Social Media: Five questions to expose our heart and remind us of our belonging in Christ
I remember was 19 years old when I first started interacting on the platform MySpace, customizing my page, adding music, post about my spaghetti dinner and other random thoughts, reading my friends posts, and sharing pictures. I remember it feeling good to receive those likes and comments. Facebook soon took over as the fastest growing social media platform in history. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and more soon followed.
Suddenly, everyone had it, even my grandma. Right in my pocket and purse, I suddenly had access to the perceived company of millions of people.
Years later, I had our first baby and was in the new mom season establishing friendships with other mom friends. But when my husband joined the military, we moved many states away. I hoped Facebook would help me stay connected with what I left behind in Southern CA.
But I discovered the only way I kept connected was seeing them get together, through pictures with each other and not me. As time went on, my posts and pictures felt ignored, and I felt alone and desperate for connection.
My schedule was full of nothing. I wasted a lot of time during my son’s naps trying to seek community and affirmation online. It amplified the longing for friendships that I didn’t have in my new state. I realized even though I had access to so many people, I felt alone.
A few years and one kid later, grateful to be past that loneliness from before, I became the one posting about friends and gatherings. Only to be confronted by the tears and heartache of other mutual friends who felt intentionally left out.
And a social media fast didn’t fix anything.
I was in a daze, confused, heartbroken, fighting pride, and needed help navigating.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles with social media. In fact, I don’t know a single person who hasn’t struggled with it.
In fact, as of now, more than 4.8 billion people are active social media users worldwide. Today’s students use social media about 7.5 hours each day and 8 out of 10 teens report using social media every day to feel more connected with their friends. Yet, is it really helping? Because only 4% of the younger generation has a biblical worldview because we are letting social media disciple them. In 2017 a former US Surgeon General called loneliness a public health epidemic and in 2019 a national survey found that 61 percent of people report being often lonely.
But for me, I realized I had to do some serious soul searching. I just had to know how to deal with social media according to Scripture. Thus, began some intensive self-counseling with God’s word.
Social media is not an “issue” in which Scripture is silent. It is simply another addition to the history of communication. From the Phoenician alphabet to carvings in stone and ink on parchment. Guttenberg’s printing press, newspaper and internet, email, smartphones and social media, we can see how communication has changed by God’s divine plan over the course of history in order that His message can be spread throughout the nations.
The apostles knew about communicating with people scattered across the lands and whom they have never seen before. James wrote to believers throughout the lands due to early church persecution. Paul wrote to those he had “not yet met” as the church grew while he was in prison. And today, we read their letters.
There’s certainly a lot of good that has come from the evolution of communication and instant messaging.
I mean just imagine the reformers and puritans delight to have a platform where they can pull out from their stitched leather satchel a device where they can tap letters together and in one click their writing published to eyes of millions of people worldwide.
We can encourage persecuted believers in another continent or reconnect with a former friend to share the gospel. All in an instant.
But where there is instant opportunity for the gospel therein also lies instant opportunity for sin. And what could be a good thing typically turns into a time-wasting form of entertainment to distract us from being the women God has called us to be.
The evil forces of Satan and his demons oppose and try to destroy every good thing of God, which we see in the Garden with Adam and Eve (in Genesis 3) and in the wilderness where we see Jesus the Messiah himself being tempted (Matthew 4:1-11).
In John 8:44-47 Jesus calls Satan “a murderer from the beginning” and “the father of lies”. According to 2 Corinthians 4:4 he works hard to keep people blind people from “seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ”. Satan desires to kill, steal, and destroy by way of temptation, doubt, fear, confusion, envy, pride, slander, and more and wants anything to hinder a Christian’s witness and usefulness.
Where this benefit of instant communication exists there also exists a massive work of evil to distort any good thing about it. and we see this has taken a dramatic toll on our relationship both with God and people due to our fallen human condition.
Just as Satan has skewed God’s design for marriage, sex, and gender, He wants to twist our relationships, too. Using social media to make them so shallow, that we feel lost, lonely, and empty enough even to tragically commit suicide. Which we see is dramatically on the rise.
However, we know these spiritual beings are limited in power. They cannot read our minds - only God can (1 Kings 8:39) but they are crafty. They have been studying humanity since we existed. watching and listening to our patterns, desires as they work worldly things to manipulate and twist anything they can for you to be enticed enough to click on that desire to birth sin.
It almost sounds like how our phones are listening to us to customize our ads and make those addictive things show in the first three swipes.
What started as just keeping connected with friends and family has now turned into relationships/churches being torn down, sins of the tongue are now typed out, fake news runs rampant, sexual ads targeting our men and boys, and endless articles and stories and reels distracting us from the most important things. The feast of relationships we think we are getting are now a reduction of junk food versions limited only what we let others see.
