The task of spiritual formation in today’s world is arguably more difficult than ever. Thanks to the advent of the smartphone, disciples have never been more distracted. These devices provide us with instant access to more information than our brains could ever dream of processing. Social media, in particular, is in constant competition for our attention. The never-ending feed of status updates, tweets, and pictures can draw us in for hours of wasted time we can never recapture. The implications for our growth as disciples are massive and virtually impossible to overlook.
Like many, I’ve had multiple social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Over time I became involved to the point that my wife told me I was addicted (she was right). This addiction, as all do, began to control my life. It consumed my time and my thoughts. It determined where I went and what I bought. Further more, my mind could hardly process anything apart from its relationship to social media. I began thinking in tweets or status updates.
All of this changed in May as I finally quit social media. As the Prodigal Son “came to his senses,” realizing the wasteful life he was living, I came to my senses realizing how destructive and harmful social media was for me. Though not sinful in itself, my addiction was sinful, and it was time for radical action. It was not a time for moderation, but mortification. Jesus calls it “cutting off,” while Paul calls it “putting to death.” The distraction had to go completely. The relief I felt was immediate and palpable. I was free to be present with my family, present at work, and most importantly to be present with the Lord.
Before I go any further, let me say that I am not here to tell you to delete all your social media accounts. Maybe you will, but that’s not what I’m here to do. However, I do want my story to serve as a warning to you about the potential danger and an encouragement to consider how it may be affecting your spiritual growth.
I have two primary concerns regarding the use of social media as followers of Christ: the life of the mind and the use of time.
The distraction of social media is a battle for the mind. As I stated above my mind was so consumed by social media that I could hardly think about anything apart from it. Scripture is very clear on what should be the driving thought of our minds. The following texts provide a few examples:
“his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law, he meditates day and night.” Ps. 1:2
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matt. 22:37
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” Rom. 12:2
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Col. 3:2
These texts make it clear that our thoughts should be consumed with the things of God. When this happens, we are more equipped to filter out the noise of the world that bombards us from all angles. When we continuously fill our minds with tweets, statuses, and pictures from social media, it becomes increasingly difficult to fill it with what is most important. Instead, we should fill it with God’s Word. As the Psalmist writes, we should meditate on it day and night.
The second concern is the stewardship of time. This concern is inseparable from the first. Whatever it is we fill our minds with takes time to do so. How we choose to use that time is critical. Paul says in Ephesians 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.” We can all agree that mindless scrolling through feeds for hours is hardly making wise use of our time. The days are also short according to James 4:14. Jesus expressed an awareness of the fleeting time: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (Jn 4:14). The time we have is all we get. We are not guaranteed more. We must use it wisely.
Whatever the distraction may be, there is one cure: a disciplined commitment to pursue Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. We will not haphazardly win the battle for the mind or wisely use our time. In Christ, we have been given the power and tools necessary to win these battles. So, let us make the best use of the time setting our minds on things above.
by Freddy Taul
Member of Mars Hill Church Mobile