October 4, 2020
Tech Savvy – Part 6
Series: Tech Savvy
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Romans 12: 1-2

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This sermon series promotes using digital technologies in a way that honors God, based on Romans 12:1-2. It challenges believers to use discernment and recognize the negative effects of technology when used unwisely.

More From This Series


We have been in a series in the summer called, “The Christian Mind in the Age of Technology.” I’m on part six of Tech Savvy, and we’re wrapping it up today. I maybe have the gene of an old pastor I knew back in Northern Ireland called Jim Smith, and he would often preach on a text, or a sermon, or a series, and will go long. He famously preached on Luke 15 on the prodigal son, and he spoke on that for weeks and weeks and weeks. In fact, the prodigal son spent weeks and weeks and weeks in the far country, so much so that one of his deacons said to Pastor Smith one day, “Pastor, it’s time to bring the boy home.” And I’m bringing it home, we’re going to wrap this up this morning.
We have been looking at the issue of tech-savvy. What about technology and the Christian? You know my love for Winston Churchill, listen to these words of this great British leader. “Unless the intellect of a nation keeps abreast of material improvements, the society in which that occurs is no longer progressing.” An interesting thought, Churchill understands that life is going to develop in terms of material progress and technology, but he would remind every society that they’ve got to think hard alongside those developments and those improvements, and they’ve got to have a philosophy on life as life improves, and their thinking’s got to keep up with their technology, so to speak, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do in my sermon, Tech Savvy.
You and I live in a tech saturated world, we’re thankful for that. In so so many ways, our lives have been enhanced. There is human flourishing through technology, from travel to communication, to medicine, whatever the case may be. But with everything in a fallen world, the upside has also got a corresponding downside, and we’ve been trying to think through technology and theology. We want to remind ourselves according to Romans 12, verses one to two, not to allow the world and its mindset, its disposition towards certain things, we’re not to allow that world to press us into its mold, but you and I need to have a biblical mindset that indeed looks at things from a godly perspective and from a Christian worldview.
Have you been with us? We’ve covered several elements of the subject. We looked at technology as a question of thanks, we looked at technology as a question of time, we looked at technology as a question of triviality, we looked at technology as a question of truth, and we looked at technology lastly as a question of temptation, there are many temptations associated with technology. Number one, self-promotion, number two, human approval, number three, envy and covetousness, materialism, number four, and we spent two weeks on this in recent days, lust and sexual sin, we looked at the whole issue of pornography, which is so pernicious on the worldwide web. But I’ve one more I want to talk about very quickly before we move on to look at the question of thought, the question of togetherness and the question of tyranny, the temptation of overtalk.
The temptation of overtalk. I don’t know if you’ve realized this, but the digital world has made us all talking heads. Social media is a grave temptation in the arena of speech and the use of the tongue, and that’s important to you and me as Christians, number one, because our speech is an index of our spirituality. What you post, what you tweet, what you Twitter, and what you text, it gives us a window into your heart condition. Why would I say that? Because Jesus said in Luke 6, verse 43, “Out of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
What’s down in the well comes out in the bucket. James 1:26 reminds us, Hey, you want to know about the measure or the health of a man’s religion? And then ask yourself this question, does he control his tongue? Because the man that can’t control his tongue, the woman that doesn’t censor her speech has got a religion that’s vain, and empty, and weightless. And then on top of that, what about Proverbs 18:21? This is a staggering verse. “Life and death is in the par of the tongue.” That’s amazing. That Bible verse is saying to you and to me, what we do with spoken words and written words will determine the quality of life, relationships, and society. That’s amazing.
So the digital world tempts us in this arena, we’re texting all the time. Chat rooms, Twitter, Facebook posts, blogs, there’s a never ending streaming and spewing of speech, and I don’t think it’s for our good. We’re talking more without talking to each other, think about that. We’re talking more than ever without talking to each other, and we’re certainly talking more and listening less. Everybody’s become an expert, everybody’s become an opinion columnist, everybody’s become a self-publishing author. Happy to tell you their view on everything from vaccinations to the latest movie. There’s this rush to be heard. It’s kind of scary, and it’s an arena of temptation because the Bible in the book of Proverbs warns us about the sins of the tongue, slander, spreading lies and falsehoods, gossip, breaking confidences, flattery, use of coerce and crude dialogue.