But we cannot just blame Satan for our sin, like Eve did. She grasped for that fruit herself, to be like God. We were never designed to be all knowing and everywhere like social media tries to promise we can be. It says in James 1:14-15 “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
When I decide to go on a hike, I use a trail app that tells me feedback from people who have hiked this recently. When considering a hike, you can see if it has been washed out, snowed out, or if there is a dead cow blocking the route.
And that is what I am here to do today. To expose the dangers and cautions of the path. But also, to help us reorient our hearts toward a heart for Christ.
And if you aren’t on social media, that’s ok, you’re not off the hook. The roots of these things apply to any place where relationships and communication exist, even in this very room. And, certainly you will need to counsel others along the way as well.
James 3:16 “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
But we have One who we can look up to as an example for all things…
James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”
Who is the most wise, most pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy, full of good fruit, impartial and sincere person who walked on the face of this earth? Our Lord Jesus Christ.
And if we are desiring to be Christlike, wise women, then we should be examining our hearts in everything we do, looking to Him.
To help with this, I’ve come up with five questions to examine our hearts and guide us in the terrain of social media.
Am I exalting myself?
Paul warns Timothy of these kinds of people in 2 Timothy 3:1-7 “but understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. People will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people for among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins, and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”
This is a powerful verse that is incredibly relevant to today, isn’t it? It almost sums up social media in one passage. If you scroll your feed even for 5 minutes, it is very easy to identify each one of these things, sometimes all under a single post.
And “lover of self” is at the top of the list for a key reason: it is the catalyst to every other outward manifestation on the items listed below it.
These “Lovers of self” also acquire more company by capturing weak women:
Weaker women who are not trusting the word as sufficient, not exalting Christ as her Savior, seeking tiktok psychology and secular wisdom for advice, not pursuing Him as Lord of her life, pursuing one thing after another because she is always learning everything other than truth.
The word here for weak women is a unique one which together means little woman or idle woman. It is used in a way that implies that this particularly woman is easily swayed or weak-willed which is the opposite of the wise and godly woman.
Another way we can self-exalt is by the trap of comparison.
Filled with bitterness or jealousy, we can easily try to elevate ourselves with bragging or bring others down by slander. And we can do this either publicly or in the depths of our heart. We don’t need social media to fall into this trap as we look at others even across the room to measure up.
Phil 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
It is commonly said that each snowflake has a completely different pattern and gracefully fulfils its short and simple life from the sky to the ground in a matter of minutes. Their intricate patterns each beautiful and unique, declaring a Creative God who made them. Hasn’t God called us as even more valuable?
It would be silly to think that these snowflakes would even dare to spend a part of their lives quarreling and comparing, slandering each other as they end their journey on the tongue of a child.
Even more, our lives are too short to be comparing to one another. Instead, we can praise the Lord that He made us all different and unique, humbling ourselves and counting others as more significant.
Why do we exalt ourselves? because we can love the glory from man. But this glory is a temporary one. This temporary pursuit of likes and follows and shares holds no weight in heaven compared to the glory that is to come when we are in the presence of the Lord.
The Pharisees loved the glory of man. Their high view of themselves blinded them from having a high view of Christ.
John 12:37 Though he has done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him…vs 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”
In every season of highs or lows, in plenty or in want, the cross brings us all to a place of equality. The cross levels the playing field for each of us. The cross brings down the high and raises the low to one place of reconciliation to Christ.
We are all sinners in need of a savior to save us and to sanctify us.
Of anyone who deserved to glorify himself it was Jesus himself, yet He said in John 8:50 “I do not seek my own glory” 54 “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me”.
Jesus didn’t need any likes, emojis, or affirming comments. Jesus knew that self-exaltation would have been nothing compared to the glory that His Father had coming for Him. And one day we get to rejoice when His glory, beyond all comparison, is revealed for those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
2. Is my heart jealous/coveting?
Coveting means a yearn to possess or have.
When God commanded not to do this in the ten commandments, we can trust that he knew we needed this restraint.
There was two things James wrote in the passage earlier that lead to vile practices and a disordered life: jealousy and selfish ambition.
Who here wants to have a disordered life? Even a non-believer would say no.
Yet jealousy consumes our hearts when we don’t get what we want or think we deserve, or discontent with what we have and wanting different. Disordering every part of our relationships and lives.
Yes, we have freedom to desire and freedom to partake in the common graces of the Lord in this world! We can desire even good, good, things! Things that we can rightly petition with the Lord for!
