FacebookTwitterRSS FeedPinterest

By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10.30am service, 2001-08-12

Text: Romans 12:1,2

I. The Prevalence of Mass Media Today 

The topic we will meditate on this morning is:'Surviving the Influence of the Mass Media'. This is a most topic relevant to us all because we all face this influence everyday. In this present age of Information Technology we now have much more of the media than ever before. For newspapers: Besides the Straits Times, Business Times and New Paper, we now have Today and Streats which are distributed free. It is very common to see people reading these newspapers while commuting to school or work on the MRT. 

Go to any newsstand you will find a great variety of magazines for almost every kind of person - housewives, teens, children, men and women, car, computer or sports enthusiasts. And now, with the addition of cable television and new TV channels (Channel News Asia, Kids Central, MediaWorks), there are enough shows to keep Singaporeans are glued to their TV sets from dawn till past midnight. On the streets we see advertisment billboards everywhere - at bus stops, in the MRT stations, and shopping centers, on buses and taxis, and in some places huge display screens for video advertisements. Even when we board a bus we can't escape from the media because they now have TV screens installed in them. 

Besides this, we also have access to a vast world of information and entertainment on the Internet, plus a vast choice of music CDs, Video CDs and Video and cassette tapes on the market that we can get so easily. The media and entertainment industry is generating tonnes of profits through all these and one of the most popular courses in many institutions of learning now is Mass Communications! 

II. The Benefits of the Mass Media 

It is fair to mention that the mass media does have many useful benefits. Through it we are kept informed of things that are going on around the world. Something that happens in one corner of the world will be broadcast and known everywhere within a matter of hours! This can be of great help people, e.g. the SIA crash in Taiwan last year. It was through the mass media that everyone received fresh updates on the plight of the victims and their families. Appeals for help through the media brought overwhelming responses from the public, especially to donate blood to help the victims and offer condolences. 

Our church uses the media like this as well. Beside our weekly bulletin, we have an e-mail prayer network through which our members are kept informed of urgent prayer requests and events in the church. We also have a website that has been accessed by people from around the world, and some Christians in Muslim countries have benefited from the correspondence courses we have posted in the web site. The media therefore provides us with an effective means to disseminate the Gospel and the Word of God far and wide. Some countries that are sealed off to missions can be reached by radio and television broadcasts, and there are some Christian ministries that specialize in sending God's Word to them over the airwaves. 

III. The Adverse Influence of the Mass Media 

A. Sinful Elements 

But we must realise that a vast proportion of the mass media today is in the hands of unbelievers. And what they promote over the media is bound to reflect their own humanistic worldview, materialistic values, ungodly attitudes and worldly lifestyle. Most of the content of the mass media has its origin in the hearts of unsaved sinners. As long as this remains the case, it will continue to propagate sinful and ungodly trends. The word of God tells us in Mark 7:21- 23 'For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness' 

Some time ago my family and I happened to watch an interview on a popular TV show. A well-known local TV star was being interviewed and she was happily announcing that she was about to get married soon to an American. She introduced her husband-to-be to the interviewer and talked about their grand wedding arrangements and then she announced that she was going to become a mother to their first baby arriving in a few months' time. This was said simply and shamelessly as if it was a perfectly normal thing to happen and the interviewer even congratulated the couple on this. We can imagine the impact this would have on the viewers of this show. Those who are fans of this star would be influenced to follow her immoral lifestyle. This is typical of the popular music and entertainment world today where young people are being encouraged to adopt a sinful, rebellious spirit. 

Some time ago I caught a glimpse of a short MTV sequence featuring music that is deliberately designed to stimulate violence and rebellion: It showed people going around, breaking things, hitting people, using abusive language with the basic message, 'Move off, we are taking over now!' 

But most of the time the influence is actually very subtle, e.g. the very popular gameshow many of us love to watch, 'Who wants to be a millionaire?' Although this show appears to be just a harmless gameshow, it does promote a coveteous spirit and high risk-taking which are the two basic elements of gambling. The adrenaline-pumping excitement of making big gains quickly, mixed with the anxiety of making big losses quickly, are the same feelings generated by any form of gambling. And if we keep on watching this, what long-term impact do you think it may have on us? 

B. Satanic Elements 

Now, while we mentioned awhile ago that all the sinful elements in the mass media can be traced to the sinful hearts of men, we must also factor in another source that may be behind much of the evil influences of the mass media - the Devil. Listen to what Ephesians 2:2 says 'Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience' Since Satan has free rein to use unbelievers to carry out his purposes on earth, it is not surprising that he would take full advantage of the mass media to keep people everywhere imprisoned in his kingdom of darkness. Like the Pied Piper of Hamlyn, Satan skillfully uses the mass media as his magical instrument to charm the world and to bombard our senses daily, with his tune of rebellion against God, lawlessness, and sin. But that tune is a deadly tune that will ultimately lead many to their destruction. 

