Discernment, Discipline And DiscipleshipErwin W. Lutzer | February 3, 2013
Selected highlights from this sermon
Thieves may already be in your home stealing your child’s soul. They are in television, violent video games, movies, music and even on their cellphones. Parents need to be able to discern whether or not what their children are playing, watching or listening to is damaging to their relationship with God.
Whatever their addiction to technology is like, you need to do whatever is necessary to get rid of that addiction. Enlist other believers to help, lay down the rules, and remember, we have a redeeming God to help us. Anything that drags us away from God needs to be dealt with.
I want you to imagine for a few moments that thieves were to come into your house and steal your children. They break down the door and come through the window (smash it). You’d call the police and you’d be very desperate, and if those kids were ever found again you’d make sure that the door is double bolted and the windows are made of unbreakable glass. But what if I were to tell you that thieves are in your home and they are stealing the soul of your child, but they are leaving the body there so that you have to feed the child and clothe the child, but his soul - his heart belong to someone or something else? And those thieves happen to be right in your home and you’ve welcomed them into your home. They may even be in your child’s bedroom - the television set, the Internet, the xBox, the iPhone, the iPad. They may all already be there stealing your child’s soul.
Let’s think for a moment about video games. Many of them are violent where you have to kill people. There’s even a game that recreates the assassination of President Kennedy, so you virtually get to be where Lee Harvey Oswald was to see whether you can do as well as he did in blowing the president away. And yet there are many people who allow their kids to have violent video games, as if God has no opinion about this, when it says so clearly in the Psalms that God says that the one who loves violence My soul hates. God has an opinion about violence and we know about the statistics. Violent video games – violent and angry children. It’s been documented in so many ways.
It’s not just violence but occultism. One day a member of the pastoral staff and I were called to an apartment here in the area where there was a child about 14 obsessed with this particular video game and he couldn’t sit down. Even when we were there we said, “Please sit on the couch.” He’d sit for about five seconds, and hop up again and pace the floor. What his parents did not know was that he undoubtedly had been demonized because he was into not just Dungeons and Dragons and all of that. It was far worse than that. He was into the occult. The demonization of our young people, frustrated, angry, hyperactive because of video games!
I could tell you other stories but I must hurry on. So here we are. Now it’s not as if I am saying that there are no good video games. I mentioned in an earlier message that our own grandchildren play video games – hopefully helpful ones. There are those that train children how to solve puzzles and even how to build, and what-have-you, but I’ve discovered in my reading that even some of those are very addictive until the child begins to live in this unreal world, disconnected from parents, and eventually disconnected from God, so they need to be supervised in a very careful way.
And what do we say about the kind of music on MTV or pornography on the Internet? I was going to tell you that 50% of all teens have accessed pornography and then I read a more recent statistic that said it was 80%. All of this is happening in our homes. Some kids sleep with their cell phones on so that they can get text messages, or others can connect with them.
What a wonderful day here in the city of Chicago! I know it’s a little cold here, and we have people watching from all over the world, but we’re enjoying worshipping Jesus. And while we are here worshipping the Lord God, there are people who are meeting who are plotting to steal the hearts of your children and lead them into addiction, because it is the addicts who are going to pay the bills. It is the addicts who are going to make the money. I’ve read about how these people are well funded. They’ve got lots of money and they have from cradle to grave plans, oftentimes through computers and through television, to capture the heart of your child in one stage after another, after another. How else are they going to make their billions of dollars? They are there plotting to get your child. Believe me, Heffner wants your 10-year old boy to be addicted so that his kingdom can continue.
And that’s the world in which we live. True story. A 14 year old is brought up on the mission field, but his parents get a computer and he begins to go off into all of the adult websites. He does the same when they come home, and then he’s found molesting a six-year old girl in the neighborhood. The parents have to leave the mission field – the whole bit. You say, “Oh a bad boy.” Are you kidding me? He’s a good boy, brought up in a Christian home, prayed for, probably dedicated. It can’t get any better than that, but that’s what good boys do because of seductive images that are in their minds and they can’t get away from them. That’s how powerful the media of sight really is. And so that’s what we are looking at today.
