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Cyber Sabbath

Cyber Sabbath

Let me ask you a few questions, and I want you to answer as honestly as you can. You should never lie to anyone, but remember, I’m a pastor, so it’s even worse if you lie to me. (I’d hate for lightning to strike you where you’re sitting and leave just the charred remains of your phone case.)

Is checking your phone the last thing you do every day?

What about when you wake up?

Is checking your phone one of the first things you do every morning?

Do you feel compelled to check your phone while waiting in line at the fast food drive through, in the checkout lane at the store, or while waiting in the airport?

More than once?

Would you rather give a mugger your purse or wallet than your phone?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, maybe it’s time to power down and take a cyber Sabbath. Maybe it’s time to remember what life is like without your phone, tablet, or laptop.

Maybe it’s time for your soul to rest.

You might think that because I’m a pastor, I don’t have these struggles with social media. But believe me: I do, just as much as anyone else. While thinking about this topic, I knew I had to look at my own habits. At the end of the day that I discovered the meaning of nomophobia [the irrational fear of being without your mobile phone or being unable to use your phone for some reason, such as the absence of a signal or running out of minutes or battery power.], I received three texts after 10:45 p.m. Around 11:15, as I was about to go to bed, I checked my email one last time and discovered several messages I hadn’t read yet. One in particular really upset me, and to make matters worse, I could do nothing about it right then. So I just lay there in bed, alternating between trying to sleep and staring at the ceiling in the dark, stewing. I had not mastered technology that night; it had mastered me.

I suspect I’m not the only one. I believe that a lot of us have a hard time tuning out and shutting down. Many of us, when we’re bored, when we don’t have anything else going on, or when we’re between tasks or conversations have a default, brain-o habit of picking up our mobile devices and lazily clicking around.

When our minds are idle, we’re not thinking about anything meaningful, and when we’re not intentionally living, it can be so easy to shift into neutral. When we don’t have a specific destination in mind, any road will do. And if our time and our resources aren’t precious, if we’re not doing anything important, it can be so easy to just pick up our phone, unlock the screen, and wander aimlessly through cyberspace, wasting our time and our thoughts.

Because we constantly allow ourselves to be distracted, because we don’t take our thoughts captive in obedience to Christ, our minds never shut down. So we’re constantly distracted. We can’t work productively for long stretches because we allow something to ping or beep and break our concentration. We let our RPMs run all the time, constantly revving our mental and emotional engines. We feel overwhelmed, and we don’t know why. We’re short with our children, and we don’t know why. We feel exhausted spiritually, and we don’t know why. We long for something more. Ironically, we keep returning to the source of our discontent, and of course we won’t find peace there.

Something has to change.

Jesus Calling

Most people in our culture accept the fact that our bodies need rest. However, I’d argue that our souls need rest just as much. Our souls need to be disconnected bing! long enough to find peace bing! and some solitude in the presence of the God bing! who created us to know Him, bing! to walk daily with Him, bing! to be in an intimate, ongoing, thriving relationship with Him, bing! representing His love in this world bing! rather than being wrapped up all the time bing! with some little device that absolutely demands our attention.

Can you feel what I’m saying?

Speaking to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul says,

‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say — but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ — but I will not be mastered by anything. — 1 Corinthians 6:12

When Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, he was responding to all sorts of perverted and sinful actions that he had learned they were doing. He was trying to express to them that in Christ, we have freedom to do many things. However — and you probably don’t need me to tell you this —

just because we can do a thing doesn’t mean that we should do it.

What Paul says here is one of my favorite verses in Scripture: “‘I have the right to do anything,’ but I will not be mastered by anything.” The power of Christ in me should be stronger than anything else in my life. I will not be mastered by an addiction to food. I will not be mastered by material possessions. I will not be mastered by an addiction to looking at things that are inappropriate for me to see. I will not be mastered by what other people think of me.

I will not be mastered by technology. But sometimes I am. I love technology, but I have to stay mindful to refuse to be mastered by it.

Christ in me is stronger than any addiction in me. Christ in you is stronger than any addiction in you. We will not be mastered.

If you’re constantly connected, and you find yourself feeling that low-grade frustration — “There has to be something more, there has to be something more, there has to be something more” — then I’m going to argue that God has a special rest for you in Christ. You need to know that His rest is available to your soul.

And it’s available right now:

So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall. — Hebrews 4:9–11 NLT

Why is it so hard for us to find this rest? And what is that one thing we’re actually longing for? God made us to be in relationship with Him. So our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.

This explains why our souls have been restless for so long, why we keep looking online for something that can satisfy our longing. Our souls need something that can bring meaning, something that can help our relationships work, something that can give us purpose and significance, something that fills the void inside of us once and for all. This is the central issue:

we have a Jesus-shaped void inside of us. And nothing besides Jesus is ever going to fill that vacancy.

Jesus longs to give us what we so desperately crave:

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. — Matthew 11:28–29

Are you weary? Do you feel burdened? Come to Jesus. His invitation is for you. Come to Him now. Come to Him by faith, and He’ll give you rest. He’s gentle. His heart is humble. Jesus is offering you His special rest.

But in order to fully experience His rest, you’re going to have to focus your heart on Him and Him alone. Nothing else. No one else.

Only Jesus.

Excerpted with permission from Liking Jesus by Craig Groeschel, copyright Craig Groeschel.

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Your Turn

Tomorrow is Sunday. Sabbath. Maybe it’s a good time to take a cyber-rest and focus on Jesus. What do you think? Come share with us on our blog!