Countering The CultureErwin W. Lutzer | June 5, 2005
Selected highlights from this sermon
Parents today want good children, not godly children. They don’t want their kids to stand against the culture— they don’t want the child to feel bad.
So as the internet and entertainment industries—with ever increasing amount of violence, sexuality, and godlessness—steal the hearts and souls of our children, what can we do to stop it?
In the first of two messages on the topic, Pastor Lutzer gives us seven of fourteen “commandments” that all parents must follow in order to raise not just good kids, but godly kids.
A little girl who was sitting next to her mother in church noticed that the pastor was taking off his wristwatch and putting it on the podium, just like I am doing today. She said, “What does that mean, mommy? And the mother said, “Shhh! It doesn’t mean a thing!” I may not get through today’s sermon. I may need to put it in next week’s sermon.
I believe there are thieves that are stealing our children today. If the thieves were to break through windows and steal their bodies we would call the police. But because the thieves steal the soul, parents often do not care. And if they care they don’t know what to do.
I believe that this may be one of the most anti-family times in the history of the world. Now of course the family has always been under attack and the church has always been in the midst of paganism. That is nothing new.
What is new is the entertainment industry. No generation of parents in the past has ever had to raise children with MTV. No generation in the past has ever had to raise children who see violent movies filled with sexuality.
Then of course there is the internet. Now with the click of a mouse you can have a porn shop in the privacy of your own home. Our challenges are unique. Never before in history have parents tried to rear children under those conditions. In fact, I would liken it unto a tsunami, a tidal wave that is engulfing the whole United States of America. Children can purchase cell phones that can download pornography from the satellite. The tsunami is not only engulfing children, but it is also engulfing adults and sometimes whole families.
So I have to ask you today, what are you doing as a parent? What are you doing faithfully, intentionally and united to stand against a culture that wants your child and is willing to do anything possible to get the souls of those whom you love? What are you doing?
A youth pastor in a very fine evangelical church told me that he finally concluded that most Christian parents do not want godly children. What they want is good children; children who won’t give them a hard time or do drugs and have sex. They want children who will fit in very well with all of their peers, but not necessarily godly children who will stand against the culture. In the minds of many parents one of the worst possible things you can do is to expect your child to stand against what his or her other peers happen to be doing. If the child can’t do it we think, “That is really awful because he is going to feel bad.”
What is it that we are after when we raise our children? Someone has said that, “We want independent, spirit-filled children who know the difference between right and wrong and have the courage and power to do what is right.” The Bible might put it a little differently. We are to raise children, “Who love the Lord our God with all of their hearts, with all of their minds and with all of their strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” That is what God wants - not just good kids, but godly kids.
Today when I speak on this I am entering into Satan’s territory. This is where he rules and this is where he is king. What he is saying is, “I’ll get your children! If it’s not through the internet it will be through movies. If it’s not through movies it’s the friends that your children choose at school or through drugs. One way or another I will get your children.” I am here today to tell you that by God’s grace we have to say, “No you won’t get our children!”
Our text is the sixth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy. God says in verse one, “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.”
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Wow! God says, “Fathers, you have the responsibility of passing the torch to your sons.” Mothers, you are included in the process. God says, “The goal is to love me with all of your heart and to teach your children to love me and to fear me.” That is the agenda.
So, how are we going to be counter-cultural? Never before can I remember have I ever preached a message at Moody Church that has eleven points. You say, “Well, alright.” I’m reminded of a man who left a meeting because the sermon was long. The pastor pointed him out, just as I would do to you if you got up to leave right now. He said to him, “Where are you going?” The man said, “I’m going to get a hair cut.” The pastor said, “Well why didn’t you get a hair cut before you came in here?” He said, “When I came in here I didn’t need one!”
Here’s what I’ve decided to do: I am going to quit at a certain time today whether I am finished or not and I am going to pick it up next week. In fact, I didn’t even make a conclusion to this message because I knew that there was no way that I could possibly get to the conclusion today. The conclusion will come next time.
I know that the outline you have probably says, “Eleven principles.” This morning I thought to myslef, “These aren’t principles. I should rename them commandments.” Moses had his Ten Commandments and I have eleven commandments, so naturally you might ask, “Where did you get yours from?” I had a discussion with the pastoral staff and then I sat at my computer. I was aiming for ten but I ended up with eleven.
Are you ready for the first commandment? Some of these commandments are based on some common sense and wisdom that any one of us, if we thought about it, would come up with. Also, from time to time we shall refer directly to the Scripture.