Now, lest you think that I am bashing technology, so that nobody has to write me again and tell me I am bashing technology, I want to read something to you. It was about a week ago that I met a man who attends here but he couldn’t attend last time because he was on his way to Hong Kong on Saturday. So I told him, “When you are there in the hotel in Hong Kong, watch the service.” And he did last time. He talks about how grateful he is to God for the Internet. What a blessing! “What occurred to me,” he said, “was that I could have chosen to listen to this message or I could have just as easily turned on the television and ordered an x-rated movie. It really comes down to where my heart is, and what you said the week before, that we can choose to love God more than sin. I’m thankful for the Internet and media, but I must constantly be on guard as a wise man to use it for His kingdom for good in my work, and in so doing, to choose to love the Lord more than I love to sin.”
So yes, of course, the media and technology has its tremendous benefits. And by the way, welcome to all those who are listening around the world today as they tuned into our worship service. In fact, let’s give them a hand, shall we? (applause)
Now this happens to be the fifth in a series of messages entitled Guard Your Heart – Sexual Purity in a Media Culture. Next time I’m going to have to talk about addictions. We’re going to look into the mind of an addict, and I’m going to tell you what a wife should tell her husband if he is into pornography. That will be the last message in the series. And then I’ll have an assignment for some of you that will really be pretty radical, but if you love God you might be able to do it.
The passage of Scripture for today is 2 Corinthians and I’m going to speak on separation. Now those of us who grew up in the church as young people years and years ago (we aren’t millennials anymore by the way, just in case you are wondering), we used to always hear about separation. And then my generation came along and we said, “You know, it’s just petty rules, and people think they are righteous because they keep the rules, so separation has fallen out of vogue.” And of course it’s true that there is a kind of separation that is really negative, that gives the impression that you are righteous because you get the rules. Rules are able to keep you from certain sins but they cannot produce righteousness.
I like to tell the story that about five miles from here there’s a whole area of the city (I forget the boundaries) with 100,000 inhabitants, none of whom watch x-rated movies, none of them smoke and none of them drink, and that’s true. It’s just north of here. You can find it on the map. It’s called the Rosehill Cemetery (laughter) and their negativity does not produce life if you notice carefully.
But with that background you’ll notice it says in 2 Corinthians 6:14 three variants in which we must separate. “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?”
Let’s stop there for a moment. The whole idea of yoking comes from the Old Testament where the Bible says that we should not plow with an ox and a donkey together because they are unequally yoked. Now Paul doesn’t say it here but in his other letter to the Corinthians – the first letter – he helps us to understand that this is certainly applicable to marriage. Now if you are married to an unbeliever you should stay married to him, but Paul would say that believers should only marry believers; don’t be unequally yoked. He’s talking about a commitment that actually indicates our own binding relationship with a person. Clearly Paul isn’t saying that we shouldn’t have fellowship with unbelievers. That was the Pharisees’ problem. They refused to mingle with sinners and the brokenness of the world, and we see that error. So that’s not what Paul is talking about. Of course we should mingle with the people of the world. What he’s talking about is binding relationships.
Another one that Paul speaks about is that Christians should not bind themselves to unbelieving people in court and then take another believer and bring him before a judge to court. But Paul is saying, “Therefore, do not have these binding relationships that are going to mislead you and eventually the yoke is going to be unbearable.” Sometime I may expound on that more specifically.
Secondly, he talks about separation in worship. Let’s look at the text. When he says, by the way, “What accord has Christ with Belial,” Belial is a synonym for the devil. So, first of all, Paul talks about light and darkness. Christ, of course is over the light. Belial, or Satan, is over darkness, and he’s saying, “What do these two have in common with one another?” The obvious answer is nothing. Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? But now notice this. “What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’” What a gracious, beautiful promise!
