Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

Articles

July 14, 2015

The Christian religion is at once the broadest and the narrowest in the world. It is a faith that admits every possible kind of person. But it admits them in only one way.

There is one God. Only one. If there were two gods there might be two paths to salvation—you get saved by this god and I will get saved by that one. But there is only one God and, therefore, only one path to salvation.

There is one humanity. Only one. If there were two kinds of people there might be two paths to salvation—you are part of this group and I am part of that one. But there is only one humanity and, therefore, only one path to salvation.

There is one Mediator. Only one. If there were two mediators there might be two paths to salvation—you have this mediator represent you and I’ll go with that one. But there is only one mediator and, therefore, only one path to salvation.

There is one ransom. Only one. If there were two ransoms there might be two paths to salvation—you have your debt paid by that savior and I’ll have my debt paid by the other one. But there is only one ransom and, therefore, only one path to salvation.

One God created one humanity represented by one Mediator who paid one ransom. So there is only one way. The way to salvation is so broad that it can admit every person who seeks for God, yet so narrow that they can enter only through Jesus Christ. (See 1 Timothy 2:1-7.)

Image credit: Shutterstock

July 10, 2015

A couple of weekends ago the annual Pride Parade shut down the city center here in Toronto. It capped what had already been a 10-day Pride Toronto festival. The parade gave an opportunity for the LGBTTIQQ2SA* communities to declare their pride in who they are, and they did it by parading through the heart of the city. The event was publicized, televised, and celebrated.

At the same time I was preaching the next text in a series of sermons and came to Romans 1:16-17 where the Apostle Paul declares some pride of his own. “I am not ashamed of the gospel,” he says. He was writing to this church in Rome to tell them of his desire to travel to their city for the specific purpose of preaching the gospel to them and to the people around them. The reason he wanted to do this was his gospel pride. He was proud of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe it.

And I found myself wondering, Why is the gospel more offensive than a pride parade? Why is gospel pride scorned while gay (and lesbian and trans and…) pride is cheered? After all, the parade, its floats, its participants, its nudity, its blatant sexuality—these things could easily be offensive to many people. My family has been warned by gay people not to take our kids anywhere near it because of what it would expose them to. Yet our culture celebrates LGBTTIQQ2SA* and mocks the gospel. In a world of crazy ideas, the gospel sounds like the craziest one of all. Why?

Because of this: The gospel is the one message that counters everything we want to believe about ourselves and about God. It counters the message of Pride Toronto, it counters the message of liberal Christianity, it counters the message of atheism, it counters the message of Mormonism, it counters the message of humanism, it counters every single message outside of itself.

We want to believe that we are autonomous, but the gospel assures us we are under the jurisdiction of God. We want to believe that we are good at heart, but the gospel says we are far worse than we could possibly imagine. We want to believe we are wise, but the gospel says we are foolish. We want to define ourselves by our desires and preferences, but the gospel says that God has already defined us in the act of creating us. We want to believe that we can do whatever we want today without fear of eternal consequences, but the gospel unapologetically declares that there will be the most fearsome and eternal consequences for our sin. That is an offensive message. That is an ultimately offensive message.

Gay pride and its many extensions—that is an easy sell. It is selling candy to children, crack to addicts, ESVs to Calvinists. It is simply giving people what they crave. It is reassuring them of what they long to believe. It is allowing them to celebrate what they already love.

But the gospel cuts against the grain with a message that counters it all: You are disobedient, you are dead, you are doomed. (And, of course, until Christ found me I, too, was disobedient and dead and doomed.) This bad news of the gospel is so offensive (yet so demonstrably true!) that few people stick around to hear the good news—the good news that there is hope and forgiveness and freedom for those who will put their faith in Jesus Christ and receive his salvation. The bright stars are only visible against the dark sky, and the ultimate joy of the gospel only shines against the ultimate bad.

Image credit: Shutterstock

July 07, 2015

The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10 is one of those accounts from the life of Jesus that is in danger of becoming cliché. And it will become that if we fail to see the true hero of the story.

Luke sets up a contrast between two sisters: Mary and Martha. Jesus has come to visit, and he has brought a crowd with him. Martha is likely the older sister here, and the owner of the home. The responsibility of hospitality has fallen to her, and as Jesus teaches, she rushes around to prepare food and to keep her guests full and fed. She undoubtedly believed she would be able to count on her sister Mary to help her. But instead of helping, Mary just sits at the feet of Jesus, listening and learning. A sharp conflict arises.

