Think Biblically |3-15-2020

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-10-2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students understand how to think biblically. This was apart of a series of sermons given during the Unshakable 2019 winter camp for our church’s youth group.]

Intro

During this weekend we are going to learn what it means to have an unshakable faith and tonight is all about how to think biblically. How to have a worldview that is able to withstand all the worries we have about our world. What I mean by thinking biblically is thinking the way Jesus thought.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus was constantly pointing everyone he talked to back to the Word of God. During that time this would have just been the Old Testament, which is the first half of your Bible. Now the Word of God is the whole Bible: Old and New Testament.

Needless to say, no matter what situation Jesus found himself in he always thought biblically. Everything Jesus did and thought was aimed at obeying God the Father. How can we purpose in our minds to do the same and obey Jesus? Tonight, we’ll learn how to do just that as we read part of a letter written by Paul the Apostle.

In the book of Colossians we read:

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (2).”

After this, Paul then goes into a whole bunch of stuff that can distract us and reminds us to stay focused on Christ. He ends this section of the letter when he says:

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (3).”

Now from these two passages, we can gather three main takeaways on how to think biblically. How to think like Jesus thought in spite of the world around Him. To think biblically is to keep walking, to wise up, and to wake up. By learning how to train yourself to think this way, you will add the first brick of many to your unshakable faith. Let’s learn the first way, which is to keep walking.

Keep Walking (v. 6 – 7)

Most people remember when they first met God. Those of us who have had this encounter can either remember the exact moment or even the feeling we had when we encountered God personally for the first time. I know for me it was more of a connecting the dots over time than a specific moment.

You probably have a similar situation where you either in an instant felt the presence of God immediately or discovered Him slowly over time. However that went down for you, that was just the beginning. This first step in your walk with God was just the key cornerstone in what could one day be an unshakable faith.

You may have even had mentors or youth pastors who showed you how to live the Christian life. But in spite of all of that excitement, life happened. Things changed and you changed along with it. For some of us, we stopped walking with God.

In verses 6-7, Paul reminds us about this very common problem of walking away because of all that is happening in our lives. The first way that we can think biblically is to get our heads in the game and keep walking with God. To endure the attacks that we get hit with and to keep going as Christians.

During my last Strongman comp, I did the most difficult lift of my entire life: a 450lbs. axle bar deadlift for 4 reps. It was brutal. My body was aching from the overhead pressing event where I tweaked a muscle in my lower back, I almost blacked out with each new rep, and was just stupid tired.

But the worst part of the lift was the mental game. I was wrestling with my thoughts. “Should I give up? Is this too difficult? Why try when I’m competing with an active duty captain in the U.S. Army and another guy who is qualified for Strongman Nationals?” I was this close to giving up, yet I exceeded my limits and kept going in the competition.

[Ironically enough, I never shared this strongman example when I preached this sermon. At the very last second, I changed examples. Literally when it was time to share this example during the message, I chose not to and instead shared about a conversation I had with my Granddad about college. Not sure why, but it seemed like the right move at the moment.]

Like that day when I could have given up, we too must keep walking in our faith with God. Remembering why God’s grace leads to our gratitude. Enjoying life with Him and growing in our knowledge of God as we learn from others much wiser than us. Speaking of wisdom, let’s look at the second way that we can dedicate our minds to thinking biblically and that means we need to wise up.

Wise Up (v. 8)

In verse 8 of chapter 2, we read of another threat to thinking biblically and that is the distortions of truth that the world offers. The way that the world tries to find the truth is like taking a picture with a broken lense. They have the right desire, but will never get the ideal result. Like us before we knew God, they are just looking at the big picture the wrong way. Everything is distorted without God who brings all things into focus when we draw near to Him.

With this in mind, we need to wise up and be careful of all of the stuff that is out there. These days, everything is trying to get your attention. Everyone is desperate for you to give them your time. According to a YouTube press release, about “one billion hours [of video content is] watched daily” on their platform (4). There is a battle for your mind and to fight it, you have to think biblically.

Now this verse isn’t saying that all knowledge outside of the Bible is bad or evil. I mean, how would you learn about Algebra if not for the Muslim mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi who invented it? Without his work, we wouldn’t have Algebra and you wouldn’t hate math. So like 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 says, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” Until proven true, take everything with a grain of salt. You’ll know if something is the truth when it has been tested and proven to be true. This is the second way that we can think biblically.

Wake Up (v. 1 – 3)

The final way to think biblically is to wake up. We need to wake up and realize our main reason for being Christian in the first place. We are here to know God and make God known. The Gospel is the wake up call of the world and we are the messengers.

