July 27, 2014

Seeing Media With New Eyes - Part One

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Wisdom to Live by Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:22


Seeing Media With New Eyes-Part One

1 Thessalonians 5:22
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Pastor Randy Smith

I can still remember that era of my life very clearly. I was just starting middle school and it was another trip to the mall with my mom. When the torturous mother-son new clothes shopping was concluded, she'd go off and do her thing, and I'd run to the department store and beeline for the electronics section. It was always there - right on the end cap of an aisle - the new invention of a video game that you could play on your television set. The game was called, "Pong."

Only thirty plus years later and we'd agree that technology has come a long way. The video games are now more realistic than ever. Text messages have replaced the telephone. The Internet has arrived and is widely used. Social media dominates our lives. And most people now own a smart phone which is basically a small computer in the palm of your hands. How should the Christian process all of this when our beacon of life's guidelines, the Bible, was completed nearly two thousand years before any of this was ever invented?

This short series we started last week is entitled, "Wisdom to Live By." My goal over five weeks is to present various topics each of as Christians encounter in this world. The topics are not necessarily black and white issues, yes or no answers, but issues that require wisdom to make God-honoring decisions if we take seriously the overarching command to do "all" things for His glory (1 Cor. 10:31). If we seek to exalt Christ in all areas of our lives, we need to develop a biblical worldview that sees everything through the grid of Scripture. I believe these selected topics are the ones that have flown under the radar too long for those in the church.

Since the answers are not clear-cut, Christians have often copped out in one of two ways. We have adopted a legalistic "no" - total abstinence whereby everyone else must comply, or more commonly, we simply act like the world in these matters and assume everything is fine. Both are wrong. God wants us to know the facts, know His Word and make a decision that we deem will bring Him the greatest glory.

This morning I would like to discuss the very contemporary and relevant issue of media. Again, the goal of this sermon is not to present media as all bad or all good. I am not going to tell you to remove your televisions, avoid the theater and cancel your Twitter account. I am also not going to tell you that everything is fine. The solution is personal discernment based upon the Word of God. That requires work and wisdom. My goal is to help you in this challenging predicament.

First of all I think we need to understand that all media in and of itself is not evil or dangerous. Over 33,000 people die in motor vehicle deaths each year in the US,[i] but I believe nearly all of us own an automobile. Media can be good when it is used responsibly. Relationships have been renewed on Facebook. The Gospel is getting into closed countries through the Internet like never before. Children are only a button away on their mobile phone from contacting a parent (remember when you needed to carry a dime and then find a phone booth?). DVDs can provide both wholesome entertainment and worthwhile education. The list continues.

Yet what the Bible teaches is that the evil one uses all things for his disposal as well. His schemes are subtle and well-disguised (2 Cor. 2:11). He "disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14). He is "the father of lies" (Jn. 8:44), and his influence over unbelievers to accomplish his purposes is powerful (Eph. 6:12). Throughout history he has proven very effective to take every medium as a channel for his deceptive purposes. And with our nation glued to the various forms of media, we'd have to be very naïve to believe he doesn't have his slimy arms all around this incredible opportunity as well. Therefore, perhaps especially as it pertains to media, we need to "stand firm" (Eph. 6:13), relying upon our spiritual armor in particular the "Word of God" (Eph. 6:17) and "prayer" (Eph. 6:18). The call is to be vigilant and "alert" (Eph. 6:18).

Satan has a clear agenda and that clear agenda has been carried out by his human servants who unwittingly serve as his pawn held captive as prisoners of war. For example, "Bob Pittman, Founder and former President of MTV, made a startling admission. Pittman outlined a simple two-point plan whereby MTV would be able to accomplish its objective in the ownership of your children. The plan was basic, 1. 'Get their emotions going,' 2. 'Make them forget their logic.' Pittman then calculated, MTV will 'own' our children. This is no more than a basic subversive brain washing technique. Pittman had the brazen audacity to admit it."[ii] He said, "The strongest appeal you can make is emotionally. If you can get their emotions going, make them forget their logic, you've got them. At MTV, we don't shoot for the 14-year olds, we own them.'"[iii]

This is why we shoot for the mind with our preaching and singing and then allow the emotions to follow. Nevertheless Pitman's comments sound like another notorious figure from the corridors of history: "When an opponent declares, 'I will not come over to your side,' I calmly say, 'Your child belongs to us already... What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.'" [iv] That was Adolf Hitler.

If you think media is neutral, you have been deceived as well. Agendas are being driven. And just because it's produced by Nickelodeon or Disney or comes with a "G" rating does not in any way guarantee it is spiritual safe for your family. A Lichtman Rothman survey of Media Leaders revealed, "90% favor abortion...91% favor homosexuality ...and only 14% attend any kind of church."[v] Ephesians 5:15-16 says, "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise making the most of your time, because the days are evil." Let's remember that Satan is the "ruler of this world" (Jn. 12:31), and diabolical world domination always aims its guns to win the next generation.