Luke tells us that Martha has become distracted by much serving. We would probably say that Mary is the distracted one; she has been distracted from helping her sister show hospitality. But no, it’s Martha who is distracted. She complains to Jesus and asks him to intervene, to command Mary to help. Jesus, full of love and compassion, replies, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (v. 41). And so we learn that we are to be like Mary in a Martha world, people who prioritize spending time with Jesus instead of allowing the cares of life to overwhelm us. Mary is the hero.

Or is she? In all our talk of the atoning death of Jesus, we need to guard ourselves against losing the wonder of the fact that God himself, the second person of the Trinity, came in human flesh; that the One who created the world took on a human nature and entered our world as a baby who needed to be cared for like any other human infant; that as a man born under the law, he obeyed his mother and father; that as a man he had to grow in wisdom and understanding; that as the incarnate Jesus and true man he really walked from place to place, that he got blisters on His feet, that he got tired and hungry, that he needed hospitality.

Charles Wesley wrote a powerful hymn to proclaim the wonder of God made man.

Let earth and Heav’n combine, angels and men agree
To praise in songs divine, Th’ incarnate deity
Our God contracted to a span, Our God contracted to a span,
Incomprehensibly made Man.

Do you see the great love of God, that Jesus Christ, God immortal, God eternal, would become a man so that he could be like us, so he could be one of us, so he could save us? When we see Jesus sitting in Martha’s home, we see the true hero of the story.

July 06, 2015

The church has always had some of those people associated with it. There have always been people who maintain an offensive disposition when it comes to their faith. These are the people who seem to love nothing more than a good fight. They bait every conversation with a few key words, hoping that you will blunder into a discussion they know they can win. They play one Christian off another. They might elevate themselves into positions of Christian leadership for the purpose of enriching themselves at everyone else’s expense.

Even back in the days when the Apostle Paul was traveling from city to city to preach the gospel and plant churches—even then there were people who had an unhealthy craving for controversy (see 1 Timothy 6). At one point he wrote Timothy to warn specifically about these people. He identified them as professed Christians who especially love to quarrel about theological nuances and who have a knack for causing fights between others. It’s a too-common “gift” this gift of spiritual discouragement.

But as I read 1 Timothy and hear Paul warn about these controversialists, I hear him sound a second warning as well. This is a warning about a second kind of person who sins very differently but no less seriously. If we have controversy on the one side of the equation, we have complacency on the other. This, too, is a sin and it, too, is very dangerous.

The complacent Christian is the one who is afraid to speak up even when the situation is serious and in dire need of attention. He is the one who cowers before men and who would rather not speak at all than risk offending another person or risk taking sides. He would allow his Christian brothers and sisters to face spiritual risk instead of speaking up in defense of the truth. As we read the New Testament it seems possible, and perhaps even likely, that Timothy’s temptation was toward complacency. Paul felt it necessary to remind Timothy of the importance of taking sides in order to protect the purity of the gospel and to defend God’s people.

As I thought about controversy and complacency, I realized that in my own way and in different contexts I am prone to both of them. In real life and in face to face conversation, my tendency is toward complacency. Fear of man can compel me or shame me into silence. I have to push myself to speak boldly when there is controversy that needs to be addressed or, even worse, controversialists who need to be rebuked.

But I’m a hero behind my keyboard and have a natural tendency to be bold and brave and, if I’m not careful, downright obnoxious. I have to push myself to resist the temptation to speak up about issues that do not concern me and for which I have no business offering an opinion.

Controversy and complacency—both are alive in the church today. Sadly, both are alive in me as well.

July 03, 2015

I imagine you have read Douglas Adams’ quip before: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” It’s funny because we can all identify with it. We all know the panic of approaching deadlines, the pain of watching them fly on by, the guilt of explaining why we missed again. We all the know problem of procrastination that leads to so many of those misses.

Procrastination is a tricky little problem that can take different and even opposite forms. Procrastination can come in the form of laziness or the form of busyness. We procrastinate lazily when we neglect productivity in favor of entertainment—getting lost in a novel instead of cleaning the house, or watching Netflix instead of writing that report. We procrastinate busily when we neglect the most urgent and important tasks in favor of ones that are less important but a whole lot easier—we answer emails instead of working on the sermon, or we sweep the house when we should be painting it. Procrastination can take a million different forms.

There was a time in my life where I was awfully good at procrastination. Or awfully bad, depending on your perspective. I still can be if I don’t watch it. But along the way I learned how to (mostly) beat it (most of the time). Today I am going to offer you 2 big-picture tips and follow them with 2 very practical ones. These are the very things that I have found so helpful in my own life.

