What Entertains Us?
A recent article in the Chicago Tribune uncovered what I believe to be the most serious threat to the Christian Home. The headline read, “Media Options Swamp Nation.” The bottom line is that the average American spends 9.6 hours a day inhaling media: watching television, going to the movies and surfing the Internet. Two months of every year are spent just watching TV; we have 392 cable channels to choose from and 40,000 DVD titles.
We are the most entertained people who have ever lived on planet earth. Think back to the days when there was no television, no Internet and no discretionary funds for travel and dining out. Time was when earning a living and raising a family was a full-time job.
And it still is. But, thanks to modernity, we also have extra time on our hands and the entertainment industry seduces us to turn to movies, the Internet and degrading music to satisfy our addictive desires. And tragically, most parents simply do not care very much about what their children are watching. Or else, the parents simply give up, thinking that the battle is lost anyway, so why bother?
I’ve often said that if thieves came into our home and stole our children we’d respond immediately. However, we are welcoming thieves that steal the souls of our children and leave their bodies intact. Surely one reason that 80% of our young people leave the church after high school and never return is because the entertainment industry has captured their hearts.
Ken Myers says that the present cultural onslaught is potentially more insidious to the Christian’s welfare than outright persecution. He says, “Enemies that come loudly and visibly are usually much easier to fight than those that are undetectable…The erosion of character, the spoiling of innocent pleasures and the cheapening of life itself that often accompany modern popular culture can occur so subtly that we believe nothing has happened.”
We are being amused to death.
The time has come for strong medicine. But the medicine, if that’s what we call it, comes directly from the Scriptures. We really don’t have the right to accommodate ourselves to the spirit of the age if we want this prayer answered for ourselves and our families, “May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24)
We must admit that there is very little entertainment that comes to us via the media that is proper for us to watch and listen to. Yes, there are some movies such as “Amazing Grace” that are truly family-friendly. But my observation is that for too long we have accommodated ourselves to the spirit of the age and counted on a lenient God to forgive our transgressions. Back when I was a child, attending the theatre was taboo—Christians were warned to stay away. Today, all that is gone and the question is not how far can we stay away from sinful influences, but rather how much of these influences can we imbibe and still feel good about ourselves?
Please read the Q & A section below very carefully. I discuss how we should respond to the entertainment options that besiege us. Hard truth is difficult to receive but it must be spoken if we are to please the Lord.
What Does Your Entertainment Cost You?
Our world is full of entertainment options, and every day we’re bombarded by media messages. What are our responsibilities as Christians when we choose entertainment? How should we respond to the messages our culture is sending us and our children? Pastor Lutzer shares some of his thoughts with us.
Q: Why do you think that the entertainment industry has so much power in our lives?
A: Because it resonates so powerfully with our desires. The Apostle John defines the world as a threefold assault, which quickly finds a home in our hearts (1 John 2:15, 16). For example, he refers to the “cravings of sinful man,” that is, the forbidden sexual desires that cover a wide range of expressions: pornography, adultery, homosexuality, lust, and the like.
Second, there is the “lust of the eyes,” which might also include sexual stimuli, but at the heart of this expression is covetousness, that is, desiring what is not ours. The advertising industry counts on our covetousness to sell us their wares.
Then, there is pride, the “boasting of what he has or does,” which can be defined as self-absorption. To love the world, is, at root, to worship the goddess of self that is highly prized in our society.
Q: What does our preoccupation with amusement do to our relationship with God?
A: I can answer that by just continuing to read what John wrote. Speaking of the person who follows these paths, John says, “The love of the Father is not in him.” In fact, James says that to love the world is to become God’s enemy.
If we are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, when we watch a television program that’s filled with the world’s perverted desires we can almost feel our love for God drain from our souls. We have that inner sense of impurity, the conviction that we have violated God’s highest desire for us. Worse, we are aware that the One we love has been grieved.
Q: It used to be said that the church is too legalistic…that is, emphasizing certain externals of behavior rather than the inner qualities of character. Would you say that is true today?
A: No, I don’t think so. We have so emphasized grace that we think that it is safe to sin…after all, God will forgive me. We accept grace without repentance; we accept promises without responsibility and we accept heaven but not hell.
Q: What should we do in light of these battles?
A: 1.We must clean up our own act before we can help others. We must stand against Satan and pay the price of personal spiritual freedom from the bondage of sin.
2.We must set a family standard. Parents who provide their children with a clear standard of right and wrong empower them to make the best personal and moral choices throughout their life. These standards must be objective, not based on personal preference.
3.We must talk with our children about what they are seeing and hearing. We have to listen to the songs and see the movies they watch so we can discuss these matters with them. Remember that, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.”
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: Let me end with a story:
Somewhere I read that in A.D. 1635 an Arab chief nicknamed “Faras the horseman” was traveling through the desert with a large herd of horses. Suddenly, in the distance, a body of water came into view. The herd, crazed by thirst, broke into a stampede, racing toward the stream. Faras tested the obedience of the animals by blowing loudly on his horn, sounding the call to battle. Out of that great herd, five horses stopped in their tracks, wheeled around, and returned to obey the call. These five mares, the story goes, became the stock of the world-famous Arabian horses.
Our nation is dashing madly toward a distant mirage. Even we in the church have been caught up with the quest for entertainment that saps our time and dampens our love for God. The Almighty has sounded the alarm; He looks for a few to return and stand for Him at great personal cost, despite the temptations and challenges of our culture.Will we be among those who will answer His call?
Like those stuck in quicksand, runners in life’s race cannot win if they’re caught up in addictions of any kind. In this message, we’ll trace the roots of addiction, then point the way toward freedom—freedom to live the abundant life God intended for His children.All Sermons by Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer