Philippians 1:9-11, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God”
Our Text – Philippians – Chapters 1 through 4
Our Topic – Social Media.
Our Theme – God’s Word provides us with principles to guide our involvement with social media.
Social media has been broadly defined that which refers to the many fairly inexpensive and widely accessible electronic devices, such as computers, smart phones, I-pads and tablets that enables anyone to create, share, or exchange information, career interests, ideas, pictures, videos in virtual communities and networks. Social media also introduce substantial and all-encompassing changes to communication between businesses, organizations, communities, and individuals
Social media has truly transformed the way we interact and engage with one other, streaming our communication, or exchange of ideas, with others in an almost instantaneous method. Individuals across the globe rely heavily on social media, not only for personal interactions with others, but as a method for keeping up with daily activities, business, sports, world news, trending reports and so much more.
More people are likely to discover things on social media today than other traditional forms of communication, and individuals across the age groups are using one or more social media platform such as Facebook. This platform is a very popular free social networking website that allows registered users to create profiles, upload photos and videos, send messages and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. According to statistics from the Nielsen Group, Internet users within the United States spend more time on Facebook than any other website. Twitter is another free micro-blogging service that allows registered members to broadcast short posts called tweets and follow other users’ tweets by using multiple platforms and devices. There are many other networking sites such as YouTube, InstaGram and numerous other types of forums to communicate with one another.
OLD WORDS WITH NEW MEANINGS
Some words mean more today than they did before the social media boom came about. What would be some of those words? The words like, tweet, follow, tag, and wallpaper. Social media has also affected our vocabulary, spelling and letter writing. We rarely send personal letters through the mail system because of email and texting from our smart phones. We post pictures on Facebook instead of printing and mailing them out. We have contact with people from our post that we would have never heard from otherwise.
Social media is a tool. It is neither good nor bad. However, this tool (social media) can affect us in both beneficial, godly ways and also in destructive, sinful ways. We should be aware of how we are using this tool and whether our actions and attitudes are pleasing to God, our Creator. This study will challenge us to consider our use of this tool.
AT THE HEART OF TOOLS
I have a knife and hammer. Can you list some positive and negative ways to use these tools? So, all tools can be used for construction as well as destruction. Why can’t we say a tool is either good or bad? Because the tool doesn’t have a will. A person’s heart and motives make the use of a tool either good or bad. When using tools, it should be our hearts that we examine, not our hands. We bring our hearts to the tools. Don’t blame the tool if it is misused. The misuse is a symptom of the heart.
Social media is a tool and is therefore neither right nor wrong. However, the tool can be used in both beneficial, godly ways and in destructive, sinful ways. We should be aware of how we are using this tool and whether our actions and attitudes are pleasing to God. We should not deceive ourselves into thinking that because a tool is not inherently wrong that it can’t be used in sinful ways. Our lesson will challenge you to consider your use of social media.
SOCIAL MEDIA AS A POSITIVE TOOL
The book of Philippians is interesting to read from the aspect of communication between the apostle Paul, his fellow workers, and the church at Philippi. If we aren’t careful, such a reading of the book may make it seem out-of-date. How out-of-date it is to be talking about sending messengers to deliver messages and going weeks or even months with no word from each other. Yet, the message of Philippians, and the rest of the Epistles for that matter, has never diminished in importance or relevance. We simply have new ways of carrying out what Paul and the other writers instructed us to do. That is where social media comes in.
Social networks help the businesses in a variety of ways. Traditional marketing mediums such as the radio, TV commercials and print ads are almost completely obsolete, which would have cost the business thousands of dollars. With social media the businesses can connect with their targeted customers for far less, the only cost is energy and time. Through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube or any other social site you can lower your marketing cost to a significant level. The increasing popularity of these sites other social networks has gained attention as the most viable communication choice for the bloggers, article writers and content creators. Examples of this would be Facebook, who alone has over 1,280,000,000 users. Others would be Twitter with over 645,750,000 and MySpace with well over 250,000,000 users.
Social networks have removed all the communication and interaction obstacle, and now one can communicate his or her views and thoughts over a variety of subject matter. Students and experts are able to share and communicate with like-minded people and can ask for the input and opinion on a particular subject and can unite people on a huge platform for the achievement of some specific objective.
Finding people we had lost track of was nearly impossible not that many years ago! The phone book was the first source we used to find a person’s address. Dialing 0 for the operator was usually the second source. The last resort was asking around, hoping we would find a common acquaintance to point us in the right direction. Today social media sites connect us with people we had forgotten about. Consequently, high school and college class reunions are met with far fewer surprises about what our classmates have been up to. This is the picture of today’s society.