A man, a marriage, a baby, a friend group, a bestie, a improved relationship with someone, a good church, a clean home, a toddler that finally poops on the potty.
Maybe your desire is even to see spiritual maturity or salvation of a family member which, again, is a good, godly desire!
But as the days pass, and that desire prayed for doesn’t come…we start to wonder if He really hears us. We question His kingship. We struggle to trust Him.
We start to cheapen hope by controlling our current circumstances, like Sarai when she wanted a child.
Suddenly that good godly desire becomes something for my own gain instead of submitting to His perfect plan.
Then, I log into Instagram and start to think, “why does she get it and I don’t” or, “I wish I was there with them, too.” And then we log in again and again like dogs returning to our own vomit and fall into the same torturous trap instead of cutting off the very things that is causing you to sin.
So, instead of rejoicing with the poster, we unlovingly grumble in our own discontented state, even treating her wrongly, like Sarai did to Hagar, birthing jealous and covetous sin.
But, all these good desires, rightly submitted to God, not only bring good spiritual fruit, but our obedience and trust in Him brings blessings beyond what we can think or imagine! Even if we never get that desire we brought to His feet because He has EVEN BETTER in store!
Consider David when in Psalm 23 he says, the Lord is my shepherd, I lack no thing. HE leads me to green pastures and still waters. HE restores my soul. No matter what valley of shadow of death I walk in.
The only thing that God is jealous for is for us. Instead of looking left or right at others and grasping for things that cannot satisfy, His desire is for our hearts to be fixed on Him because He can provide far more abundantly than we can ask for or think.
And Jesus, being God, walked perfectly in this way, as well. He did not covet but trusted His Father to give everything He needed. John 4:34 said his food was to do the will of the Father, to accomplish His work. And even as He neared death, in Matthew 26:39, He prayed for the possibility of this cup to pass from Him, yet even in this, He trusted God perfectly in His timing and will.
3. Am I seeking treasures on earth?
Luke 8:14 “And as for what [seeds from the sower] fell among the thorns, they are those who hear but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.”
Choked does not evoke a positive emotion here but it’s a powerful warning to us today. What is doing the choking? The cares and riches and pleasures of life. And what is the result? Their fruit does not mature.
And we know that wise and godly women are known by the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.
The phrase “by the cares” parallels what Jesus said to us about being anxious: don’t be anxious about these cares of the world … isn’t life more than that?
There are many pleasures and treasures we could list but I have time to point out three main categories here.
First, Material Things - James 1:11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass, its flower falls and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
Yes, we have freedom to buy, to enjoy, to build up our homes. These are sweet gifts from the Lord. Yet, James is reminding us to hold these things with an open hand and not a fist – they are earthly treasures and not treasures in heaven. And honestly, most of it goes on the treasure swap and donation box anyway.
These “things” can never take the place of the one who gives us the greatest and lasting treasure.
Secondly, External Beauty – 1 Peter 3:4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
While the beauty of our unique femininity is glorifying to God, the Maker of all things beautiful, our face and bodies are not the ultimate pursuit. Girls and boys are being raise up in a filter-perfect culture where aging is an enemy, indirectly teaching them that the aged are to be looked down upon instead of looked up to for wisdom.
These lines on our faces are the physical outward manifestation of the suffering and trials God has beautifully used in our lives to chisel away at our heart.
They are in a way the fingerprint of God’s sovereignty through the many years of tears and laughter.
Even Proverbs, the book of wisdom, calls grey hair a crown of glory.
Yet instead of seeing these things as a badge of honor, it is being covered in shame with a filter.
But Christ praises not the external, but the internal beauty of the heart of a woman who sees her ultimate beauty and worth in Christ. As we pursue Him, He takes a scalpel not to the face and body but to the heart as He cuts away the imperfections and fleshly desires of the heart to reveal a heart fashioned after His own.
Last, The pleasure of time wasting – Eph 5:15-16 Look carefully then how you walk not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil.
Our trail and race is only so long before we are called home. How are you using the time that God has given you, wisely? Just like we are given money to be good stewards, we are to budget our time wisely as well.
Could we trade even 5, 20, 60 minutes of swiping for feasting on living bread and living water?
Could we stop ourselves from reading the gossip-based comments and pray for a friend instead?
Could we fill our minds with the needs of others so that we remember them - instead filling our minds with endless research on toxins?
We know that Jesus never wanted worldly treasures but praised the woman who gave a precious, expensive alabaster box of oil for anointing Him. Matthew 26:7
Jesus never desired to be handsome, in fact, we read in Isaiah 53:2 that he had no form of majesty and no beauty that we should desire him.
