Protect Your FamilyDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | May 8, 2016
Selected highlights from this sermon
Do you know what your child is looking at? At home? At school?
Technology is a monster and it must be tamed. It’s designed to drag away the hearts of our children and turn them into addicts. Media of all types is addicting and they are trying to find new ways to enslave your children.
Are we prepared to protect our home? We must develop a strategy. We can’t just simply trust our kids. They are under attack, and many are already hurting.
My dear brothers and sisters, our children in this world are hurting. I have a friend who’s in heaven today, but he worked with children, and he always asked them to fill out this sentence: “If I could change my mom and dad, I would...” and then they filled out the sentence.
Last night I wrote down some of the things the kids said. I wish I could reproduce their handwriting because the misspelled words and everything were a part of what he received.
- One said, “I would ask them to love me.”
- “I’d ask my dad to read the Bible and pray with me.”
- “Sometimes I wish I’d get real sick so they would hug me and pay attention to me.”
- “I wish they’d listen to what I say. It might be important.”
- “My father doesn’t talk to me at all.”
- “I’d like them to listen to me as if I were worth something.”
- “I wish that they’d explain things before they begin shouting and yelling.”
- Another says, “Not to hit us but to give us a second chance.”
- Another said, “Not to argue so much. And I wish my dad would quit drinking and my mom is mad all the time. I wish they’d stop fighting because I get (And there are four “very’s” in this sentence) very, very, very, very hurt.”
- “I wish that they’d get back together.”
And you’d be surprised at the number of children whose parents were divorced who said, “I wish Mom and Dad would get back together.” Our children are hurting.
I frequently say as a preacher, “You know, this message I’m going to preach is the most important I’ve ever preached.” I suppose I’ve said that every time because every message, I guess, is important. But I do have to say this one probably is among the top ten, because if we lose our homes, we lose everything, we lose the next generation. Protecting our home is of primary importance.
Listen teenagers, I have some words for you. Much of what I am going to say is directed toward the parents, but if you listen, I’ll give you some stuff you ought to write down and take with you to college or wherever you go.
You know, there are two passages of Scripture I want us to look at today that kind of frame where we are going. Two passages of Scripture. [One is] 1 Peter. I’m beginning, actually, in chapter 1 where it says in verse 14: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who has called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written (God is speaking.), ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” We think, “Oh, you know, under grace it doesn’t matter how we live.” Oh yeah? Peter goes on to say that you ought to pass the time of your sojourning here with fear, knowing God.
The other passage is taken also from 1 Peter, chapter 2, and I’m just going to pick it up at verse 11: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” Have you felt that war? I know I have. Probably you have too.
First of all, two commands. [One,] be holy [and two,] abstain from fleshly passions, which wage war against your soul.
Today I’d like to talk about passive parents, parents who are accomplices to a great theft that takes place in their home. You know, if there was a monster that was running around the neighborhood, you know we’d bar the doors. We’d have extra police patrols. But there is a monster that is loose who we invite into our homes. And this monster steals the hearts and the minds of our children, and says, “Parents, you clothe them, you feed them, you pay their tuition in college, but we get their heart.” The monster, of course, is the monster of technology. I’m speaking about iPads, iPhones, computers—all of those things—television sets.
We’re talking about technology. We think, for example, of the power of movies, the addictive power of movies. You have to understand that when it comes to sexuality, sexual addictions of any kind are the most natural of all addictions. For example, all the other addictions you need to acquire a taste or a desire for them. I was brought up in a home where there was no drinking. My parents had the idea that if you don’t touch alcohol, you’ll never become an alcoholic. I actually think that’s some pretty good advice that comes from parents. Some of you didn’t have parents who were quite that wise. But that means I can walk through a store and see all of these bottles of different kinds of alcohol whose names I could never possibly pronounce, and there’s nothing within me that says, “Oh, this is a great temptation,” because I’ve not acquired a taste for it.
But when it comes to sexuality, we are sexual creatures from the tops of our heads to the soles of our feet, and “all of us, at times,” to quote the words of someone else, “have been cauldrons of boiling desire.” We’ve all experienced that. So sexual addictions are the most natural of all addictions because they play on who we are and who we were created to be. So you have movies. You have the internet. I’ll not even give you the percentage of teenagers that tune into the internet and tune into the pornographic side.
And then you have social websites. You know, what a world this has created. One day, Rebecca and I were on top of a mountain in Austria. We were actually at a place which was a hideout of Adolf Hitler where we go often when I lead tours to the sites of the Reformation. We take in some World War II sites, and here’s this couple. You know, they’re holding hands and they’re older, and I pick up a conversation with them. They say, “Yeah, we were childhood sweethearts. Both of us married, but we met on Facebook, and so we divorced our mates, and now we’re on our honeymoon.” That’s happened tens of thousands of times.