PRAYER FOR INDIVIDUALS
The reconnecting that happens on social media sites is astounding. Our relationships can stay current no matter where we live. Some positive effects of social media as a tool would be to pray for, to challenge, and to encourage individuals through social media:
Let’s go back in time to AD 60 when the apostle Paul wrote this Epistle to the Philippians. (Read Philippians 1:3-12, 27). What evidence do you find that Paul was limited in the information he had about the Philippians and vice verse? He focused on what he remembered about them; he had to inform them of how God was using his imprisonment for good; he talked about going to the Philippians and learning about their spiritual growth. Can you imagine what Paul’s ministry would have been like if he had today’s social media opportunities to keep current with the church at Philippi. No doubt he would have been posting, liking, and messaging constantly.
According to Philippians 1:3-11, how did Paul’s lack of knowledge about the Philippians affect his prayer life for them? He prayed for them consistently even though he prayed with some uncertainty about what was specifically happening in the Philippians lives; he was confident in what God would do in their lives.
Paul knew what the Philippians needed in order for them to grow in Christ and he prayed toward that end. If Paul was faithful to pray for people he was so removed from, then how much more must God expect from us, when we have social media as a tool. We get regular updates on how people especially the missionaries we support are doing and the troubles or struggles they are facing, along with praises on how God has met their daily needs. That should challenge each of us to pray for people in a knowledgeable way. And with all the contacts we have through social media, we should never run out of requests for prayer!
The connection with individuals from our past is a wonderful opportunity to affect their lives. We are able to influence individuals for Christ that we would have never talked to. Paul challenged the Philippians, though his words were delayed and far less frequent. In Philippians 1:27, the apostle Paul challenged the Philippians in that whatever happens; conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.
Social media gives us the opportunity to connect with people and to step into their lives with a positive influence for Christ every day. As we build connections, people will tell us about their lives. We can nudge them in the right direction and challenge them spiritually. We should take advantage of the opportunities to point people to God’s wisdom in the Bible and to Biblical resources. Yet, we need to do so with love and tact. Being everyone’s critic will backfire, causing you to have a negative instead of a positive influence on people.
Social Media is also a tremendous place to share a testimony of God’s goodness and grace in our lives. When God provides for our needs or sustains us through a deep valley, social media is a perfect opportunity to spread the message of the benefits of knowing God and His Son. Personal testimonies are very powerful as long as our focus is on how great God’s grace is and not on how great we are. Social media gives us opportunities to spread the message of God’s grace and mercy around the world.
Would you define yourself as an encourager? Encouraging others is a vital ministry, especially the encouragement that a pastor receives from his church congregation. In L. O. Dawson’s autobiography, he told about a minister who had died. At the service of his funeral, the church was filled to overflowing. Various speakers had come to the pastor’s funeral who praised the virtues of their deceased friend. When it was Mr. Dawson’s turn to address the congregation, he affirmed the truthfulness of the kind and gracious words that had already been spoken. However, he then told the audience that if as many of them had been in attendance at the regular services of the church as were there at the funeral service, their pastor would still be alive.
Dawson then made this shocking observation to the grieving congregation, “Empty pews broke your pastor’s heart. He didn’t know of your love for him. He died for lack of the things you have today so beautifully said and done.” The story in Dawson’s book concluded with this very convicting remark, “More preachers die from broken hearts than from swelled heads.” My brethren, may it be said of us as it was of Job; “Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have strengthened the feeble knees” (Job 4:4).
Do you want to be an encourager? Remember, the ultimate source of encouragement isn’t people but God. Moreover, as we think about our relationship with Christ and the people God has placed around us, we would also do well to consider the importance of our greetings (Ruth 2:1-13). Are “good morning” and “God bless you” just empty, insincere phrases coming from our mouth? Or do our words show that we truly care for those whom we are addressing?
SOCIAL MEDIA CAN ALSO BE A NEGATIVE TOOL
While social media affords us new opportunities to carry out our ministry, it also has hazards that can cripple our spiritual lives and our usefulness to God. We need to be cognizant of the negative ways social media could be used. The apostle Paul addressed all of the common dangers of social media in his letter to the church at Philippi. The correlation of Paul’s letter with today reinforces that believers have had the same issues since the church began over two thousand years ago. Some negative aspects of social media would be:
People’s tendency as sinners is to talk about themselves and let everyone else know just how great they are. We call this bragging. Social media makes it very easy to draw attention to oneself. It’s not that posting a video of a grandchild playing on an exotic vacation beach is wrong. Grandma loves to see those videos. Nor are the fifty photos of the inside of one’s new house necessarily wrong. It is our heart attitudes we need to check as we use social media for such purposes. Is our heart’s desire for other people to feel jealous of us and to think they could never be as good as us or have as much as us? After sharing God’s grace about his imprisonment, Paul talked about what was important to him. He revealed what he wanted to be known for.
