“Lo, This Only Have I Found, that God Hath Made Man Upright; but They Have Sought Out Many Inventions” (Ecclesiastes 7:29)

This article written by Rev. John Witvoet was published in the January/February 2020 edition of “Insight Into” and is posted here with the author’s permission.


 

Friends, we live in an uncertain, fast-changing world, but what hasn’t changed is what is found in God’s Word as admonition and instruction. This is also true relating to our use of modern media and our devices. The Word of God is never outdated, not even in this postmodern era. “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

I think it can be safely said that much of the time when we are using our “devices,” we are treading on, or dangerously close to, enemy territory. The modern media has become the modern means the devil uses to subtly trap and ambush, or blatantly bombard both the wary and careless user alike. Although the means the devil uses are new, his devices are not, as we can see from God’s eternal Word. Nearly 2,000 years ago the Apostle Paul admonished the church in the progressive city of Ephesus to “put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:11-12). We read in Acts 19 that many of them from that congregation that used the media of the day (books) came together and burned those that were evil. Since then the devil has become all the more crafty and men all the more corrupt. In these modern times we can no longer simply destroy and be rid of all the means that the devil uses to infiltrate our eyes, ears, minds, and ultimately our hearts and souls.

We live in a world inundated by modern digital media! Infinite pieces of data abound, all accessible to us by over three million apps and nearly two billion websites. This does not even include digital personal files or proprietary business systems. We have become so dependent on modern media and modern digital technology to operate our businesses, to keep us efficient in our work, and for record keeping. It is an integral part of all of our modern lives. We use it in our studying, buying, selling, communicating, and in nearly every aspect of our lives. It has become impossible to function in the modern world without the use of this “new media.”

 

Satan’s tactics

Paul also writes of the devil’s tactics to the Corinthians, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11); in other words, his wide range of subtle and blatant attacks. And are these things not written in God’s Word for our “admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are to come” (1 Corinthians 10:11)?

First, what a brazen onslaught he wages against us! Every day, nearly at every moment, a barrage of attacks comes at us by way of the media that has become so much a part of all of our lives. It need not be proven that a vast majority of the content that comes to us every day by these means is blatantly wicked and contrary to God’s Word. It is feared that much soul-destroying content is being searched out or “stumbled across” by many of us on pornographic and lewd sites, but far more prevalent, and maybe equally as dangerous, is the endless searching and filling our minds with thousands of meaningless pieces of information. Even when it is not movies, videos, music videos, gaming and the like, surfing digital media has become a modern form of entertainment. With an endless supply, our precious time is not only wasted, but we have become addicted to consuming information.

Secondly, and more subtly, with the greater influx of modern media, printed and audible forms of media are being replaced. Reading and listening are becoming more and more difficult for the modern generation. We are constantly bombarded by texts, tweets, notifications, ads, Facebook posts, emails, and more. Our brains get hooked on all this stimulating content. We crave more and more new information, and it can be difficult to pay attention to any one thing for very long. On the other side, it also makes it difficult to hold anyone’s attention for very long. A recent study found that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 (or around the time smartphones hit the scene) to eight seconds today. In comparison, scientists believe that the goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds.

What does this mean for us? The devil cannot destroy God’s Word, but it becomes evident that this subtle undermining by the devil is a tactic whereby he seeks to keep us from reading and concentrating on even a short portion of God’s Word. Is it not to be feared that this is affecting our ability to sit in church and listen with concentration and participation for an hour-and-a-half worship service? Satan not only seeks to undermine the stronghold of God’s Word itself, but also the means of grace by destroying our concentration in God’s house, if by nothing else than keeping us up late on our devices the night before. Not to mention using it unceasingly on the Lord’s Day.

 

Nothing new under the sun

No, there is nothing new under the sun; the devil’s modern device is to use our devices! Let me illustrate this further. Psalm 37:7 speaks of “the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” The original uses a word that means “a plan, or witty invention, usually evil, sometimes good, or a wicked or mischievous device or plot.

How about what the Lord says of mankind in Ecclesiastes 7:29, “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” Again, let’s consider the meaning of the original word, only found in two places in Scripture, which is “any contrivance, art, device, or invention; a warlike machine or engine, or mental plot to break down a stronghold.

Therefore, it makes sense that the other place we find this word used is to describe King Uzziah’s invention in 2 Chronicles 26:15, “And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal.” These were machines that could hurl many arrows or stones at once, or continuously in a thick barrage against a stronghold or enemy.

The application that can be made to our modern time is clear. Do these not coincide with the modern day invention of both computer hardware and software? What a barrage of deadly arrows and crushing stones can come at us with every click of a mouse or every swipe or tap of a screen! Not only has the devil gained such an advantage by this new technology to captivate and destroy our never-dying souls, but we have become victims of our own inventions! We are destroying ourselves, and the devil gladly helps us along both boldly and subtly. For he, too, has become much wiser after 6,000 years! Is this not seen today? How the devil seeks to destroy the stronghold of the Lord’s institution of marriage! Thousands of divorces are related directly to the misuse of the Internet, viewing lewd content, pursuing online relationships, social media connections, and so on. The misuse of modern media is destroying personal lives, marriages, families, and ultimately souls.

 

“The whole armour of God”

Friends, God’s Word has not changed, neither has His admonition and instruction. We are commanded to “put on the whole armour of God.” In the first place, this must be spiritual armour, because we have no might against this powerful enemy and his spiritual wickedness. But also practically we must take up the shield to protect ourselves and our loved ones in this unceasing conflict. We cannot pray for keeping if we do not implement the available filters and means to protect ourselves while using all of our devices. Furthermore, let necessity alone dictate the use!