And then you have all these predators. You have video games. Many of them, I’m sure, are fine, but many of them lead deeply into the occult and into violence I won’t even describe. Many years ago, Pastor Steve Mason and I (from the church here) visited a family that was desperate because their teenager was into such video games that clearly he had picked up some evil spirits along the way. When we were there, he couldn’t even sit down [because] he was so agitated. He had to get up and walk around. And the parents let him. “Well, he’s just playing video games.” Oh really?
Let me talk to you plainly. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I never want people to leave a church and say, “Now what did he really believe?” You slept well last night. I hope you did. I slept pretty well as well. While you were sleeping, there were people with tons of money who are well organized, who were trying to figure out new ways to seduce your child and get him into technology. What they are after is addicts. [Hugh] Hefner has always been after addicts. You cannot build this great pornographic empire without addicts. The minute your child was born, he [Hefner] was trying to figure out new ways to get him into that industry. And it used to be that boys and girls would enter it at the age of 15. Now it’s 11, 9. What a world in which we live, and here we are oftentimes asleep.
And parents say this, and my heart goes out to parents because it isn’t always the parents’ fault when a kid rebels. But I’ve heard parents say this: “How did this happen to us?” “How did it happen that our son is on drugs?” “How did it happen that, you know, our daughter—our little precious girl? I mean she’s pregnant.” “You know, why is it that we can’t get our daughters to buy anything except the most skimpy clothes?” “Why is it that our son always runs around with those who are into alcohol and other things?” “We raised them better than that.” And what you want to do is to look into their [the parents’] eyes with brokenness and compassion and tears and say, “You didn’t raise your children. MTV raised your children. You paid the bills. You bought them the clothes. You gave them the food. You paid their way, but the television raised your children.”
So, the question is where do these thieves, these monsters, lurk? Well, in our homes. I read a statistic that said 70 percent of parents don’t know what their kids are watching. “Oh, but our kids are good kids.” I’ll deal with that later. Really? Your kids are good kids. Come up to me later. I want a picture with you. I want you to take a selfie because I want to put it on my wall and say, “This couple has good kids.”
Schools. Sexualization of children. It’s very important to break down all barriers between male and female, and other barriers as well. Even the natural inclinations have to be broken down. The reasons for this (I’ve preached on this before) are many, but it is very important that decency be rewritten and revised so that it isn’t what it used to be. It’s incredibly important. Libraries with unfiltered computers, friends.
Now, teenagers and young people, I told you I was going to give something in this message for you. Here it comes. I want you to remember this. I want this to lurk in your mind as if it were Velcro. Are you ready? All right, here it goes. Show me your friends and I will show you your future. You go to college and, within three months, the friends you choose are going to determine who you are going to turn out to be. And so what happens is sometimes, of course, there is deception. You know, “Well, she spent the night at the neighbor’s house.” And that’s where she got introduced to who knows what.
Parents, don’t be paranoid, but please do not be naïve or think because the family is so nice, everything that goes on in that home, especially among the kids, is going to be nice. We can be nice, but we are also depraved.
I have a friend who, when his child was born (and I think I did this too), looked in the crib and saw his sweet little girl and said, “Here is the sweetest, totally, completely depraved little girl I have ever seen.” [chuckles] Nobody’s laughing. I don’t know. [laughter] Maybe I said something I shouldn’t.
What does the text say? It says, “Be holy” and “Abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” And you and I have felt that war against the soul. What do we do? Well, prepare your own life. Prepare yourself because if you’re going to wage this war, you’d better be successful and at least be winning some battles in this war, unless you simply collapse and no longer fight this battle.
Look at the passage of Scripture I read in 1 Peter 2:11. Let me begin in verse 9. It 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 into his marvelous light.”
You know what is true in the New Testament is whatever God asks us to do (This is critical.) is based on what Jesus has already done for us. God never says, “Okay, be holy. Do your best at being holy. Take a run at it. Try it.” He doesn’t say that. He says, “I’ve paved the way.” You are chosen. You are called out of darkness into His marvelous light. Now live as a child of light. Receive resources from God so that you might be able to live out who you really are in God’s matchless presence.”
And so you prepare your own life through the Word, through church attendance, absolutely, but also become a part of a small group. Attend our family ministries class with all of its resources, and really remember who your true enemy is.
You’re not fighting those teenagers. Listen to what the text says, and I’m in 1 Peter again, chapter 5 and verses 8–9: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”
Behind technology stands Satan who says, “This territory is mine. These addictions belong to me and I will fight for every single inch.” We are in an incredible battle, so you have to prepare yourself as a parent, or as parents (plural) hopefully, because you are up against an enemy. And unless you and I realize the depth of the battle, we are naïvely going to turn the other way like many parents do, blinded (deliberate blindness, by the way), turning away and pretending that “If I don’t know what they are doing, I hope everything turns out okay.”