We’re not here to get caught up in the nonsense of what is being fought over today. We have to stay focused and remember that we have a mission from up above. We have a task at hand and that is to tell others what God has done, is doing, and will do through us as Christians. We need to focus on Jesus in our life on the daily and then when that’s dialed in, show others how to do the same.

[Here I added more in my sermon journal where I wrote “show, then tell.” For the uninitiated, to show then tell is a film idea. The idea that a picture can say a thousand words and our examples in how we live do the same. Don’t remember the exact wordage, but that was the concept.]

Conclusion

To wrap up, we need to think biblically if we want an unshakable faith. We must keep walking, wise up, and wake up to keep our mind focused on God. Until the whole world hears the good news of Jesus, our mission is loud and clear. Think about it and we’ll talk in our small groups in a minute. Let’s pray.

This was a really stressful weekend because it was my first time co-running a winter camp with another leader named Sierra. We worked all day running the camp the whole weekend and by the time came for me to share my sermon, I was quite exhausted. I wasn’t as tired as last year’s winter camp, but a different type of tired because everyone came to us with their problems versus last year where we just solved problems that were there.

Anyways, I was scrambling to write the outline in my sermon journal as the worship team was doing their set before it was my time to preach. I think the sermon was fairly straightforward and had little hiccups. It went as planned for the most part. The concept for this whole sermon series I outlined as far back as August of 2018 at a leader retreat, so the main ideas had been in my mind for months by the time I shared this message. Then again, I’ve always been a clutch preacher who is changing things at the very last second pretty normally, so take that as you will. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. Colossians 2:6-8
  3. Colossians 3:1-3
  4. https://www.youtube.com/yt/about/press/

Isolated Together

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

Believe it or not, there once was a time when people had to talk in person. Face-to-face, breathing the same air, in the same space, and hold eye contact. Crazy right? It was a time where people did this crazy thing called personal communication. A blissful span of time where when one person wanted to interact socially with another person, they would actually interact with that person socially. But that all changed with one simple, yet immensely influential tool: social media.

It is the connective tissue of the 21st century. The webbing of the social spider that travels back and forth across the internet. In today’s world, it is not too hard to go about your day without being confronted by the ripple effects of social media. Whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Kikme, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube or the like, their presence is well known to almost everyone. Yet have we ever stepped back and asked “Just as there are good side effects to social media use, can there be bad ones as well?”

Unequivocally, the answer is yes. While social media has paved the way for great advancements in society such as the expansion of globalization, introducing us to the information age, a more-informed public, and instant communication. On the flip side, it has also brought with it negative side effects with short and long lasting impressions on modern mankind. For the sake of time, I will focus on three briefly in this blog-post: the physical effects, the sociological effects, and the spiritual effects. First let’s start with the physical effects.

The Physical Effects

If it was not apparent already, social media has over time altered human anatomy and the way we move about in life. This can be seen in how some people have severe curves in the vertebrae due to slouching over a computer desk (or a mobile device) when interacting online. This curvature is evident in their backs or necks, along with the rise in the general population being diagnosed with some form of nearsightedness. Various studies on this issue have concluded that “Between 1970 and 2000, myopia — nearsightedness — prevalence in the U.S. rose from 25 percent to nearly 42 percent among people ages 12 to 54” (2) and with the spike of online interaction via social media, the numbers have continued to climb.

Other common symptoms include, but are not limited to obesity, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and even more serious addictions that are directly caused by the abuse of social media. These more serious addictions that stem from the gateway drug of the digital world range from substance abuse to an increase in anxiety related mental health issues in adolescents. This is due to such variables as the amount of information available online through hyper-networking, the brain seeking different stimulations to hit high dopamine levels, and the addictive nature of social media leading to misconstrued fantasies. Studies now show that Gen Z is one of the most depressed and least sexually active generations too, which can be indicative of the effects of social media. In the long run, social media is changing us physically.

The Sociological Effects

Allen and co. in the Australian Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology 31 [(1):1-14 · July 2014] conducted an experiment exploring the effects of social media on adolescents (i.e. Gen Z) and concluded that

Mixed findings are reported regarding the role that social media plays in fostering social connectedness, which suggests that young people may experience both positive and negative psychological outcomes. As a result, this article argues that online tools create a paradox for social connectedness. On one hand, they elevate the ease in which individuals may form and create online groups and communities, but on the other, they can create a source of alienation and ostracism (3).”

