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Turn my eyes away from worthless things, and revive me in Your way.
For many years, Amy Carmichael has been one of my spiritual heroes. As a young Scottish girl in the early 1900’s, her life was forever changed at the age of seventeen. She encountered the Living God in a very real way, and that day she shut herself in her bedroom to sort out life’s priorities. She knew He was calling her to complete set-apartness; asking her to become “dead to the world and its applause, to all the customs, fashions, and laws of those who hate the humbling Cross.” She responded to His call, and decided that, from that point on in her life, nothing would ever matter to her again except the things that were eternal.
Amy went on to become one of the greatest missionaries who ever lived, personally rescuing over 1,000 children from temple prostitution in India, and raising them as soldiers for God’s kingdom. Her success was not a result of her talent, funding, or brilliance, but rather, of her inner priorities. She disregarded the shallow, trivial things of the world, and instead fixed her gaze upon Jesus Christ and the things of eternity. She wrote,
“What is the secret to great living? Entire separation to Christ and devotion to Him. Thus speaks every man and woman whose life has made more than a passing flicker in the spiritual realm. It is the life that has no time for trifling that counts.”
These words have continued to challenge me again and again. How easy it is to trifle with the things of this world, and wane in our separation to Christ and devotion to Him!
The temptation to trifle with worldly preoccupation often sneaks in very subtly, under the banner of “good” things; like Facebook, Pinterest, and blogs.
I’ve noticed a temptation to quickly turn to the Internet the moment that I need a bit of inspiration for my role as “keeper of the home.” There are so many helpful blogs, beautiful Pinterest posts, and interesting Facebook pages that specialize in just about any area of my daily life. At the click of a button I can be swimming in an endless sea of amazing visual images or motivating practical advice for raising children, organizing my house, cooking delicious meals, exercising, healthy eating, party planning, photography, decorating, gardening, cleaning, etc. Such great inspiration seems completely healthy and harmless at first glance. But I’ve learned over the past few years that such things can quickly become a morass of distraction and compromise my complete devotion to Jesus Christ.
Both in my own life and in conversing with many young women, I’ve discovered that the Internet is one of the primary ways that we can lose our spiritual sharpness. Instead of becoming dead to the world, we become distracted and preoccupied with the world through the things we encounter on our computer screen.
The Internet can be a huge time-eater. If there is no guardedness to our time online, we will quickly find that the best hours of our day have been wasted in a cyber-world instead of given to real life. I have talked with several moms who find it hard to spend meaningful time with their children, but meanwhile spend countless hours on Facebook or Pinterest each day.
It’s not just young moms who have this struggle. Many young women can’t seem to find even fifteen or twenty minutes for prayer, but meanwhile sit in front of our computer screen for several hours each day, completely consumed by the social media world.
God’s Word says that He has prepared “good works” in advance for us to walk in. How often do we miss His Heavenly agenda for our day because wasting countless hours on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest?
Even more dangerous, when we have an unhealthy addiction to the Internet, our mind is influenced by worldly reasoning and worldly priorities, instead of continually meditating upon God’s Truth and His agenda.
Eric recently gave a powerful message at Ellerslie called The Christian Thought Life. In it, he exhorted us to be on guard against any and every thought that is not in alignment with God’s Truth…whether it be an obviously evil thought, or even a “sweet little old lady” thought that is subtly dangerous. This describes Pinterest and Facebook quite well. Many of these sites are not obviously evil but are subtly worldly, sneakily pulling us farther away from the things of eternity and turning our eyes upon the temporal and trivial.
So, let’s explore some of the most common pitfalls waiting for us in the Internet world, and how we can apply God’s Truth to each one of these areas of the cyber-world.
Facebook walls and comments, Twitter, and even personal blogs are often breeding grounds for idle chatter, fruitless words, frivolous notes, showing off of wit and personality, and exalting our own thoughts and opinions instead of God’s thoughts and opinions.
Proverbs 10:19 says, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”
Second Timothy 2:16 says, “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (KJV). The term “vain babbling” here means, “empty discussion, discussion of vain and useless matters.” What a perfect description of the vast majority of modern blogs and Facebook walls! Pointless ramblings, emotional philosophizing, chatter that really doesn’t have much of a purpose other than to sound artistic and wax eloquent about nothing in particular – this is what is currently hip in the social media community. But vain babbling is the opposite of godly communication.
Romans 14:19 says, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” The word edify here means, “to build someone up in their faith, to promote another person’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, holiness, etc.” If we choose to blog, our primary goal should be to edify our readers; to build up their faith in Jesus Christ and encourage them spiritually through what we are sharing.
In other words, if you don’t have something truly important, edifying, and God-honoring to say, then don’t say it (or post it) at all! Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, “...every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (KJV).
May we weigh each word we say (and write) in light of eternity.
One of the most crafty and dangerous things about Facebook, Pinterest, and blogs is the temptation to worship and idolize the “following” that we have. Instead of looking to Christ alone for our confidence, security, and fulfillment, we become consumed with how many likes we have on our Facebook page, or how many subscribers we have on our blogs.