By that tune God's mighty Acts of Creation are being grieviously discredited wherever the Theory of Evolution is taught as if it is an established fact of Science. And by that tune the lie that the Serpent told Eve 'Ye shall be as gods' (Genesis 3:5) is propagated through the very man-centred propaganda we find in the media. There are other devious means that Satan uses to get his message across in the media. You may have heard of things like backward masking - Satanic messages that are wickedly woven into some rock music that work on a person subconsciously. Some researchers have also revealed that there may be subliminal messages hidden in some movies that have a cumulative effect on the mind. 

The Harry Potter books are known to have influenced some children to indulge in witchcraft and occult practices. The role-playing games like 'Dungeons and Dragons' have been proven to lead players deep into occultism. The popular Pokemon game is also believed to have some occultic connection. 

Dearly beloved, let us be aware that there is an intense spiritual battle raging in this world - a battle that is being fought for the hearts and minds of men. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that 'we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.' And one of the best strategies that the Enemy uses extensively in this spiritual battle is to take full advantage of the power of the Mass Media!

IV. Principles for Resisting the Influence of the Mass Media 

And so dear brethren, let us know that the Lord wants to resist this strong influence of the mass media and not to succumb to it. And how should we do this? I would like to suggest that we can find some useful practical principles in Romans 12:1,2, the passage which speaks about consecrated living 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.' There are at least four principles we can find here, that will help us to resist the adverse influence of the mass media. The first is found in in v.1 - 

A. Present Your Bodies a Living Sacrifice Unto God 

To present our bodies to God means that we yield ourselves completely to the Lord for His use, and that we submit ourselves to His leadership all the time. One of the reasons why many Christians find that it is such a great struggle for them to resist the influence of the media, is that their lives are not yet fully yielded to God. They have not surrendered themselves to the Lordship of Christ. They still hold very tightly to all their rights to self-will, self-gratification, and self-fulfillment. As a result of this, the media's call to them becomes irresistible, because it constantly appeals to all these things.

The basic message that the mass media churns out constantly is that you must get everything you can for yourself out of this life. So go ahead and make yourself rich quickly. Make sure that you always look good, and feel good and enjoy yourself. Dearly beloved, if you find that this self-centred message of the media strikes a responsive chord in your heart, then this shows that you are still holding on to your rights to self-will, self-gratification, and self-fulfillment. You are still claiming your life as your own, to live for yourself! 

If you are a true believer, you should realize that your life cannot be your own any more, because of what God has done for you. This is why Romans 12:1 begins with the words 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,' God has shown to us great mercy, in giving us a salvation which we did not deserve at all, for if God had given us exactly what we deserved, none of us would be saved. Without the mercies of God, we would all still be dead in sin and destined for eternal death. And so we who are saved are now tremendously indebted to the Lord. If we know that, how can we then go on living our life for ourselves anymore? 

And so, dear friends, what we must do now is to yield ourselves fully to the Lord. Present your bodies to Him now as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable unto God! Surrender your rights completely to Him and live your life for Him alone. And when you do this, you will find that it will become a lot easier to resist the attractions of the media, because there is no more of that old self-centredness within you that the appeal of the media can easily latch on to. When the influence or call of world has nothing to latch itself on to in you, there is nothing it can use to pull you any more into its deadly vortex.

Besides yielding yourself fully to the Lord there are other principles that can help you to resist the influence of the mass media. Let us look now at the next one, which is found in v.2 of our text: 

B. Be Not Conformed To This World 

There are many pursuits in the world that may appear to be quite harmless to us. But there are actually dangers hidden in them that we must be aware of. And we should always be careful not to get involved in pursuits or practices which are questionable, lest we become conformed to the world! The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:12 'All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.' 

This verse expresses a principle that is useful to determine whether we as Christians should or should not participate in any questionable pursuit. And this can be applied to the mass media as well. There are some kinds of media that we should avoid because they are very harmful to us. 

1. Violence and Bloodshed 

E.g. Any form of entertainment that derives pleasure from watching or participating in violence and bloodshed should be avoided, not only by children, but by adults as well. Why? Because the gory scenes of killing, torturing and maiming people tends to desensitize us to violence, and devalues human life which should always be very precious to us. Long-term exposure can even produce violent behaviour in our lives! 

Studies have shown that shows like 'Mighty Morphin Power Rangers' will cause young children to enjoy hurting one another after viewing them. And even children's comics sometimes feature gross pictures of killing and bloodshed. And now there are forms of entertainment that use 'Virtual reality' where the viewer is no longer just a passive witness, but an active participant who kills and hurts others freely. I am referring to the many high-tech video games and interactive computer and Internet games that are on now the market. It is reported that at least 30 % of these games are filled with violence. They include popular games like Counterstrike, Doom, Diablo, Duke Nukem, Half Life and Deus Ex. 

In one game called Carmaggedon, the player is supposed to drive a virtual car to knock down virtual people. By the time he reaches the highest level of the game, he would have run over and killed 33,000 pedestrians! In 20 April 1998, at Columbine High School, in Colorado, 2 teenage boys killed 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives. They had been playing the video game 'Doom' for hours daily. Hours of 'virtual killing' desensitised them to violence and trained them to kill. 

