Seeing Media With New Eyes - Part Two
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:22
Seeing Media With New Eyes-Part Two1 Thessalonians 5:22
Sunday, August 3, 2014
Pastor Randy Smith
"The TV is my shepherd, my spiritual life shall want, It makes me to sit down and do nothing for the cause of Christ. It demandeth my spare time. It restoreth my desire for the things of the world. It keepeth me from studying the truth of God's Word. It leadeth me in the path of failure to attend God's house. Yea, though I live to be a hundred, I will fear no rental; My television is with me, its sound and vision comfort me. It prepareth a program for me, even in the presence of visitors. Its volume shall be full. Surely comedy and commercials shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in spiritual poverty forever"
We've had a busy day and still look forward to celebrating the Lord's Table at the end of the service, but I'd like to take the time we have remaining to continue in our short mini-series entitled, "Wisdom to Live By." The goal of this series is to examine several contemporary issues that have flown under the radar way too long for the Christian. They are issues that we all encounter and issues that we too often have processed no differently than the world.
If we follow the overarching command for believers in 1 Corinthians 10:31 to do "all" things for the glory of God, that certainly means "all" things must be approached as spiritual choices. The goal therefore is for all believers is> to develop a biblical worldview whereby everything we think or do passes through the grid of Holy Scripture and honors Jesus Christ.
Romans 12:1-2 speaks to this issue and serves as a guide, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 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."
Two weeks ago we considered the subject of time management. Last week we took a look at the choices we make regarding media. Lord willing, I aim to complete that message this morning.
Let's remember, our intent is to think biblically regarding all of these issues. That means we don't approach the inescapable matter of media with the "all-or-nothing" mentality. Just as wrong as it is to conform to the world - "everything is fine" - it is equally as wrong to totally abstain from any or all media simply out of a knee-jerk, doing-what-other's-do or legalistic reaction.
As I said, we must develop a biblical worldview: First, we use the principles of Scripture. Second, we pray. Third, we seek wise counsel from respected Christians. Fourth, we allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit and conscience. And fifth, we use our minds and we make a God-honoring decision that we believe is best for ourselves and our families.
Perhaps when this is all said and done you might feel led to abstain from some or all forms of media. That's great! Yet if you still welcome media in your life, you should have at least developed a grid through which all your media choices must now pass through. Can you affirm that you have such a grid and has that grid been given to you after your submissive heart has humbly sought the Lord's will?
The fact that media can be a negative influence should not be a new revelation to any believer. Even unbelievers warn of the dangers: An escape from and false view of reality, addictions, obesity, violent attitudes, sleep deprivation, less interpersonal communication, shorter attention spans, less creativity, artificially induced stress, hindered reasoning, unrealistic fear and the list continues.
Look around! Young people have been more passive than ever! Few are communicating; everybody is now fiddling with their smart phones. I understand that some families are now texting each other within the homes! One study revealed that children on an average receive 3,339 text messages each month. Some bring their phones to bed with them. Never before have young people been able to screen out parents so thoroughly. The average American spends 53 hours each week in front of the screen. Adult men are deadbeats, playing video games in their parent's basement tricking their minds that they really are accomplished something as several studies have proven. The lyrics of many songs are X-rated. I even had one woman approach me last week saying she is addicted to television. Praise God for her humility to admit it! I wonder how many of us are also struggling with a media addiction.
It's not just the time we waste in front of our media gadgets. We should also be concerned about the garbage that frequently gets pumped into our brains. How can we, Philippians 4:8, "dwell in [the] things" that are "true [and] honorable [and] right [and] pure [and] lovely [and] of good repute [and] worthy of praise" when we are filling our minds with material that is diametrically opposed to biblical values? I hate to overstate the obvious, but if we're seeking to develop a biblical mind to make wise choices in this fallen world I don't think poor media choices are sending us in the right direction!
Kent Hughes in Disciplines of a Godly Man, said, "It is impossible for any Christian who spends the bulk of his evenings, month after month, week upon week, day in and day out watching the major TV networks or contemporary videos to have a Christian mind. This is always true of all Christians in every situation! A biblical mental program cannot coexist with worldly programming" (p. 75).
