Judging EntertainmentErwin W. Lutzer | November 18, 2001
Selected highlights from this sermon
Hollywood is stealing the hearts of our children, instilling them with its values and morals which are usually contrary to Christian values and morals. But we often stay silent because we’re addicted to the same television shows, movies, and websites.
We need to restrict Hollywood’s reach into our homes by testing the content. In this message, Pastor Lutzer provides three tests that will help us determine if the entertainment we allow into our hearts is something that is detrimental to our spiritual growth or not.
The question is this. How much of Hollywood should we allow into our homes? Let’s suppose that there were some kidnappers who came into your home and stole your children. The kids were gone. You say, “Well, that can’t happen because I have bolts on the doors. The windows are locked. I would wake up. I’d fight. We’d call 911.”
What if I were to tell you there are thieves that are coming into our homes, though the doors are bolted and the windows are shut, and they are stealing our children? Oh, they’re leaving the children’s bodies there. The bodies are still there but their hearts are gone, worshipping and serving other gods.
Today we’re going to talk about the entertainment industry, and I need to say that when we venture to do that we are now talking really about the devil’s territory, that which he owns, that which he insists upon based upon Scripture that he is the god of this world. And John wrote that the whole world lies in the lap of the wicked one. It’s very humbling for me to preach this message, knowing right well that some people are going to disagree, which is fine. I’m not worried about the people who are going to disagree with the message. Let God take care of them. (chuckles) But there are many others who are going to agree and say, “Did you hear that message? He was right on.” But they won’t change. They won’t change.
I know we’ve prayed many times today already. Would you bow with me one more time? And would you ask God to show you what needs to be changed, even as I ask God to show me what needs to be changed?
Father, would You take over? May it not be my voice. We know that sermons have never changed people. Only You do, so we cast ourselves helplessly in Your presence. Do a miracle. Liberate Your people, and free Your church and purify us, we ask, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
So what are those thieves that come into closed houses and steal the hearts of our young people, and only leave their bodies? First of all, of course, we think of movies. You know, people think that when they go to a movie they are just being entertained. They’re not being entertained. They are being educated. And when Hollywood makes R-rated movies, they know right well that young people way below the age of seventeen are going to see them. Eighty percent of young people who are younger than that say that they can get in to see R-rated movies.
And what are often the themes? Sex, because God says that the family is holy, and violence, because God says that human beings are holy. And so you have the assault of these values. Parents, when your children go to movies, they are being trained as to how they should relate to women, as to what is important in life, how they should dress and what their response should be, because it is the intention of the entertainment industry to tell your kids what normal sex is really all about. And they want to define it for you. Don’t you realize that Hollywood is out to shape our values and the way in which we view the world?
You know, I know that we have TV ratings, we have movie ratings, but they mean very little because, for one thing, they always want to push the limits. For another, now they can put a rating on a movie and then they can show whatever they want, and they can say, “Well, you know it was a PG-13 or it was a TV-14,” and it’s like Larry Poland says, “What has happened is it’s as if the fox is guarding the chickens.”
What you need to understand is to wake up and realize that there are G movies that are inappropriate for anyone, including adults, because they may have all kinds of latent rebellion and all kinds of attitudes and values and even occultism that might be communicated. We can’t be fooled by these ratings.
And then I think also, of course, of such things as sitcoms. By the way, did you know that 80% of young people under the age of 18 have seen an X-rated movie, and 25% tried to act out what they saw within a matter of days? Is it any wonder that we have date rape? Is it any wonder that we have young children molesting children? Is it any wonder that we have molestation and sexual abuse going on in our homes hued by an industry that is absolutely committed to making you an addict?
Sitcoms! It always amuses me, if I may be amused at this point, that Christians laugh at things that grieve the heart of God. Listen to what one of the writers said: “Our intention is to make people laugh at adultery, homosexuality and incest. Laughing breaks down your resistance to it.” I’ve been told that there was a television program basically devoted for one hour to this premise that if you, as a teenager, are not having sex, it means that you must be gay. Imagine those values communicated to our young people, and then with all of the Neopaganism that we’ll talk about in another message.