And here’s the one I want to talk about for a few moments, the danger of talking too much. The danger of talking too much. Let me give you a few verses that will speak to this. The biggest one is Proverbs 10, verse 19. I think I heard this verse for the first time in a class on the sins of the tongue by Wayne Mack at the Masters University. Listen to Proverbs 10, verse 19. “In a multitude of words, sin is not lacking.” What’s that verse saying? It’s saying this, the more you talk, the more likely you are to sin. Because remember what Jim says, the half brother of Jesus, “No man is perfect in his language.” Just like a horse needs a bit and a ship needs a rudder, you and I need to control our speech because none of us are perfect in it, and the more we talk, the more danger of sinning with our tongues.
“In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wide.” You know what? I’m not going to tweet on that. That’s a wise thing, I think I agree with you on that. I’m not going to blog on that, good choice. He who restrains his lips is wise. The tongue of the righteous is like choice. Silver talking about restraint, write down Proverbs 18:13, I’ll read it for you. “He who answers a matter before he hears it, folly and shame.” You ever heard that old wisdom, better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it? That’s what the Proverbs teaches us. He who answers a matter before he hears it. People are tweeting and texting and blogging and writing within minutes of a news story, within minutes of a conversation, it’s wrong, it’s dangerous. Very dangerous, too much talk In our society. We’re talking more than ever and talking less than ever, we’re talking more than ever and listening less and learning less. It’s one of the great dangers of technology.
Here’s another, verse 17, “The first one to plead his cause seems right until his neighbor comes and examines him.” How many times are you watching on television retractions? Because 24/7 news, cable, we want immediate opinions, we want immediate conclusions, and the first person to speak usually has to retract because listen to the verse, “The first one who pleads seems right until his neighbor comes along and said, ‘I think you forgot this little piece of information. Did you know this when you said that?'” That’s what the Bible is saying, be careful to be the first person to say anything on anything because have you taken enough time to listen? Have you taken enough time to research? Are you sure there’s not another opinion that’s going to contradict your convictions, so quickly formed? The Bible addresses this stuff all the time.
I think there’s one other verse here. Proverbs 29, verse 20. “Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” See, here’s what’s interesting, let me go with this for a few minutes. If I was just to draw a contrast between the age of printed materials and books, and the age of technology, and tweets, and texts, and blogs, there’s a great difference. Look, let me say this. I don’t want to seem a luddite and I don’t want to seem overly negative. I’m thankful for the democratizing of the ability for voices to be heard and views to be expressed, that’s a good thing in a free society, and certainly in the United States, we love the idea of free speech, that’s a good thing. In many ways, we have given voice to the voiceless.
I think of high technology has allowed voices to be heard in China, and Hong Kong, and North Korea, and places where there is no free speech, where there may be only one media outlet that’s controlled by the state. So on the one hand, I want to acknowledge that technology has been good for free speech and it has democratized the ability for opinions to be heard, but on the other side, just when you compare it to the age of printed words, you and I need to realize that our smartphone, our tablets, our iPods, our personal computers, they present to us our own Gutenberg printing press.
If you study European history and Western history, you’ll realize how important the printing press was. But here’s the downside to that, everybody now gets to write a daily opinion column on anything they choose. They get to write their own autobiography of who they think they are. They get to write their version of history. I could go on. I’m not sure that’s all good because let’s just take an analogy between say a newspaper columnist or someone writing a book or publishing a peer reviewed article, before that ever sees the light of day, what happens? There’s pre-publication accountability. There’s the checking of facts, or at least we like to hope so. There’s the process of refinement. There’s perhaps a conversation that takes place in an editor’s room or at an academic council, where the subject is deepened and broadened. There’s an editorial board that might change some of that. Then there’s four words and endorsements from experts or interested parties in the field. But the digital world bypasses all of that, and I’m not sure that’s good because it allows us to talk too much about too much without much reflection, humility, knowledge, or counterbalance.
As we have said, with the multiplication of words, you have the addition of sin, and with the addition of sin, you have the subtraction of wisdom. In fact, after first service, when I said that, somebody gave a great quote where they said, “Have you heard this one pastor? That Facebook has never caused the blind to see, but it has caused the dumb to speak” It’s a great quote, you may want to write that down. “Facebook has never caused the blind to see, but it has caused the dumb to speak.” Because we like to give an opinion. In today’s environment, with Covid, everybody’s a Virologist now, expert on viruses, vaccines. I’ve been amazed in conversations with Christians how quickly they discount the thinking of men and women who have been to medical school for seven years, whose heart I believe is moved by current compassion, not by big pharmacy. It’s amazing the opinions that are being spouted, how quickly we address theological issues, how quickly we censor brothers and sisters in Christ who differ with us on things.