I was reading the "Motion Picture Production Code" from 1930 and came across their mission statement. "Hence the moral importance of entertainment is something which has been universally recognized. It enters intimately into the lives of men and women and affects them closely; it occupies their minds and affections during leisure hours; and ultimately touches the whole of their lives. A man may be judged by his standard of entertainment as easily as by the standard of his work."[vi] It's safe to say these guidelines are no longer followed by Hollywood!

That is why 1 John 4:1 calls us to "test the spirits" because not everything is from God. As I read earlier, we are to "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good [and] abstain from every form of evil" (1 Thes. 5:21-22). Therefore it is our responsibility as Christians to examine the content of all media we view with what we know from the Word of God.

Here are some things to consider when you make your media selections:[vii]

  1. Does it mock Christianity? For the most part, the networks mock no other faith but Christianity, and they do it often without fear of reprisal. We will never stay excited about church and Bible reading when it's either ripped to shreds or totally ignored in the media choices we make. 1 Timothy 1:18-19, "Fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith."
  2. What is the primary message of the episode? In October 1990, Bill Cosby had a one hour show which focused on one of his teenage girls and the subject was whether she should have pre-marital sex or not. The advice given was "wait until you are ready or wait till you are in love." No mention of waiting for marriage. The focal point was to endorse pre-marital sex and leave it to the discretion of the teenager. Even when everything else appears to meet your approval, perhaps the greatest danger is the message that is pumped into your minds through great persuasiveness. The power of media can make the lies very believable. Romans 12:2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
  3. Does it glamorize rebellion? Does the show focus on rebellion to any type of authority, such as parents, police, teachers, government, etc. This is why many Disney movies never made it into our home. 1 Peter 2:13, "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution."
  4. Does it glorify controlled substances? Does the show make drugs and alcohol more respectable? The majority of the shows glorify alcohol. And by all means keep a close eye on the commercials. Young people view approximately 20,000 commercials each year, of which nearly 2,000 are for beer and wine.[viii] For every "just say no" or "know when to say when" public service announcement, teens will view 25 to 50 beer and wine commercials.[ix] Ephesians 5:18, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit."
  5. Does the program push evolution as fact? When programs are aired which show a clash between Christianity and Evolution, the Christians are always portrayed as religious idiots while the evolutionists are shown to be the intelligent, scientific and logically minded. Rarely if ever is Creationism even given a fair shake as an acceptable alternative. Romans 1:25, "For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever."
  6. Are there occultic overtones? If the program contains subtle or blatant endorsements of psychics, new age themes, mediums, or portrays witches as good, moral people (a big one nowadays), this is a satanic attempt to get you to accept the occult by dressing it up. Ephesians 5:11, "Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them."
  7. >Are there sexual suggestions? Are unbiblical sexual scenes portrayed as acceptable? Are images placed in the mind that are not wholesome? Is the show using inappropriate sexual innuendos or immodest physical exposure? It's interesting how Hollywood inundates this unbiblical material into nearly all their productions, but rarely presents the often experienced consequences of these actions. Ephesians 5:3, "But immorality or any impurity…must not even be named among you."
  8. Is violence glorified? The number of murders seen on TV alone by the time an average child finishes elementary school is 8,000. The number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18 is 200,000.[x] Proverbs 3:31,"Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways."
  9. Is vulgarity a part of the script? Is there foul language used? Moreover, is God's name taken in vain? That's not just His name followed by the "d-word;" it's His name used in a way simply as an expression such as the popular "Oh my…" Matthew 6:9, "Hallowed be Your name."

Do we as Christians consider these factors, or are we just blending in with the world? When it comes to the media, how often do we initially ask, "Who's in the movie?" or "How well is it doing at the box office?" as compared to the items I just suggested? Better, we should ask ourselves this overarching question, "Would I feel comfortable watching that show if Jesus were personally sitting by my side?" Or here is another good question to ask, "Will we allow ourselves to be entertained by something that put our Savior on the cross?"

Now I know at this point there are probably several people here that still believe the media is neutral and it's only pretend, they'll say, and its effects have no influence on their spiritual life. Permit me to submit to you the following.

First of all, one more informed and intelligent than me said, "[Media] programs are designed with the purpose of reprogramming your mind by breaking down your defenses so you will accept a lie as truth."[xi] He's right! Even the Hollywood elites and network executives boldly have no problem admitting their agendas. Grant Tinker, Former Chairman NBC TV once remarked, "If we can start changing attitudes in this country, we can start changing behavior."[xii]

Second, in Philippians 4:8 we are called to "dwell on [the] things" that are "true…honorable…right…pure…lovely…of good repute…[excellent] and …worthy of praise." In Proverbs 4:23 we are told to, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life." The Lord knows our hearts influence our actions. That influence starts in our minds and information in this case enters through our eyes. As Jesus said, "The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness." (Lk. 11:34-35).

