The Value of Being Unplugged in a Plugged in World
This series is not going to be long; and it is going to include various unrelated topics that I hope will be encouraging and helpful to Millennials – and to others who also happen to be alive in such a time as this… in the 21st century. We are going to begin with some Biblical advice to Millennials –about the value of being UNPLUGGED in a plugged in world.
Today’s Plugged-In World
New research by the marketing platform Crowdtap indicates that individuals ages 18 to 36 spend an average of 17.8 hours a day with different types of media. Those hours represent a total across multiple media sources, some of which are consumed simultaneously, which means the numbers are a bit skewed because the time they report as being on social media may overlap with their time texting.
“Millennials are always on,” says Anna Kassoway, Crowdtap’s chief marketing officer. “Some of it is passive consumption. A lot is media hours that are overlapping.” But however you slice it – young people today are plugged into one form of media virtually non-stop throughout the day – and even into the night. Often they sleep with their phone within reach. For some it’s work; for some it’s pleasure; for most it is both work and pleasure. It’s LIFE in the modern world. This isn’t going to change. It’s here to stay. It is the way of life in the 21st century.
But it isn’t just Millennials. Younger folks born after the Millennials are also plugged into video games and into social and other forms of media throughout the day. But many Baby Boomers are also plugged in throughout the day. They are alive in the 21st century too. They work in the business world where being plugged in is essential for the company to stay competitive. It doesn’t matter what title your generation has been assigned, you need to be plugged in for work; in some cases it is like being on call 24/7. This is the world we live in – and everyone living today lives in this plugged in world. The whole world is in one way or another being led by technology.
It won’t be long before every human being on the planet his own device and we are all plugged into the same system worldwide. It is all marching towards the one world system John describes in Revelation (a subject for another time). It’s unavoidable; and as Christians, it is not something we should shy away from and form our own little colonies, like the Amish did; that’s NOT God’s plan for this age. We have been called to live IN this world.
Technology is becoming an increasingly important part of today’s world. It is our connection to the world; our connection to one another; our source of news; increasingly it is our marketplace; it is our workplace; it is our home security system; our school room; our financial system; our national security; our navigation system; and countless other things as well… and that is only going to increase. More and more our lives and livelihoods revolve around this SYSTEM. And let’s face it – we are ALL plugged into this system to one degree or another. Even if you don’t have any electronic devises, the country in which you live IS plugged in. The electricity that goes to your home, the food you buy in the store, the army that protects this land, and everything else you have grown accustomed to IS plugged into this technological SYSTEM.
There are many wonderful advantages to this technology: It is good to be able to stay connected to friends who live far away, to old schoolmates, or to relatives and family. I like my “Gas Buddy” app – that finds the cheapest and closest gas from anywhere. And we had a great presentation a few weeks ago about how Arabic Bible Outreach Ministry is using social media and other forms of technology to bring the gospel to otherwise closed countries.
I hope every one of us who is on the social media post Bible truths, Bible verses, Bible articles, gospel presentations, and links to Salem Bible Church’s website and other doctrinally sound outlets. This is something we all can and should do to reach others for Christ for God’s glory. Today’s technology brings with it virtually unlimited opportunity for good. Like it or not, this is the world in which we all live, whether you are 25 or 105. In many ways, we all enjoy these advances in science, medicine, transportation, and communications. I wouldn’t want to go back to horse and buggy days.
And it really doesn’t matter what we would prefer, because not only are technological changes here to stay; they are going to increase with head spinning speed in the decades to come. So in light of the fact that we live in a plugged in world and this system is here to stay, there is an important Biblical principle that I want to remind Millennials about – and anyone else who is plugged into any kind of technology – whether it is the internet, hand held devices, tablets, gps, google glasses, or even if you are only plugged into the TV, radio, and Morse Code. This important principle is for ALL of us – because it is found in the Bible – God’s Word for every generation.
Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. 11The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.”
In this psalm the author commands his readers to “be still.” “Be still” has many shades of meaning: to lack power or force; it speaks of muscles that have lost their tone and flex and have gone limp; to sink down; to wait motionless; to abandon; to leave alone; to give up; to let go; relax; to be quiet; to cease from activity. In the context of Psalm 46, the reader is to fall before the Lord and be still… quiet… limp and relaxed… cease from activity and wait… Today we might say, “Get alone with God… in a quiet place… completely unplugged and undistracted. The purpose is to give your undivided attention to God… limp and in absolute surrender before Him.