So you have movies. You have rap music. Parents, do you have any idea what is being communicated? And here we could talk about MTV. The leader of MTV said that “our intention is not to get young people to think logically but to go for their desires, because if we have their desires, we have them.” Do you realize what is being communicated in terms of values? Is it rap music that you want to teach your young people, your son how to relate to a woman, or your daughter to know how to relate to a man? Is this really it? Do you want them to use that kind of language in their lives and in their common expression? Is that really what we want? Millions of albums sold!
And then we think of the Internet. One Christian man who was delivered from the use of pornography was speaking to 28 Christian men at a breakfast and was telling them his testimony of how he struggled with this, and how God brought him through it. And of the 28, 23 said that they had access to pornography on the Internet.
You see, what’s happening is people are becoming younger and younger. The raging desires that are felt by an 18-year old or that used to be felt by an 18-year old are now being felt by a 12-year old or a 13-year old, because they keep targeting younger and younger.
I don’t know how to say this more clearly, but do you realize that Hollywood… And I’m speaking now of Hollywood generally. Of course there’s much more than Hollywood. I mean there are all kinds of entertainment industries and Hollywood is kind of a catch phrase for it all. But do you realize that the entertainment industry, if we could just speak generally, uses billions and billions of dollars to make your child an addict to pornography, to movies, to drugs, because if he becomes an addict he’s theirs?
Michael Medved, who is a movie critic, said that he has never seen such hostility and outright anger toward religion as he has found in Hollywood. And this is the type of thing that is coming into our homes by television, by the Internet, by videos, and whatever other means. Well, why don’t we do something about it? Well, first of all, there are many people who live in denial. If you close your eyes to it and pretend it’s not there, maybe it’ll go away on its own, or somebody says, “You know what? I think that maybe we should do something about it.” Have you ever noticed that so many Christians who complain about what is on television spend so much time watching it? So denial!
Secondly, parents are sometimes paralyzed because they themselves are a part of the culture. I remember a Christian father who said that he subscribed to Sports Illustrated, and when the swimwear issue came to his home, he noticed his 12-year old son being very, very interested in these young women who were dressed in what could be called the irreducible minimum. And he was going to say, “You know, that’s not good for a 12-year old boy; he shouldn’t be looking at that,” but then he remembered that he ogled the same pictures. So what happens then? How can parents instruct their children if they themselves are seeing violence, and of course, condoning it all by saying, “Oh, but you know what. I just watch it. I don’t do it.” (chuckles) So you have all that impurity coming into the human heart.
By the way, what is the devil after? Well, I am going to get to that. I don’t want to hurry on. But number three, another reason we don’t is we don’t understand that this industry, and I am speaking generally… Of course, there are exceptions, but by in large, this industry is controlled by strong, evil forces. I remember speaking to a woman who was involved in pornography who said that the average person does not understand the darkness and the demonic control and the hold of this whole industry. It is indeed in the lap of the devil. And that’s why you can listen, and we can have these wonderful little pep talks on how to discern, and we can say, “Oh yeah, discern,” and really it’s like telling a blind man, “You know, if you just stared into the night a little better, maybe you could see,” because we have people that are addicted to this stuff.
Well, how much of Hollywood should we let into our homes? I’m going to give you three tests today—three tests, and you’re going to give them back to me. Okay, that’s the deal. That’s the agenda. We’ve agreed upon it when you came in here. (chuckles) I’m going to give you three tests and if you pass this test, man, after you go through this test, you can bring it into your home.
Number one, the content test. For this I turn to 1 John 2:15: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, for everything in the world, the cravings of sinful man (You remember the translations that say the lust of the flesh), the lust of the eyes, and the boasting of what he does comes not from the Father, but from the world. And the world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God abides forever.”
Look at what James says. He says, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Wow!
The lust of the flesh—sensuality! The lust of the eyes! Did you know that the eyes have an appetite? We even know that when we say, “Feast your eyes on this.” The lust of the eyes! The pride of life! That is the self-absorption, the narcissism which controls basically the rap music industry wholesale, where you have a narcissistic view of life and where everything is poured through you. All that is of the world.
