Sunday, December 30, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "A New Year Online" at CORE Community Church

“A New Year Online”
CORE Community Church
December 30, 2012

CORE Church, it is a joy to be with you again and to be asked to open God’s Word.

We are facing a new year: 2013 is right ahead of us, and your teaching team has announced a new series for the new year called “All Things New” from 2 Corinthians 5:17.  Great idea!

And my assignment today is to help us to think together about All Things New ONLINE in 2013.

And I’ve got some snazzy powerpoint slides to help me with that. Here is a Google search for you.  “A New Year Online”

I think this is going to be a different kind of sermon than you normally hear.

How are should Christ-followers behave when they are out in the world ONLINE?

Especially when they are using social media technology.

As many of you know, I wrote a book on resisting gossip that is due out in the Fall, and in the process of studying for that, I studied the effects of social media, as well.

There is a lot to think about here and a lot to say—more than I can say today. But I think that Christians haven’t thought enough about this area, and we need to desperately.

There is a new year stretching out in front of us and, we need to be thinking about how we are going to use the opportunities and meet the challenges of a new year online.

Now, of course, the Bible does not mention the Internet.

[You did know that right?  It’s not in 2 Hesitations or 4 Zecherezekiel!]

The Bible does say that knowledge will increase, but the Internet itself is not named in the Bible.

And yet, the Bible has the most important things to tell us about the Internet and about how we should and shouldn’t use it.

Including the parts of the internet that are socialized for interaction.

Didn’t I tell you that this was going to be a different kind of sermon?

Now a few of you are saying, “I don’t use the internet.”

And maybe some of you don’t. There may be a few people here who have never touched a computer and probably never well.

That’s fine. This sermon is not aimed at you, though I think you can take the principles and apply it to many other things in life that do affect you.

But for most Americans social technology is a given.

How many here, show of hands, have at least one of these things (wait till I’m done to raise your hand):

A Facebook Account
An Email Address at Work or at Home
A Twitter Account
A Google Plus Account
A Pinterest Account
A Blog
And/Or A mobile telephone with some kind of data plan, at least texting?

Ok. Now raise your hands.

Yeah. That’s what I thought. Most of us are affected. Some of us are in deep.

Anyone here have all of them?

A Facebook Account
An Email Address at Work or at home
A Twitter Account
A Google Plus Account
A Pinterest Account
A Blog
And a mobile telephone with some kind of data plan?

Now, here’s the next question.

Is social technology like this a good thing or a bad thing?

That’s your trick question for today.

Is social technology/social media like this a good thing or a bad thing?

The answers is (to me) obvious: it’s both.

It can be either. And it often is both good and bad.

It depends on how you use it.

For example, in our community, there is a little 7 year old girl named Emily Whitehead who has a form of leukemia. You might have heard about her on Fox News or in another major news outlet. She underwent an experimental procedure and came back from the jaws of death this year.

In our area, Emily is an online sensation with 12,000 Facebook friends, many many of whom are praying for her.  And we count the success of her procedure has as answer to our prayers spurred on by social technology.

On my birthday last year, I heard from over a hundred friends with birthday greetings over social media technologies like Facebook and email.

That’s a good thing! I never got that many cards in my life!

Obviously, your church has gotten into it, as well. You have a website and a Facebook page.  I saw prayer requests on your FB page when I checked it yesterday.

I’ve always said that CORE is the coolest church in the district.

The internet, social media, is a good thing.

Lots of good things can come from it.

But it can also be a terrible thing.

The pornography industry makes billions of dollars each year on the Internet.

The gambling industry makes billions of dollars each year on the Internet.

And all kinds of destructive behavior goes on online.

The online world is the world.

And it is populated by sinners just the like the rest of the world is.

So, it can be a pretty awful place where awful people do awful things to one another.

And Christians need to think deeply about how they will live and interact online.

What they will and will not do.

When Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.” and “You are the light of the world,” He meant ONLINE as well.

You are the salt of the Internet.
You are the light of the world wide web.

Core Church, what are you going to do about it in 2013?

I have just five quick points to make this morning.

Here’s number one.


Here’s an Yahoo email background for his one.

Social media technology is a good thing. I’m really glad that we have telephones.

I am really glad we have email.

Email is my favorite way of communicating.

You send an email when it is convenient for you.