The reason for doing so in this context is tragedy. This is a time of trouble. This is a time of fear and anxiety when the mountains seem to be crumbling into the sea. There is much commotion and roaring in the background – noise and shaking taking place all around you. These are earth shaking events that are beyond the control of the reader. In such times, the author commands his readers to BE STILL. They are to get away from all the commotion and all the noise to a place of quiet refuge and to be perfectly still and go limp before God… surrendered to His sovereign will and to be quiet before Him.
This is not an action item; it is not a command to DO something. It is a command to cease from doing anything… cease from all activity and be quiet… still and unplugged before God. The command is also to KNOW.
This command is also not an action item. No activity is involved. “Know” here has the idea of consider, to think about, to perceive, to discern, or to come to know something in a deeper way… Let this truth sink in…
What are we to KNOW in such times? “That I am God.” Hosea 11:9 – “I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee…” Numbers 23:19– “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” Isa. 55:8-9 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Mal. 3:6 – “For I am the LORD, I change not.”
We live in world that is constantly changing and yet we are to go limp before a God who never changes… in absolute surrender… quiet and still before Him… to think about who He is… We are to be quiet and consider His thoughts and ways as recorded in Scripture… We are to be quiet and get to know in a deeper way that God does not think like man… His ways are not the ways of man. Being still before God has a way of putting us in our place… humbling self… Only when SELF is humbled can we really know that he is God. To know God as GOD is to know Him as One who has absolute authority over us… who is infinitely above us… who dwells in a light that no man can approach… and it is also to know self as dust… as the grass of the earth. To know God as your God requires being still… quiet… unplugged…
Habakkuk 2:20 – “But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.”
The prophet tells his readers (in fact “all the earth”) to keep SILENCE before God. God is in His holy Temple in heaven. Keep silence is an expression that means: hush; quiet; be still; shhh. Num. 13:30 – “And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” It was to silence the nay-sayers and the murmurers. Neh. 8:11 – “So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved.” Those who were grieved and crying were to be silent. This was a good day – a holy day.
The prophet Habakkuk speaks of God in a lofty manner: 1:12a – “Art thou not from everlasting, O LORD my God, mine Holy One?” 1:13 – “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.” 3:3-4 – “the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. 4And his brightness was as the light…” 3:6 – “He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting.”
Because of who God is, the prophet had a message for the people: “keep silent before Him!” Stop murmuring; stop complaining; stop doubting His goodness. They too needed to be still and know that He is God; He is Lord; He is sovereign and in control; He is bringing His perfect will and plan to pass in His time and way. It didn’t seem fair or right to the prophet at first that God would use the ungodly Babylonians to chasten Israel. They were worse than Israel was!
Habakkuk began this book with a burden – a complaint – a grievance. God told the prophet that he needed to learn to come into God’s presence in humble silence. For all the rest of us on earth who have a complaint about God or His plan, His justice, or His works, the prophet has a message: Keep silence before Him. How dare lumpy clay complain about the Master Potter’s design? We may have to be plugged in to the system all day long at work; but as a believer, we had better learn how to get unplugged when we come into God’s presence. This is something that we all need to learn – and learn again. Fallen human nature, the flesh resists bowing in humble silence before God. Flesh resists it because flesh is full of SELF and loves to exalt self. We need to reckon self to be dead when we come into God’s presence – and enter into His presence in humble silence.
Zechariah 2:13 – “Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.”
Here again God’s prophet and God’s people are told to be “silent” before the Lord. The context is different here. In this passage Zechariah is speaking
about some wonderful promises of Jerusalem’s future. 2:4 – Jerusalem will be inhabited to the point that it will be without walls – overflowing population. 2:5 – And no need to fear about a lack of protective walls for the Lord Himself will be a wall of fire round about – and the glory in her midst! 2:10 – There is a call to “sing and rejoice” because Messiah will come and “dwell in the midst of thee”. 2:11 – When Messiah returns many nations will be joined to the Lord. 2:12 – And Judah will become the Lord’s portion in the Holy Land. In other words, the day is coming when every one of God’s promises to Israel will be fulfilled – just as He said so many times. 2:13 – Here God is basically telling His people to calm down… put away all the noise, distractions, and anxieties; learn to be SILENT before God. God will keep His promises. You can trust in Him. In fact, “all flesh” worldwide should be silent before God – and let Him bring His perfect plan to pass.