Now when Paul speaks about the temple of God with idols, in Jerusalem the temple, when it was built, was to have no idols in it, and the people of Israel were constantly falling into idolatry – all throughout the Bible. Read Isaiah and Jeremiah. Idolatry was their great sin. I used to always wonder what the fascination was with idolatry. Why would you be worked up or interested in bowing before a stone or a piece of wood that somebody has made? And then I heard a lecture from an Old Testament professor one time who explained that the attraction of idolatry was sexualization. It was sexual freedom. It was orgies. And that’s why a man by the name of Steve Gallagher has written an excellent book that he has entitled At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry.
If Paul were living today there’s no doubt that he would give us the very same message that he gave to the Church in Corinth and say, “What concord is there? What relationship is there? What is in common between the sexual idolatry of our culture and the temple of the living God?” That’s Paul’s question, and what the Apostle Paul wants us to understand is that what is at stake in all of this is the presence of God, because God has said, “I will dwell with them and walk with them.”
You know, when you read the Old Testament you discover that all of those rituals and the sacrifices and the temple came about because God says, “I am providing a way by which I can have fellowship with people without being contaminated.” And of course in Jesus Christ now you and I know that we can have fellowship with God because He is our high priest, He is our sacrifice, and thanks to Him, fellowship is possible. And Paul is saying, “If you really want to worship God with clarity and a pure conscience, how can you be working at this idolatrous idol of sexuality and at the same time think that you can worship God?” What he’s saying is, “You can’t.”
Therefore, he gives two commands here in verse 17. He says, “Therefore, go out from their midst.” In other words, young people, separate from those in school who do drugs. Separate from those who brag about all of their hook-ups. Separate from people who are going to drag you into sin. Businessmen, separate from those who want you to do illegal and wrong things. There is a time when you have to come out from among them even at great personal cost. But then it says also, “And touch not the unclean thing.”
You know, many years ago Leadership Magazine had a long article on a man who was a minister but he was very much addicted to pornography. By many years ago I mean probably 20 years ago. He wrote this long article about his struggle. And in it he talked about how he would go preaching, and then he’d go to the hotel room and look at all of the recent pictures, and I remember he said, “Can you sense the schizophrenia?” Well, obviously the schizophrenia is “I want to worship and walk with God, but how can I do that with this idol over here that constantly occupies my attention?”
What is it that brought him out? What motivated him to finally say, “Whatever price I need to pay I am willing to pay so that I am free of this.” After all, he could have continued to secretly have his habit. He said, “It was the loss of the fellowship of God because I love God.” There are people today who love God who are bound by their addictions. He said, “I loved God, but as long as I was doing this I knew that I was grieving the Holy Spirit, and my fellowship was always broken, even when I confessed it. If I fell into the same sin again I was morally limited.” And as a result of that he said that what brought him out was the verse of Scripture I asked you to memorize. Remember every one of these sermons has an assignment, and the verse is, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” He said, “That was the motivation. Finally when I saw that God wanted to walk with me and love me and that I had the privilege of serving Him, that’s what brought me out of it.”
All right! Now notice he says, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and don’t touch the unclean thing.” Young people, don’t touch that violent video game. And don’t even turn it over and see what it says on the back because you and I, as human beings (and we’ve all been there) have been overcome by curiosity. Don’t even touch it.
You know, we as men like the remote control, don’t we? And women like to watch something on television. Men only like to try to find something to watch. And I don’t know what we as men are looking for. I’m sure it’s some cooking program. (laughter) You know, I told you years ago that the reason the man of the house likes the remote control is that even remote control for him is better than no control at all in the home.
Touch not the unclean thing. Curiosity will kill you. That’s exactly what happened to Eve, isn’t it? You know, God said, “Don’t eat the fruit.” Now God didn’t say that they couldn’t touch it, but it would have been a good idea if Adam had been standing there and said, “Eve, don’t touch it.” “Well, He didn’t say we couldn’t touch it. I just want to know what it feels like. I want to know what the tactile sensation is, and if I don’t eat it, I am going to wonder what it would have been like if I had done it, so I might as well do it and find out.” And you know what happened and all of the consequences began to boomerang.