Now, you realize, of course, that what happens when we watch that kind of thing is that we find these desires which are within us being (What shall we say?) exploited and used, and our struggle against sin becomes impossible.
Let me give you a definition of the world. The world basically is meeting legitimate desires in forbidden ways. Legitimate desires in forbidden ways! The desire for intimacy, the desire to have a good self-image, the desire to perhaps own enough so that you can get by in life! All these things are very legitimate, but you see, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life—does that not describe exactly what the entertainment industry is all about?
This morning I was looking for a different passage of Scripture and I happened to come across a verse that is just absolutely… (chuckles) I just marvel at the Bible. This is in Ephesians. If this doesn’t describe the entertainment industry, what does? “Having lost all sensitivity, they are giving themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more.” Wow! Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 19!
Let’s suppose I come into your home and you say, “You know, Pastor Lutzer, we have something we really want to show you, something we really admire.” I say, “What is it?” and I look into a case and there’s a knife. And you say, “You know, this knife is just beautiful. Look at its symmetry. Do you notice how sharp it is? Ooh, stainless steel blade! Just notice how beautiful it is!” And I say, “Well, okay. I’m not really into knives, but you know you’re telling us…” And you say, “You know, we come here and we just adore this knife all the time. We’re here every night for an hour looking at it.” I say, “Well, that’s really amazing. Tell me more about this knife.” “Well, we had one son, and you know we really loved him, and one day somebody broke into our house—a murderer—and murdered him, and this is the knife that was used for the murder.” I say to myself, “You know, something is wrong with this picture.”
My friend, don’t you realize that it is the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life? It was the knife that murdered Jesus on the cross. And yet we look at this and we say to ourselves, “We just admire it.” Why? We are in front of that television set every single evening, and we’re not missing our sitcom, and we’re not going to do this, and we’re not going to do that. And we love the very thing that grieves the heart of God.
I want to tell you something. Do you know why this is important? It’s not because it’s cultural. It’s not because 4000 cases of sexually transmitted diseases come to light in America every single day. It’s not because of that. What John wants to say is, “Don’t you realize that if you love the world?” and what James says is, “The Father is grieved. He’s grieved because you are loving what put His Son on the cross, and you are enjoying it, and you are buying it, and you are making sure that you have it.”
Let’s suppose you had Jesus over for dinner, you know, like Martha and Mary. You invite Him over, and you have a good meal, and you’re a little nervous because this is Jesus, the Son of God, but you’re so delighted with His company. And then you say, “Well, you know, Jesus, I think it’s time for us to relax. Would you like to sit on the couch and let’s watch some TV together?” Okay! So, what would you select? What would you select? Temptation Island? Would that be a possibility? (laughter) My dear friend, He is on the couch with you, by the way, and He’s having to put up with what you see, which grieves Him, and what nailed Him to the cross. You say, “How much of Hollywood can we bring into our home?” Well, the content test! I think that test alone pretty much drains the swamp, doesn’t it?
Now, you’re not used to doing this because we’re a church that is very formal. You usually don’t talk to me, but today I’m going to give you the opportunity to talk to me. I want us to say together on the count of three the Content Test. Okay? I’m going to say, “One, two, three,” and then everybody says those three words: the Contest Test. Are you ready? One, two, three! The Content Test! One more time! The Content Test!
Alright! Let’s go on to number two. Number two is the control test. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12: “All things are lawful for me.” He says, “There are many things that are lawful for me but,” he says, “I will not be brought under the power of any.” In other words, what he is saying is, “I will not be mastered by this thing.”
May I quote the words of Richard Price from Movie Line magazine? “There is only one thing more powerful than dope and that is movies.” “Oh,” you say, “I’m not addicted. Not me!” I want you to know today that you don’t know whether or not you are until you try to stop. Could you do without it for a month or would you say, “No, I could never… I mean, when I come home I relax, and need that relaxation, and I’m in control. It’s not controlling me.”
You know, we as men, if there’s anything that we like is that TV zapper. We just love the TV zapper because then we can channel surf. What are you looking for when you are channel surfing? “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m looking for. I’m just channel surfing, and I’m in control, totally in control. Look at the way I have this thing programmed. I control it. It goes directly from News Watch to Bay Watch—directly. See, I’m in control.”