The first commandment in fulfilling this Scripture is this: be informed regarding the culture and your children’s activities. Parents, do you know what movies your children are watching? Do you know who their friends are? When they come home do you say, “Tell me what happened in school,” and you listen non-judgmentally? You listen so that they can tell you. You absorb it into your soul and you are not reacting or trying to correct or say this or that. Instead you are learning and you are listening. Are you doing that? Do you know where your child is? Have you entered into your child’s life and the sphere in which your child goes to school or the friends that he has?
Every once in awhile we wake up and discover that there was another terrible shooting in one of our high schools. When the parents of the attacker are interviewed they usually say, “Oh, we didn’t know. We thought everything was fine.” Oh, really? Then the investigation shows what the kid was watching on the web. If the parents had talked to the teenager, if the parents had seen some of the warning signs, the notes that they wrote, if the parents had just gone into the child’s room they would have seen the posters and they would have known that their child was on a very, very dangerous path.
But parents say today, “I can’t go into my child’s room!” Oh really, you can’t? Of course if you are a snoop your child is going to reject that. But there ought to be some kind of a semblance of relationship by which you can say, “It is important for me to know what you are watching on the internet. It is important for me to know who you hang out with in school.” If the child does not want that to be your business, you loving and sweetly make it your business because God says it is your business. Many parents think, “If I don’t deal with it than either it won’t be there or it will just go away by itself. When I don’t investigate, somehow it will turn out okay.” It won’t. Commandment number one is to be informed about the culture and your children’s activities.
Commandment number two is to combine a meaningful relationship with rules. The scripture says in Ephesians, “Children, obey your parents.” It also says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.” I have a list in my family file of twenty-seven different ways that father’s provoke their children to anger. One of them is to have rules. You say, “We have these rules and we are going to keep these rules.” There is no heart and no relationship.
So children begin to rebel against the rules and say, “I hate my dad so I hate his God.” They begin to so despise the rules that because they don’t like their father they will deliberately do what he does not want done. The girl will marry the guy that her father despises just to teach him, to get even with him and irritate him.
From my heart to yours, rules have no power in themselves to keep your child from going the wrong way. Only a relationship can do that. Rules are important but relationships are the strength. It is that loving relationship where the child wants to please you because the relationship has been restored. Commandment number two is to combine meaningful relationships with rules.
Number three is that discipline is essential. You say, “Does that mean we should spank our children?” Of course that means you should spank your children. There are two reasons why spanking children has fallen out of favor today. One is because of abuse. If you are abusive and angry and you just flail away at a child, then do not touch your child. Spankings are not an opportunity for an adult to get his anger resolved or to get something off his own chest. That is not what spanking is for. If you do it that way, then don’t.
The purpose of spanking is to make sure that the will of the child is broken but not the spirit of the child. You must do it with care. Don’t ever spank a child without putting your arms around him, taking him and assuring him that you do love him. If you want a child who is emotionally healthy and can function well as somebody who loves God, he or she needs to be spanked. Some get spanked more than others, as Rebecca and I discovered with our own children. My children will ask at this point, “Please move on!”
The other reason spanking is not popular today is because of humanistic ideas. “Oh your little child is so good. Negotiate with him.” Have you ever tried to negotiate with a three year old who has just defied you? Have you ever tried that negotiation? You know what I fear? There are more Christians that are getting their advice on how to rear a child from Dr. Phil then they are from the scriptures. He may have some wisdom, but he will never teach you how to raise children who love the Lord their God with all of their heart, with all of their mind and with all of their souls.
Ray Comfort, in one of his messages that I heard, said that when he disciplined one of his children he gave his son a spanking because of defiance. Then he hugged his boy and said, “Now you stay here until you are finished crying and then you come to me.” The little boy still sniffling found a sheet of paper and Ray wondered, “What in the world is he writing about?” He wrote on it, “I love you daddy.” The very same day a neighbor child who has never been spanked or disciplined said to his mother, “I hate you.” That is the difference. Do you want your child to love you or do you want your child to hate you?
I remember an adult woman who was probably in her 40’s who said, “If only my dad would have spanked me I would have known that he loved me and that he cared. But he never did.” There is always that feeling that there are no boundaries. So number three is that discipline is essential.
Number four is that great lessons are not taught as much as they are caught. Those of us from Chicago know something about snow, don’t we? All of us who have had children have had this experience. We are outside shoveling snow and the little one, maybe five or six years old is dressed up by mother and sent outside to enjoy the snow. When you walk across the snow, what does a child want to do? A child wants to walk in the very same steps as the father. Of course they can’t because their steps are so much shorter. But, they try.
