical it is. Notice the perforation. Notice that it is stainless steel. It’s about the right size. We admire this knife and we look at it for at least an hour a day.” You say, “Well, that’s interesting. That’s a little weird. What about this knife?”
And they say, “Well, you know, we had one son, and an intruder broke into our home and he murdered our son, and this is the knife that he used.” Wow, that really seems strange for sure. Something is wrong.
When we admire sin we admire the knife that killed Jesus because He died for us as sinners, and therefore what we are doing is admiring what God hates. Do you see the depth of what James and John are really trying to tell us? Now, if you were to use the content test for everything that you and I have watched on T.V. or seen on other venues, we would soon discover that the swamp would be drained pretty quickly, wouldn’t it? The content test!
There’s a second test and I refer to it and it is really the control test. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me but not all things are helpful.” All things are lawful for me but I will not be enslaved by anything. Even if it passes the content test, the question is does it control you - even those things that may be lawful that may be quite innocent? Are you able to control them?
You know, someone has defined idolatry as something within creation that is inflated to function as a substitute for God. It can be a person, an institution, an image or a pleasure. And so what we have is all of these images and these pleasures and this euphoria, and we say to ourselves, “Oh, I am in charge.” (Chuckle) Probably not! The way in which you can discover whether or not you are in charge is simply this. Quit it for a week or two and see if you can. You may discover that you are not in charge at all. It is the illusion of being in charge.
Years ago I told you that here at the Water Tower Place we were in a store doing some shopping and there was a little kid that was in a little cart. He was maybe 18 months or 2 years old, and he was crying profusely. And he had a little steering wheel on this little cart and he was just taking that steering wheel and turning it to the right with all that he had. At the same time he was going to the left, and the reason is because his mother was actually in charge, and his steering wheel wasn’t connected to anything that mattered. You say that you are in charge? See if you can do without it for a week or two, and then you’ll find out whether or not you are in charge.
Well, we must hurry on. There is a third test. We have the content test, and the control test, and as you might have guessed, I decided to have the other one also a “C” and it is the clock test. I’ll simply quote the verse. Ephesians 5:15 says, “Redeeming the time.” Now modern translations say, “making the best use of the time.” I like the literal translation that says “redeeming the time because the days are evil.” How evil would the days have to get in order for you to redeem the time? The imagery there is to buy the time out of the marketplace because you have all of these pressures for your time, and if you are going to take time for God and time for serving God, you’re going to have to buy that time out of a whole host of various issues and pressures and opportunities. You buy the time – redeem it.
Now the simple fact is that oftentimes we think to ourselves that we are making an investment. You are acquainted with ROI – return on your investment. Let’s suppose that you watch television two hours a day. That’s 700 hours a year, and then you can begin to multiply that. If you multiply it by ten I think you get around 7,000. As I frequently say, when it comes to arithmetic, as long as I’m right 90% of the time I mean who cares about the other 5%. (laughter) So about 7,000 over ten years is quite an investment of time. What’s your ROI? What’s your return on investment? Does it make you a better person? Are you walking more closely with God? Do you have more information now that really helps you on the journey of life? Is that your rate of return?
Just yesterday I received an e-mail from someone who told me about someone I had met once who died of cancer, but apparently his wife said that for the last years all that he did was basically watch television. Can you imagine standing before Jesus and Jesus saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant for thou has listened to 10,465 hours of television? Enter into the joy of My Lord.”
I think, for example, of seniors. They sometimes waste so much time watching television (watching this and that) when they have so many years of productivity. A long time ago I read about a woman who was so fed up watching television, and there she was in a senior home, and she decided to connect with a church and to get the names of all their missionaries. And she began to write missionary letters to 70 different missionaries – not 7 but 70 and began to get interested in their lives, and praying for them, and she lived productively until the day she died. What’s your ROI – return of investment?
Now I don’t want to get too spiritual here but since I’m on a roll I might as well continue in the direction that I’m going. This is very convicting to me and I hope it’s convicting to you. What is it about the entertainment industry that is so important to us, meeting certain needs in our lives that apparently God is unable to meet? What about the pleasures of God on God’s right hand? Are they not significant? You see, we are so far from the idea of pursuing God.
This past week I was reading in the book of Isaiah where it says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked man forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord.” And I thought, “Isn’t it too bad that in our hurried life most of us don’t know what it is like to really seek God and find Him satisfying?” It was C.S. Lewis who said that God is the all-satisfying object. Is He or is He not?