Let me ask you this question. Might it be possible for God to satisfy the desires that you now find being satisfied supposedly by the entertainment industry? The control test! Can you control it or are you really being mastered by it? But you’re fooling yourself because you are saying…because my brief observation is that people who are addicted, by and large, are totally unaware that they live with the illusion that they are the ones that are in control, but they’re not. I’ll tell you, the world digs a deep hole in our hearts and has a tremendous hold within us. The control test! Can we say it out loud at the count of three? One, two, three, and then the Control Test? Are you ready now? One, two, three, the Control Test! Boy, you are getting good at it.
Let’s go on to a third test, and you know I wanted the letter “C” so that it would fit. (chuckles) It’s called the clock test. Ephesians 5:15 says, “Redeem the time.” That’s the translation I like best. To redeem the time means to buy it out of the marketplace because you have all of these competing things. Let’s suppose that you have something in your home that passes the content test, and it passes even the control test. The question is, “Is it a good investment of your time in light of the fact that the days are evil?”
Let me ask you this. How evil do the days have to get before we wake up out of sleep and say, “You know, it’s time that we began to live productively for Jesus?” By the way, I know this message is a little hard today, but I want you to know I do love you and I’m preaching it to myself too. (applause)
You know, if you make an investment… You know, those of us who invested in stocks and bonds, or whatever the investment might be, you always say, “I want a return.” Alright, that’s fair. The investment of your time, watching television! What’s the return? What’s the payback? Is your character better now as a result of it? Are you a better person? Are you more in love with Jesus than you were before? You see, the problem is that we make this tremendously huge investment and there is no appreciable payback.
Could I say something to the retirees? I’m going to be in that category in the not too-distant future so I’m going to say it very carefully. What a terrible thing to spend the last years of your life in front of a television set when there are so many needs. You know, there was one person who was watching television, and she said to herself, “This is crazy. I don’t want to spend the last years of my life like this.” And she went to the church and she got the names of missionaries and became personal correspondent to seventy missionaries. You say, “You mean seven.” No, seven-zero! And she began to write to them and to pray for them and live productively until the end. What a wonderful way to go! What a tragedy to sit in front of this tube, and then have to explain it all to Jesus, because the Bible says that we will give an account for the deeds done in the body, whether good or bad. And do you think Jesus is going to say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant for thou has watched 5,241 hours of television”?
You know, I think of people who are retired today, and then I think of young mothers who desperately want an older woman to come alongside of them and minister to them, and there are people who need to be ministered to through visitation and whatever, and some of these dear people have all that potential. And so what we’re talking about here is the clock test.
Is this, is this really… In fact, I hate to be too idealistic here, but I’m just going to throw this out. I’m going for broke today. I’m just going to do the whole thing. Have you ever thought how spiritual you would be and what your relationship with God would be like if all of the time that you have spent watching television would have been used reading the Bible? Now just think about that for a moment. You say, “Yeah, but the Bible isn’t as interesting. It’s God’s Word, but there’s nothing like that latest flick.”
Do you know why the Bible can’t compete? It’s because, you see, whatever part of us we feed, that’s the part of us that grows strong, so you feed, you see, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, and you feed it and you feed it, and it becomes stronger and stronger and stronger. And the Bible is over here somewhere. It’s fine for church and Sunday and sometime when you have company, you want to read it. But it’s not very important.
But you realize that if we began to read God’s Word and began to really fall in love with God, we would be absorbed and we’d know that there’s nothing wrong with pleasure? But the pleasures of God’s right hand would be our motivation. Just imagine that for a moment, idealistic though it is. Have you ever thought of how we grieve God by saying, “I want you to know that you’re not meeting my need so I have to turn to the world to meet my needs”? It’s the grief of God that should motivate us, not this message. The grief of God!
So, can you all say it now, after one, two, three: the Clock Test? You’re getting to good at it. One, two three! The Clock Test. In fact, you know you are getting so good, could we say by looking at me (Don’t look at your notes.), could we say all three of them together? Do you think? Let’s try it. Number one, of course, is the Content Test. Number two, the Control Test. Number three, the Clock Test.