Prepare your own life. Prepare the life of your child. Now I’ve said this many times because, throughout the years, I’ve preached on the family, so you’re going to hear it again. But we never hear it too often. Rules without relationship equals rebellion. Rules without relationship equals rebellion. It isn’t just simply, “Well, here are the rules.” Yeah, here are the rules, but we have to talk as families. We have to discuss things. We have to strategize together. And if you catch your child doing something you don’t want him or her to do, don’t shame them. You shame them and the only thing they will do is the next time they will hide it better. They are angry because they got caught.
What you do is, instead of this antagonism, if you can pull this off (and I know oftentimes it’s difficult), but if you can do this to have such a relationship with the child that it isn’t parent against child (“We’re the ones who are telling you what to do.”) but rather parents coming along and taking the arm of a child and saying, ”We’re going to walk with you together through all the minefields (and God knows there are plenty of minefields, not just in the realm of technology but other realms as well) and we, as parents, are going to be there for you. Role-play certain issues and say, “Now if you’re in school and this comes up, this is the way in which you should handle it.” Illustrate to your children the kind of tenacity and the kind of strength and encouragement they will need to stand against a culture that has lost its way.
And you as a parent can’t stand there pretending you are totally free from it either. Share your own story—your own story of struggle. Help your kids to understand that you, too, are a part of this world of technology and temptation and seductiveness, and that none of us can escape it completely unless, of course, we do what some people think they should do, namely, go back and buy some acreage in a remote part of the world and live there.
So prepare your own life. Prepare the lives of your children. Develop a strategy if you can, especially together with children. Every computer has a filter. Every computer in the home has a filter, and the computer is in the kitchen area or the living room or somewhere. Now, parents, I know that, hey, I’m stepping on toes here but, you know, it really doesn’t matter at this point, does it? [laughter] [applause] There comes a point where it just doesn’t matter anymore.
No TV, iPad, cellphone, or whatever in the bedroom period. [applause] Period. It’s a rule. No child should have unrestricted rights to privacy. Oh, you know, “You can’t come into my room.” “Oh yeah, I can.” Oh, but your child says, “Oh, but you don’t trust me.” The answer is, “Of course I don’t trust you.” [applause] “I don’t trust myself. Why should I trust you?” [laugher] We’re talking here about human fallenness. We’re talking about our greatest temptation. We’re talking about natural addictions. Parents, wake up.
I taught preaching in a seminary years ago and there was a student there who told me his story. He was brought up in a fine Christian home, you know, and all that. They allowed him to have cable TV in his bedroom. “Of course, we trust him.” I mean, come on. When did the boat arrive that you came into reality? What bubble do you live in? What illusion is it that you’ve decided to believe? Of course, he got into pornography, and he told me about the huge struggle to get out of that. “Oh, we trust him.” I don’t get it.
Model behavior—what you watch. And if something comes up that is risqué, or whatever, help your kids to find the lie, because remember all of television (Oh, I shouldn’t say all, but I’m talking about all the sitcoms, all the other things.) is all based on lies. They want to ridicule various lifestyles. And by the way, it seems to me there’s a tremendous amount of violence on television today, and then we wonder why it is that things happen the way they do.
I was going to mention earlier that there is someone who’s in our church (who’s a member here) who was, at one time, a gangbanger. And I said to him, “Help me understand why you have all these shootings. Why it is that they are sometimes done randomly?” We had examples this week in Chicago. He said, “They have music that is so violent with the most horrendous and evil lyrics.” And he said, “You combine that with drugs, and you find that many of these kids that are running around, they’re just so zoned out. They don’t care what they do or who they do it to.”
And this reminds me of the fact that there is no way we can take care of the problems of this city without taking care of the problems within the home, because the home is the crucible where these children are being raised, where their values [are established]. And so we must remember that. We have to model the kind of behavior we want our children to have. So that’s right. You develop a strategy and, if you can, you develop it together.
You say, “Well, you know, our kids have a TV in the bedroom, and if we were to take it out, it would be the beginning of World War III.” Well, here’s an idea. Tell the kid, “Look, we’re going to get rid of it. We’re going to sell it at the highest possible price we can, and you get all the money.” Maybe that’ll work. I don’t know.
Last night in a book, I read a story about a man who had two girls. They were about 11 and 12 or 13 (early teens) and they wanted a trampoline—the idea of jumping really high and enjoying it. And he said, “Look, I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll buy you the trampoline if you don’t watch television for a whole year.” He said, “Those kids spent all night arguing back and forth. They wrote the pros and the cons, and they were discussing it. ‘No, we can’t do without TV.’ ‘Yes, we can, but just think of the joy of being able to jump so freely in the backyard.’ They finally decided in favor of the trampoline.”