Philippians 1:19-26, “for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
What was Paul’s clear testimony about what he wanted his life to communicate? To magnify Christ. To him, living was Christ. Can you imagine Paul’s Facebook post from his Roman prison? No problem with anyone being jealous! Yet, even in that situation, Paul went well out of his way to communicate that he wasn’t interested in making his life all about Paul. His life was all about Jesus Christ as our life should be. How out of place Paul’s posts would look in a string of typical social media posts. Paul followed his testimony up with the testimony of Christ. He used Christ’s testimony to challenge the Philippians to exhort one another and to think of each other as more important than themselves (Philippians 2:1-5).
In Philippians 2:6-11, Timothy also displayed the humility characteristics of both Paul and Christ. Paul said that Timothy was like-minded with him. Paul trusted Timothy to care for the Philippians (2:20-21). The humility of Christ should motivate us as we use social media, being careful not to make it all about us, but all about what Christ has done for us (2:5). We should desire to magnify Christ with all we do as the apostle Paul did (1:20).
ADDICTION, CONTENT & INFORMATION SHARED
Children can be greatly affected by these social networking sites if they are allowed to use them. The reason is that sometimes people share photos on social media that contains violence and sex, which can damage the behavior of kids and teenagers. It put the negative impact on overall society as these kids and teenagers involve themselves in crime related activities. Another downside of the social media is that the user shares too much information which may pose threats to them. Even with the tight security settings your personal information may leak on the social sites. Downloading your videos or pictures and copying your status is an easy task and can be done within few clicks.
The apostle Paul went on in his letter to Philippi to address the problem of wasting time. If not handled properly it leads to addiction. Spending countless hours on the social sites can divert the focus and attention from a particular task. It lowers the motivational level of the people, especially of the teenagers and students. They mainly rely on technology and the internet instead of learning the practical knowledge and expertise of the everyday life. Thus, Social media can become such a part of people’s lives that it becomes their lives. Even their workday can become peppered with frequent posts, responses, likes, and clever comments.
Read Philippians 2:12-13.Why is it important to be working toward spiritual growth? Because God’s goal is for each of us to grow spiritually. He actively works in our lives to see His will accomplished.
God obviously isn’t pleased when social media gets so much of our attention that we seem not to have time to spend thinking about our spiritual lives, much less any time for cracking open our Bibles. Social media isn’t the problem. The problem is that we have allowed social media to capture our hearts. The same could be said for the sports addict or the person who allows a hobby to monopolize his/her time. Enjoy social media, but don’t let it dominate your life. Don’t let it keep you from working out your salvation in your life (2:12).
Social media encourage people to rant and rave like they never would to someone’s face. Politics, child-rearing, controversial crimes, fashion trends, vaccines, and immigration is a very shortlist of a seemingly endless topics on which people rant and rave in social media venues. Some rant to create shock and attention while others are passionate about their views and use social media to demean those who don’t agree with them.
Paul continued his letter with the instruction to do all things without complaining and disputing (2:14). That does not mean every believer must never speak his mind or address hotly-debated issues. However, his/her heart needs to be guided by love and concern for their testimony. Calling someone a moron on social media shuts down any opportunity to witness to that person, or any other person who happens to read your post.
Epaphroditus also put his life at risk for the sake of God’s work (2:25-30). He traveled to see Paul and became so sick when he arrived that he nearly died. The examples of Paul and Epaphroditus are good reminders for us the next time we want to react to someone’s opinion, political view, or child-rearing tip that rubs us the wrong way. How petty and unimportant those things are when we realize Paul and Epaphroditus both faced death for doing what God called them to do. Instead of teeing off, we should simmer down and be wise in our conversation, realizing our first priority is to reflect Christ and be a good testimony of His love.
One of the fallouts of having lots of opportunities to renew relationships is that all or most of people’s relationships are shallow and lacking any meaningful connection. They spend time socially with so many people that they don’t build a meaningful relationship with any of them. Paul had lots of relationships, but he made sure he built into the lives of individuals. He built into the life of Timothy perhaps more than any other person. Paul deeply impacted Timothy for Christ.
