I’ve been thinking lately about the addictive practices of social media and how it is changing our society, changing us, and often hurting us. Consider the person who makes a practice of checking facebook first thing every morning. What many don’t realize is that being hooked to social media, our phones or facebook is a behavior trait that many people are coining “escapism." This proclivity is merely the symptom, revealing a much bigger problem within each of us. The issue of escapism through social media is not only shaping society, but it is more likely revealing what is truly in our hearts and minds. What is often revealed is a problem of self-worship.
When we become the center of our own universe and everything becomes about me, bad things happen. We were not designed to worship ourselves. We were made in the image of God. God is not made in our image. Yet many are living as if they should be God, and when they discover they are not God, they become crushed. I believe that the issue of addiction to social media is reflecting a problem of self worship today.
But how does this take place today and what are some other ways we can look at this?
We avoid pain because we believe that we (little gods) don’t deserve pain and disappointment. After all, if we are worshiping ourselves as god, then we don’t deserve to feel badly about ourselves and it is blasphemy to speak against me and my wants and my wishes. So, we seek to escape all those negative, “bad” feelings and live in our own little worlds.
We call this escapism or “escaping a negative reality." We either want to numb pain by escaping reality or we try to replace the pain itself. Replacement is usually called entertainment. When you google “entertainment” you read, “fun, amusement, etc.” Both escapism and entertainment are a response to pain or sorrow — they usually produce a greater feeling of emptiness that is void of joy and life. It also reveals an issue of self worship as well.
Self Worship is one of the chief sin problems that reveals far greater sins of the heart.
Let me give you an example:
Consider a young teenage boy in his room messaging a friend on snapchat. He switches from his messages to Instagram where he sees a picture of a classmate with the friend he is messaging. Confused, he messages his friend, “where are you?” He receives no response. The young man experiences a level of sadness and resentment because he was not included. He begins to think to himself "How could I not be included? I am so wonderful. How could they not want me to be out with them?!!" He cries in his mind like a little god, shocked that someone would not treat him as such. So then, how does a little god handle this situation?
Some people might say he needs to toughen up and get over it. Being excluded is life lesson and no parent wants to see their children hurt. So how does he handle this? The young man reaches for his laptop and watches porn for a few hours. Why does he do this? Well, if he were honest, it is to escape the feelings he has just experienced. So, instead of dealing with what happened, he is escaping into further self pity, self worship and not handling the matters of the heart rationally and in a spiritually-healthy emotional way. This is a sinful display of escapism. The Bible calls it feeding the flesh.
Here is the fundamental problem with escapism – we’re sinfully misdirecting our emotions as a way to avoid the pain, because we believe that we, “little gods”, don’t deserve pain and suffering. We don’t want to admit we are weak and need a Savior. As I see it, we are training our bodies to feed on the flesh– more than likely we do this in very sinful ways. Today it is largely displayed in social media. But we do this with food, sex, entertainment, etc… Instead of reaching for someONE (Jesus) stronger than us, we reach for someTHING else – phone, laptop, iPad, or call mom or dad on the phone. We not only trade our Creator for Creature, but we are trading human interactions (face to face, heart to heart, life to life) for technological experiences and screens - anything that will dump dopamine into our system.
At first, this doesn’t seem like a big deal; but this does, indeed, not only have lasting effects, it reveals a major problem of the heart. Since the rise of our obsession with everything computer, there has been an inability to express empathy. Eye contact has diminished among those who spend a great deal of time on their phones or laptops. There is becoming a greater inability to dialogue rationally or express or comprehend grief. Our minds are literally becoming numb. This is affecting our speech as well. We no longer know how to communicate well either.
In the book of John, after Lazarus has been dead for four days, Jesus returns to town to visit Mary and Martha. The text says Mary goes to Jesus and falling to her knees, she says, “Lord if you had been here my brother would not be dead.” Notice that Mary doesn’t run from Jesus or run from her emotions. She worships! It may be a bit ugly the way she does it, but she talks to the Lord. She comes face to face with Christ.
We can surmise that Mary is not only sad and disappointed, but she might be a bit angry with Jesus as well. But Mary is doing the right thing in expressing a great deal of grief, not to others, but to Christ. She does not run away or try to find a way to numb her grief. We have considered here the goodness in Mary’s response.
But how does Christ respond? The Word tells us that “Jesus is concerned and troubled…” it goes on to further say, “Jesus wept.” This is a good response and it is how we should respond in times of great distress as well! When was the last time you wept? This is a Christ-like emotion that many are unable to understand due to not dealing with their own self worship, numbing their feelings and running from problems. Expressing empathy today is starting to go the way of the dinosaur, but Christ restores our ability to express love and sorrow with others. How does Christ work in bringing about Life Reformation in this regard?
First, we take a look at Jesus Christ. It tells us that Jesus is with us in our emotions. He understands our anger and grief and pain. This text also tells us that Jesus isn’t just physically with us, He is emotionally stirred for us and greatly empathizes. You can rest certain that when you are breaking down emotionally that Jesus is weeping too. As we rest in Christ, He begins to change us. He brings about confession and true humility, broken and contrite hearts, and he wants gives us authentic expressions of grief, joy, sorrow, brokenness and gladness. The Psalms are a roller coaster of God honoring emotions. David dealt with his heart and God blessed him for that. So, He will bless you as well as you face your heart head on in the grace of Jesus Christ.
Life Reforming Considerations.By not dealing with our emotions and continuing to try to escape the world around us, we are running from moments of profound Life growth because our mind is only thinking about ourselves and not God and others.
