Something is beckoning for my attention. And it's not online.
I couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking as he pulled out his iPhone and took advantage of a new Facebook application — right in the middle of the sermon.
It was then that I realized the narcissistic machine that is Facebook.
Shifting uncomfortably in my chair, I found myself desiring to do the same. I shuddered. Have I really come to this place where I'm more concerned about what's taking place on Facebook than what's going on in this church service? More concerned about a self-serving social networking site than this Bible on my lap?
Later on that evening, I thought more about my internal battle between Facebook and my Bible. I understand that one of my desires as a Christian should be to know God more deeply; the reality is that I spend very little time actually getting to know Him. Too often, my hours are spent pursuing other human beings through convenient electronic means like Facebook. My life can quickly become all about striving to know my buddies better than my Lord.
I struggled with this very battle just yesterday. I woke up early to prepare for an 8:30 a.m. class. The two weeks prior I had spent each morning reading and studying my Bible. But on this day, the first places I went were my blog, Facebook and my e-mail. As the day progressed, I found myself talking to people more through technology than face-to-face. After a few weeks I was losing focus on my goals in life, and focusing on things like my status updates and friends online.
I sit down to finish my paper for class. But instead of opening Word, I open up Firefox, type in the Web address, and check Facebook. Then refresh the page. Then open Word. Then switch back to Gmail. Honestly, my technology can be exhausting.
The signs are everywhere. And I'm growing utterly disgusted with myself. What is wrong with me?
It's not my intention to write a 1,200-word article encouraging others to give up Facebook, social networking, or the Internet. I plan to continue updating my status with random trivialities such as "Tim is attempting to write ... Tim just ate bread with mold ... Tim is heading to the basketball game" and the like. I'm still going to post notes, write on walls, and chat with friends.
But if all of this continues at the expense of getting to know God better, I want to throw it all out. All of it. Drastic, yes, but I've got to be willing to do whatever it takes.
Control and Human Interest
I see two issues at play in the realm of social networking and technology. One is lack of self-control. I should be writing a paper, but I'm online; I should be reading God's Word, but I'm online. The other is a little harder to perceive. It's a notion that holds the words of mere humans as much more interesting to follow than God's Word; the lives of mere humans as much more fun to get to know than God Himself.
Essentially Facebook is just one more thing that has shown me how easily I can lose interest in God's Word, the Bible. The words of J.I Packer come to mind:
How long is it since you read right through the Bible? Do you spend as much time with the Bible each day as you do even with the newspaper? What fools some of us are! — and we remain fools all our lives, simply because we will not take the trouble to do what has to be done to receive the wisdom which is God's free gift.
If I take the newspaper out and insert Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, e-mail and IM ... I likewise "remain a fool." Perhaps even a bigger fool who wastes not just 30 minutes, but hours upon hours a day pouring himself into an often self-serving and ultimately temporary tool.
What puts this whole issue into perspective for me is something I read by Donald Whitney:
Surely we only have to be realistic and honest with ourselves to know how regularly we need to turn to the Bible. How often do we face problems, temptations, and pressure? Every day! Then how often do we need instruction, guidance and greater encouragement? Every day! To catch all these felt needs up into an even greater issue, how often do we need to see God's face, hear his voice, feel his touch, know his power? The answer to all these questions is the same: every day!
I check things like Facebook every day. But do I read my Bible every day? I have to respond with embarrassment and a sinking heart that too often I do not.
Do you realize that tape-recorded readings of the Bible have proven that you can read through the entire Book in seventy-one hours? The average person in the United States watches that much television in less than two weeks. In no more than fifteen minutes a day you can read through the Bible in less than a year's time.
Honestly, I don't think I understand the gravity of my disdain of daily time with God. It's not an issue of salvation, of course, but I do think that it's essential to my spiritual health and growth. The thing is, I can spend hours upon hours on the internet browsing Facebook or messing with my electronic devices; I find it absolutely disgusting when this takes the place of God.
What is my true priority in life? I need a serious wake-up call.
How Essential Is It?
I've wondered how important reading the Bible daily really is. Is it just some capricious rule that the Church made up? Or does Scripture convey that we need to cherish God's Word by reading it daily?
The essence of impiety is the proud willfulness of "these wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words" (Jeremiah 13:10). The mark of true humility and godliness, on the other hand, is that a person "trembles at my word" (Isaiah 66:2).
Many times I'll fall into a rut of not taking the Word of God seriously. What does it take to pound it into my thick skull that, if I want to get to know God better (which I claim), I need to head straight to the words He's given me (which I often don't do).
Paul instructs Timothy:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16).
Scripture is not only profitable for me, but it's absolutely essential in order to be competent and to live my life well. Within those sacred pages I find everything that God has deemed necessary to tell me. There is so much depth and wisdom within those pages. Yet I somehow buy into the lie that the Bible is just boring and not worth my time. How would my life look if I poured myself into the pages of my Bible instead of pouring myself into the pages of Facebook? Radically different, I think.
I struggle with what to write for my status update; how often do I struggle with the great depths of God?
And I'm reminded of my friend checking up on Facebook during the sermon. I don't want to just single him out. I know I've been in the place where I've allowed the things of this world — and online community is too often a mere "thing of this world" — to form habits in my life that push all other things aside, including the attention that should be focused on God and His Word.
You know what? I think I'm finally ready to change that. Today. I think I'm finally ready to take some time away from the ultimately unsatisfying sterility of the Web, to examine the real needs of my heart, and to dive into the invigorating depths of the Word of God.
Copyright 2009 Tim Sweetman. All rights reserved.