Paul could have used his busy schedule to excuse himself from building into lives. But he went out of his way to build young men like Timothy instead. Social Media should not rob us of opportunities to build into the lives of others or, if needed, to have someone building Christ in us. Keeping up with hundreds, or even thousands, of friends is fine, but not at the expense of meaningful, discipling relationships. We need to take time to build Christian friendships that allow for honesty and face to face accountability. We can use social media platforms to build relationships, but don’t let that be the end of the building.
For some, social media has become their excuse for not attending church. Social media could never replace the gathering of believers as part of a local church (Hebrew 10:25). The local church is God’s program for this age. Getting together in one location with fellow believers has not been outmoded by social media.
Some people closely guard their reputations on social media. Not because they are concerned about Christ, but because they want to put forth a persona of perfection. They want others to see them as if their lives are perfect and they don’t have any problems. Every picture they post is full of smiles on perfect faces. They hide the fact that their lives may actually be in shambles with relationships falling apart, finances in a mess, and their hearts far away from God.
Paul called on the Philippians to be brutally honest with their lives and so it should be with ours. He again led by example, giving the church an honest assessment of his life (Philippians 3:1-16). In Philippians 3:12-16, what message did Paul send about his life? That he has not arrived but that he is pressing toward the goal of being like Christ.
Paul didn’t pretend to be something he wasn’t. He admitted that he didn’t have life altogether. That doesn’t mean we have to air our dirty laundry on social media, giving the sordid details of every sin we commit. However, we should examine our hearts to see if we are more interested in pretending to be perfect that we are in actually pursuing Christlikeness and we should have someone we can be honest with about our lives.
COVETING – Exodus 20:17, “You shall not covet”.
When individuals post about their exotic vacations, perfect kids, and posh houses, others are prone to covet what they have because they don’t. Sometimes I wonder why God didn’t list the Ten Commandments in reverse order, since the 10th commandment correlates to the first sin – desire. Eve’s sin wasn’t simply her desire for a piece of fruit; it was the desire for knowledge that Satan told her would make her like God (Genesis 3:5). Eve’s covetousness caused her to violate both the first and tenth commands that God later gave to Moses.
When we don’t covet, we pretty much eliminate our reasons to disobey the other commands. Wanting what isn’t ours causes us to lie, steal, commit adultery, murder, and refuse to honor our parents. We refuse to rest because we can’t get what we want in 6 days of work. We misuse God’s name when we use it to justify something that we want to do. We make gods out of wealth and relationships because we don’t want to have to put all our trust in God.
I have a hard time coming up with sins that don’t involve some form of covetousness. Yet, because it’s the last in the list, we tend to think of it as being the least important. But it’s not. When we stop sin while it is still in our hearts and heads, we avoid making others the victim of our sin, and we avoid many of the serious consequences of sin. It is easy to want what someone else has when social media gives people a platform for a continuous show-and-tell. Paul lived out his instructions. He told the Philippians he knew both how to have little and have much.
But in all cases he was content, trusting that Christ would help him through any circumstances (Philippians 4:10-13). Paul also told the Philippians to trust God for their needs also (Philippians 4:14-19). We ought to learn to rejoice with those who rejoice. And we should keep eternity in mind as we evaluate our lives. Rather than wanting what someone else has, we should be concerned they have what we have, and that is eternal life. Contentment is realizing that God has already given us all we need.
The last hazard of social media is using it as a means to escape problems. The unending posts, news feeds, pictures, cartoons, and funny videos help people forget about their own lives and avoid dealing with heart issues. Paul addressed a problem between Euodia and Syntyche, two women in the church at Philippi (Philippians 4:1-7). He used the problem to teach the Philippians about dealing with troubles in general.
God isn’t pleased when we ignore our problems by busying ourselves. Such an approach keeps us from being useful to the Lord and ignoring our problems won’t make them go away. They will only build until they surface in destructive ways. We should confront issues rather than covering them up. We need to stop our media habits and face reality as it really is.
As we have discussed in this lesson social media is everywhere today. We can’t watch anything on TV without being reminded of the option to tweet about what we are watching. Now with smart phones we can use social media in the car, bathroom, at a meeting, and even at church. While there are many advantages to social media, we should ask the question “Is it good for us?” More importantly, how can we obey the Great Commandment to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength while using Facebook, Twitter, InstaGram and Google?
Are you seeking to glorify God through social media?
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). The foundational question, “Are you seeking to glorify God?” can be addressed to any situation in life because we were created to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7). When we stray from our life’s God-given purpose, we quickly fall away from where God wants us to be.
Does social media lead you into sin?