Do you know what? The family got together. They began to do things together. They began to talk. Maybe that was in the day when you could actually talk and not have to text. I don’t know. But then he said, “It’s been three years and the kids have never wanted TV again. They have no idea what they are missing.” They are doing very well, thank you very, very much. Ask God for wisdom as to how to resolve situations that are already far down the river.
Number four, get help from others. I happen to have a book or two that have just been excellent. One of them I gave away and I couldn’t find it. [chuckles] But, you know, go to the family class. I’m sure they have all kinds of resources. There are websites dedicated to help parents. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to be able to learn whatever it is you need to learn. And if you’re a single parent, if possible, ask the church or your community to come alongside of you to fill the gaps. You, dear single parents, my heart goes out to you, because your task is much more difficult, but it is not impossible. It’s difficult, but not impossible. All kinds of fine children have been raised by single parents, and you must recognize that and you must trust God for that, because it all isn’t lost.
Last, keep praying, trusting, and believing. God is on your side. It’s not as if God stands back and simply says, “Well, you know, they got themselves into this predicament; they hopped into the deep end of the swimming pool, and I’m not going to get them out.” Listen, God is there to help you. God is there to help you raise your children. And if God be for us who can be against us?
You say, “Well, technology is so strong; if you knew how our kids were into the computer and into this and into that.” Yeah. But God has His ways of weaning us even from that which captivates us, so don’t give up. Don’t give up. What we need to understand is this: If we believe in Jesus Christ, and we get to know God personally— There’s a verse of Scripture I absolutely love that I’m going to pick out of 1 Peter here. Last night I read the whole book of 1 Peter to myself. It’s just five chapters, but I love this verse. Chapter 1, verse 13: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action (That’s what we’re doing here.), and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” There is hope in Jesus for forgiveness, for cleansing, for deliverance. “If the Son, therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” It begins by receiving Christ as Savior.
This past week, I read the story of the conversion of a famous pastor who lived in a different generation. But he said his conversion was based on the fact that he now understood that there is a difference between historical faith, where you have the intellectual facts about Jesus, and the personal saving faith, when you receive Christ as Savior and you become a child of God. And there is a big difference.
Some of you to whom I am speaking have a historical faith, but you’re not setting your hope and your mind on Jesus Christ and the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus. Your mind is somewhere else.
I began this message by talking about children who filled in sentences: “If I could change my mom and dad...” There was one I didn’t read to you, which says, “I wish my mom and dad were just not half Christians.” There isn’t really a half Christian because if you have been redeemed, you have a new nature with new desires, and you need to receive Christ as Savior.
One story and then I shall be finished today. Rebecca and I know a couple who told us this story. They had a teenage boy who was into video games. And they were concerned because his grades were falling and all, but he kept saying, “Oh no, no, I’m doing my homework.” They suspected he was lying, but you know he was one of these really good Christian boys.
So what they did is when they left one day, they put up a security camera to watch his computer. They come back. “Did you do your homework?” “Oh yeah, I was working on my homework the whole time.” “All right, well let’s check the camera.” Well, of course, as you might have already guessed, he was at his computer playing a video game the whole time. When he saw what he did and saw the camera and the fact that he’d been “outed,” he began to cry and to weep and to say, “Mom and Dad, I’m addicted, I’m addicted. I don’t know how to get out of this.”
So among other things, they decided to take his computer away from him completely because he needs to detox. I mean, you know, because you develop this huge appetite and you just don’t think you can do without fulfilling the appetite. I mean it’s like a tiger with a piece of meat. You give him meat and you say, “Well, he should be satisfied,” but he turns stronger than ever.
Now the reason I tell you that story is because it has a happy ending. After seriously dealing with this, and his parents dealing with this over a period of time, that student went off to college and began to help other students get out of their computer addictions.
God is stronger than technology. Could we give God a hand on that one? [applause] If God be for us who can be against us? Not even MTV—especially if you shut it off.
Father, I pray in the name of Jesus, would you help us to protect our homes, Lord? Our young people are having their hearts stolen. The monster has come into our bedrooms, into our living rooms, and he is there dictating what to watch next. We ask, O Lord Jesus that, as we think of the future generations, help us to love our children and to extend them grace and mercy. And help them to understand we’re walking the same path they are. We put our arms around them and say, “Let’s walk down this path together with hope and healing and accountability that ‘we might be holy as you are holy,’ and by divine grace, ‘abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against our souls.’” In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Editor’s Note: In this transcript, the verbatim intelligent transcription process simplifies and enhances spoken content by eliminating redundant words, unnecessary sounds, fixing grammar errors, and clarifying meaning while preserving the author's original intent. All Scripture quotes are according to the biblical text, not as they were originally spoken.