Zephaniah 1:7 – “Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.”
Once again we have God’s prophet using the very same expression, only in this passage it is translated hold thy peace. It is the same word as “Keep silence” “be quiet”… or “shhhh…” Here again there is a different context and a different setting, but the exhortation is the same. You can see that this is a common expression, from the psalmist, to Habakkuk, to Zechariah, to Zephaniah and elsewhere.
Exodus 14:13-14 – “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. 14The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”
Here even Moses is told the same: “Stand still” and “Hold your peace.” Moses and the Israelites were cornered at the Red Sea. In situations like that the flesh feels like it has to DO something… it needs to devise some clever plan. But instead, they were told to stand still. From an earthly perspective it was suicide. They needed to fight or run away. They were told to stand still… and “shhhh…” be still.
And if they did, they would KNOW that He is God. He was about to open the Red Sea and rescue His people. But that had to have been one of the most difficult things God ever commanded His people to do: stand still and be quiet… and trust God for the outcome.
Ecc. 5:2 – “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”
Here Solomon gives us the same advice. When we come into God’s presence, we need to let our words be few. It is a lost and dying art to be still before God. We have more toys, more tools, more noise, more distractions today than ever. We are plugged into something almost around the clock. Because of who God is, we need to learn to be quiet in His presence… when we open His Word… when we pray… sometimes when we worship…
I Kings 19:11-12 – “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: 12And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”
Elijah had seen God demonstrate His power and most spectacular manner: fire from heaven to lap up the sacrifice. Then God passed by the prophet, and simultaneously three other events occurred: A hurricane that broke rocks in pieces, an earthquake shook the earth, and a massive fire. But God was not in those loud, visible, ostentatious displays of Divine power.
God was in the still small voice. You don’t have to be still in order to hear a hurricane’s destruction, or an earthquake knock down buildings, or to see a massive fire. But you do have to be silent to hear that “still small voice.” Still: hushed; whisper. Small: gaunt; light; underweight; gentle. If we want to hear from God through His Word, we too need to learn to get away… to be quiet… to get completely unplugged and undistracted and LISTEN.
The Example of Christ
The Lord Often Resorted to a Quiet Place. Mark 6:45-47 –“And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people. 46And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray. 47And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he was alone on the land.” John 6:15 – “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.” John 18:1-2 – “When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. 2And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples.” Matthew 26:36 – “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.” Luke 9:10 – “And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.” Luke 9:18a – “And it came to pass, as he was alone praying…” Luke 9:35-36a – “And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. 36And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone.” Luke 6:12 – “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” Matthew 14:13 – “When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart.” Matthew 17:1-2a – “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2And was transfigured before them…” Mark 6:31-32 – “And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. 32And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.”
The Lord Needed to be Alone. He got alone to pray; to rest; to meet with His Father. He got away from it all at the sea, on a mountain, or in a garden. He had several private places where He was able to retreat – to be quiet and to have time to think… to hear from His Father. If the Lord needed that, how much more do we need to have our own quiet place to be alone with God – especially with all the distractions of the modern world.
We need our own quiet place. If you don’t have one – then find one. Maybe it is a small set apart room in your house; in the summer it may be your back lawn – or some other place you go. But if you bring any devises with you – it is no longer a quiet, undistracted place… not if you are getting texts… and emails… and calls… and are listening to music… or a thought pops in your mind and you have to google something. And if you read your Bible on a devise, then here’s some advice: turn all sounds and vibrations and visuals OFF so that you are not distracted by the sound of a text coming in… Believers in the 21st century need to learn to be completely unplugged when we get alone with God. And here is some more pastoral advice: don’t fall for the lie about a few minutes of quality time. We need quantity quality time with God.