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell (Matthew 5:29). Social media is itself a morally neutral thing, neither inherently good nor bad. However, when put in the hands of sinful human beings, it should be no surprise that it can be used for a host of sinful behaviors such as bullying, sinful relationships, sexual perversion, worldly ideas, and allowing yourself to be led astray by bad influences. Pray that God would reveal your sins and the idols that may exist or be fed through social media, and for the grace and power to repent.
Does your speech build up or tear down?
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so (James 3:10). Social media is rampant with gossip, bullying, negativity and complaining. Instead of conforming to the world, be light and use your words to build others up. Know your weaknesses and be on your guard when someone posts something that pushes one of your buttons. Before you post, pray Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
Do people see the light of Christ in you based on what you post?
…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Social networks present a unique opportunity to let your light shine before others by showing the hope you have in Jesus Christ. You are able to challenge and encourage others to believe in Christ and follow him. Don’t forget the awesome opportunity you have to proclaim to the world the unsearchable riches of Christ!
Is social media your master?
“All things are lawful for me, “but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Don’t become a slave to the beeping of your phone or computer and always be checking your notifications online. Do you really need to check each notification, or can you check a few times throughout the day? Instead of constantly checking notifications with spare moments, read Scripture, pray, or let your mind rest.
Does your use of social media help you redeem the time?
… making the best use of the time, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16). Let’s be honest, some social media sites act as a black hole that suck up our time. It can be easy to go on Facebook to “check one thing” and to stay on it for an hour. What else could you have done with that hour? Was that making the best use of the short life God has given you?
Does your use of social media help you renew your mind in God’s truth?
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2). God can use little moments we give to him throughout our day to grow us, including time on social media. You can use your Facebook and Twitter streams to grow your faith by following accounts that honor God. I try to develop the discipline to stop and read Scripture whenever I see it posted to remind me that everything else posted is of limited importance compared to the Word of God that has eternal importance (1 Peter 1:24-25).
Do you use social media as a platform to complain?
Do all things without grumbling or disputing (Philippians 2:14). The apostle Paul had a lot he could have complained about (2 Corinthians 11:23-28), yet he still tells us to “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Some turn to social media to complain, but God’s will for his children is that they give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Which characterizes you, thankfulness or constant complaining?
Do you use social media for unprofitable arguments?
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion (Proverbs 18:2). There is no shortage of social media arguments about politics, sports, religion – you name it! While some conversations can prove profitable, many others are a waste of time. Instead of arguing with fools, invest your time and energy into something more worthwhile.
Do you value social media interactions more than real-life relationships?
You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39). God made us for relationships. Increasingly today, these relationships can take place through technology and can make people less social in real life. (So much for social media)! Instead of merely “liking” a picture or a favorite tweet, invest in real relationships by having meaningful conversations. Take the extra step by letting people important to you know that you care about them. Or take an even greater extra step – actually talk with your friend face-to-face!
Does social media make you a healthier and more productive person?
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:5). Social media causes some people to have a shorter attention span, lose sleep, and even be depressed. Is that you? If so, God desires that we honor Him with not only our body, but also our entire being. Don’t let social media suck away your ability to follow that command.
Do you have any relationships through social media that you should cut off?
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals” (2 Corinthians 15:33). Social networks like Facebook and Twitter make it easy to connect with everyone you’ve ever known –for better or for worse. Some of our connections can discourage us in our faith or lure us into sins like gossip, bullying, and rekindling unhealthy relationships. Many divorces today are caused by discontented spouses rekindling old flames on Facebook. Don’t let this happen to you! Exercise godly wisdom and cut off “bad company” that will hinder a holy life.
Does social media help you be content?
… Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6). Social media can add fuel to the fire of covetousness and insecurity because it can lead us to compare ourselves to others and their relationships, possessions, and lifestyle. Have you ever thought that your friend always posting pictures of their possessions might not be content? The secret to contentment is not having everything you want, but being thankful with what we do have. May we learn to be like Paul who learned to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:11-13)
Do you use social media to boost your ego?
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36). We can believe the lie that we only have value if people follow us or like our posts. If your mood depends on the number of “Likes” or “Retweets” your post receives, you care too much about gaining the approval of man. Rejoice in the fact that the gospel says that God accepts you because of what Christ had done.
Do you use social media to hide?
Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give (Proverbs 25:14). Have you ever known someone who acts cool online but is a completely different person in real life? Unfortunately, social media can act as a mask hiding our true identity. The root of this issue is pride – we want people to think we are cool and have it all together. Remember the trust of James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
If we are to be fishers of men in the world, we must be a hunter for truth in God’s Eternal Word.