We are missing moments of Life Reformation by the Spirit because we fail to check our hearts and minds before clicking to the next episode. Why are we watching so much TV? What does this say about how we view ourselves?
In our fixation to escape reality, we might actually be stripping ourselves of the things that make us human in the first place – our emotions. Could it be that our affections are not for God and we are only seeking to be filled with self? We are quite creative in learning new ways to numb our pain instead of embracing what God has placed in our life.
When we fail to deal with our own self-worship, we we will never recognize what others around us are feeling because we are self absorbed. Loving ourselves ultimately causes us to not only drift from God, but we in turn fail to love others too.
We have unfolded the issues of self worship, but what is the solution?
1. Observe and reflect upon your sin of Self Worship. Confess!
Start by noticing how you respond seconds after disappointment, sadness or something similar. Are you sad because your “god-ness” was challenged? Or are you sad because the glory of God was being challenged? Then reflect. Ask yourself if you are being honest with God and with yourself. Search to discover what you might be feeling. Notice especially if negative feelings begin to arise. Pray over those feelings and bring them to Christ. “Trace the chord back to the wall…” and figure out what is causing this.
2. Find the Life Reforming Solution
This step is critical. Maybe you discovered your coworker spoke shortly to you and it frustrated you. THis especially does not sit well with people who think they are “god”. Those who struggle with this area usually worry about how they look, what others think of them and struggle with loneliness. Whatever you’re feeling, make a plan to do something other than numbing your emotions. What is God trying to teach you 1) about Him? and 2) about you? 3) about others? Usually you will find yourself learning to be satisfied in Christ, and so you become content in many other areas of life as well.
3. Get Accountability~ “Life Touching Life”
This is also an important part of this process. Tell someone your heart. This creates accountability. Tell someone what you’re attempting to do and how you are seeking to overcome your “god-complex”. Invite them to join if they’re particularly interested. God created a community called “The Church”. The important thing is that there is someone constantly walking alongside you as you work to Reform your Life by His grace. This is sharing life and building community. God created us to live in a “life touching life” fashion through your church with other believers. He has also gifted you with pastors who are a gift to the church to grow you in knowledge of God (Eph 4).
Life Reforming Community:
It’s important to remember that in this process is part of living out abundant Life. Whenever we truly look to Jesus, we are always met with grace. He takes our guilt through confession and gives us grace. And also, this is not a perfect process. As we seek to be reformed in our heart and mind, we must continue to make space for greater honest self-examination and Biblical reflection.
There may be some who are wondering why we use the term, “Life Reformed”. It most certainly involves a Biblical. Historical. Protestant/Reformed way of thinking. But I want to take a few minutes to try to bring more clarity to this label that we use.
First of all, "Life Reformed" teaches that the reformation of the heart and life is a result of the Gospel (Good News).
Life Reformation is not rooted in humanistic understanding, pedantic- freudian psychology, or New Age thinking. Many churches are inundated with pastors seeking to mesh New Age thinking and psychology with theology. This brings one to be unfaithful to the Scriptures.
The Bible says “Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him.”
Life Reformed admits that the modern version of the Gospel has been turned into a set of gimmicks. This Good News (Gospel) has been tragically reduced to saying a prayer, or walking an aisle or merely making a decision.
All of these twisted versions of "the Gospel" smack against the true process that Scripture lays forth as the Way, Truth and Life found in Jesus Christ alone.
So, how does one experience Life Reformation in Jesus Christ? It is the result of understanding that I cannot save myself. We realize that we cannot bring about our own salvation and experience true Life Reformation. The whole point of the Gospel is that that we cannot save ourselves.
Contra what this world wants you to think… No! You cannot save yourself. This is a necessary component of the Gospel Message. This is the whole point of Jesus coming to earth! "For by grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast." I must understand that all hope that I once held dear in myself, my works, or someone else's life, must die that I might find all my hope in Jesus Christ alone. The Love of Jesus Christ takes away my hope in myself and places it totally and completely in the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the message of the Scripture from cover to cover. In Hosea 4-5 we see God justly bringing forth indictments against His covenant people for chasing after other gods. His anger towards them brings them to the end of themselves (out of love) so that He can restore them and bring them Life. In Hosea 6, after God has shown them what He could do (divorce His covenant people Israel), He instead gives them a ray of hope.
The Scriptures say in Hosea 6:1-3“Come, let us return to the Lord.He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us;he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.3 Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him.As surely as the sun rises, he will appear;he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
The result of Life Reformation first involves feeling the crushing weight of sin. God allowed them to be crushed by the weight of their own sin in order to bring them hope and healing in Himself. This crushing weight of sin is the guilt we experience in order that grace may come about through the boundless, relentless love of our Father. Guilt is meant to be used as a loving tool to move us on to grace. This story of redemption is experienced by repenting of sin. This is the message that runs through every page of the Word.
So when we speak of Life Reformation, it is not merely a theology found in books that is meant to make one’s head swell with pride and arrogance. It is a theology that comes straight from Scripture that shapes one’s whole course of Life as we have New Life in Christ. It changes the way we think and move and feel. It causes us to repent of sin and love God with all our heart, soul strength and minds. It secondly causes us to delight in loving others more than ourselves. This Life Reformation is rooted in the Good News of the Gospel through Jesus Christ alone. This process of moving through Jesus Christ from guilt to grace is to experience Life Reformation.
I am a great sinner saved by far greater grace. God has blessed me with a wonderful family and a beautiful Gospel congregation at Twin Lakes Bible Church.