Popularity is much easier to achieve now than it was when I was younger, thanks to the blogging and social media community. It used to be that in order to become one of the “cool kids” you had to wear the right clothes, use the right slang, and strategically position yourself around the in-crowd. Now, if you simply know how to sit at your laptop and blog in a hip, trendy, artistic, or unique way, you can become popular, gain your own little fan club, and get your ego stroked by the many affirming comments that people leave on your blog site or Facebook page.
All too many of us spend a huge amount of time and energy “competing” to gain more subscribers and see more comments posted on our blogs or Facebook walls. We are addicted to the applause and approval of the outside world, and this is our leading motivation for blogging or using social media, despite often proclaiming that our screen time is “all about Jesus.”
If you find yourself constantly checking to see how many new subscribers you have, always taking a peek at the comments people post, and feeling jealous toward other bloggers or Facebook users who have a bigger following than you do, it’s sign that this area of your life has an unhealthy hold upon your heart.
If social media or blogging has taken an idolatrous place in your life, be willing to completely walk away from it for a season and focus on making Christ your first love, your all in all.
In light of eternity, which is more important?
Looking to celebrities for inspiration on workouts, diets, hairstyles, and fashion may seem harmless, but what does God say about being influenced by the mentalities of pop-culture? “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly….but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law, He meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1)
Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook often encourage us to take our cues from the world as to what we should eat, drink, wear, and do. When we get pulled in to celebrity inspiration and cultural trends, we quickly begin to walk in the counsel of the ungodly. We start meditating upon the world’s value system instead of upon the things of God.
Christ makes it clear that we cannot love both Him and the things that charm and ravish this world. We cannot be dazzled by the images of pop-culture and captivated by the King of all kings:
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. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 John 2:15-16)
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
If our Lord does not take delight in the things that charm and ravish the world, neither should we. (And if you believe that God actually applauds the distorted messages of pop-culture, you need to become better acquainted with the God of the Bible.)
To be truly set-apart for our King, we must choose the same path that Amy Carmichael did – to become dead to the world and its applause, to all the customs, fashions, and laws of those who hate the humbling Cross. Why should we look to shallow, ungodly celebrities for advice, when we can look to the King of all kings for everything we could ever need?
Instead of imitating pop-culture and celebrity trends, let us remember that we are called to imitate Christ alone.
Modern blogging, Pinterest, and Facebook pages provide an opportunity to get all of our feelings “out in the open” while impressing people with your unique and artistic philosophy skills at the same time. It’s like having a public diary. Instead of keeping our personal ponderings and feelings private, social media encourages us to publish them; to creatively market our unique thoughts and ideas in order to gain a following.
Many young women use their blogs to post intimate dreams and desires about what they want in a marriage partner, or use their Pinterest page to display photos of their future dreams – their ideal wedding dress or house with a picket fence. On the Internet, it is all too easy to broadcast thoughts and feelings that should be kept private.
One of my favorite Scriptures is Luke 2:19, when Mary the mother of Jesus “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”
If anyone had a reason to publicize her thoughts, observations, and experiences, it was Mary. And yet, she chose instead to keep them and ponder them in her own heart.
As women, God tells us not to exude merely a physical beauty, but to allow our beauty to flow from the “hidden person” of the heart:
Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart...
(1 Peter 3:3-4)
The phrase “hidden person of the heart” refers to the secret, intimate part of who we are; our emotions, musings, dreams, struggles, and ideas. When we fall into the habit of publicizing our intimate thoughts, we have no “hidden person of the heart” left to protect; nearly everything we think, hope, dream, fear, and feel is out there on display for the world to see. Granted, it can be more exciting to deposit our personal thoughts in a public forum rather than a private journal, especially when people leave us nice comments and our following grows with every post. But going public with our thoughts can all too quickly lead to unbiblical patterns in our lives, destroying the feminine mystery God intended us to preserve.
Save the personal sacred things of your heart for your journal, prayer closet, and your husband. Do not “cast your pearls before swine” by allowing all eyes to see what is meant to be kept private.
Remember, the Internet in itself is not an evil thing. I truly believe that Facebook, blogs, Pinterest (and yes, even Twitter) can be used for the glory of God, and that by His grace, we can navigate these areas without falling into the traps that have been set for us. But we must not blindly venture into this dangerous territory. Before sitting down in front of a screen, we must put on the armor of God and have the mind of Christ with every click of the mouse, every moment in front of a screen, every tap upon the keyboard.
I encourage you to take some to time to prayerfully evaluate your time on the Internet, in light of eternity. Are you truly “dead to the world” and spending your screen time on the things of Heaven, and not the things of this earth? If not, ask God’s Spirit to show you how to reorient these areas of your lives around His priorities. Study His Word and apply Truth to your every decision. Be willing to completely walk away from anything that is pulling you away from Jesus Christ. Be willingly to strictly limit your time on the Internet in order to spend the best hours of your day in His presence. And be willing to completely change what you post, what you view, and what you participate in so that He and He along would be glorified through your Internet time.
Is not the Lamb that was slain worthy?
