American Idol — Television

Title: American Idol — Television

Text: Psalm 1:1, 1 John 2:15-17

Time: February 18th, 2012

 

A while back I preached a message from the little book of 1 John found in the New Testament. I happened to come to the passage on worldliness, 1 John 2:15-17, “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, the lust of the eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires will pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” If I recall correctly, I mentioned television in connection with the passage that describes “the lust of the eyes,” and I remember that I was met with a not so warm reception after the church service. Why? Because as Americans, as modern people in a modern world, we have grown used to the idol of television blaring away in our living rooms non-stop – and we’ve grown to love it! The reason people today are particularly sensitive to television is because it’s one of their modern idols too. An idol is anything we place too high in priority in relation to other, more important things; and most specifically, it’s something we put above our devotion to and worship of God in our lives. It’s true. Television is important to the average American, so very important, so important that if you took it away most people would suffer withdrawals, just like an addict. In fact, you might call television one of the biggest addictions in America. My message on worldliness reminded people just what the passage in 1 John 2:15 says, “Don’t love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” I warned the congregation to beware of television and its power to attract and hold our attention – and steal our time and attention away from more important things. I mentioned prayer, Bible study and spiritual reflection. I haven’t heard statistics, although they seem to put out statistics about everything these days, I haven’t heard any on the effects of television on personal prayer and Bible devotions, but I’m guessing since the advent of television personal prayer and devotions have taken a big hit. That means TV is stealing us away from important things, more important things, and filling our time and attention with a lesser thing. That’s what happens when we love something in the world too much, just as 1 John teaches. Well, I’m not sure if this message will be received any more readily than my last sermon that mentioned television, but I’d like to warn us all again about the dangers of television from Psalm 1:1. But let me say this – I’m not against all television. I myself watch television. I’m against the idol of television, the use of television that turns us into addicts. I’m against watching television over devotion to God, or over talking with the wife and kids, or over pursuing more important and meaningful activities. I’m against mindless TV viewing, watching “whatever is on,” and feeding our minds, emotions and souls with worldly content. We need to beware of television – it isn’t just some innocent, harmless thing that we happen to like. If we aren’t careful it will rob us of the best things in life, and even steal us away from God. Let me explain further from Psalm 1 (read).

 

First, beware of television and the counsel of the wicked. Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.” It’s so easy to forget that the content of most television programming is not Christian, or even remotely Christian. In fact today, chances are that most television programming will be anti-Christian, if anything. So the first problem we encounter with television is its worldly, carnal, sinful, ungodly content. Now this is not true in all television programming, but it’s true of most or the vast majority of television shows. If you watch 100% Christian programming this doesn’t apply, but then you have to be careful with other dangers. For example, if you watch exclusively Christian content, such as programmed church services, television ministries and sermons, Christian variety and entertainment shows, and so forth, you have to be concerned whether you are getting truly Christian content and whether it’s true and accurate Christian teaching. A lot of worldliness and carnality can creep into our lives under the heading “spiritual” or “religious.” Just because a television shows claims to be Christian doesn’t mean that it is, or that it is teaching the biblical faith. Otherwise worldly and carnal values can slip into the church, such as materialism and egoism, under the heading, “Christian.” We can’t simply sit back and input anything and everything that calls itself “Christian” and feel safe. We need to do what the Bible teaches us in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, “Test all things, cling to that which is good.” But my first warning is over secular or worldly content that teaches things that contradict the values of the Kingdom of God. The verse says, “Blessed is the man (or woman) who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.” When we watch content that isn’t Christian, or worse, that opposes our Christian faith, we are essentially walking with the wicked. We are letting the ungodly lead us along through an entertaining evening of whatever and wherever they decide to take us intellectually and emotionally. We need to be aware that most of television content isn’t Christian and that continual exposure to constant anti-Christian material will influence us, if not directly, indirectly. News programs are especially powerful in shaping our thinking because they report things as if the way something is presented in the program is the way it really is, in reality. Wrong. News reporting is biased, and mostly biased against the Christian worldview. But it’s not just news, it’s situation comedies, movies and otherwise seemingly harmless programs that all happen to approach thinking and living from a secular, godless perspective. We need to be aware of this and limit our exposure to worldly and carnal television. I’m not saying we should throw out our television set. I’m saying we need to beware of the ungodly viewpoint that most television programs come from and limit our exposure to this powerful influence. We’re naïve if we think television can’t influence us; it can and does. So it’s better not to get too heavily dependent on television, so that we can keep our distinct Christian perspective on life rather than getting sucked into the worldly, carnal chaos of our culture.

 