In a multitude of words, sin is not lacking, be warned. You know what the Bible says? “Be slow to speak.” Be slow to speak. Don’t tweet or text before dinner, maybe don’t tweet or text before Wednesday, I don’t know what that is, but be slow to speak, be swift to hear. James 1, verse verse 19. God give you one mouth and two ears,. I think he’s trying to say something. And let’s measure our competency, I hope you realize you don’t know everything about everything. That’s what Romans 12:3 says about spiritual gifts, “Measure yourself, don’t think of yourself too highly.” Maybe your opinions aren’t as good as you think they are. Are they peer reviewed? Have you run them by someone? When’s the last time you read a 300-page book on theology or the American Journal for medicine? Before you start addressing a bunch of things, are you adding to the conversation or just want them to be heard, to be nasty? Pride, arrogant. Huh, it’s a challenge to us all, isn’t it?
Be slow to speak swift to hear. Measure your competency fully. Seek the wisdom and listen to the wise. Typically, the wise is someone that’s lived a lot longer than you, seen a lot more than you, read a lot more than you, and done a lot more than you, and learned by their mistakes along the way. That’s what wisdom is in the book of Proverbs. It’s not knowledge, it’s the right application of knowledge, it’s a seasoned perspective on life. It’s measured, it’s limited, it’s balanced. And then what about mind your own business? The internet in invites us to be busy bodies. Go back to Proverbs, Proverbs 26, 16 to 17, write it down and look at it later. Here’s what it says, “The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly. He passes by and meddles in a quarrel, not his own, like one who takes the ears of a dog.”
Have you ever gone up to a dog and grabbed it by its ears? No, you’re you’re smarter than that. Well, you’re smarter than that until you go onto your phone and use your technology. Then you go meddling, and spiting, and giving opinions that haven’t been thought out, compared, challenged, written in humility. I think you get the point, I can tell by your looks and the quietness, it’s time to move on. We can’t move on till I tell you a little story by Churchill. I told you Churchill talked about how thinking needs to keep up with technology. Well, I don’t know if you know this about Churchill, but he hated people whistling, and it bugged them, and he let them know it. In fact, one day he was working in his office in London and the window was open, he could hear people walking below whistling along the way, and he told his secretary to close the window, but before she was to do that, she was to tell the people on the sidewalk below his window to stop whistling.
Not that she did that, she was smarter than that. One day he was out walking with his bodyguard along Kings Charles Street in London on their way to Dining street when a newspaper boy was approaching them whistling happy as Larry, and as he went by Churchill said, “Stop whistling.” And the young fellow went by, I don’t know if he recognized that this was the great Churchill, but he wasn’t by him a few feet, then he turned around and he told him, “Why should I?” And then a few more feet on, he turned to Churchill and he said, “You can shut your ears, can’t you?” And as Churchill walked on, he started laughing and chuckling because he got it, “I can’t shut my ears, why not just leave the kid alone?” “You can shut your ears, can’t you? Mind your own business, Mr. Churchill.”
It’s a good lesson. There’s so much that comes our way in terms of information, and news, and opinion, and cultural conversation. It’s not that we’re to disengage, it’s not that we’re not to be concerned, we’re just, we’re meant to be smart, and intuitive, and wise in our responses. And a lot of the time, you know what? Proverbs 26: 16 to 17 or First Thessalonians 4:11, “Lead a quiet and peaceable life, work with your hands, and mind your own business.” Don’t you agree with me with agreeing with DL Moody, who said, “The greatest trouble I have as a man is myself.” My Greatest Trouble is DL Moody. I have enough business working with myself and on myself. Can’t you stop your ears? Can’t you close your eyes? Can’t you mind your own business?
All right, let’s move on quickly. Three other areas I want to quickly touch on, the question of thought, the question of togetherness, and the question of tyranny. The question of thought, togetherness, and tyranny. And let’s start with a question of thought. Again, we want to be balanced here. We want to give honor where honor is due, we want to recognize good things around us, and certainly technology is a wonderful educational tool, I certainly use it to my benefit in biblical studies. I’ve got access to whole library now of journal articles. If I can’t remember where a verse is in the Bible, I’d used to pull down my old Strong’s or Young’s concordance, and now all I need to do is remember the phrase, put it on Google, and hey, presto, there it is. It’s very efficient, very helpful, you can do word searches. You get the point, I need not tell you that technology has opened the doors to libraries and learning all around the world, and for that we are deeply thankful. It’s a question of thanks, this is a grace gift from God, amazing.