First, I had to see this: Procrastination is a problem of spirituality before it is a problem of productivity. I came to understand that God has put me on this earth to bring glory to him by doing good for others. If that is the case, then procrastination hinders my ability to carry out my purpose. It is downright evil. Whether I am avoiding the most urgent tasks by being very busy or very lazy, procrastination stems from sin and leads to sin. I had to learn that of all the things I could do on a given day or in a given moment, I was responsible to focus on the one or the few that I should do. And the way to do this was to begin my day with prayer, to commit all of my tasks to the Lord, and to remind myself each day that the best and highest kind of productivity is to effectively steward my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. I formally remind myself of this each and every day.

Second, I had to learn a very important lesson: Not all procrastination is bad. At least, not if we allow God to define it on his terms. In the Old Testament God set a pattern that we are wise to follow: a pattern of work and rest. God worked for 6 days and then rested for 1. And later he commanded his people to do the same, to work for 6 days and then to stop their labor for the 7th. While our relationship to the Law is not the same as it was for the theocracy of Israel, and while the Sabbath has been fulfilled in Christ, the pattern is ingrained and enduring. We are wise to deliberately put off all of our tasks for 1 day out of every 7, to deliberately leave them for another time. When I take 1 day out of every 7 to focus on worship, fellowship, and rest, I am far more capable and motivated in the 6 that remain. I suffer no drop in productivity when I carefully and deliberately take a 24-hour period of rest each week.

Now, let me give two practical tips that have been especially important for me.

The first is to do the hardest thing on your list first. As I said earlier, we can masquerade as efficient people by doing many things, but still neglect the most important things. At the end of the day, it is far more important that I prepare my sermon than complete those 11 other small tasks. But it is easier and can feel far more fulfilling to go after the list and start crossing them off. After all, there is a feeling of accomplishment that comes when I can say at 11 AM that I have already accomplished 11 out of 12 things. But what I have actually done is used my best, most focused, and most productive hours of the day to avoid the task that takes the most focus and creative energy. So I always try to force myself to do the hardest thing first. I need to use the best of my day to do the single most important thing. It is a hard discipline, but a very important one.

My second tip is to break big tasks into small ones. Sometimes I find myself procrastinating because the task before me is daunting in its sheer size. “Write a book” is an overwhelming task. “Write chapter 1” is far more attainable, and “Write 1,000 words” even more so. I can overcome task paralysis by making my tasks much more reasonable in their size. Sure, it’s all really a mind trick, but it is an effective one that can motivate action.

There is much more I could say on the subject, of course. I have read many books and many articles on procrastination, but do believe that these 4 tips are the ones that have most helped me in overcoming what was once a losing battle. I hope they prove valuable to you.

Image credit: Shutterstock

July 01, 2015

You don’t really know who your friends are until their relationship with you becomes a liability instead of a benefit. Many celebrities, and even Christian celebrities, have learned this lesson the hard way. In the blink of an eye, or the release of a news story, they went from fêted to ignored, from celebrated to invisible. They learned quickly that many of their so-called friends had actually not been friends at all, but people thriving on a kind of symbiotic relationship where each benefited the other. When the relationship become a liability, their friends were suddenly nowhere to be found.

This happened to Jesus. When he was performing miracles and laying verbal beatings on the Pharisees and healing men who had been born blind, his friends were only too happy to ally themselves with him. They were proud to know him, to be known in relation to him, and to be in his inner circle. But when he became a hated criminal, when he was dragged before the courts and accused of crimes, his friends quickly made themselves scarce. They disappeared into the night, leaving him to fend for himself.

For as long as you and I have lived, at least if you have lived in this Western, first-world culture, friendship with Jesus has been beneficial. At worst this friendship has been neutral so the benefits have balanced the drawbacks. And while I am no prognosticator of doom, it seems increasingly clear that a relationship with Jesus will soon be more and a more of a liability before this watching, judging world.

Looking at the people around me who have professed faith in Christ, and looking at many of the Christians I know through social media, I see two kinds of concerning reaction.

Some are denying him and rejecting him. They have determined that the cost of associating with Jesus is too high, and they have walked away from him altogether. Any association with Jesus typecasts them as bigoted, as intolerant, as judgmental, as trapped in an appallingly outmoded system of morality. They have chosen to leave him behind.