I love getting my life all organized, decorating my home, and also giving time to designing, photography, and healthy cooking - all things that come with an endless supply of inspiration on Pinterest. But, soon after discovering this resource, I found that if I wasn’t guarded, I was going to lose valuable time on trivial and fruitless things, time that is not mine to squander.
To keep my heart and time accountable before the Lord, I choose not to open Pinterest unless I have something specific I’m searching for, like finding a recipe to make for my dinner guests or looking for a fresh color palette for next month’s magazine issue. Pinterest can be a fruitful resource or a cunning thief swallowing up what rightfully belongs to the Lord. And it’s up to me to govern my time with purity and purpose.
With Facebook, I keep two rules before me.
1) Give Jesus. The world certainly doesn’t need more of me. It doesn’t serve anyone to know what cool thing I just did or who I saw in the Starbucks line. But what they do need is Jesus, and I can take the platform the world says is “mine” and spend it wholly for declaring God’s testimonies of faithfulness in my life and sharing His words of Truth.
2) Care about the right things. Birthdays, a friend’s baby announcement, missionary updates, and edifying posts can be some of the benefits of utilizing Facebook, but I must give no access in my time to the things that glorify the world, take the spotlight off Christ, or tempt me with comparison. The best way I’ve found to guard this is to spend very little time on Facebook, and be purposeful when I do open it up. And more importantly, keep my daily life saturated in the presence of God and His Word. If holy Truth is the reigning voice in my life, I am quick to turn my eyes from worthless things.
Electricity is a great tool. It allows us to blow dry our hair, see in the middle of the night, it helps us keep our food fresh, and removes the hassle that candles created back in the olden day. However, electricity can very quickly become an extremely dangerous weapon if wielded in the wrong way. It could be said, the greater and more helpful the tool, the greater and more dangerous of a weapon it becomes if it is misused and misapplied. The exact same can be said for the Internet. It can either be a valuable tool in your life, or an oppressive tyrant dictating how you spend your time and sculpting and shaping your thoughts.
Pinterest was an especially helpful resource when I needed some DIY decorating ideas as we moved into a new house and when I needed to get the nursery ready for the little one on the way. However, I quickly realized how easy it was to be lured onto all kinds of bunny trails with the seemingly thousands of lovely things to look at and interesting tips to read about. In order to keep Pinterest from becoming a tyrannical time-sink in my life, I do not allow myself to spend time aimlessly browsing every “pin” and “picture” that captures my eyes and and tempts my desire for creating a beautiful home. My aim is to keep my time on Pinterest purposeful and planned; not as what Jane Austen would call a “diversion.”
It didn’t take me very long, after creating my own Facebook account, to understand and see the dangers it carried with it. The initial excitement of having my own profile and connecting with all my friends, soon faded with the discovery of the many dangers Facebook posed to my soul. I felt Facebook to be a temptation to compromise in my standards of purity; with it being the platform for so much frivolous flirting and inappropriate guy/girl interaction. The desire to set my affections on things above, and use my time to draw closer to Christ, led to the decision to deactivate my account four years ago. There certainly is a healthy way of utilizing Facebook. However, by removing this unnecessary distraction, I have found I am able to direct my time towards heavenly things, rather than the constant urge to know the latest news and updates of all those around me.
Finally, one thing we must remember about this tool known as the Internet, is that, since it has such a loaded capacity for usefulness as well as frivolousness, we must stand guard over our use of it, refusing to fritter our time away on those things which do not last. Our blogs, Facebook, and other Internet browsing should only be used to glorify God, serve those around us, and be a testimony of the consecrated life we are called to live.
Whether completing ministry “computer errands” or diving into a personal search, my well-loved MacBook connects me to an enormous universe of information via the Internet. I use the Internet every day - and I’ve experienced it both as a “time-swallower” and as a redeemed means of usefulness for God’s Kingdom. As I have sought to honor Christ in my use of the Internet, there are a few principles that God has worked to engrain in my heart...
Principle #1 - A Fixed Gaze
Whether looking for fresh food inspiration, a pair of bridesmaid shoes, or a bargain book - the internet offers more accessibility at my fingertips than ever before. And while this is holds an exciting opportunity, God has challenged me on this point. I’ve found that it is far too easy to mindlessly search the Internet for a solution to any given need or situation - when my heavenly Father already has all that I need and has promised to supply. While the Internet is a helpful resource that God is willing and able to direct me in, I must purpose to turn to Christ first and allow Him to meet every need as He chooses.
Principle #2 - A Prayerful Heart
As I walk with a prayerful heart and am continually conscious of God’s nearness, my time on the Internet is marked with intentionality rather than triviality. It is very simple, but I’ve found that when my Internet time is cushioned with prayer, God’s purposes and heavenly priorities prevail. When I live in acknowledgement of the One who owns my time and laid down His life to purchase mine, I am far less likely to waste my time or compromise the purity of my heart - via the Internet or any other means.
Next time, as you enter the web world, I challenge you to choose to clip the wings of trivial browsing, mindless surfing, and vain networking - and instead ask Him to fill your vision with His heavenly purpose regarding your use of the Internet. As you set your heart to seek His smile, He will faithfully guide you!
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