But as we’ve said so much in this series, while technology gives, it takes, and the paradox with technology is that while it invites us to study and learn, in the same token, it diminishes our capacity to do it. The longer we use technology, evidence is piling up, the less equipped we are to study and to give serious thought and prolonged reflection to any subject. Technology is the product of great thought from brilliant minds, but as time has gone by, as a product, it’s increasingly producing in us little thought from bored minds. It’s the enemy of critical thinking.
Look at our school test scores in the age of technology. Look at our lack of literacy. Bookstores are closing all over the place. Fewer and fewer people are visiting our local libraries to read. Look at our public discourse marked by inflated emotion and trading of insults rather than dialoguing on the issues. Look at the shallow conversations that increasingly mark public discourse. Ours is a culture using itself to death, not thinking its way to a greater experience of life. God gave us a great gift when he give us a mind. What a shame to waste it. What a shame to wallow in the shallows. Even in the church. It’s not hard to imagine why people today in the average church struggle through 45 minutes of a sermon, because they’re being conditioned to absorb knowledge in entertaining video sound bites, short texts, and tweets, and we come with a yawn to the word of God. God didn’t tweet, God wrote a book, and he expects us to bring our minds and hearts to an understanding of it.
Listen to this confession by, I believe it was the former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt. In an interview with Charlie Rose on PBS, he said this, “I worry that the level of interrupt, the sort of overwhelming repetitive of information, and especially of stressful information, is in fact affecting cognition, it is in fact affecting deeper thinking. I still believe that sitting down and reading a book is the best way to really learn something, and I worry that we’re losing that.” And he’s almost admitting that what they’re producing through Google is contributing to that. We’re stir-crazy because there’s an overload of information, which kind of keeps us around the edges of it, it’s such a vast and deep ocean. We don’t even begin to weed into it, we’re just overwhelmed and we’re skimming across so much of the world’s knowledge that we don’t know how to go deep anymore. As one writer said, “I used to be a scuba diver, now I am a water skier. I have an increasing inability to go deep.”
In fact, listen to these words by Tim Challies in a book I’ve recommended in this series, he said this, “Google wants and needs your experience of the internet to be as wide and as shallow as possible. They want to feed you snippets of information and to then have you return to their search engine to search some more, to view more ads. Google’s profit is not tied to quality of information but to velocity.” Author Nicholas Carr observes, “The last thing the company wants is to encourage leisurely reading or slow concentrated thought. Google is quite literally in the business of distraction.”
Let’s just be aware of that. Doesn’t mean you stop using Google, it just means you make it a servant, not a master. It just means you disengage and you read printed page, you give yourself times of quietness, you give it times of reflection on one or two issues. Poor thinking is antithetical to our faith. Think about that, poor thinking is antithetical to our faith. Well, if you say to me, “Pastor, I’m not much of a thinker.” I immediately conclude, you’re going to have struggles in your Christian life. This is a book, 66 books in a book, all with their own history, and grammar, and background, they all fit together in an unfolding story. It’s marvelous and we need to bring the mind that God has created to worship him with to this book, and there are books that will help us understand this book, you get the point. “I’m not much of a thinker.” Then you’re not going to be much of a Christian.
Some folks have blown their circuit, I get it, with drugs and all of that, or they’re born with some challenges, I get some of that, and my sympathy is with you, but most Christians are just lazy thinkers, let’s be honest, just lazy, bone-lazy. They don’t want to think, they don’t want to study, they don’t want to read, they don’t want to reflect, and technology will help you to that end. Christianity doesn’t produce dimwits, doesn’t produce unthinking men and women. What about the book of Acts? Look at Paul in his evangelism. He goes into the synagogue and what you’ll read it many, many times, “And he reasoned with them, and he sought to persuade them.”
Look at the way he engages those in Athens in Acts 17, he knows they’re poets, and he uses his mind to smartly engage them evangelistically. What about the book of Philippians? Every chapter’s focused on the mind. “With one mind, striving for the furtherance of the gospel,” chapter one, “let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Chapter two, “They mind earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven.” Chapter four, “You need to pray, you need to bring every thought into captivity to Christ so that your mind may be guarded with the peace of God.” It’s all about the mind. If you want to enjoy Jesus’ peace, you want to be an effective servant of his, you need to bring your mind to play.