There is no way we can allow this material with its aim to reprogram our minds to be pumped into our brains and then not expect it to adversely affect our spiritual lives. Perhaps we should keep Jeremiah 17:9 in the back of our minds: "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" It does influence you. Everybody knows that! Why else would anyone in their right mind spend four million dollars for just a thirty second spot to push their product during the Super Bowl?[xiii]

I came across this interesting story that makes the point as to how irresponsible and illogical the church has become in this area.

A few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around from then on.

As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger... he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.

If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn't seem to mind.

Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)

Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home - not from us, our friends or any visitors Our long time visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush. My Dad didn't permit the liberal use of alcohol but the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.

I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked... And NEVER asked to leave.

More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents' den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

His name? We just call him "TV."[xiv]

Children aged 2-11 watch over 24 hours of TV per week, while adults aged 35-49 watch more than 33 hours.[xv] The average American watches more than five hours of live television every day.[xvi]

Studies have proven that television viewing can lead to an escape from and false view of reality, obesity, increased violent attitudes, sleep deprivation, less interpersonal communication, shorter attention spans, less creativity, artificially induced stress, hindered reasoning, unrealistic fear, an addiction (I'll come back to that) and as we have been learning, a complete destruction of spiritual values.

I viewed a documentary this week entitled, "Captivated" which exposed in detail what unhealthy media consumption is doing to our society. In one segment of the film a school principal was becoming discouraged over the increasing number of students that were being diagnosed with ADHD in his school. Several parents hesitant to administer medications to their children came to him for advice. He decided to conduct his own experiment. The principal suggested they run a test which consisted of each child: Eating three nutritious meals each day, being in bed no later than 9:00, requiring outside play to be a minimum of one hour each day and limiting electronics (TV, video games) to a half hour each week. Of course this was not a scientific study, but it was reported among all six families that each child was able to avert the medication with this daily prescription.[xvii]

There is media overload. It is killing us emotionally, socially, physically and spiritually. You know, Christians should avoid all addictions, anything that has a controlling influence in our lives. Rather we are to be "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Eph. 5:18). When it comes to addictions, oftentimes we think of tobacco or alcohol or narcotics (those are obvious!), but maybe we need to add all forms of media to the list as well: social media, the Internet, video games, movies and in particular, the television.

So how can I know I may have an addiction to media? Let's take television for example. I came across this list in my study this week that provides a good source for personal evaluation:

  1. You call someone to videotape TV shows that are on the same time as the ones you are watching and presently videotaping.
  2. You watch a program with the anticipation of seeing a sinful act.
  3. You enjoy the sinful scenes on the show.
  4. You eat your dinner in front of the TV.
  5. You neglect your spouse or family for a TV show.
  6. You look forward to a TV show more than you look forward to next week's church service?
  7. You miss Wednesday evening prayer meeting for TV.
  8. You begin to role play the parts you see on TV on a serious basis.
  9. Your conversation is replete with TV reviews and anecdotes.
  10. TV replaces your Bible reading or devotion time.
  11. Family Worship has been replaced by a TV program.
  12. You know more about TV than Scripture.
  13. No one is allowed to speak while the TV is on.
  14. You begin to start empathizing with the characters the actors are portraying.
  15. You rush home so you will not miss a program.
  16. You watch TV late into the night consistently.
  17. When company visits, the TV remains on.
  18. You disturb others on the job by discussing a TV show.
  19. You yell at the TV when a certain scene unfolds.
  20. You become angry when "there ain't nothing good on TV tonight."
  21. You let TV do your thinking for you.
  22. The only book you read is TV guide.
  23. You turn the TV on the moment you enter a room.
  24. The TV is on when you are doing your chores.
  25. You do not want people to visit when your programs are scheduled to come on.
  26. When people visit, you wish they would leave so you could watch your programs.
  27. You laugh at the very sin which sent Christ to the cross.
  28. You have every premium cable channel like HBO, Cinemax, etc.
  29. You constantly flip channels with your remote control.
  30. You begin to adopt ideas and attitudes contrary to Scripture.
  31. You find more pleasure watching TV than being with God's people.
  32. You go nowhere but have become a couch potato.[xviii]

So we need to ask ourselves these questions: Do my family and/or I need to be more discerning on the media we select? Parents, especially fathers, you have a responsibility in this area! And do my family and/or I need to limit our time involvement with media?

I think we'll leave it there for now. As the Lord permits, we'll pick up where we left off next week and discuss not only how we can overcome an addiction to media and what we can do in this regard, but also take a look at the Christian's perspective to Social Media itself, something that deserves our attention and something I barely covered in this message.

Remember, the Lord wants us to approach these things with temperance whereby we don't simply run to extremes, labeling everything good or everything evil, but we use discernment in the spirit of Hebrews 5:14 which exhorts us to show ourselves to be "mature…because of practice [we] have [our] senses trained to discern good and evil."

other sermons in this series

Aug 17


Thinking About Drinking

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Proverbs 23:29–35 Series: Wisdom to Live by

Aug 10


Moving Beyond Mediocrity

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:1 Series: Wisdom to Live by

Aug 3


Seeing Media With New Eyes - Part Two

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:22 Series: Wisdom to Live by