What do we do about it? Let me give you five quick suggestions, and then I’m out of here. (chuckles)
Number one, we have to clean up our own act, and some of you can’t do this alone. You need to find somebody to pray with you. You need to find somebody to hold you accountable. You’ve tried a thousand times. And what we need to do is to say that we are going to take seriously the admonitions of Scripture, preparing for the return of Jesus Christ to be a pure bride. And whatever that takes, and whatever form that takes in my life, and I need this as much as you, that’s the form that you take it in your life, and to take it seriously and say, “At last, at the end of the day, I’ve stopped toying with God and I am serious.” Now that could be a whole message, but let’s get on with number two.
As families we have to set a standard. We have to set a standard! And listen up, parents. You have to set this standard based on the absolutes of Scripture. And children need to see that it’s based on absolutes and not merely culture or preference, because if you don’t base it on something solid like the teachings of Scripture, you’re going to get a whole bunch of hassle. You’re going to get young people who say, “Aw, you know what your problem is? You really just don’t like Madonna. That’s your problem.” Or, “Mom, you just don’t understand these slasher films.” And so what you have to do is to have standards in the home.
And then you have to empower children. You know, teenagers are into power, so I’m saying, “Hey, let’s empower them. Let’s give them power.” Let’s tell our young people, you know, “You’ve got so much power that it’s okay for you to walk out of a movie theater. It’s okay for you if you’re over at a friend’s house and they begin watching risqué videos, it’s okay for you to go to the phone and call me because I’ll come and pick you up. It’s okay for you to be different. And we need to empower them. And by the way, don’t ever miss next week’s sermon. Don’t even think about missing it because I’m going to be talking about the beautiful people, the impact of somebody like Brittany Spears on young people, and how everybody has to measure up physically. You’d better be here next week, or I’ll send God after you. (laughter) So you set a family standard and then you keep with it.
Number three, the whole business of discussion with young people and communication! The thing that young people (And you know, we raised three of them) always complain about is saying, “You know, you really don’t understand, because you don’t know what this is all about.” So, parents, learn what it’s all about.
You say, “Well, do we as parents, who are so holy, who attend Moody Church, do we have to actually find out what this rap music is saying? All that impurity?” Well, if your kid is into it I suggest you’d better find out if it’s going to make you impure. Imagine what it’s doing to him. Smell the coffee, folks! Wake up!
Be prepared for all kinds of questions. I mean, my wife and I have been through this. I thank God that our children love the Lord, and are grown. But things like, well, you know, “the words are immoral, but the musician doesn’t really mean it.” How do you like that? “Aw, Mom and Dad, it’s just a movie. It’s not reality,” or one that parents often use, “I just watch. I’m not doing anything bad,” or “Don’t you understand, parents, that if a movie is PG-13, it means that 13-year-olds are supposed to see it?” (laughter) Don’t you get it?
Parents, don’t condemn the young people. They’re going through a tremendous amount of temptation. What you do is you maintain that communication. And listen, you will never, never raise those kids to walk with Jesus (There are exceptions, of course.) if all that you do is warn them, warn them, warn them. What you need to do is to show then in your own life that walking with Jesus is satisfying. That’s a much more powerful message that’s being communicated, because you see, the kids, they just see these warnings and they say, “Well, you know, Mom and Dad are just trying to take the fun out of life. Look at that. They don’t do this, this, this. They don’t want me to do this, this, and this, and look at how miserable they are as Christians.” What you need to do is to show them the wonder and the beauty of Jesus, and that there is joy following Christ. So that’s communication.
Number four, practical steps! I read a statistic this past week. I just cannot believe this. Sixty percent of all teenagers have their own television set in their rooms (and somebody said, “Well, it’s not just teenagers; it’s kids.”) so that they watch their own videos. Are you telling me that unsupervised these kids have the opportunity to pretty well watch anything at any time, and you have their hearts, therefore, stolen and given to foreign gods?
