They are everywhere. The person next to you in the gym has their headphones plugged in to theirs so they can listen to music as they work out. The teenager at the restaurant booth with their parents is tuned out of the family’s conversation, watching Youtube videos as they wait for their entree. The young man next to you in the movie theater is busily responding to text messages, typing on a miniature keyboard with incredible speed, undistracted by the action of the show. Your fellow church members have them, too. Some are dutifully listening as they follow along on their Bible “App,” while others may be counting the moments until the service ends, looking for distraction in a game of “Angry Birds” or keeping up with the news feeds on Facebook. Yes, smart phones are everywhere.
I have one, and I am thankful for it. I can contact my wife and family from virtually anywhere on the globe. Within this small electronic device on my hip is my work calendar for the entire year, phone numbers and contact information for all my family and friends, all of my e-mail accounts, and even an app with our entire active membership database. It has become my principal tool in setting up appointments, contacting members, keeping prayer lists, exchanging messages, navigating to different locations, and doing research on the internet. It also serves a great spiritual purpose. On my phone, I have several translations of the Bible, the complete ESV study Bible, Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology text, an app with historic creeds and confessions, and a whole host of other resources. I can run video presentations and teach from my phone. I can pull up any sermon from the past 6 years and even preach from my phone.
But the fact of the matter is that I can also waste a lot of time and do a lot of harm to others with my smart phone. I can lose valuable time by watching movies or playing games on my phone. I can spend far too many precious hours every week reading posts or looking at frivolous pictures on Facebook or Twitter. I can use my phone to “tune out” my spouse and my family and retreat into an electronic environment that I control. In situations where I am waiting on something or in transit to somewhere, I can play with apps on my phone instead of witnessing to people, or I can surf the internet instead of respectfully looking at and listening to others. Our smart phones can even make us thieves as we steal time from our employers to pursue the selfish indulgences offered by our hand-held gateways to cyberspace. And I don’t even have to mention the kind of moral filth that is accessible through the internet on our phones.
So are our smart phones a blessing or a curse? The answer is . . . both. In God’s created order, we must strive to use what He has given us according to a godly purpose, and the enjoyment of anything He has provided must be balanced by discipline. If we fail to exercise discipline, then the good things God has given us can become idols or instruments of sin. Our technological advancements allow us to encourage missionaries on the other side of the globe, allow us to video conference pastor training materials to South America, allow us to express our love to those closest to us at any moment of the day. In particular, our smart phones help us order certain aspects of our lives as well as giving us unparalleled access to information. But as I noted above, they can also become an impediment to the pursuit of Christ, a distraction from greater priorities, and tools for spiritual adultery.
Consider what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:12-13, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food; but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body.” So don’t be mastered by anything but Christ. Rejoice in the God who has provided hand-held technologies for your good, but be disciplined in your use of them. When you experience the temptation to misuse them, unplug for a while; unplug and run to the truth of Christ. Or even more, use your phone to go to the Word.
I want to challenge you to use your Bible “App” more than any other. When we pick up our smart phones, the lure of Facebook or e-mail or games or videos can always steal us away to frivolity, waste, and ungodliness. But fight temptation by running to the truth of the Word. Use your Bible app more than any other — three times a day, or even ten times a day! Listen to great sermons. Sing praises and hymns to your Savior. Let Christ and His Word bring you back to reality throughout the day. Use your phone for all the wonderful conveniences it provides, but do not let it hold captive your mind and your heart. Those are for Christ alone. I love you all dearly!