Many more are redefining the terms of their friendship by redefining their friend. They are creating a new version of their friend Jesus, rewriting him in their own image, or in the image of the culture around them, making him into a figure who has been misunderstood and who is far more tolerant, far more accepting, far more palatable. This inoffensive Jesus loves without judgment, he gives without expectation, he proudly waves a rainbow flag.

But, of course, Jesus is unchanged and unchanging. He will not bow to the changing culture, he will not cede to the rising tide. Jesus will only ever be who he is and who he has always been. And each of us has a choice to make.

You don’t really know who your friends are until their relationship with you becomes a liability instead of a benefit. We don’t really know who Jesus’ friends are until a relationship with him becomes a liability instead of a benefit. We know that Jesus is proud to be the friend of sinners, and in the days to come, we will discover which sinners are truly proud to be friends with him.

Image credit: Shutterstock

June 29, 2015

I suppose we are all familiar with the categories of sin and depravity. We are all familiar with the Bible’s ugly descriptions of fallen humanity and equally familiar with the internal corroboration of our hearts and the external corroboration of our lives. The simple fact is, we are sinners. We are people who have offended a holy God and people who act out that rebellion every day.

I know you have read the second chapter of Ephesians and reveled in the beauty of what God has done in calling some people away from a life of rebellion and toward a life of righteousness. What Christian hasn’t read it with joy? What Christian hasn’t seen the word “but” there and rejoiced that God entered in and changed everything? “But God…”

I wonder if you’ve noticed one fascinating little part of the text—the change in actors or the change in agency.

Read the first three verses of the text, and allow me just a little bit of liberty with the pronouns:

And I was dead in the trespasses and sins in which I once walked, as I followed the course of this world, as I followed the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in me and in all the sons of disobedience—among whom I once lived in the passions of my flesh, carrying out the desires of my body and my mind, and I was by nature a child of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

You can hardly fail to notice that it’s all about me. This is who I am when left on my own, when left to live my own life in my own way. And it’s not a pretty picture. It’s an ugly plummet from sin to sin, from spiritual disobedience to spiritual death and destruction.

And then there is the word “but,” and look what happens after that.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which God loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and God raised us up with him and God seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages God might show the immeasurable riches of God’s grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

You can hardly fail to notice that it’s all about God. This is who God is when God acts in accordance with his character. And it’s a beautiful picture. It’s a beautiful progression from love to mercy to grace to life to righteousness to glory.

The point and the purpose is simple. When we take action, we find only destruction. When God begins to move, we are given grace.

June 24, 2015

This week marks the 150th anniversary of Hudson Taylor’s Brighton Beach experience. It was there and then that he made a decision that would forever shape church history. In honor of it, my friend Tim Keesee has prepared this excellent article. He also invites you visit his site to watch a video clip from his film No Regrets, No Retreat.


One of my favorite quotes from Hudson Taylor, the very quotable pioneer missionary to China is “There are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” Taylor knew about impossible. Impossible was going to the other side of the world to untold millions who had yet to hear the Gospel even once. To do that would take months of risky sea passage to reach them, then learning their utterly confounding language, while facing diseases that if they didn’t kill you, then the people you were devoting your life to just might. On top of all that, to evangelize such a large country of large extremes, it would take an army of Cross-bearers. Impossible. 

The second and third stages—difficult and done—are not reached by Samson-like strength or Job-like patience. Hudson Taylor would be the first to correct such thinking. He said, “All God’s giants have been weak men, who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them.” And, he added, “Perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work is our own imagined strength.” So the three stages are God’s work from man’s perspective: impossible—difficult—done. But the men and women witnessing this tide turn are not spectators or armchair critics—they are men and women of faith. Faith is not a warm, upward thought. Rather faith is action displayed and lived out in the arena of our days to the glory of God and the advance of His Gospel. Paul described his preaching, teaching, travel—and jail trips in between—as hard labor energized by God, “Struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29). Therefore, faith is speaking and writing for the sake of the Gospel. It is working and risking. It is winning and losing. It is going and not always returning. It is asking, seeking, and knocking. It’s what Jesus said “moves mountains.”

China MillionsReaching vast China with the Gospel at a time when it was closed, dangerous, and distant, was never impossible for God. But who could believe this enough to follow Him and see Him work? Apparently hundreds—even thousands—could! One of the treasures I “unearthed” during the making of the most recent film in the Dispatches from the Front series, No Regrets, No Retreat,  was a pristine, original edition of China Inland Mission’s annual report from 1888. China’s Millions was a year’s compilation of journal entries and reports from Hudson Taylor and his fellow missionaries. The pages recount the baptisms and the beatings, riots and new arrivals. But the most striking page in the book for me was one that resembled a high school yearbook—only older in every way. Row upon sepia-tinted row of pictures of the 100 missionaries who had left for China the previous year. 