Block out MTV. I don’t understand how anyone can raise a child in today’s society in hopes that he’ll loves Jesus. I’ll tell you this. You know, we read a few moments ago about how the love of God is not in the person who has the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life? This has happened to me. It has happened to you, too, hasn’t it? You really feel close to God. You sense the overwhelming presence of the Lord, and you turn on the television set and there is something impure that you are watching, and you can just feel the love of God just drain out of your soul.
So what you have to do is to say, “You know, we can’t have that. We’re not going to allow these thieves through the door, and then all that we have left is the kid’s body.” Parents, prepare your children for the fact that they are going to see stuff they shouldn’t see. They are going to see pornography. Once again, wake up.
A Christian family had some boys who found some pornography in a forest preserve. Naturally, as the boys began to frequent the forest preserve and like it there just a little too much, the parents began to ask questions, and then the children began to tell the story. So what do you do? Do you condemn them? Do you shame them? No! Shame is the fuel of addiction. You shame them and you are probably condemning them to a life of addiction to pornography.
Sexuality is a part of who we are. It’s the way in which we were created. The desire for intimacy, sexual attractiveness! That’s just a part of who we are as people and we need to understand that, but remember how I defined the world earlier. Don’t forget my definition. The world is meeting legitimate needs in forbidden ways. And by the way, in light of the fact that we are not born to love drugs or to love cigarettes or alcohol (Those are acquired desires.), but the desire for sexuality is something we were born with, until we remove the shame of someone being able to say, “I have a problem,” and we don’t shame them, we’re just going to keep driving people into secrecy. But what you need to do is to help your children to know what to do when they encounter this and how to handle it, and to point out that at the end of the day, legitimate needs need to be met in God’s way and not in forbidden ways.
I didn’t say this earlier, but you see, what Satan wants to do… Does he want you to be hooked on pornography just because he likes pornography? No! Do you know what he wants you to do? His agenda is to drive a wedge between you and God, and he does not care how that happens. If it is through one of these addictions, fine. If it’s another way, fine, because what he wants you to do is to cut the soul off from God so that our fellowship with God is marred, and then we begin to say to ourselves, “Well, you know, I’ve messed up so badly anyway, why should I turn to God?” That’s his agenda and what you need to do is to head that off at the pass by training young people how to handle these kinds of temptations and situations.
Finally, practice the spiritual disciplines. Pray without ceasing. Be in the Word of God. Remember the story of that couple who bought the little box, the jewelry box in France? And they were told that it would glow in the dark, and they brought it home and it didn’t glow in the dark. And they couldn’t read the instructions. They gave it to someone who read French and he said that the instructions say, “Put me in the light during the day, and I will glow all night.” So they put it in the light during the day, and it glowed all night.
Listen, the Word of God keeps us. There’s no substitute for reading Scripture. When I read Scripture in the morning, and there are verses that are (What shall we say?) engraved upon my heart and soul, those are the days when I can walk in victory. When I don’t read Scripture, it’s then that the impure and the unwanted thoughts begin to want to take over. It’s just as consistent as that.
Some of you have never received Christ as Savior, so you don’t know exactly what we are talking about because you don’t know why it is that we are grieved because of sin. As believers we are grieved because of sin. If you are not grieved because of it, you are probably not a believer, but the Bible says, “A new heart I will give you. A new spirit I will put within you.” And even today I urge you to come to Christ, who is able to cleanse you and to forgive you and to give you a brand new beginning. And then all of the Christian life, in a sense, is a series of brand new beginnings, isn’t it? As we say to ourselves, we are serious about our commitment to Jesus Christ and what that means.
If you will, let us pray.
Father, we do confess in Your presence today that so often we have grieved You. We have gone to the world to find our thrills. We have not found them in You. We have not found You that satisfying. We have grieved You. We think, Father, of the times in which we have condoned and excused, and we pray today in the name of Jesus that You might come to us for cleansing, and for a renewed commitment to be holy as You are holy.
Now, you talk to God about whatever it is that you need to talk to God about.
Father, for those who struggle in this area of their lives, for all of us, oh Father, help us. Help us in our struggle to give ourselves to You. And do not let us go, we pray, until you have freed us, that the truth might set us free. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.