Now with that what I’d like to do is to give you five imperatives. You can write these down. I see this as essential. Each one could be an individual message, but here we go.
Number one, what we must do is recognize the spiritual nature of the conflict. As the Apostle Paul says in the book of Ephesians, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and the rulers of this age.” That’s what we are really up against, and that’s why it is that we are so paralyzed in the face of so much misuse of technology. It is because we don’t understand that at root we are in a spiritual battle, which is absolutely huge.
This past week several of us talked to law enforcement people here in the city of Chicago because there are those among us who would like to begin seriously rescuing those who are victims of sexual trafficking. And one of the things that they said is that the Internet has just changed everything. Nowadays there is just so much communication on the Internet and so much available on the Internet. It’s a whole new day out there, trying to enforce some decency laws, and being able to capture those who are victimizing others. Do we realize the extent of this kind of communication, and the power of the Internet to seduce, to give out information that is harmful, to destroy? It’s huge. We can’t fight that in the energy of the flesh. We are up against huge spiritual forces, and we need to recognize that and to fight for our families and for ourselves. There’s more that I could say about that but we must hurry on.
Number two, clean up your own act. Now let me speak very candidly here. In some instances you may have to get rid of your television set. Do you remember months ago we had a pure life conference here at Moody Church and the whole intention of the conference was to motivate us to live pure lives, and it talked about the media? We had seminars on that, and so forth, and I had lunch afterwards with the lead man who actually spoke from this pulpit and inspired us and instructed us. And I asked him about his personal life because he had been immoral. You may remember that he gave his testimony and in the last twenty-five years has lived with purity. And he said that he got rid of his television set about twenty years ago because, he said, “To this day, put me in a room with a remote control and a television set with an innumerable number of channels and I will be gone.”
In other words, the propensity and the desire may never go away and we need to be able to accept that. But what we need to do is to put in place various (what shall we say?) parameters and various structures so that we don’t even have the opportunity of going there.
A little while ago (just about an hour ago) we dedicated a baby to the Lord, and one set of grandparents told me that they live on a farm south of here in Illinois and they said that they raised their seven children without a television set. How much do you think those kids actually lost? (applause) Yeah, go ahead and clap. And now all those of you who clapped, get rid of yours. (laughter) They said that their children felt sorry for others who had so few experiences in life that all that they would do is sit on the couch and watch television. The kids really didn’t miss a whole lot in terms of growing up, and in terms of what is truly, truly valuable. So we have to clean up our own acts.
That’s why when it comes to this business of commitment I have to admit that the real issue is whether or not we are desperate. If you’re not yet desperate this is just going to go swish over your head. But for those of you for whom it is intended because you are desperate and determined to no longer be hooked on what hooks you, you will respond and you will do some drastic things and put them in place. Like Jesus said, “You cut off your hand, you pluck out your eye; you do whatever you need to do so that you don’t keep falling into the pit.” And so the second thing is we have to clean up our own act.
Third, if you are a parent this is for you. We have to set family standards, and the standards have to be based on the Word of God. Your teenagers are going to argue with you. “Oh, you just don’t like Madonna,” you know. Or “You don’t understand. When a movie is PG-14 it means that all 14-year olds are supposed to see it and you don’t understand that.” And so they’ll give you this hard time but what you need to do is to put those standards in place. You need to stand on those standards, and insist on them, and in this way your kids have structure.
You know, I take the point of view that (and I know a few will disagree but that’s okay; they can come up later and ask for forgiveness) no teenager should ever have a television or the Internet in his or her room. (applause) I remember when I was teaching in a seminary a guy gave a testimony of how his parents trusted him with it in his room and how it led down this terrible path that you can only imagine. Remember what to say if your kids say, “Well, you don’t trust me.” Do you know what to say to them? The correct answer is, “No, I don’t.” That’s what you say to them. And then you say, “It’s because I don’t even trust myself.” It is not a matter of trust. This is a matter of desire that is built into us by God. We are sexual creatures from the bottom of our feet to the top of our heads and let’s just recognize that we are, and that temptations that are out there are powerful, seductive and very difficult to say no to. And so what you do is you have a family standard.
Number four, you need help. We all do. That’s why it’s so important to attend church. It’s important to connect with other people, and in our families to talk, to connect, not in a condemning way. Your children are going to see things that it would have been better if they had never seen, but accept that reality. There is no way if you are going to live in this culture, unless you are to live in a monastery, without your children being exposed to this and you need to talk to them about it and you should not be shaming them as a result of their preoccupation with some of these images. It’s not a time for shame because shame often just fuels the addiction. So what you need to do is to back off and to help your children and to help yourself to see the bigger perspective, and to recognize that with God’s help there is help here. There is deliverance, but at the same time what you do is you talk, you discuss, you connect. And remember, as I have emphasized in this series, rules without relationship equals rebellion. It’s relationships that help us most.
