“If these qualities are in you, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful.”
—2 Peter 1:8
Tide of Technology
I grew up on the opposite side of the United States in Savannah, GA. One of our favorite summer activities was going to the beach, as I am sure many of you would agree with. When you go to the beach you stake out your piece of sand, set up your stuff, pop out the umbrella and then start to hang out. What I quickly learned growing up is that when swim in the ocean you have to keep track of how far out you are going. It is easy to lose track of how far out you have gone, or perhaps how far you have drifted from your spot in the sand. One of the things that most of us do when we are out in the water at the beach is that we keep turning around and checking where our stuff is. (As a Dad admittedly my spot is not as cool as it once was. Now I spend my time looking back for the stroller and kids toys.) What happens is that unbeknownst to us, the tide pulls us in certain ways: sometimes this is very dangerous, too. People can be pulled too far out and have great difficulty getting back to shore, thus putting them in a really difficult position.
Today, I have been asked to speak on technology and social media and I want to start by describing it much like this tide in the ocean. Technology serves much like the tide of the ocean. Often times we are swimming around in technology to the point that we don’t always realize where it is pulling us and how. In fact, some of you are the one’s facing the ocean and you are losing track of how far you have gone. Perhaps, to a great degree of danger.
Let me point out a few things to you in regards to technology and some of the changes that have taken place over the past few years.
The Impact of the Digital World Is Staggering
To begin with, there has been a massive growth in options in regards to the types of technologies available. In the past ten years,
Mobile, smart phones
There has been a tremendous growth in the options we have for technology.
Therefore, it is not a real shocker that there has been a growth in popularity
The Internet World Stats organization has noted that Internet use has grown by 196% in the past 16 years.
Emarketer is another organization that tracks digital trends for the sake of helping marketers reach potential customers. They noted that from 2008 to 2015 the total of hours per day, per adult user has doubled. In 2008 people used digital media roughly 2.7 hours per day, and now we use media roughly 5.6 hours per day.
Now we have a combination of new devices and new use. So there is a growth in capability and opportunity. Literally, if you wanted you could have technology in every aspect of your day, from the morning wake-up, radio in your car, computer, cell phone and evening watching television.
One of the questions that I am hoping to prompt you to consider is the question: given the wide and common usage of technology, where is the tide of technology pulling you? To what end? In what direction?
Think of this with me: you have more access to more information than any other group of people in the history of mankind. Many of you own a device that stays in your pocket or purse that has access to literally a world of information. James says that all good gifts come from above, from the Father of lights (James 1:17). What a great gift and blessing this can be and what a great liability this can be, too.
Naturally, some of your are being pulled towards certain ends that you may not even be aware of—perhaps even to points of great danger. It’s like swimming in the ocean that you do not realize there are great dangers until you turn around to look towards the shore and realize how far you have drifted.
My goal is to show you some of those liabilities of technology and then offer ways to biblical harness technology and social media for God’s glory.
A friend of mine, said “The Growing Liabilities with Technology Are Staggering”
The massive growth of sin and evil associated with technology is staggering. Everything from inappropriate communication via text message, cyber bullying, the rampant marketing of impurity, all the to relationships via the Internet to the viewing of the Internet for illegal activity. The Internet allows people to have access to unfettered information, and all from the comfort of their own home.
It literally was just 15 years ago that in order to buy inappropriate information, you had to go to a store and buy it. Then, you would have to show an ID in order to purchase it. Now, we can Google just about any type of information that we want to see and have immediate access to it. Therefore, the massive growth of evil and sin are directly seen in the rise of technology.
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article saying that using your phone late into the evening was actually a means of promoting exhaustion by the next day. The effect of technology on our bodies can be very detrimental, if not guarded.
Technology can contribute to the neglect of your personal development. In fact, there is a new disorder that has been coined by the DSM 5 to describe those who use the Internet to the point of it becoming a problem and that term is, “Internet Addiction Disorder.” Literally, people are being diagnosed with having a disorder of using the Internet to the point of it interfering with their daily life!
Some of us are losing the ability to actually talk with others because we are so accustomed to texting or messaging them. Have you ever found yourself in a group and everyone in that group is on their phone? I was flying from Ft. Worth this past summer and a group of high school students (all girls) got on the plane. The majority of their conversations were about what they were looking at on their phone. Technology is pulling us away from each other in a face-to-face capacity towards the technology.
Isn’t it interesting that 5.7 hours of every day can be used with digital media, but that it is a struggle for us to squeak out 20 minutes of Scripture reading. Or perhaps, just a fraction of that time in devotion or Spiritual enrichment (i.e., sermons, reading, prayer, et cetera).