John Piper adds, "It astonishes me how many Christians watch the same banal, empty, silly, trivial, suggestive, immodest TV shows that most unbelievers watch - and then wonder why their spiritual lives are weak and their worship experience is shallow with no intensity" (Take Care How You Listen - Part 2, Luke 8:4-18, February 22, 1998).
Well, I promised you last week we'd take some time to talk about social media this morning. Seven hundred billion minutes. That's how much time Facebook's 1.2 billion active users spend on the site every month. Every month people spend the equivalent of 1.3 million years on Facebook; the equivalent of nearly 18,000 lifetimes. More than half of us login every single day (http://boldandunashamed.com/2013/07/the-dangers-of-social-media).
Does this mean it is all bad? I do not think so. I have a Facebook account. It can serve many good purposes. We can reconnect with lost friends. We can stay in touch with others. We can post and read thought-provoking comments and excellent articles. We can encourage and equip Christians. With only click, we can share the Gospel with hundreds. As a matter of fact, Al Mohler in one of the best books on leadership I've read, recently argued, "If the leader is not leading in the digital world, his leadership is, by definition, limited to those who also ignore or neglect that world. That population is shrinking every minute." He goes on to say, "If you are satisfied to lead from the past, stay out of the digital world. If you want to influence the future, brace yourself and get in the fast lane" (The Conviction to Lead, p. 176-177).
But as it is with all media, if we are not careful, the pitfalls of social media can rapidly outweigh its benefits. We all want to follow the Bible, right? So let me provide ten Bible verses and then a genuine concern related to each verse. You may still desire to keep your Facebook and Twitter account, but please consider these thoughts as you move forward.
- Colossians 2:7 calls us to be "overflowing with gratitude."
Social media can give us the impression that other people are perfect. Let's remember people (including yourself!) often only post their best pictures and favorite comments. If we are not careful, this incomplete picture we receive from others can lead us to apathy ("why doesn't my family have so much fun?") or discontentment ("why don't my kids win those awards?") or ungratefulness ("why don't I get a nice vacation in the Caribbean?").
- Matthew 12:36, Jesus said that "every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment."
Social media can be a fertile tool for careless and unrestrained words. That's also why it's a haven to both spread and receive gossip.
- 1 Peter 1:22 calls us to "fervently love one another from heart."
Social media encourages less face-to-face interactions. Eventually we begin to know others only from behind a computer screen. We may appear to have hundreds of friends, but all these superficial relationships don't equate to any true friendships. Instead of building into real relationships, we spend hours with pseudo-friends online exchanging only sound bites.
- Colossians 1:10, "Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects."
Social media encourages living a fantasy life. It's easy to pretend on Facebook and Twitter that you are actually more interesting than you really are. It's easy to get immersed in a phony persona whereby the screen now becomes your stage.
- Matthew 18:15, "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother."
Social media enables the "tough guy syndrome." I've dealt with these folks. Big, brave and bold when behind the screen, but timid and often cowardly to meet in person. The days of blessed reconciliation and honest dialog through face-to-face interactions are sadly decreasing rapidly.
- 1 Peter 1:13, "Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Social media pushes us to get caught up in the trivial. Have you ever noticed the stories that are "trending" on Facebook? It's the important stuff like celebrity gossip and the latest Hollywood releases. Even when reviewing others posts, commonly we brush over the items that require thought and get caught up in what people ate for breakfast and what they are currently watching on television. Deep thought over the important matters is vanishing and consumption with the trial is skyrocketing. Everything in social media is about reductionism and brevity and it spills into other facets of our lives (like our Bible Study and theology).1 Corinthians 13:7 says, "[love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
Social media fosters the "absent-but present" syndrome." Everybody is in close proximity, but everybody is glued not to each other, but to their media accounts.
- Ephesians 5:15-16, "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil."
Social media can be a waste of time. Ever notice how fast an hour can fly by when you are on Facebook? Was anything really profitable accomplished? Are we losing out on the practices of a disciplined life?
