Nov 2019

Technology: Into the World, Not Of it

Barry Rodriguez

Nov 3, 2019

I need your help! When I say "what's up, ____" can you cheer?

I'm making a video for my YouTube Channel.

We're kicking off a new series today. The Good Life: Technology. I figured starting this sermon with a GoPro selfie sounded just about right.

I'm going to say something so obvious it's almost obnoxious: We live in a digital world.

And I would know, because I am an "elder millennial." Mid 30's, I'm at the upper limit of my generation. People my age have a pretty unique perspective on technology.

Case in point: I remember walking across the room to change the channel on the TV. I have used a rotary phone in my life. And I have heard a record played in a non-nostalgic way.

But as a millennial, technology today looks almost nothing like it did when I was a kid.

o Today, high school freshmen have no memories of a world without iPhones.
o Half of all children in the United States have a smartphone by age 11.
o The average American now spends nearly half of their waking hours staring into a screen.
o Humanity is watching 100,000 years worth of YouTube every day.

Things have changed. Almost every one of us is now a cyborg.

You know, cyborgs? Part human, part machine?

On or in our bodies we've got medical devices and FitBits and AirPods, you name it.

But beyond that, we store our memory in the cloud (our calendar, photos, notes, reminders... How many phone numbers do you remember?). Our sense of direction lives an app (if you had to drive to a specific address in Dallas, Texas right now without a phone, how many of you think you could manage it?)

And craziest of all, the dopamine neurotransmitters in our brains activate every time our phone buzzes. We're neurologically linked with our devices.

Part human, part machine. We're cyborgs, whether we like it or not.

We live in a digital world. And for the next five weeks, we're going to talk about how to burn it all to the ground.

Just kidding. In fact, just the opposite. I believe that as Christ-followers in 2019, we have a responsibility to engage our technological world. To enter into it, to transform it, to bring healing and light and life in the name of Jesus.

But we will never be able to do that if our use of technology looks no different than the culture around us. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be different and we have to be healthy.

So in this series, we are going to introduce 5 biblical principles for how to live a healthy life in the digital world.

JOHN 17

Now, at this point you may be thinking, "Wait. Biblical principles? Wasn't the height of technology when this book was written the plow?"

No. We're not looking in Scripture for information about specific technology.

Instead, we're exploring principles about how to engage our world as believers - these principles were relevant back then, they're relevant now, and they'll be relevant when we all have self-driving hovercrafts.

What we're about to read is a part of Jesus' prayer for his disciples right before he goes to the cross. He's talking to his Father here in prayer.

John 17:13-21
"Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I'm not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. "I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one--as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

What I want to focus in on here is verse 16. "They do not belong to the world."

Now, in the gospel of John, the word "world" shows up a lot. 78 times, in fact. In Greek it's the word

kosmos - world/universe/humanity

In John, it generally seems to mean all people. The world is walking in darkness, the world is full of sin and selfishness and chaos.

And so, when Jesus says that his followers "do not belong to the world," he means we are meant to stand apart from the darkness around us. We're meant to be distinct.

The literal Greek here says that we are not "of the world." Maybe you've heard the phrase "in the world, not of the world." This is where that comes from.

When I was growing up, I heard that phrase a lot. In the world, not of the world. And it always meant the same thing:

We should avoid hanging out with non-Christians, we shouldn't watch R rated movies, and we should really only listen to contemporary Christian music. (This is why DC Talk and Audio Adrenaline were the soundtrack of my middle school years)

Gotta hang tight, don't get corrupted, try not to sin too much, then you get to die and go to heaven. In the world, not of it.

What I didn't realize is that that's not what this passage is saying at all.

Yes, Christ-followers are meant to be distinct. In verse 17 Jesus prays that his disciples would be made holy by the truth. Holiness means being set apart.

But this doesn't mean withdrawing from the world around us. Just the opposite. Look at verse 18. "Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world." We had the phrase wrong this whole time. It's not "in the world, not of it." It's "into the world, not of it."

There's intentionality here. Mission. We're not just living "in" this dark world, we're being sent into it. Just as Jesus was.

But how was Jesus sent into the world?

Well, the answer is earlier in the book, in one of the Bible's most famous verses, John 3:16, and in one of the Bible's most neglected verses, John 3:17.

John 3:16-17
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Out of incredible love, God sent Jesus into this dark world not to condemn it, but to save it. To transform it.

This is what it means to be holy - set apart - while being sent into the darkness of our world.

Not feeding into the sinful chaos but standing against it. Fighting against the world's brokenness, and in the process, bringing salvation and life.

Or, as John often describes it, bringing light. Jesus said it this way:

John 8:12 I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.

So in the gospel of John, yes, the kosmos - the world - is dark. There's corruption and chaos and sin and death. But Jesus has been sent into it as the light. And so have we. "Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world."

Because we have the Holy Spirit within us, we can bring healing in the name of Jesus, we can create loving community in the midst of hatred, we can end isolation and injustice and decay. That's what we do. We are light-bringers. We don't just avoid the darkness. We transform it.

Put simply, we have been sent. We are on a mission.

TECHNOLOGY

Ok, so how does this relate to technology?

Well, as I said before, we are cyborgs. Technology is just a part of our lives now. (I'm on this stage and there are people sitting right in front of me who are watching me on the screen. Hey guys!). We don't even think about it. Technology is how we communicate. It's how we shop. It's how we remember things.