Look into their faces. Look beyond the stiff, monochrome formality of the photography, and see their faces blush with life. I wish I could talk with them, hear their voices, ask them where they came from and what happened after they reached the other side of the world. When these men and women set out for China, they must have parted from their families with kisses and tears, but also with the joy that rushes the heart when Jesus is near. They crossed the world to tell people about their Friend and Saviour. They crossed the world, but some never re-crossed it. For them, missionary service was a one-way ticket. Of course, cross-bearing is a one-way ticket, too.

Still, more and more would follow; and whether through a lifetime of faithful ministry or through the witness of an untimely grave, the Gospel advanced deep into unreached China. God was moving them from the impossible, through the difficult, but they would not see it done, because God had a bigger plan. Hudson Taylor with Gospel-rooted vision and methods wrote in 1873:

The work … is steadily growing and spreading—especially in that most important department, native help. The helpers themselves need much help, much care and instruction; but they are growing more and more efficient as well as more numerous; and the future hope of China doubtless lies in them. I look on all us foreign missionaries as platform work round a rising building; the sooner it can be dispensed with the better; or rather, the sooner it can be transferred to other places, to serve the same temporary purpose … and the better for the places yet to be evangelized.

The “building” Taylor referred to would rise far beyond what anyone at the time could think possible. Today there is a vast army of Chinese believers—60-80 million by conservative estimates. That’s not to say Gospel work is done in China. Hardly. Every generation must reach its own generation. Yet, despite the political, religious, ethnic, and geographic barriers in China, the Gospel continues to advance from the teeming coastal cities and westward to the walls of the Himalayas and beyond. No great walls and no great armies can stop Christ from building His Church! The impossible is now being done all over China. 

But what about today? Where does Gospel advance appear really impossible? This isn’t about our willpower. It’s about God’s power—and the faith in action to believe and follow Him. Yet, as His servants, we so often see only the bricks and barbed wire, the risks and unfavorable statistics. And so, we settle for what we can see and find comfort in the shadow of the wall—never seeing God shake Jericho or move mountains!

June 22, 2015

In Martin Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” the great Reformer penned these memorable words: “The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, one little word shall fell him.” One little word. One little word is all that stands between Satan and his complete destruction.

Satan may rule as prince in this world, but his reign is fragile. He can reign only as long as the King permits. We see a powerful glimpse of his fragile power in one of Jesus’ greatest miracles.

Jesus and His disciples have sailed across the Sea of Galilee and landed on the far shore. They have arrived at a place inhabited by one of the most pathetic and tragic figures we could ever imagine—a man oppressed by not only one demon, but an entire legion of them. He has been driven far beyond the brink of insanity. He lives in the tombs outside the town. He runs naked through the hills, crying out in agony, bashing and bruising himself with rocks, attacking anyone who passes by. Chains cannot hold him; friends and family cannot restrain him. He is under the full control of the powerful Prince of Darkness.

And then Jesus arrives. The very moment Jesus sets foot on the shore, this man comes running. He comes running, naked and bleeding and unkempt, and falls down at Jesus’ feet. He falls down in submission, in terror. One of those demons cries out and says, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” And just like that, the tables have turned. The powerful demons are quaking in fear of One infinitely more powerful.

I recently taught this story to children and told them this: Imagine you are outside playing when the neighborhood bully comes your way. He walks up to you, shakes his fist in your face, and says, “I am going to pound you.” You know he is too strong for you, so you grit your teeth and prepare to get hurt. But then suddenly his eyes grow wide, his expression changes—is it fear?—and a bead of sweat trickles down his face. He raises his hands in surrender, backs away, turns around, and runs.

What happened? You turn around, and just a little bit behind you, you see your dad. He is marching toward you and toward that bully. He is rolling up his sleeves. He is coming to your defense. That bully is powerless in the presence of someone much stronger than he is.

And this is exactly the situation we find here. The demons, who had held such power over this man, are utterly powerless in the presence of Jesus. With a word, just one little word, He drives them from that man, He sends them into a herd of pigs, and they are destroyed. And He does it all to prove this: Satan may be the prince of this world, but Jesus is the King.

Lion
Image credit: Shutterstock

June 15, 2015

You just got your first smartphone! This is a major milestone in your life. That phone you are about to take out of the box is one of the most amazing devices ever created, and it is going to be your constant companion for the next couple of years. It is an incredible piece of technology that can be used in many different ways.