Technology and media have this great potency, for advancing good or advancing evil. What is important to note about a liability is that it is not always negative. I’m not suggesting that we all toss our phones in a trashcan and light it on fire before we leave today! It is important to note that just because something has the ability to be dangerous, does not mean it is a danger. Therefore, technology and social media can be used to the Glory of God. In fact, I’d like to show you that you can and should engage technology and social media, but always do it in a way that glorifies God.
Harnessing Technology and Social Media For the Glory of God Devices
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:1-4)
Paul is warning that in the later times people will forbid things that are really good. What is interesting is that Paul tells Timothy that all things are good, and nothing is to be rejected. This is important to hear: technology is not inherently bad. It is only a means to an end. It can be used for good and godly purposes, as well as purposes that are evil and malicious.
Who in here owns a Bible? Have you ever considered that the owning of that Bible represents technological advances? The printing press was, at one point, a modern technology.
In fact, we when that technology, taken in the much broader sense, has great potential for good. Think of medical advances, hospitals, mass transportation, ambulances, and so forth. Paul, himself, was one to engage technology, asking Timothy to bring his books and his parchment (2 Tim. 4:13), which were both technologies of that era!
How Do we Harness Technology for God’s Glory?
We start by recognizing the potentialities
These are potentials for both good and evil. The tide of technology can pull me towards greater glorifying God or towards greater evil and destruction. All things are good and are sanctified through the means of thanksgiving, prayer, and the Word of God.
Secondarily, we have to see them for what they are—they are conduit’s of information.
A conduit is like a tunnel or a pipe; it simply is allowing information to flow between two sources. Technology is just the means of sharing information, from you and to you. The growth of snapchat is staggering. It has become a business worth billions of dollars all because advertisers want to share information with us as we use it!
The information that comes to us building allies and friends. It is wanting you to vote a certain way. It has much to say about decisions that you make. Be guarded in that James says, “whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). If I love the world too much, then I cannot love God.
John says similar things: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Isn’t this interesting—if you love the World Series too much, the love of the Father isn’t in you. If you love the latest fashion trends or political updates, the love of the Father isn’t in you!
Romans 12:2 warns us to not be conformed to the world!
John Howe wrote these words in 1634, “You will be as the things you converse most with; they will leave their stamp and impress on you; wandering after vanity, you will become vain; minding earthly things, you will become earthly; accordingly, being taken up with spiritual things, you will bear their image, and become spiritual” (234; Delighting in God). What Howe was warning against is being too consumed with the things of the world, and warning that if we did that we would become like those things or those people.
The flow of information through technology seeks to imprint upon you certain things; what to buy, who to vote for, what constitutes being attractive, and so forth.
From You: technology does not make you absorbed with how you look, or make you speak corruptly, or make you envious. Those are all heart issues that are overflowing through the means of technology (Prov. 4:23; Mark 7:23).
Hear this, that technology reveals who you are, it does not make you into someone else.
If you are slanderous through technology, there is a heart issue.
If you are covetous through technology, that is a heart issue.
If you are wanting to represent yourself as pretty or successful through technology, that is a heart issue not a technology issue.
Technology is a powerful conduit that can be used for great good or great evil. You must see that. Recognize that technology is communicating and revealing.
Thirdly, technology is crowding out our spiritual appetite.
Jeremiah Burroughs is an English Puritan that said, “Do not grasp too much of the world, do not take in more of the business of the world than God calls you to.” Why would he say that? What encourages Burroughs to offer this warning?
Jesus said that blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6). A pastor once gave this illustration: imagine if you woke up Thanksgiving morning, the turkey had been cooking all night and you go downstairs to the smell of Turkey and stuffing, with the pies starting to be cooked for this afternoon meal. The smell continues to permeate the house and meal time gets closer and closer. However, just an hour before meal-time you sit down with an entire loaf of bread and eat it. What would happen when it would be time for the Thanksgiving meal? You wouldn’t be hungry! In fact, you might be repulsed by what you saw. So too it is with the world. We fill ourselves with it all week that when we sit down to fellowship with God that we are not hungry. We just filled ourselves with the world all week and don’t have much of a spiritual appetite.
The reason that people track the trends of the way we use media is because they want to use media to fill us with their product! Technology is a means of filling you, so how do you know when you are being filled by this? The tide of technology is intended to pull you towards buying products and so forth. Be guarded that you are not so full of the world, you have grasped too much of it that you have no spiritual appetite.
How do you know if you are being filled by technology? I want you to ask yourselves these things and I have put them in your handout so that you can ask yourself these things.