The Christian is constantly renewing the mind. That’s why we’ve read throughout this series, Romans 12, one to two. “Don’t be conformed into this world’s mindset or thinking, but renew your mind.” Two Corinthians 10:5 “Bring every thought into captivity to Jesus Christ.” Many times does Paul say in his letters, “I don’t want you to be ignorant, brethren, I got something to tell you. God has revealed something about this issue you’re struggling with, let’s dispel your ignorance.” Sloppy and sloppy thinking is unbecoming of a Christian. What did Jesus say to you and me? “Love the Lord your God with all your mind.” With all of it. That means it needs to rest, it needs to sleep, it needs to be given good information to process and reflect upon.
Think about this, shallow thinking makes pure worshipers of us, just kind of touched on that. Jesus said, “Those that worship my Father will worship him in spirit and in truth.” Truth, thought about, reflected on, and understood. A book like that, God is, read it, meditate on it, so you can worship God in the character he has revealed himself to be. What about the little punctuation throughout the book of Psalms? You’ll get in a section in, what will it read? “Selah.”
Okay, stop now and think about that, just don’t go onto the next thing which will kind of begin to pile up and you’ll kind of lost the process. Stop and think, stop and think, stop and think, that’s what’s constantly being said in the book of Psalms. It not only make us poor worshipers, it will undermine biblical knowledge. Shallow thinking and inability to concentrate because Ezra 7:10 tells us what? “And Ezra set his mind or his heart to study the law and to do it.” Throughout the book of Psalms, again Psalm one is an example then, throughout Psalm 1:19, “Meditate on the law of God.” It means to chew on, to meditate, to roll over in your mind, constantly be thinking about that until you understand it and you connect it to other things so that your body of knowledge about God increases so that you can worship him more fully and defend the gospel more fully, which is the third point. It makes poor worshipers who have a sloppy thinking, it undermines biblical knowledge, and it renders ineffective witnesses.
Always be ready to share a feeling about your faith. Is that what it says? Always be ready to give a reason for the hope that lies within you. You need to give a reason why you believe the Bible’s inspired, not just another book of religious thought. You need to give a reason for why you believe in miracles in a material world. You need to give a reason why Jesus is the son of God, virgin-born, sinless, died and was buried, and the third day rose again. You got to give reasons. Our faith is reasonable and reasoned, Paul reasoned with them in the synagogue.
Number four, “Shallow thinking works against deep-seated wisdom.” Do you know how long it’ll take you to be wise? A while. And you’ll have to go through some things, and you’ll have to read, and you’ll have to reflect, and you have to learn from your mistakes, and that’s why younger people should seek out older people who have proven themselves wise. Because wisdom’s not found on the internet, wisdom’s found in a life well lived, and our little snappy judgments about life and our latest tweet about life is so vacuous and empty of good biblical wisdom.
And it opens you to false teachers finally, right? Two Timothy 4:3-4, “The last days, the church will be visited by a bunch of preachers who will tickle people’s ears and feed their desires.” Listen, beware of anything that dumbs you down mentally, and the internet can do that, and the digital world can do that. It can be a great tool. Remember, it’s a great tool, it’s a great servant, but if it starts to master you, even though one time CEO of Twitter is scared as to how it’s dumbing us down. You and I need to love God with all of our mind, our thinking needs to be longer, clearer and better.
Let me finish with this story and move on. James Garfield was later to become the President of the United States, he once was the president of Hiram College in Ohio. And one day a man brought his son to enroll him into the student body of that school, and he communicated that he wanted his son to do a shorter course, not the regular one, a condensed one, a limited one, he wanted them to fast track his son. He said this, “The boy will never take that all in,” speaking of the regular course, “he wants to get through by a shorter write, can you arrange that?” President Garfield said he could, and he said, “But it all depends on what you want to make him.” “When God wants to make an oak, he takes a hundred years, when he wants to make a squash, he requires two months.”
God requires that you and I be critical thinkers, that we have deep thoughts about him, and life, and about ourselves. And you know what? That can’t be produced overnight, that’s not the world of Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, just think that through, it’s a question of thought. Number two, it’s a question of togetherness. I’ll move through this a little quicker. You and I live in a world that’s connected, it’s marvelously connected 24/7. One of the upsides of the worldwide web, the digital media platforms that you and I enjoy is our ability to stay in touch with each other. Family, friends, work meets, think about it. Just look at Covid. What would Covid have been like without technology? Without Facebook, Zoom, Twitter, FaceTime, WhatsApp? I had to research all those. I know nothing about half of those, but that’s okay, you do. They’re all a blessing, they’re all a blessing. Face Timing our family in the United Kingdom’s a wonderful thing. WhatsApping, talking, finding out how they’re doing, that’s all a blessing, it’s a great world we live in, it’s a wonderful world we live in.