There is a story of a man who was on his way to the beer parlor here in Chicago some time ago. It had snowed and he looked behind him and there was his little boy trying to take big steps to follow in his fathers footsteps. He said to his dad, “I’m trying to follow in your footsteps, daddy.” Ouch!
So you want children who love the Lord with all their hearts? Do you love God? Do you want children who won’t see certain kinds of movies? Do you see certain kinds of movies? You want children who are not caught up in some of the senior sites on the internet? Are you caught up on some of those sites?
Yesterday will go down in my own life as one of the most memorable times. I need to tell you about it only for the glory of Jesus. Yesterday I spoke at Promise Keepers in Omaha and 9,000 men were there. I was asked to speak on the topic of fathers in the home. Some of the material I have actually preached in the messages here. I pointed out that there are many men who have lost all moral authority in their lives. I said, “Many of you are involved in affairs right now or an addiction or you’re dishonest in your business. All that you can do is come home and basically put up with the family and give some advice. It’s not as if you can become involved in your child’s life and actually give him some moral direction.”
That’s one of the things I said in addition to a lot of others during the thirty minutes I had to preach. The leaders at Promise Keepers told me that I could give an invitation after I spoke. I didn’t know that anyone would come forward because I didn’t necessarily feel filled with the Spirit, though that morning I had claimed the verse in Romans 8, that Jesus makes intercession for us. I said, “Jesus, if you are praying for me, I’m counting on it.”
Something happened that I didn’t expect and that the leadership didn’t expect. Men began to come forward and literally run down the isle until the whole front area was full. They were all kneeling and they couldn’t all come forward. I had to tell them that they had to kneel wherever they were in the isles because the front was too full. Obviously some men were weeping. You could hear the tears and the groaning as they were dealing with issues in their lives. It was a miracle of God and had nothing to do with me. It was one of those divine moments where God showed up.
I need to ask you today, have you lost all moral authority in your family so all that you can do is to tell your kids what to do? You can never show your kids, you can never nurture your children or model for them the kind of behavior that you want them to have. Commandment number four: great lessons of life are not taught as much as they are caught.
Number five is to stand with your children against the culture. Could I weep at this point? I was listening to Focus on the Family a couple of weeks ago. There was a woman who said that in the high school her kids attended, a huge high school with thousands of parents, a notice was sent out that there would be a discussion on the sexual education curriculum that was going to be taught. You would think that because there were thousands of students in this big school that at least hundreds of parents would show up to find out what their kids were going to be taught.
She showed up that night and the total number of parents was seven. She said that the material was basically pornographic. Some sex education courses teach children how to be immoral. They say, “This is the way to be immoral.” Is that really what your children need? Do they need films at the age of six, like one member of this church said the school district here wants to show the kids? Thankfully he is taking his daughter out of that. Listen, what is the agenda here?
I am going to read something from a woman by the name of Tammy Bruce. The reason I am reading her material is because she is not an evangelical Christian. In fact, she is a pro-choice lesbian who was the head of N.O.W. in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, she exposes the agenda of the political liberals like you have never seen. Her book will blow you away, as the saying goes.
She says, “The radicals in control of the gay establishment want children in their world of moral decay, lack of self-restraint and moral relativism, why? How better to truly belong to the majority then by taking possession of the next generation. By targeting children you can start indoctrinating the next generation with the false construct that gay people deserve special treatment and special laws. How else can the gay establishment actually get society to believe that gay people are indeed more equal than others, to borrow a line from George Orwell. Of course the only way to get that idea accepted is to condition people into accepting nihilism that forbids morality and judgment.”
Speaking of the book that advocates sex with children in the next paragraph or two, she says this: “These ideas are widely accepted, that is the sexualization of children,” as she calls it, “guarantees control of the culture for future generations. It also promises sex-addicted future consumers on which the porn industry relies. By destroying those lives they strike the final blow to family, faith, tradition, decency and judgment.” Were you listening, parents?
Team up even with those who are not Christians. There are many who would also be opposed to some of the same things that they want to indoctrinate your children in. Take your kids out of school. You can’t raise children and say, “This child has to do everything that everybody else does because he is going to be emotionally crippled if I withhold something from him that others are doing in the school.” No, no, no, no!
You may have an opportunity to teach him about God, about morality, decency and rationality. Are you going to allow your child to be sexualized? Stand with your children against the culture. The enemies are out there - the drugs, sex, drinking and everything else. Stand with your children.