“Full of the World” Questionnaire
How often do you prefer time with technology to time in the Word and intimacy with your God?
How often do you prefer time with technology to fulfilling the “one-another’s” of Scripture? (i.e., love one another, be kind, tenderhearted, forgive, etc.)
How often is the most looked forward to time of your day time with technology?
How often do you check your email, text, or social sites before something else that you need to do?
How often do you check your email, text, or social sites when sitting down with friends/family to eat or to be together, or in a meeting, or while driving a car?
Harnessing Technology for the Glory of God
First, in John 15:5 we are told that apart from Christ we cannot be fruitful. Therefore, we must pursue interaction with technology in a wise and God-honoring way. This may be through repentance of sin with God, or a growing dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain us for this.
Second, we should cultivate an appetite for God through intentionality with digital media. If the tide of technology does pull us, let’s anchor ourselves with intentionality. Let’s ask how can we have it pull us towards God and greater godliness?
Here are practical suggestions for implementing uses and barriers between us:
Commit yourself that you will only use technology in a way that is fruitful. Paul says all things are lawful, but I won’t be controlled by any (1 Cor. 6:12; 2 Pet. 1:8). Commit yourself to exhibit self-control as it pertains to technology.
Commit to Not using it too much, thus not being controlled by it.
Commit to advancing relationships, not hindering them. Do this Be where you are with whom you are.
Not opening and finishing my days with technology, but with Christ and His word.
Glorifying God by making much of him, not me through social media (1 Cor. 10:31; Ps. 34:3). Commit to showing how beautiful the Lord is through your social media as opposed to how good you look. Use your media outlets to display the beauty of the Lord, not the seeming beauty of yourself, your house, your car, your kids, and so forth. Spend as much time in considering how does this display God, as you do in considering how does this display me?
Use technology and social media to love others well (Matt. 22; 1 Cor. 13). Often times I will counsel people through Skype, and the technology allows me to minister to people who are half-way around the world! Use technology to minister to people, encourage, pray for people, not instead of doing those things.
John Howe said what you spend the most time with will have it’s imprint on you. Here are a few practical steps in regards to erecting barriers between you and technology.
Always go to technology, do not give technology unhindered access to you. Radio, TV, social media, or any other technology should not have your ear whenever it wants it. In guarding against too much of the world, we should always guard against unhindered access to us.
Turn off notifications
Use do not disturb modes
Don’t leave your TV playing without guarding what it is playing
Place your phone in a place where you have to physically go to it when you need it and it cannot bother/disrupt you whenever it desires.
Erect barriers between you and social media/technology.
Do this by drawing circles around when you will and will not use technology. Limit both access to you and times of engagement. When will you refuse to engage technology? Be clear about this and consistent in your protection of this.
Lastly, a barrier is that there are obvious areas that we must guard against in engaging technology
Covetous: shopping sites
Purity: exercise sites
Entertainment driven: Netflix/YouTube
Envy: Social Media
If you have a heart that struggles with these things then you know that you should erect great barriers between yourself and these types of technologies.
Summary and Closing
CLOSING: Practical Steps for Harnessing Technology and Social Media for God’s Glory
As we wrap up our time together, I want to take a moment and seek to ask you a few questions and prompt you towards application. If you have a way of taking notes, now is the time where I want you to prepare to take notes. I have two, over-arching questions for you guys as we think through how we use technology
What practical, daily commitments that you need to make to glorify God in technology? (Rom 8:12,13; Mat 5:28-30; Rom 13:14; Heb 11; Rom 12:1-2)
What area of technology in your life do you know needs to be changed for the glory of God?
List two ways that you need to harness your engagement of technology and social media so that God is honored and Christ magnified in your use of media? (Eph 4:22-24; Phil 2:13-14; 1 Tim 4; Heb. 10:24-25)
What are two uses that you can commit to using technology for the glory of God?
What are two barriers that you need to initiate between you and the technologies that you engage?
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith iwith virtue,5 and virtue jwith knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control kwith steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness lwith brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities6 are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8)
Peter is wanting the believers to whom he is writing to be fruitful and effective. Work hard at supplement your faith, Peter says, so that you are indeed fruitful or effective. This takes diligent work, according to Peter—it doesn’t just happen.
 Internet World Stats: Usage and Population Statistics, “INTERNET USAGE STATISTICS, The Internet Big Picture World Internet Users and 2016 Population Stats,” Accessed November 4, 2016, http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htmI
 Tim Bryant, Lowcountry Biblical Counseling Center.
 Cf. John Piper, “Televison” Article in Taste and See.