The problem is that there is a very dark side to all this technology, isn't there? The world may be full of shiny, digital wonders, but it's still a place of deep darkness.

Online bullying, hate-filled social media rants, addictions, the glorification of violence, pornography, exploitation, out of control consumerism...

I could show you 10 apps on my phone right now that have been carefully designed to manipulate me to do things I wouldn't do on my own. It's really dark if you think about it.

Jesus said his followers "do not belong to the world." So if technology can be so dark, maybe we should just abandon it.

"We're just going to hang out over here by ourselves, the world. You guys can keep your Facebooks and your Googles and your Geocities.com."

But remember the second half of what Jesus is praying in John 17. We are not of this world, but we are sent into it. Technology can be dark, but we are light bringers. And even if we walked away, the rest of our world sure wouldn't.

God loves this dark world and wants to transform it - to save it. And we are his instruments to do that.

Which is why I don't think we need to abandon technology at all. As Christ followers, we need to move into it. To bring light. To heal.

God did not abandon our world to darkness, and neither should we.

So, here is the first (and probably most important) biblical principle for living a healthy life in the digital world - to remember this:

Principle 1: You are on a mission.

You're not of this world, but you are sent into it.

PRACTICAL

Alright, so what does this mean, practically?

Well, first of all, if we are light bringers, then we'd better be positive we are set apart from the darkness. If we're not withdrawing from technology, then we'd better be healthy when we use it.

This is what we're going to talk about over the next few weeks.

Next week, we'll talk about our need to think long and hard about who is defining our identity.

The week after that, we'll talk about breaking free from the chains of addictive behavior the Internet has designed to wrap around us.

The week after that we'll talk about being very intentional about who we're letting influence us and what we're filling our minds with.

And then in the last week of the series we'll talk about re-learning how to have face to face relationships.

It's going to be a great series. And we've got some awesome stuff available for you. If you go to gracechurch.us/thegoodlife we've got resources, videos, app suggestions, etc.

We're also having a Parents Technology Forum at our Fishers campus on December 3.

And we're going to do something together as a church on Saturday, November 23. We're going to have a No Screen Saturday Challenge. All of us - kids to adults - are going to try spending the whole day without using any screens. More info on that soon.

ON A MISSION

So we're going to talk about living healthy lives in a digital world. All of that is great.

But today, we have to talk about the most fundamental truth of them all: that we are on a mission in this digital world.

And so here's what I want to do to make all of this really practical for you. I want to introduce an exercise you can do to think clearly about anything technological in your life. A question you ask yourself to evaluate where your heart is.

You ready? Here's the question:

Since I am a Christ-follower, why do I _____?

And then you fill that blank in with whatever you're thinking about.

o Since I am a Christ-follower, why do I use Twitter?
o Since I am a Christ-follower, why do I watch this show on Netflix?
o Since I am a Christ-follower, why do I have my email notifications turned on all the time?

What this does is force you to think intentionally about how and why you're using technology. Not just whether you've set healthy limits, but why you're even using it in the first place.

Since I am a Christ-follower, why do I ____? Another question you can ask is "How am I bringing the light of Jesus into this?"

Here's why I like these types of questions.

Sometimes the answers will be neutral. "I use Google Maps because it helps me get around." There's nothing spiritual about it.

Sometimes you'll have a hard time answering the question. "Since I'm a follower of Jesus, why am I watching this movie?... Uh, well, I don't know that a follower of Jesus would watch this movie... Uh oh."

Or "I'm watching this movie so I can relate to my co-workers and share my faith with them... Uh... but I don't ever talk to them."

You see what I mean? It exposes our motivations.

But where this question gets really cool is when we start to see possibilities. New ideas for ways to spread light and life into the world.

For example. Since I am a Christ-follower, why do I use Instagram?

As an person living in 2019 America, you might just say, if you're being honest, "I use Instagram because I want people to like me, or I need validation..."

Ah, but as a Christ-follower, your validation is in your identity as a child of God. In theory, that should free you up to use Instagram for a different reason. Imagine if you were to answer the question this way: Since I am a Christ-follower, I use Instagram to help my friends understand they are loved.

If that was your purpose, you mission, with Instagram, how much would that change how you use it?

You could post about other people on your feed and talk about how awesome they are, just to encourage them.

You could go beyond just commenting nice things ("omg gorgeous") and actually direct message them to tell them how much you appreciate them. "Hey, I wanted you to know, I think you're awesome, and you're really brave for taking that new job."

You could scroll through your feed and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you someone who needs prayer, and then pray for them. And then let them know you're praying for them.

Would that be weird? Would that be different? Yes! But John 17: we are not of this world.

Since I am a Christ follower, why do I use Instagram? These are just ideas, but you get what I'm saying, right?

I'm not saying we need to talk more about being followers of Jesus. I'm not saying we need to post more pictures of our morning devotions.

I'm saying we need to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the way we use technology. Remember: You are on a mission. A mission to bring the light of Christ into this world.

When we start thinking this way about technology and social media, it is the first step in changing our focus from ourselves to the needs of a broken world.

Since I am a Christ-follower, why do I _____?

This week, I encourage you to ask yourself this question a lot. Ask it about the apps on your phone, ask it about the things you watch, ask it about Facebook and Uber and your car and TikTok and your phone and Amazon...

You are on a mission. Jesus prayed, "Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world." He was praying about you and me.

Because remember, we're not of this world. Which makes us the perfect people to transform it.