It gets there basically automatically, and then they read it when its convenient for them.

How cool is that?!

Social media technology is a good thing.

But you can have too much of a good thing.

Does the Bible teach that?

Turn with me to Proverbs chapter 25, verse 16.

If I had another piece of gum for you, I’d pass it out and you could chew on this verse with me for awhile.  

(By the way does anyone remember Proverbs 15:3 from last April?  “The eyes of the LORD are everywhere keeping watch on the wicked and the good?”)

Of course, maybe I should have passed out little packets of honey today.

Because Proverbs 25:16 says, “If you find honey, eat just enough–too much of it, and you will vomit.”

Is honey good?  You bet it is!  Best natural sugar in the world.

Amazing. Honey is good. “If you find honey, eat just enough–too much of it, and you will vomit.”

You can have too much of a good thing.

You can have too much email.
You can have too much blogging.
You can have too much Pinteresting.
You can have too much Facebook.

How much is too much?  

Well, that’s between you and God, but you better figure it out.

Because if you don’t figure out, it can suck you in, and you will get sick.

Here’s a great way to decide:

Ask your loved ones.

If you’re married, ask you spouse.

“Do I spend too much time online?”
“Do I check my email, too often?”
“Do I spend too much time on my phone.”

Phone is another word for computer these days. They’re just little computers you hold in your hand.

And listen to what your loved ones say.

“Yes, you do. Can you put that down?  Can you pay attention to what is going on here?”

I know that I struggle with that.  I have laptop computer and often work from home.

And it’s easy to just slide into being online when I’m at home when I’m not supposed to be working as well.

And to be really distracted.

Because somebody might want to get my attention!

Well, probably somebody does. She’s called Heather.
Or she’s called Robin.
Or he’s called Andrew, Peter, or Isaac.

They take priority. More and more, I recognize that I need to close the lid on the laptop and focus on here and now and these folks that I live with.

I read a great book this year that says, “Where you are, be all there.”

That’s really good.

Because you can have too much of a good thing.

Very honest!  And very funny!  But very scary if it’s true.  

“If you find honey, eat just enough–too much of it, and you will vomit.”

Here’s number two. It goes with the first one.


It’s down here in this little box on this fake Facebook page.

If you have never used Facebook, this is kind of what it looks like.

And thought it was great to make this point on the Facebook page.

Face to face is almost always better for communicating.

Turn with me to 2 John, verse 12. 

The Apostle John was using the social media of his day. Paper and Ink!

But look what he says in verse 12,  “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

He says something very similar in 3 John.

There he says, “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink.”

Why not?

Not because paper and ink is bad. This is God’s Word in paper ink!

Not because social media is bad.  It actually allows us to communicate over vast distances and over different times. It’s awesome!  It’s a gift from God.

But there is (most of the time) something better. V.12

“Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

Now, I know that the apostle John wasn’t trying to make a theological point about social technology, but I still think it’s there in this verse.

Most of the time, face-to-face is better than social media because the relationship has  to have a medium between us.  

And face-to-face is by definition, non-mediated.

Now, what is my point here?

I can think of a few applications of this principle.

First, don’t substitute technological time with someone for physical presence time with someone (and don’t make the mistake of thinking that they are equal).

Facebook friends is not the same thing as real life friends.

Don’t think that you’ve got someone figured out that you’ve met on a dating website until you’ve been with them face to face.

Now, I’m not saying to not use those websites. I’m saying be careful about substituting techno-time for face-to-face time.

And here’s another application.  Email and other text-based technologies are a terrible way to process disagreements.

Don’t use email or Facebook to try to work out your differences with someone.

My wife and I use email during the day, and we have had so many misunderstandings...because you can’t see them or hear the tone of voice or body language or whatever.

Email is okay for information, but if things are going to get emotional, email is a terrible medium for emotion.

Here’s an idea: Maybe you write that email. But don’t send it.

Tell the person that you need to talk with them and then do it face to face.

Now, that sounds harder sometimes, but that’s part of the point. Don’t be lazy. It won’t help. Don’t use a text-based technology to process conflicts if you can at all help it.

Face to face is almost always better.

John said, “I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

Is this helpful?  I don’t think that many of Jesus’ followers have thought through these things.

We have not been salt. We have not been light. We have just gone along with the flow.