It can be used to do so many good things, but if you are not wary, it can also be used to do an awful lot of bad things. So before you power it on for the first time, I think it would be wise to invest just a few minutes in thinking and planning.

God Has a Purpose for Your Phone

Technology is a gift from God. When we read the Bible, we find that at the beginning of time, God created two people, naked and alone in a little garden, and gave them a worldwide task: to spread out across this world and exercise dominion over it. In order to do that, they would need to invent technologies.

If they were going to plant and harvest crops to feed their family, they would first need to invent a plow. If they were going to spread out across the earth to settle countries and build cities, they would need to invent bridges and boats. In that way, technology is good. Technology is a means through which we can carry out the very purpose for which God created us.

Then, when Jesus was on this earth, he gave his people a new job description that is meant to go along with the first. He told us to take the gospel, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, into all the world. And again, one of the ways we do so is through inventing and using technologies. No wonder, then, that Christians are always paying attention when a new technology shakes the world. Every technology is an opportunity.

When you understand the orders God has given you, you see that God has great purposes in mind for your technologies, and even your smartphone. That phone can be used to organize your life better so you can accomplish more of the things that matter most; it can be used to communicate with others so you can speak good news into their lives; it can be used to read the Bible and list your prayers; it can be used in hundreds of ways that serve the purposes God has given you. Thank God for your smartphone!

Satan Has a Purpose for Your Phone

Unfortunately, there is far more to the story. No sooner did God create man and give him this worldwide mission than man fell into sin. Adam and Eve determined they would disobey God, and when they did that, they brought sin into this world. Technology did not escape unscathed. It, too, exists in this fallen world. This reality means that every technology, including your new phone, can be used to do things that are evil. God has a purpose for your phone, but so does Satan.

Because this is a world caught up in a great cosmic battle between good and evil, every new technology enters into the fight. Every technology brings some benefits and some risks. For every good thing your phone can do, there are other evil things it can do.

You will have the choice before you every day and every moment — will you use it for good or for evil? Will you use it to carry out the tasks God has given you, or will you use it to hinder those tasks? Will you use your phone to serve God or to serve Satan? Thank God for your smartphone, but plead with him for wisdom to use it well.

Your Heart Has a Purpose for Your Phone

What do you love more than you love God? In those times when you are not finding your joy and satisfaction in God, and in those times when sin seems so tempting, what is it that promises joy? What promises satisfaction? What is that thing you need so badly that you will even sin to get it?

For some people, it is money, and they are convinced that, unless they have lots of money, they can never be truly satisfied. They will even steal to get it. For some people, it is power, and they believe that the way to happiness is to accumulate power over others. They will trample or bully people to get it.

Whatever that thing is for you, the Bible calls it an idol. An idol is anything you raise up in place of God — something that, at least for a moment, takes first place in your heart. Whatever your idol is will prove a special kind of temptation for you when you use your phone.

If you idolize sexual pleasure, you will probably be tempted to use your phone to look at pornography. Did you know that more than half of all pornography is now viewed on mobile devices like yours? This means that many people like you bought a smartphone so they could text with their friends and take pictures of their vacation, but somehow they ended up using it to look at pornography. They used this great, God-given technology to do harm instead of good.

If you idolize popularity, if it is being admired and having lots of followers that makes you feel good about yourself, then you will be tempted to use your phone to pursue that idol. You may use the camera to take inappropriate photographs of yourself in Instagram, or you may use the Facebook app to say harsh words about other people. That phone that can be used to do so much good and to bring so much encouragement will now be used to cause harm.

There are not many people who buy a phone intending to use it to harm others or to look at pornography. But where your heart is, there your technology will be also. The way you use your technology reveals your heart. It shows whether your heart is oriented toward God and toward finding true joy and satisfaction in him, or whether you are attempting to find counterfeit joy and satisfaction in the things he forbids. At any moment, your heart has a purpose for your phone. Yes, thank God for your smartphone, plead with him for wisdom to use it well, and guard your heart.

Use It to the Glory of God

And now it is time to take that phone out of the box and to turn it on for the first time. As you hold it in your hand, why don’t you take a moment to pray? Ask God to help you to use that phone well. Commit before him right now that, to the best of your abilities, you will only ever use it to serve his purposes. Recruit a believing friend or two to be your accountability and check in regularly.

Then go and glorify him with and through it.

This article first appeared at DesiringGod.org. Image credit: Shutterstock

Pages