- Matthew 16:24, Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me."
Social media easily breeds narcissism. What is You-Tube's motto? "Broadcast Yourself." If you are not very careful, social media can lead to self-centeredness and self-promotion. Some people post a lot, but their message is always the same, "Me, Me, Me" - my specialness, my greatness and my quest to garner the praises of the masses. I believe all those who have been pumped the lie about self-esteem have now finally found their outlet!
- John 8:36, "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed."
And lastly, social media can be addictive. Checking your account too often or at inappropriate hours of the day (first thing, last thing, middle of the night, during church)? Talking to people online more than you do face-to-face? Allowing social media to interfere with and trump your other priorities (time with God, time with others, job production, responsibilities at home).
If you feel these pitfalls are not affecting you and you can use social media without violating the verses I selected, may the Lord bless you in your endeavors! I just encourage you to think and process social media like a Christian.
John MacArthur said it best, "When so much about social media panders to pride and shameless self-exaltation, believers need to think about their motives before they jump on the bandwagon. If the goal is simply popularity or personal promotion, it's time to do a heart check. Our celebrity-driven culture craves for notoriety. But Christians are called to be different. We have died to ourselves. Thus, our concern should not be, 'How many people can I get to follow me?' but rather, 'How can I bear witness to the wonder of following Christ?'" (Social Media and Digital Discernment).
Well, let's rap this topic up with some assistance for those of us who might be struggling with overconsumption, improper selections or even addiction to media. Once we determine something needs to change based upon all we've discussed these past two weeks (which is always the first step of repentance), how does the Christian successfully make those changes?
First, confess to God that you need His help. Second, pray for His strength. These patterns are satanic strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4). Third, get some accountability. Find mature believers who will ask you the hard questions. Fourth, devise a plan and put it into practice. Use the biblical procedure of "putting" and "putting on." Ephesians 4:22-24 teaches us, "That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."
So as it pertains to "putting off": What specifically needs to go? What can you do to break the pattern of the particular addiction? Perhaps you need to rise earlier in the morning to get to bed earlier at night? Maybe you need to refuse to start or end your day with media? How about a temporary media fast? Maybe you need to get more aggressive with your sin and make a radical amputation (Mt. 5:29-20): Close out your Facebook account or cancel your cable service or disconnect from the Internet or put away the remote control or get rid of your television!
Now as it pertains to "putting on": What needs to be added to fill the void you just made? How about spending more time with the Lord (Bible, prayer, church)? You can read a book, exercise and do something wholesome with your family.
You know, I'm not old enough to say I used to walk uphill three miles in the snow each day to get to school, but I am old enough to say when I was a little kid, we used to have to get off the couch to change the channels on our television set! As a child, I didn't grow up with cable television, VCR's and personal computers. Maybe I missed out on a lot, but as a family, even as a dysfunctional unbelieving family, we made the time to eat together and spend time together with wholesome activities and healthy conversation. Have we lost that? Have we lost the face-to-face time together, not only in quality, but also in quantity?
I find it interesting that when the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, he made it a point in the beginning of his letter to say, "I long to see you so…that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine" (Rom. 1:11-12). And the apostle John, though he too was communicating to God's people said, "Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full" (2 Jn. 1:12).
Have we lost the value of being together as God's people due to media? Because if we have, we have lost the value of being a Christian! And this is what it ultimately comes down to - we have a problem with media because we have a problem with Christ. A media problem is a Jesus problem!
If we are feeding our souls on His grace and glory and have a worshipful awe of His wisdom and power and are spiritually stunned by His faithfulness and love and are daily motivated by His presence and promises, we won't settle to be satisfied by the second-rate pleasures of media. It is a war for glory. Will I allow media (a shadow of glory) or Jesus (glory Itself) to captivate my heart? Have we be been seduced and distracted and deceived far too long in this area?
That's why I believe so many professing Christians are hurt, empty, angry and confused. The temporary thrills that promised satisfaction have blown up in their faces and have dripped like sand through their fingers. Only Jesus can give you what your heart really desires. Don't look horizontally to the screen for that which can only be seen vertically!