This ostracised Gen Z has formed a socio-conscious isolated togetherness where they are together, but isolated in attention and activity. Similar to how people disengage on an airplane flight, they are all heading to the same destination with the same people for a specified duration of time, but are completely removed from social interaction whatsoever with their fellow neighbors. Why?

Hard to say, but being isolated together is something we all do in certain situations like riding the bus or waiting in line at the DMV, except now Gen Z does it to friends and family. Not total strangers, but those closest to them both in culture and community. Doesn’t that seem a bit odd that they would rather stare at blue lit phones, than enjoy the company of their loved ones? For Gen Z, we are setting the example that this is normal and they are following our lead.

Regardless, social media also plays off of this “us vs. them” mentality innate in all of us by giving us an outlet to feed our egos in moments of complete social isolation. We can pretend we are together with someone we know virtually, when in reality we are alone with strangers or even with no one around. Odd how instead of expanding our social circles when introduced to new personalities in our world, we keep our small circles squares and inevitably block ourselves into our own tiny bubble castles with those we would rather talk to, instead of talking to those people.

It’s amazing how Christians still wonder why evangelism is dead in the West. We chose to preach to the church, instead of the community. We would rather exchange cute quotes with those who believe what we believe, than share worldviews with those whose beliefs delineate from our own ideas regarding what is true. A pluralistic society like America can quickly become poisonous if the bridges that bring us together are burned down in the face of filtered tolerance.

The Spiritual Effects

This is the most important effect and I see it a lot. Less praying and more posting. Although social disconnectedness is bad, along with physical deterioration from electronic overuse, nothing is worse than spiritual separation. As we spend more and more of our time online, we spend less and less with God. We prefer tweeting, rather than serious study of God’s Word. We would rather check Instagram for hearts, then check our hearts for sin.

This spiritual separation is our ultimate devolution and is yet another blockade from connecting with our great God. With all of our attention on ourselves, we blur the line between who we are and who we say we are to the world. As we jump into the matrix of the digital world, we place our masks on and dance along with the masquerade of happiness that so many of us lie about. A lot of us pretend to be content and happy, yet our “good vibes” cannot rebuild this spiritual separation.

The only cure to this disconnect with God is to disconnect from social media and all other distractions that draw us away from God. We then are able to reconnect with God when we are at a distraction-less state and ready to commune with our Maker. For the sake of our spiritual channel of relation to God, we may need to cut down on our consumption of social media and our desire to connect digitally.

Conclusion

By this point, you may think I am some sort of Amish, “technology is Satanic” types of people that completely avoids anything modern. That could not be farther from the truth. In fact, I use social media all the time! It’s my job as a content creator and I use it frequently for ministry too. The only reason I would be against social media use is when it affects me or others physically, socially, and/or spiritually. If one or all of those factors are hindered, then it is time to unplug and fix those because your body, your social circles, and our God matter more than viral videos.

Is social media bad? No, not at all. Does it have both good and bad connotations when using it excessively on a daily basis? Yes, it does.

Like fitness, the pursuit of being physically healthy and in shape is not bad at all. Indeed, it is really good for you and has lots of benefits. But when someone decides to workout every single day for hours on end they hit a point where their conventional habit turns into an addiction with negative effects. As Dr. Holly Parker, a Harvard University psychologist and certified personal trainer, once said in an article for Fox News, “The benefits you want from working out—getting leaner, stronger, healthier—reverse when you don’t take breaks” (4). Put plainly, too much good can be bad. Use social media however and whenever you want, but take a break when needed.

In short, it really is a balancing act as you use social media to touch base with loved ones and meet new people, while in the same respect getting instant news and entertainment. With that, there has to be a point where you must decide when you have had enough for one day. Take a break and do something else. There is no need to be online 24/7.

It’s not healthy to stay wired all the time. For once, take a break for not only your own sake, but for the sake of others. Learn to understand the value of life and time by taking moments throughout your day-to-day routine to appreciate the simply astounding things no app could ever capture. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. http://www.thegazette.com/subject/life/health-social-media-affects-the-teens-tweens-physical-and-mental-health-20150226
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260289323_Social_Media_Use_and_Social_Connectedness_in_Adolescents_The_Positives_and_the_Potential_Pitfalls. See both this link http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/social-networks-and-health-communicable-but-not-infectious and this link http://www.med.upenn.edu/chbr/documents/AmyGonzales-PublicHealthandSocialMediaTalk.pdf for more information regarding the effects of social media on our sociological state of being.
  4. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/09/27/how-much-working-out-is-too-much.html