The Need to Be Alone with God
Because Christianity is a relationship
Christianity is a relationship of love – and love requires spending time alone. (Groom and bride) Jesus said that the most important commandment is to LOVE God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Spending time alone with a person is how we get to know them. If we want to get to know Christ in a deeper way, then we need to spend time with Him alone – and unplugged.
Matt. 6:22-23 – “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” A single eye speaks of being focused on one and only one object. The opposite of a single eye is a double eye… double vision. The eye was designed to focus on one object, not two simultaneously. Double vision is not helpful. The single eye speaks of single-minded devotion to one object. Christ is to be the object of our attention and devotion. He is our Lord and Master – and ye cannot have two masters. In our quiet time with God, we need to learn to put away all else – all noise – all commotion – all distractions – all interruptions. In other words, get completely unplugged.
The single eye does not multitask. You may have to multitask at work. You may find it helpful at home. But when we get alone with the Lord, He demands our undivided attention. You cannot have two masters.
When we take time to read God’s Word – unplug! Turn off the loud music; the TV; radio, take the earbuds out. Put your phone in the other room so you won’t be distracted by hearing the little noises alerting you of emails or texts.
During your prayer time – unplug. Get away from anything that would be a distraction and cause your mind to be drawn away from the throne of grace. Matt. 6:6 – Jesus spoke of our prayer closet – a place where you go to shut the world out. Closet is defined as “any place of privacy; an inner room; a storage chamber; a place where one is not seen.”
Being alone with God requires that we are totally unplugged. That’s when growth occurs. Because it is when we are alone with God that He does business with our soul.
God brought Paul out into the Arabian Desert to reveal the mystery truths to him. God brought Moses out of the commotion of the Egyptian court to the backside of the desert for decades to prepare him for service.
It is natural for a child of God to hunger and thirst for righteousness – to know Christ in a deeper way… which hunger is satisfied by spending time alone with God.
Psalm 42:1-2 – “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. 2My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” Ps. 63:5-6 – “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: 6When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.” (In the quiet of the night) It is when we come apart from the world and we are alone with God that our souls grow in our relationship to the Lord. It is when we get alone with God in that heavenly sanctuary that our souls are nourished from above. Heb. 10:19-22a – “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21And having an high priest over the house of God; 22Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith… Heb. 6:18b-20 – Believers are to flee “for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: 19Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; 20Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”
Everything of value in the Christian life takes place in that heavenly sanctuary – in the “Holy of Holies”… within the veil – in the place of quiet rest – where Christ is. It is where growth occurs… a deeper relationship to Christ is developed… we get to know Him on a higher plane… all occurs in that quiet place of communion within the veil. To enter into that place of communion with the Lord requires that we put aside all the commotion, the noise, the voices, and the distractions of earth… unplugged.
At church – let’s make Salem Bible Church an unplugged zone. We want to discourage playing video games in between services… or texting during the offering… or checking emails when the choir is singing… or posting on Facebook when the pastor gets a little longwinded. Instead of texting a friend in Colorado in between services, why not fellowship with a real live brother in Christ sitting next to you?! Let’s think of God’s House as an unplugged oasis away from all that. Of course there may be an emergency when you have to make a call… but apart from that, let’s concentrate on God’s Word – on face to face fellowship instead of Facebook.
Psalm 73:17 – Asaph found himself confused and frustrated by what he saw in the world around him. His mind was infected by wrong thinking – influenced by the world; his feelings dragged him down in the dumps – he was discouraged; his feet were about to slip as he contemplated a world that seemed upside down – confusing – and unfair. Asaph was plugged into his world around him. He was focused on all the events, people, and the voices in the world and it left him empty and confused as a believer. That is, until he went into the sanctuary of God. He went into the holy place… apart from the world – and alone with God to think, pray, pour his heart out to God, and sit still and listen for that still small voice… and wait… Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I…”It was there in the sanctuary that his confusion turned to clarity. “Getting alone with God in the sanctuary has a way of putting everything in a better perspective… or correcting our double vision… and focusing our minds on that “one thing” that ought to be the object of our attention. That’s where God really does business with our soul. When we finally get quiet, still, alone with God – then we are able to hear that still small voice and when God has our undivided attention, He can and will deal with us.