Finally, we must practice the spiritual disciplines. We’re looking for victory over here, and we’re looking for this intervention over there, and some dramatic experience that will bring about deliverance, and God says what we should be doing is what you and I should be doing all the time. The word of God washes us. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandments of the Lord are pure and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned and in the keeping of them there is great reward.”
It is the word of God that cleanses us and keeps us, and by the way, as part of this series one of the messages is entitled The Power of Praying Parents where I am going to be emphasizing how to pray Scripture so that every single day you walk away from the Word of God with a snatch of Scripture in your heart that you carry with you throughout the day. And I’ll be giving some illustrations of how those kinds of passages of Scripture can be prayed as part of your devotions, because at the end of the day what we really need is the intervention of Almighty God. Without it we are helpless.
Now there is something else that is important. There are many of you who are listening to this and you haven’t taken the first step toward deliverance. You know, Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” and the angel said in Matthew 1, “Jesus came to save His people from their sins.” So you see, what we must recognize is that to receive Jesus Christ as Savior gives us a new nature. It gives us new desires that now are in conflict with our old desires, and that’s what we’ve been talking about, but at least we have the basis for deliverance and freedom.
Remember the story of Augustine, the famous Christian philosopher who lived in the 400s. He was into debauchery of every kind and had a mistress, and then as a result of reading Romans 14 where it talks about laying aside the unfruitful works of darkness, it was then that he was converted. And later on he was walking down the street and his mistress was running behind him. And she shouted to him, “It is I,” and he turned around and he said, “But it is not I.” In other words, “I’m a new person now. I’m going in a different direction.”
I don’t have to be attached to all those things because Jesus came to set His people free, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a struggle. And the deeper that we are into the world, the more difficult the struggle, but it is a winnable war because Jesus died that we might be free from the effects and the power of the world. Amen? (Applause)
There is a story about Faris the Horseman. I read different dates when this supposedly happened but it is only a legend so it doesn’t matter what the date is. He was going through the Arabian Desert and suddenly the horses that he was with (and he had a herd of horses) saw a mirage in the distance and they began to run toward what they thought was water. But he blew on his bugle and six mares turned around and came with him and didn’t run. And the legend is that it is from those six mares that you have the very famous Arabian Horses.
Today our society is mad with a mirage of pleasure. Everybody is running in every direction. We can’t live without technology even for a few moments. And of course, what we have to do is to distinguish its value from its detriment and from its temptations and its seduction, but the world is mad over entertainment.
God is in heaven and He is blowing his bugle and He is saying, “Is there anyone listening? Will you turn around, will you do whatever is necessary that you may no longer be seduced by the world so that you might be able to live for Me in a way that is honorable and pure and decent?” That’s the question that all of us have to face in this world that has gone mad.
Now, I’ve given you a lot of information and your response to this message is going to be different. There are some who say, “Yeah, that’s very nice but I’m deeply into this and I have no intention of changing.” There are others of you who perhaps feel very deeply that you need to do something drastic. Could I ask you to do whatever God has asked you to do, that you know right well you should even if you seem powerless to do it, because if we are going to fight for our families we are going to have to deal with the issue of technology and the entertainment industry?
And then there are those of you who have never received Christ as Savior. You have no personal relationship with God. Though you admire God and your admire Jesus, He has not become your Savior. This is an opportunity for you to acknowledge your sinfulness and your need and to look to Christ who died for sinners and who came to deliver us from our sins. You respond to God even as God has spoken to you. Join me as we pray.
Our Father, we ask today that You might help us to have the courage and the strength to do whatever You require of us for Your glory and for Your honor. Lord, we are particularly concerned about those who find themselves in an addiction today, find themselves helpless, in the power of huge forces, and they’ve tried a thousand times to be free. We ask, Father, help them to see that through Jesus and through Your people and Your Word that deliverance is a possibility and a reality. We read, and Father, oftentimes we sing, “He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free.” Show us that today we ask.
And now before I close, what is it that you, my friend, have to say to God today? Would you tell Him what you know you must do?
Our Father, we ask that Jesus will reign in our homes no matter what it takes. We ask this in His blessed name, Amen.