But given the foliness of man, everything wonderful can become weird, and sometimes wicked. And again, to turn this on its head, ironically, while our world is more connected than and at any other time, are we not suffering from shallower relationships and fewer friendships? Think about this, one writer put it this way, “One strange thing about social media for instance is that it requires anti-social behavior to participate. It leads to a husband and a wife sitting in the same room together each engrossed on the screen rather than connecting with each other through conversation. It encourages teenagers to withdraw from family activities in order to keep up with their friends and what they’re doing online.” You get that, pretty simple. This technology to participate in connecting with others is actually antisocial in its mode of operation.
One writer, a man by the name of Jay Kim in a book called “The Analog Church” talks about being in a restaurant. 14 students come in from a nearby high school, and we’ve all seen this at Starbucks or wherever we’ve been, they all sit down, nobody’s sitting by themselves, they’re in groups, but for most of the lunch hour, they don’t talk to each other, their heads are down on the screens. Amazing. He says this, “In a total, 13 of them had a phone in their hands for the vast majority of the time, occasionally looking up the chat with one another, for the most part, losing themselves in their digital content, all the while so tantalizingly close to other actual human beings.”
I travel probably a little bit more than most. There used to be the time when you get on an aircraft, you said, “Lord, I’m tired. I don’t want to talk today.” Because somebody’s going to sit and talk your head off for 10 hours on the flight to London. See today, you don’t even need to worry about that, they are no sooner in their seat and their Ear Pods are in, headphones are on, they’re engrossed in some movie or listening to some music, no desire to find out just a little bit about that interesting person who sits beside them, who CS Lewis calls, “No mere human being.” Connected, more than ever, disconnected, more than ever, how amazing.
We’ve forgotten the part of presence we have diminished the cost of friendship. Friendship costs, it costs you time, you’ll have to work hard, forgiveness and intimacy. You should be there when your friend is really hurting. The internet makes friendship too easy, it’s virtual, it’s not real, it’s an illusion. We supposedly have 350 friends. You’re lucky in life if you’ve got three really good ones, because it will take that amount of time, and energy, and investment to pull it off. Friendship is a walled garden, and it’s kept under lock and key. We’ve forgotten the power of presence, we’ve diminished the cost of friendship, and we’ve exchanged the means for the end. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, whatever the case might be, they’re all a means to an end, but they have now become the end.
Mark Zuckerberg said about Facebook, “We are a utility, we’re trying to increase the efficiency which people can understand their world.” But now the utility has become an end than itself, we spend more time managing our Facebook account, our Twitter account, than we actually do with the people we’re addressing on Facebook and in the Twitter world. Utility is now the end rather than the means. I was fascinated, fascinated, remember a few years ago in Chile the miners that get trapped underground? Fascinating story, tragic, I think my family watched a movie about it one night, then we thanked the Lord these men got out, something like 30 of them were trapped underground. In an article that I read on technology, they made this passing reference, that during the time those miners were trapped, they were offered personal music players and video games, and they refuse them.
And here’s what they said, “Those tend to isolate people from one another.” They didn’t take that technology because those men under that ground needed to encourage one another, stay in each other’s lives, and work together as a team. They couldn’t have someone over in the corner with their Apple Ear Pods on listening to music, playing a video game, isolating. Fascinating. Look, the Christian life is a community affair, this is where this touches on your discipleship, the Christian life is a community affair. Anything that disembodies life, anything that isolates you from other human beings, from family, friends, and the fellowship of God’s people is not a good thing, it is a means, but it is not the end.
The book of Acts we’re going to look at in a few weeks, you’ll find, “And they were together in one place of one accord.” That’s one of the repeated phrases of the book, of Acts. One place, one people, together with one purpose. What about Hebrews 10:24-25, don’t miss it, “Do not,” this is a command, it’s an imperative, “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.” If you join the church online, you better have a good reason to do that because you’re not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together in person, in flesh. We’re to be together so we can stare one another on the love and good works so much no more as we see the day approaching.
Union with Christ unites us to everyone else that’s in union with Christ, and if we are in union with others who are united to Christ, we want to unite with them. Christians want to unite with other Christians, that’s the impulse that the Holy Spirit produces in the family of God. That’s why in Acts 9:26, as soon as Paul is converted, what do we read? “And he sought to join himself to the disciples in Jerusalem.” Christians are joiners, they join other Christians in the pursuit of Christ. Look at the metaphors, we are bricks in a building, we are parts in a body, we are children in a family. It’s all communal, it’s all collective, it’s all mutual.