Second, beware of television and standing with sinners. Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners.” Here the passage speaks of standing with sinners. But aren’t we all sinners? Aren’t we all the sinful children of Adam and Eve? Don’t we all inherit original sin, and then also sin in thought, word and deed on our own as we go through life? If so, why the warning against standing with sinners? If so, wouldn’t we have to be taken into heaven immediately to avoid sinners and the world of sin? And anyway, what does this have to do with television viewing? Yes, we all are sinners, through original sin and through our actual sinning. Yes, in order to totally escape sin and sinners we’d have to leave this world. But that’s not what the passage is talking about, and that’s not what I’m talking about in connection with television. On television, we see sinners in a state of sinful disobedience towards God – with no guilt or shame about it! For example, the whole “soap opera” scene is one big carnal, worldly, sinful mess of tangled and ruined lives. These characters seem to glory in their rebellion against God’s morality in their pursuit of carnal pleasures, worldly power, and other sinful activities. The same could be said about many prime time television shows. Immorality on television is so common today that nobody thinks much about it any more. If there’s a television drama depicting a single person, it usually shows this person involved in premarital sex, with no guilty conscience. Lying, cheating, stealing, and other such sins are usually shown casually. The moral state of the average television drama is terrible. And we think that exposing ourselves to these programs won’t influence us at all? Are we crazy? It doesn’t mean that we’ll run out and copy and do what we watch on television, because it’s more subtle than that. We might first grow used to these immoral scenes, then we might tolerate these forms of immorality in society generally. Finally, we are accepting of different forms of immorality in the lives of our friends or family members. And with the high instances of immorality among many so-called Christians, something is influencing so-called believers to cross the line with premarital and extra-marital sex. Might that something be in part television? The Bible teaches, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character,’” 1 Corinthians 15:33. How many of us would answer when asked what we did last evening, “Oh, I hung out with some immoral, profane, ungodly, worldly, carnal people.” But that’s what would be accurate if we spent our whole evening watching certain situation comedies or dramas on prime time television. We need to begin to open our eyes to the dangers of television, and stop seeing it as simply a harmless pastime. We need to limit our time in front of television so that we don’t become like the characters on it.

 

Third, beware of television and sitting with mockers. Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” What is a mocker? It’s someone who mocks or makes fun of or laughs at or ridicules. I don’t have to inform you that Christianity is being mocked today like never before. But television is particularly a source of intense mockery of the faith. It’s hard to find a comedy show or comedy routine that treats the Bible, Christianity, the church, pastors or Christians fairly. It’s usually poking fun at faith. Comedians make fun of Christian morality. Situation comedies mock Christian values. Even news reports glory in pointing out the faults of Christian leaders while ignoring all the good that’s being done in the name of the Lord. If you were to learn of Christianity only from television viewing, outside of a few Christian programs and channels, the vast majority of programs would convince you that all church leaders are corrupt, all Christians are stupid, all churches are only after money, all Christian doctrines are irrational and Christian morality is oppressive. The impression television, in general, gives of the Christian faith is negative. So then does that mean we shouldn’t watch any television because there’s sin found there, there’s opposition to the Christian faith and there’s immorality? No. It doesn’t mean that; but we should first be aware of all these dangers instead of naively assuming that television is a harmless hobby. Then, we should be careful to make wise choices about what we watch on television. We need to think about not only what we want to watch, but also what we should watch. We need to be our own screeners. Movies are rated X, R, PG and G. We need to come up with our own way of rating the content of television programs and decided what we will and what we won’t put up with in our viewing. Obviously, we’re not going to ever watch X rated or sexually explicit material on television. And even in the case of otherwise good movies, we don’t have to just sit there and watch immoral scenes; we can turn away or fast forward them or if the movie can’t be redeemed, turn it off. If a program is going in a direction that Christians shouldn’t go, we can change channels, or turn the television off entirely. We don’t have to watch television, after all. Many people have such a heavy TV addiction that they can’t imagine turning the television off until it’s time for bed. They can’t imagine reading a book, or talking with their spouse or kids, or doing something else, anything else, other than watching television in the evening. That’s sad. It’s also sick. That’s why I’m teaching today for us all to beware of this American idol of television.

 

Now what I’m not saying is to throw out your television. I’m urging us all to limit our exposure to it, especially commercial television – you know, the kind of TV that is interrupted every five or ten minutes with commercials. Commercial television is even worse than prerecorded television programming because all of a sudden the program we have chosen to watch is broken into with content from commercials that we have no control over, nor any warning beforehand. It’s like the famous Super Bowl broadcast. Sports fans tune in because they love football. But it’s not just football they get — it’s anything and everything the commercials decide they’ll throw at them. Besides wasting our time, our valuable time, commercials assault us with prepackaged propaganda designed to persuade and motivate us to buy something. Who wants to be bombarded mentally and emotionally by such an attack? In response, I always turn down the sound on the commercials, that way, I don’t have to hear the hyped up sales pitch. When the program I decided to watch in the first place returns, then I bring the sound back. It’s so much better to watch programs without the commercials; and there are more and more available through DVD and the Internet. But we have to really think through how we are going to handle television in our day and age, because of the many problems I mentioned above. It’s a challenge to avoid the problems we encounter watching television while at the same time enjoying the benefits. There are many blessings that come through wise television viewing. We can learn a lot educationally, with documentaries, for example. We can see history in the making with live events, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall. We can experience good, clean entertainment if we carefully screen out the junk. We can see helpful and inspiring Christian television, useful Bible study and teachings. Christian talk shows and discussions are possible. Again, not all “Christian Television” really is helpful, but some of it is useful in advancing the Kingdom of God. Television can be a source of information, inspiration, entertainment, education and fun. It just has to be handled responsibly. I urge Christians to try to be disciplined in their television viewing habits; limit their TV watching to, say, two or three hours a day. It’s usually possible to watch a full movie in two hours, or a couple television programs. But more than two or three hours of TV per evening borders on an addiction. What’s the point of so much time spent in front of the tube? Do we live such boring lives that we need something to kill the time? Can’t we think of anything better to do? Have we said our prayers for the day? Have we read and thought about God’s Word yet? Have we talked with our wife or kids? I mean, really had a conversation with them? If not, why waste the evening in front of the television set for hours? Again, the definition of an idol is something, anything, that gets too much of our time or attention, especially something that takes us away from responsibilities before God. Is television an idol in your life? Do you watch more than two or three hours every evening? If so, I hope today I’ve challenged you to end your idolatry and put television back in its proper place in your life. Let’s keep the main things, the main things in life. Let’s get our life back in order, God’s order for us. Let’s end the idolatry of television.

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