So the Apostle Paul says, “Look,” and you know that frequently in the Bible when it uses “sons of God,” it includes women. “Now are we the sons of God.” Well, of course, we’re also the daughters of God, those of you who are ladies. But isn’t it beautiful here? Doesn’t this passage just warm your heart? “Touch no unclean thing that I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you’ll be sons and daughters to me,” says the Lord God Almighty.
As we learned last week in the message, the real motivation is not to say, “I’m going to get over my addiction,” though that’s important and that’s part of the agenda, but the real motivation is to learn to walk with God and to enjoy Him and to pursue holiness to please Him. And then in the process we find suddenly that God begins to help us in our addiction because we are going to walk with God.
I love to walk under the stars maybe because I was a farm boy at one time in Saskatchewan, Canada. And many of you probably couldn’t find that on the map anywhere, but when we’d go out at night you could just see the stars. It was as if you could just hold them in your hands, and I, as a boy, used to walk under those stars and already talk to God. What could be greater than that?
What sin do you love so much that you’re not willing to give it up for God? Let me tell you. That’s the issue. So Paul says, “There’s something else to separate from.” There it is in 2 Corinthians 7:1. “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit.” Paul means all of the defilements of body and spirit, whether outward or inward, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God in light of the fact that God says that He is willing to walk with us, to be our Father, and to know that we are His sons, and we are His blessed daughters. God says, “In light of that, cleanse yourself. Get rid of it. Do whatever you need to do to get rid of it – the thing that causes you to stumble,” as we’ll see in the next message in this series.
Now how do I bring this down to practicality to your home and to talk about parents and children and all and make this so practical that we can leave here with some handles on our minds and hearts? I’m going to give you the three R’s. The first R is relationships. Here we are talking about our relationship with God, but remember that the best way to begin to overcome addictions is healthy relationships with other people. That’s why we encourage all the men to sign up and become a part of our men’s ministry. We’re going to join a small group. We’re going to be a part of the TMC Communities. Why? It’s because healthy relationships breeds health. It gives us perspective. It gives an opportunity for us share.
You know, one of the things that I’d like you to do this week is to make sure that you have an accountability partner, someone with whom you can share, not just someone with whom you can confess your sins every week in a cheap kind of way, but someone who is going to pray with you and walk with you through that experience.
Parents, talk to your children. Every study indicates that the kids who stay out of drugs and premarital relationships have parents who talk to them realistically and lovingly but also frankly about what is going on in their culture, and the temptation that young people face.
The first R is relationships. The second R is rules. Yes, rules! One rule is no T.V. in the bedroom. Another rule is no cell phone on all night. You put it somewhere where the other cell phones are and you pick it up in the morning. No iPads, no xBoxes, and whatever else there may be out there – none – period. You say, “Well, what if my child says to me, ‘Oh, you don’t trust me, Mom?’” Parents, are you taking notes? You should right now if you haven’t till now, and I’m going to tell you exactly how to answer that. The answer is, “No, I don’t.” (laughter) And then when the child says, “Well, why don’t you?” write this down – next answer. “Because I don’t trust myself,” and then you can even impress them by quoting the words of Martin Luther who said, “I fear my own heart more than I do the pope.”
I used to teach preaching up at Trinity Seminary, and one time in one of my classes there was a student who always sat at the front. He was a young man who wanted to learn how to preach, and I’m sure today he’s a good preacher, but we were all just sharing about our backgrounds and the brokenness that we have in society, and he told me a story. He said, “My parents trusted me. They allowed me to have cable television in my bedroom.” He said, “Late at night I would watch.” He said that they never really suspected anything because they said, “Our boy is a good boy, and we know what he is watching.” Remember this! 70% of parents who think they know what their child is watching don’t have a clue what’s going on in the secret parts of his life and with his friends. And so he was talking about the tremendous struggle that he had. He was overcoming it. Today I’m sure he’s a great pastor because God is a redeeming God, but his parents trusted him.