And Jesus also knew how to perfectly use His time – in prayer, in teaching, and making relationships with sinners like you and I.
4. Will this put a stumbling block in front of another?
A study of Romans 14 and 15 gives us rich guidelines in how we are to be an example of Christ toward each other.
14:12-13 – each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hinderance in the way of a brother (or sister).
…19 – so then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
God sees how our actions can affect multiple people at once. He sees the reverberating effects that one statement or post or picture can have on so many others. When we post anything, we are declaring it to everyone watching and silently scrolling.
And to say you do not care what others think or say, that just isn’t love. That is pride. So we have to consider our sister or brother…Is this going to help others think on what is True? Noble? Right? Pure? Lovely? Admirable? Praiseworthy? Excellent? Will this benefit us both?
“For you were called to freedom, [sisters], only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
Even in our freedoms we must consider if it is going to benefit mutually and love my neighbor as myself. Just as I wouldn’t want to offer a drink to an alcoholic, I shouldn’t desire to post something that would knowingly stir someone weaker to jealousy, hatred, or self-exaltation.
Are you trying to comment and message debates just to win an argument, or are we stirring up anger rather than pursing the person out of love?
Is sharing this news article going to cause someone to heighten in fear and anxiety or trust more in the Lord?
Do I hold on more to the freedom of speech “doctrine” or to a biblical theology of love?
Romans 15:1-3a We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself…”
Not only did Jesus never place a stumbling block for anyone. In fact He is the very opposite of a stumbling block because he removed every possible obstacle in order that we are saved not by our works but through the free gift of salvation by grace and grace alone.
5. Am I longing for a place to fit in and belong other than in Christ?
FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, was introduced as an official term in 2004 as a unique phenomenon being observed on social media sites. It was officially introduced to the Oxford dictionary in 2013. According to an article on the National Library of Medicine, it starts with the perception of missing out followed up by compulsive behavior to maintain these social connections. This unhealthy cycle reportedly leads feelings of inferiority, intense rage, and desperate loneliness. And it’s said that people who are more discontent with their social lives, the more likely they are to experience higher levels of FOMO.
It is in this lonely and empty state of lack where we can be tempted to look somewhere else. As we scroll and swipe we see smiles and wonder where we fit into this world, too. Like Christ is not enough. Like we need another kind of Savior to fill our life.
Christ AND that boyfriend
Christ AND these certain friendships
Christ AND wine
Christ AND drugs
Christ AND lustful sex
Christ AND gossip
Christ AND perfectionism
Why are we trading the voice of God for the voice of man?
The one who spoke and all things formed,
the one who will speak and the bowls of wrath will pour out on the earth in the last days,
the one who speaks commands to mighty heavenly army to protect you and fight for you,
who spoke to Job out of the whirlwind and said “Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like His? … Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine”
This world is lying to us and swallowing us up into thinking we belong to the worldly things but Christ declares to us by His Word that we are His Creation and we belong to Him!
We belong to him because he fashioned us and made us
We belong to Him because He knows everything we’ve ever done and still came for us
We belong to him because he crushed the head of the serpent
We belong to him because He is our shepherd
We belong to him because even though we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, we are redeemed by the shedding of His blood and given His righteousness all because He loves us.
He has a place for us in Him and through Him! And Oh, what freedom and love and satisfaction we can have in pursuing Him and having eyes for Him alone – never left out, never unfriended, always invited, without any fear of missing out from anything He has to offer us because He gives us everything we need!
And he is the perfectly merciful, perfectly loving, and perfectly wise example for us.
Jesus never exalted Himself.
Jesus never coveted anything
Jesus never pursued worldly treasures or pleasures.
Jesus never put a stumbling block in front of another.
And Jesus was completely secure and joyfully content fixing his eyes on His Father as He joyfully carried out the plan of loving us to the point of death and death on a cross.
So our only response to this is by living for him in a life belonging to Him, as sheep who listen to the voice of the shepherd without want of anything else. Loving Him, and loving others in all that we do even on social media.
“God gave us a self, not so that we would have something to exalt in, but something to exalt with. He gave us a self, not to be the object of our joy, but the subject of joy. The self is and is meant to be a desire factory.”
“Our desires are meant to lead us to Himself, in whose presence is fullness of joy.”
As we leave here today, let us fix our eyes to the person of Christ as the example in how we interact on social media or elsewhere. May we examine our hearts so we do not become trapped by sin. But may we also always remember that the work of Christ covers our sin and satisfies every lack we have. And that is certainly something to share about.
(This is message manuscript from 10/14/23 City Bible Church - Sacramento - Women's Breakfast)