The sixth commandment is to appeal to the conscience in matters of behavior. The Bible says in Deuteronomy chapter six, verse two, that you should teach your children to fear the Lord. The scripture talks about the conscience, why? gBecause it isn’t enough to say, “You did this and you will get punished for it.” Develop in the child a sense of right and wrong. Have a discussion. Say to them, “Do you think this action is right or wrong? What answer are you giving and why are you giving it? When you see this behavior in other children how to you react?”
You want to develop a conscience so that they begin to understand that there is a law above your law. There is a law that they have to answer to, the law of God. That can be taught in the home. The fear of the Lord doesn’t mean that you scare them and say, “Mommy and daddy can’t be everywhere, but God is watching you and he is going to zap you if you don’t obey.” That is so devastating. Children grow up angry at God and angry at the church. They see God as this harsh, cruel, tattle-tale law giver.
Never teach your children about God’s judgment without also teaching them about God’s grace, God’s compassion, God’s forgiveness and God’s desire to help them in their struggles. All of that has to be combined. Teach them that there is a God who is watching and there is a God to whom we are accountable, yes. But that’s not the whole story.
There is also a God who is compassionate. As the scripture says in Psalm 103, “As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him; for he knows our frame and remembers that we are but dust.” He is gracious and merciful. That’s what needs to be taught to children in this world. Teach them the Ten Commandments.
I think we will get to commandment number seven today, which is teach a child how to confront compromise and temptation. Years ago I counseled a broken young woman who came to me because she was involved in a party, and obviously kids should go to parties, you know. Kids began to pair off because mom and dad weren’t home. There was drinking and various relationships were being formed in the bedrooms and so forth. She got caught up in all this and had a horrific experience that stamped her with revulsion and pain for years to come.
What would the wise parent have taught that girl? Number one, you should avoid situations like this. Number two, if you are in a situation like this, walk out! It used to be that you had to give your kids quarters to phone home. Now they can use cell phones, as long as they are not the ones where they can download pornography. They can call you and say, “There’s an emergency that I have to attend to.” There is an emergency that they have to attend to! Practice role play in the home and tell them what to do when they are in a situation like that. Just like you teach your little ones not to go with a stranger who asks you to find his puppy with him or gives you candy. You have to teach teenagers what to do.
Then you do something else. Even better, you get those teenagers involved in a good youth program like we have here at the Moody Church with Andy and Lisa. Then you will have something that will help confront and counter the culture that young people are going through.
Well, seven commandments. We will save some for later. I want to end by reminding you of the beautiful story that Jesus told of the prodigal son. It’s one that has been told many times. Nobody told it more clearly and beautifully that Jesus himself.
I want to ask you a question: when the prodigal son was there being fed with the pigs, if he had married when he was in the far country would he have raised good children? I don’t think so. I think those kids would have ended up eating out of the same bucket that he was eating out of, frankly.
What happened was that the son came to his senses and said, “I have sinned against heaven and against my father. I am going to make my way back to the father. I am going to come in humility and admit that I sinned against God and against him.”
He comes to the father and what does the father do? He puts his arms around the boy and he says, “‘Bring hither the best robe, and put it on him, put shoes on his feet and a ring on his hand. And bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’” In the process of being reconciled with his father his sense of dignity, his sense of wholeness, and his values were restored.
You want to rear good, godly children? Whether you are here today as a Christian or a non Christian, you need to hurry to the Father. Our Father in heaven is the one who nurtures us even like a mother, it says in Isaiah. He is the father to the fatherless. He is there to help us. He’s there to stand with us against the culture.
If you’ve never trusted his Son, the Lord Jesus, that’s the only way you can connect with him. There is nobody else out there qualified to give us the gift of righteousness and the gift of forgiveness we so desperately need. That ultimately is the only answer to our cultural tsunami that in engulfing this great land that is being destroyed by thieves coming into our homes and taking our children’s souls.
Let us pray. “Our Father, how can we ever stand against the onslaught? You’ve created us with desires, and those desires are inflamed by the entertainment and all of the options that are available today. How do we raise children who not only are good but who love you? Oh God, grant strength to all who hear this message. We pray in the name of Jesus that you will raise up many godly families in this congregation and in congregations throughout this country and around the world. May there be mothers and fathers who say, ‘We will not cave in to the influences of a godless culture.’ Teach us that oh Lord, because we are very needy and very prone to failure ourselves. Help us Lord, in Jesus name, amen.”