I can’t trust myself. How can I trust others when our hearts are so prone to wander? That’s why this assignment this week is not only that you might find someone who is going to pray with you, but also to make sure that all of the computers, and the cell phones and the other gadgets in your home have filters. You say, “Oh but kids can get around them.” I know. There are so many smart kids out there. But at least it keeps them from accidentally coming across these sites.
You know I read three or four books as a result of preparing for this series and I know that I am wound up about this, but I am angry at the way in which our children are being seduced today on the Internet, and you ought to be angry too. (applause) Evil people buy URLs, that is Internet space, if I can put it that way. So if you type in a legitimate name but you misspell it, suddenly one of those sites comes up and that’s why filters should be on all of your media equipment, and then of course all the other things – the rules that you are going to talk about in your family and in your home, so that you do all that is possible. You can’t do a perfect job. Kids are going to see things that we wish they wouldn’t, but that’s why the third R.
The third R is redemption. What a terrible thing it would be if I were to just stand up here and talk about all of these sins and all of these conflicts, and all of the media and everything that is out there, and I didn’t remind you of the fact that we have a redeeming God, a God who understands our weaknesses, a God who is touched by the feelings of our infirmities, a God who invites us to come to Him as we are. Nobody has to clean himself up. You don’t come to Christ and say, “Well, now I am not worthy, but someday I will be when I get this addiction taken care of.” No, you come to Christ as you are. You come with your doubts. You come with your anxieties. You come with your hang-ups, but you come to the only one who invites you to come, and to save you and wants to do that. And that’s how you come.
A name that maybe you should remember is Michael Leahy. He has written many books on this subject, having himself been deeply into addiction, and so he discusses not just his story, but what’s going on and how to get out of it. And I was reading a book by him this past week and there was a letter in it from a young woman who heard him speak, because the minute he speaks at college campuses and so forth everything opens up, and now everybody is free to share. Right? I mean if this was your problem, now I can say that this is my problem too. And so honesty begins to reign in an atmosphere of sharing and transparency.
So this young woman, age 20 (and I’m going to spare you the details as to the kind of things she was involved in) said, “I was porn. Your speech broke me down - my past. My parents divorced when I was 12.” And then she goes on to talk about all the multiple relationships, and I’ll skip that, but this is what she said, “I wanted to feel fulfilled and wanted God in my life, but just a little bit because I was so afraid He would judge me and wouldn’t accept me because I was so impure. But once I told God I was sorry for everything and all the immoral relationships and stopped blaming Him for my parents’ divorce, I realized that I couldn’t survive without His help. When God found me it was like the greatest love anyone could ever have given me. I want to thank you for bringing all this to my attention. You made me consciously think about how I used to live and how I don’t feel like that anymore and how awesome God is.” Signed, Erin. Let’s give her a hand, shall we? (applause)
I invite you today to come to a redeeming God. The word redemption as it is used in the New Testament has to do with the idea that somebody would come along and buy a slave out of a slave market and he would pay the price. Jesus, when he said, “This is my body which is broken for you, and this represents my blood,” was saying, “I’m paying the price of redemption so that I stand in your stead. You come to me as you are.” And when you come as one who has never trusted Christ as Savior (and I hope that there are many of you who fall into that category who will believe on Christ right now and be saved and say, “Jesus, I come to You to receive Your redemption.”), or as one who knows Him but has issues in your life and you want to walk with God because you love Him, there it is. I urge you to deal with it honestly before God. Become involved because you see, God accepts us the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us the way He found us. Erin will testify to that. She comes to Christ as she is. God cleans her up. She begins to live differently. Why? She has the tremendous privilege of being the daughter of God, and today you can be the son of God, or the daughter of God because of His grace and mercy.
Shall we bow together in prayer?
Our Father, we thank You today that You are redeeming people from every experience, every addiction, every heartache because You are a redeeming God, and we ask, oh Father, that Your Holy Spirit will work mightily in people’s lives, all who have heard this message, we pray. Open up our life to You. May we relish the thought that You walk with us and we with You. And as we remember the death of Jesus who purchased us out of the slave market, we give Him praise and thanks. In His blessed name we pray, Amen.