These games are also very addictive. Studies have shown that one out of every four people who play these games get addicted to them. We hear more and more incidences of students getting addicted to them and showing changes in their behaviour. They become so desensitized to violence and bloodshed that they even begin to treat others quite roughly and disrespectfully. This desensitisation to violence is not the only danger that the mass media poses. Another danger we must be aware of in mass media is: 

2. Pornographic Material 

Any lewd and immoral elements should be avoided. It is obvious that much of the advertising today takes advantage of the lust of the flesh. They often use implicit or explicit sexual images to attract the attention of viewers. Although strict censorship has eliminated much of this material from the mass media in our country, we are very sad to see that the standards of censorship have dropped quite a lot within the last two decades, and there are now more and more sexually explicit material coming through than before, in the name of 'artistic expression.' 

Dearly beloved, since we cannot trust the judgment of the censorship authorities any more, we must now exercise our own personal censorship with high biblical standards. A good guideline is this: Do not read, hear or view any material that will stir up sinful desires within you. Don't say to yourself that you are spiritually strong enough to resist the temptation of sexual sin. Even the godly King David fell headlong into the sin of adultery when he saw Bathsheba. And if your eyes just happen to accidently see something that is tempting then do not give that 'second look' but turn away and look elsewhere. 

Let us now proceed to look at the next part of our text to see what else we should do in order to resist the strong influence of the mass media: Romans 12:2 goes on to mention that you must: 

C. Be Transformed By The Renewing of Your Mind 

When you live your life for the Lord, something has to change in your thinking. You must have and maintain a clear and undistorted perception of all things. You must perceive what is really there, and not what just appears to be there, you must see what really is important, and not what seems to be important. Other passages of scripture refer to this kind of thinking as being sober: 1 Peter 1:13,14 'Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance' A sober mind is not clouded with false perceptions of life. In contrast to that, when a person gets himself drunk or high on drugs, he is not sober. His perception of things around him is entirely distorted and he lives in his own world, out of touch with reality. 

What we must understand now, is that much of what is found in the mass media and entertainment world is actually out of touch with reality. For instance, much of the advertising in the media is designed to convince viewers that they need some new gadget or product, which they do not need at all, and may never use at all after they buy them. And so, you should not believe everything you see or hear on the media. Much of it is deliberate misrepresentation, exagerration and propaganda. For instance, beer advertisements on TV always portray beer drinking as a sign of manliness and success. But what they don't show you are the terrible road accidents, lawsuits and deaths caused by drunken driving! 

Many shows that are screened by the media are the creations of man's own fertile imaginations. They are only fictitious portrayals of life, but presented very convincingly by skilled actors and fantastic special effects. And they can captivate the viewer until he becomes so engrossed with the storyline, that for a while he is lost to reality! Let us therefore be careful about getting ourselves too attached and engrossed with the many new interesting television shows and channels that are now available. If you do happen to watch them, ensure that you detach yourself from them so that you may keep your mind sober, and always in touch with reality. Keep your mind sober, in order that you can resist the influence of the media. This will enable you to apply the next principle that is found in our text of Romans 12, which is to: 

D. Prove What Is That Good and Acceptable and Perfect Will of God

We need to cultivate a mind that will not blindly absorb everything that comes along, but will prove or discern between what is within God's will for us and what is not. With regard to the mass media this means that we must use our knowledge of God's Word, to assess whatever it presents to our senses. This is something that comes with spiritual maturity, as Hebrews 5:12 says 'But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.' Psalm 119:11 says 'Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.' The more that you read the Bible and pray, the more you will be able to prove what is good and acceptable, as well as what is bad and not acceptable to God. Meditate on God's Word each day, and you will cultivate a godly mindset, a mind that sees every thing the way that God Himself would see them. 

When I was a young Christian, I did not have this kind of discernment and so I used to listen to all kinds of pop music. And I had quite a large collection of records and cassette tapes of these pop groups and singers which I enjoyed listening to over and over again. But as I grew in my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, I began to sense that I could not listen to this kind of music and be thinking about the things of God at the same time. And when I did my quiet time, the tunes of this music ringing in my head would leave me in a mood that was totally unconducive for spiritual things. It came to a stage that I decided to get rid of all these records and tapes and not listen to them any more, since, they were hindering my walk with the Lord. 

The same principle applies to the way you should regard anything in the mass media. Whenever you are convicted by the Lord you that something you love to listen to or watch is not right, and that your spiritual life will suffer if you were to continue in it, then you must be bold enough to take the decision to act upon it. Your relationship with the Lord should be so important to you, that nothing should be allowed to compromise it. And so keep on applying godly discernment in your life to weed out anything that not good nor acceptable in God's sight.

As we conclude this meditation on how we may resist the influence of the mass media, let us all seek the Lord's help to apply these principles well. If the Lord has spoken to your heart in this message, be sure to obey Him, Present your body to Him now, by yielding your life for Him to use each day. Don't be conformed to the world, getting yourself involved in pursuits that are attractive but questionable. Maintain a renewed, sober mind that does not lose sight of reality. And prove all things by exercising godly discernment to discern between what is acceptable and unacceptable. I trust that by applying these principles we will all be able to withstand the strong influence of the mass media, and not succumb to it. May the Lord help us to remember them.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11