Let me give you two examples of how important it is to meet with one another. You know what? I’m thankful for technology, for a time it allowed us to meet online during this Covid crisis, but it was no substitute and it can never be a substitute for in-person. We communicate with our bodies, not just with our mouths. There’s the power of just presence with each other. Listen to what John says in Two John verse 12, he says this, “Having many things to write to you,” that was the technology available to him as he was separate from them. We could modernize that, “Having many things that to tweet with you, to text you, to write to you,” “I did not wish to do so with paper and with ink, but I hope to come to you and speak face to face that our joy may be full.”
Paper and ink, tweeting, technology, no substitute says John, for face to face fellowship. In his third letter, he says something similar. “I have many things to write, but I do not wish the right to you with pen and ink, but I hope to see you shortly and we shall speak face to face.” You know what? Instead of tweeting, call someone, a voice is better than a cold word. And better than that, be in their company as soon as you can to communicate love and support. Being together encourages each other, there’s safety in numbers, you get it. The essence of fellowship is engagement, the mode of fellowship is embodiment, and the goal of fellowship is encouragement.
Tim Challies talks about something very interesting as we go to our last thought, he warns about digital de incarnation, digital de incarnation. You realize that one of the differences in Christianity and other world religions is that ours is an embodied experience. We have a theology of the body, we’re not gnostic, we’re not platonian in that we believe the spirit is good and the flesh is weak or unredeemable. God created us with a body and a spirit, and the human experience is a complete one, body and soul. We’re going to be resurrected on the final day, we’re going to live for all of eternity in our body, there’s nothing about the Christian faith that is disembodied, but the digital world is creating our own little worlds so that we exist in apart from people.
We’ve already stated that you’ve got, to some degree, be antisocial to participate in social networking. Amazing. And increasingly life is becoming disembodied. We’re spending less time together around dinner tables, family time, in the company of friends, and we should be weary of that as Christians, digital de incarnation. We’re all about the physical, we’re all about being together, we’re all about human touch in the high-tech world. We need to be high touch in a high-tech world, that’s the way God made us. According to one Scottish theologian, “According to the arrangement of God, the Christian is more a Christian in society than alone.” I agree with that, you and I will always be more Christian in society than we will ever be alone. Let me close with this interesting spectrums out of the tragedy of the Challenger space shuttle. Remember that? That was a day we’ll hardly forget as that spaceship streak across the sky and exploded, the loss of life. I read an article about it, and the families of those seven astronauts were held up by other families in the NASA family, but there was this statement that I found very just appealing.
These other families spent time with the families that had lost loved ones, brought food, boarded family pets as they traveled, whatever the case might have been. Clark Covington, manager of the space station project at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston said this, “With all the vast technology of our space age, there is still nothing more powerful than one human being reaching out to another.” The Bible would agree with that, God made us for society. Okay, the last thought I’ll squeeze in here, the question of tyranny, and we’re only at the beginning end of this question about technology, and it’s kind of tyranny over life. As time has gone by and the business equivalent of the survival of the fittest has taken its course, we are witnessing today increasingly in the world of technology, a frightening concentration of power, a frightening concentration of power. More and more control of your life, the searching of information, news outcomes, are falling under the control of fewer and fewer companies.
It’s been argued increasingly that Silicon Valley here in California probably exercises more influence in life than Washington DC, and you and I need to think about that as issues of free speech, liberty of conscience are tied into this. You and I live in a world dominated by technology titans such as Google and Facebook. Do you realize that Facebook has 2.7 billion users per month, and increasingly they are censoring opinions and challenging mindsets? It’s not what they set out to do, but they’re increasingly becoming that. You realize that there are 63,000 searches every single second on Google’s platforms for information, news, perspectives on life, health, marriage? Amazing. In fact, talking about Google, does anybody know Google’s mission statement? All right, didn’t think so. Because I didn’t know it until I came across it this past week, at least this was what it used to be, “Organizing the world’s information.”