The point is down here in this text box. This is YouTube.

If you haven’t seen a YouTube video, this is what that page looks like.

I thought that this was a good one where the key word was “act.”

Real Christians act like real Christians when they are online.

Being a Christian informs everything that we do.  It isn’t just something we do on Sundays at church.

Turn over to Ephesians chapter 4 for this one.  Ephesians chapter 4.

Paul is telling the Ephesians here how to live now that they have become Christians.

And he calls it living as “Children of the Light.” And Paul says that this is a process of putting off the old self and putting on the new self.  Look at verse 17 of chapter 4:

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”

Sounds like some particular corners of the Internet, doesn’t it? V.20

“You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Put off, put on. V.25

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”

There’s a principle for what we say online.

Only the truth. Nothing but the truth. So help us God.

And that includes only posting things that we know are true. V.26

“‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

There’s another principle. Our Facebook account should not be full of our sinful anger.

Our blog should not be pages and pages of unholy screed.

Social media is broadcasting. When I started blogging back in 2005, I realized that I had gotten into broadcasting. Anywhere you have the Internet, you have the potential of looking at my blog. Anywhere in the world.

That’s broadcasting.

And the same thing is true to a lesser extent on Facebook. Most people have over a hundred friends.

If you post something on Facebook, that’s telling at least 100 people that thing. And they can easily turn around and share it with someone else.

It’s broadcasting!

Remember that before you hit the “share” button.  V.28

“He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

Verse 29

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths [or your thumbs!], but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Would that cut out a lot of our social media interaction if we obeyed that?

Real Christians act like real Christians when they are online.

And if they don’t, maybe they’re not. V.30

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. [And getting rid of it doesn’t mean posting it online! It means repenting of it. V.32] 

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. [Chapter 5...]

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Don’t you just love people like that?

Be the kind of person you love online.

Be an imitator of God.

V.3 “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”

V.3 says “not even a hint of sexual immorality...”

Do your emails have a hint of sexual immorality?

Does your Facebook account have foolish talk or coarse joking? Those are out of place.  And “sharing” what someone else posted is saying it yourself.

Obscenity. Does your blog have obscenity?

Or greed. Do you say over and over again in your social media how unhappy you are with your lot in life and your desire to become rich or gain this possession or that possession?

V.7  “Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. 

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’

Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now there is a short of things that you CAN do online!

Text one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Share out prayer requests.

Post thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Real Christians Act Like Real Christians When They are Online.

Not because they are faking it, but because they are living out the reality of their relationship with Jesus in the online world.

What are you going to say and do online in 2013?


This is Wikipedia. 

In chapter 5 here of Ephesians it said, “Find out what pleases the Lord” (v.10) and it says, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise.”

That takes effort. That takes thought. That takes meditation and prayer.

The world of online interaction is not all black and white.

Do this. Don’t do this. It takes discernment and growth in wisdom.

When I first approached writing this message, I thought of a bunch of proverbs that address online interaction, and I was going to give it as just a message on that.

Like Proverbs 18:17, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”

Get both sides of an issue.  Don’t just listen, for example, to what your political party says online. Listen to both sides. Listen to a fair representations of both sides.

Remember that there is another side to whatever story you are reading.

I actually read as many blogs from people I don’t normally agree with as blogs that I read of those that I like!

I keep up with about 200 blogs, probably 50 of which are very active and 25 of them are people that I really disagree with.

But I listen to them because I don’t want to just get one side (the side I like) of any issue. Proverbs 18:17, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”

We need to grow in wisdom to best use social media technology.

When you are reading your Bible, think about how it applies to every area of your life, not just your prayer life or work life or your church life, but also your online life.

Grow in wisdom.

Number 5 and last.


And the main thing is the gospel.

That’s a phrase that we use around our church, and I’ve said it here before, too. I got it from someone who got it from someone else.  

The main thing is the keep the main thing the main thing.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important message to:


The gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important message to communicate.

So whatever I do or say or post online, it needs to be secondary at best to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing–even online.

Especially online.

2013 begins on Tuesday.

What is your plan for being a follower of Christ in the New Year ONLINE?


Astute readers will recognize this as a new version of a message given last year at Lanse Free Church titled, "Salt and Light Online."  It was a joy to get to preach it to the folks at CORE today.