Why should that interest you? Because 90% of the search engine market in the world today’s now under the control of Google now. Now add that together, one company manages 90% of traffic and search engines across the world, and it’s a company whose stated interest is organizing the world’s information. That’s Orwellian. Think about the fact that 90% of searches for information on news of all manner and kinds go through one company, a company whose algorithms can favor certain outcomes, a company that is liberal to leftist in its bias. If you watch big tech, you will increasingly see, I believe this is a fur comment, they are picking sides politically, they are censoring Christians and conservatives, just talk to Prager University if you want to know about that, they’re policing free speech. Twitter has shut down on several occasions the account of the President of the United States.
They’re financing liberal causes, they’re in bed with LBGT politics, they are rooting and helping social and moral conversation in our world. I think it was the head of Twitter was found out financing a company that bails out rioters in Portland and Seattle. It’s happening all the time, and you and I need to awaken to that. I’ve got examples that I don’t have time to go through. Classic examples, the story of James Damore, young man who expressed inside Google in a private email with just some friends that was leaked, that there are genetic and biological differences between men and women, and he was fired. In fact, it caused such a disruption in Google that the former Google executive came back from holiday and was encouraged to escort this man out of the building. He was fired, and the reason was that Google embraces diversity of thought.
Interesting. Sounds a bit of a contradiction to me, but it’s just just me. Part of it was we’re building an open inclusive environment, it means fostering a culture in which those who have alternative views, including different political views feel safe sharing them, unless you’re a conservative, unless you believe there’s a distinction between maleness and femaleness. Just one example. You can remember, right, the CEO of Mozilla and Firefox was asked to leave that company in 2014 for the sin of supporting Proposition eight in California. Peter Thiel has been hounded and many have asked for him to be removed from the board of Facebook simply for his support of President Trump. It goes on, and it goes on, and it goes on. The companies that traffic information, manage social conversation and discourse are increasingly in the business of censorship and control.
So what’s the point? Here’s what I would say. It’s the stuff of biblical prophecy, and we’re in the beginning and end of it, I would assume. In my early days as a Christian, I heard pastors and preachers talk about global politics, cashless societies, the rise of antichrist, and today it seems more real than ever. Look at technology, look at commerce, banking. Is it beyond the realm of possibility, given a global pandemic crisis or issue in the world that someone could take charge of all that technology? Pick winners and losers, maybe something like Revelation 13:16 to 17, where the antichrist will determine who gets to buy and who gets to sell based on a certain number.
I think David Jeremiah is right, we are on the cutting edge of having all the technology that the antichrist and false prophet would need to wire this world together for evil purposes. Right now, it is well within the range of possibility for a centralized power to gain worldwide control of all banking and purchasing. As we see things that are prophesied for the tribulation period beginning to take shape right now, we are made aware of the fact that Jesus’ return for his church is ever near. Remember how Mark shared last week, how Christmas now is even preceding Thanksgiving? Man, you’re getting Christmas stuff in September, October, and if you see Christmas stuff in October, and it’s not yet Thanksgiving, how close is Thanksgiving?
And when you begin to see the world takes sheep in relation to the Book of Revelation or in relation to all of that discourse, how soon is the rapture? How soon is the gathering of the church? I don’t say that to scare you, I don’t encourage you to go and get yourself a white blanket and go up on top of a hill and wait for Jesus to return, I encourage you to engage your friends with the gospel, I encourage you to live a life that will meet you at the judgment seat of Christ with great reward, I encourage you to preach the hope that alone is found in Jesus Christ, I encourage you to be ready for in such an hour as you think not, the son of man comes.
Father, we thank you for our time in this series. Lord, we thank you that your word addresses our world. We may not find technology as we find it in the modern world described in the Bible, but human flourishing and human development is addressed, and it’s set in the context of a fallen world, and you bring your mind to bear upon patterns of behavior and thought that helps us to navigate the day in which we live. We pray that today that we would think through our consumption of technology, our use of technology, or its increasing enslavement of us in terms of our speech and our words. Help us remember in a multitude of words, sin is not lacking, the more we talk, the more we’re going to sin and we’re going to have a subtraction of wisdom. Lord, help us to develop our mind to be critical thinkers.
Those lost in deep thought about deep thoughts such as God, eternity, Jesus Christ, and the world to come. Help us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Help us not to allow technology to substitute face to face, heart-to-heart, life to life fellowship with God’s people, and Lord, we see a world taking shape that fits the promises of prophetic scripture. We’re living in a day when Israel is in the land long promised, we’re living in a day with a revived Roman Empire, we’re living in a day when technology is global. We see the panic surrounding Covid, we can imagine days in which men will have to rise up and bring the world to a place of false peace. Interesting days, biblically described days, therefore help us to redeem the time, live wisely, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.