Finally, let us realize that the great danger lies in the sinful and susceptible nature that we all possess. The devil has a great advantage in this war since he has very willing accomplices in us! What we need above all is a hatred for sin and a love for the Lord and His law. Oh, that we may be granted the fear of the Lord in our heart and receive grace for our soul! Pray the Lord to supply this by His Word and Spirit! Even then, the Lord must keep it in exercise, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). A true, Spirit-wrought conversion is by far the best filter; a true prayer is the best defense; and the true and mighty Saviour is the only Stronghold that will stand, not only in our modern times from the attacks of a defeated but angry devil, but ultimately from the eternal wrath of a righteous, all-knowing, and sin-punishing God. No, there is nothing new under the sun, also in the way the Lord teaches and gives His people all these things.

Technology Addiction

“Hey.” The man’s voice was slow, slurred. “Hey. Can you help me? I’m between a rock and a hard place.” He was an older gentleman, heavy-set, with rough face and hands that betrayed a life in conditions other than kind. A few minutes earlier, it had taken two people to raise him off the sidewalk and into a park bench. Now, after having caught his breath, he was trying to talk.

“Where are you going to stay tonight?” one of the men asked.

“Well, uh, I imagine, between a rock, and, and…” his voice trailed off. He was homeless, suffering from a mental condition and the addiction to alcohol that had landed him so helpless on the ground.

The second bystander was also homeless, and knew the older man better. His explanation of the situation was enlightening.

“Don’t judge him for the alcohol. When you don’t have friends, you get lonely. When you can’t buy anything to eat, you get hungry. When winter comes, you get cold. Now, when he drinks, he isn’t lonely. He isn’t hungry. He isn’t cold.

This made sense, at least at first. Alcohol was a solution to the man, a solution that numbed the pain. But the emptiness of its claim was soon made apparent. A full tray of warm baked chicken and a box of fresh strawberries was made available, and portions offered to the homeless men. Would it be enough? It was cold, the men were homeless and lonely.

“No, thank you. I don’t need any.” That was the older man. The other ate a strawberry and a small chicken leg, but slowly, and apparently out of politeness.

They were not ungrateful. They just weren’t hungry. They weren’t lonely. They weren’t cold. They had their drink, and they could keep themselves alive day by day.

The point here is not to make homeless people look bad or ungrateful, for both those men were kind, friendly, and thankful. Rather, it is to compare ourselves to that situation. The world we live in is spiritually like the world they lived in. It is lonely – a “waste howling wilderness.” The inhabitants are cold – “the love of many shall wax cold.” It is also a place of famine – “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.”

Do we feel this loneliness? What about the cold? Do we hunger? If not, the same can be said about us as about those two men – we “follow strong drink.” And although they could certainly lay some small claim to being “ready to perish” and therefore justified in their action, God’s Word clearly says about us “Woe unto you that are full! For ye shall hunger.”

What is the “strong drink” that we follow? What is it that numbs us to the very real and pressing need for our souls? What robs us of the instinct to ask for “food convenient for me?”

This addicting and numbing influence varies from person to person, but for very many it can be said that the temptations of technology and misuse of modern media contribute strongly to our willful and addicting blindness. The many and varied attractive aspects of these “conveniences” have fooled us into accepting them wholeheartedly into our homes with no limit or restriction.

The problem has two aspects: the introduction of evil, and the removal of good. When these temptations are accepted into our homes, we think they are to our advantage. And, in many ways, technology has proven to be very beneficial. But we jump over the potential risks, because they are not so readily seen. We may consider that they have negatives, due to the many faithful warnings, but it is less often that we understand how quickly they replace the good. Just like alcohol numbed the homeless men, so we are caught up in something we consider “partially justifiable” and the true good is quietly displaced.

Do you seek the true good? Or, do you find yourself never having enough time? For many today, technology is silently filling the place that could have been used for the things that have eternal value.  Try to set aside your phone for an evening this week, and open the Bible. “For whoso findeth Me findeth life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord.”

The Entertainment Obsession a Major Driver for Obsessive Internet Usage

Rev. G.H. Kersten wrote the following prior to World War II (The Night Visions of Zechariah, Chapter 40, page 203):

The…rich and the poor… all shouted loudly, ‘Let us eat and drink and be merry!’ The standard of living soared higher and higher. Entertainment and amusement were considered indispensable necessities of life. Church attendance decreased, and attendance at theaters, dance halls, and vanity fairs increased.     

This is also true in our time. Modern man generally practices a religion of having fun, and not delighting in God who is the only true and lasting happiness for a rational being. The amount and intensity of fun in an activity is the measure by which modern man measures the merit and desirability of an activity. Today we have our modern media including the internet which is often used to facilitate gratifying the passion and obsession for entertainment and fun. But sadly, there is rarely one taking heed to Christ’s declaration in John 17:3, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Without this knowledge there is no true lasting happiness and pleasure. How important it is that we take heed to the folly of gratifying ourselves with the fleeting and transitory pleasures of this perishing world! During the first century the apostle Paul wrote what is still applicable to us today even with all the social, political and technological changes that have occurred since his time, and that is:  

But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away (I Cor. 7:29-31).

By nature, our desires and priorities are perverse. In light of the scriptural declaration that man is “dead in trespasses and sin” (Eph. 2:1), and that the “carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7), this perverseness is not surprising. This fact is indicative of the necessity of the rebirth wrought in each of our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Without this our desires and priorities including our religious desires are lacking. But starting with the rebirth the Holy Spirit leads one into the truth: the truth of our deep fall, of our actual sins including the sins of our best deeds, of the righteousness and the offended justice of the Father, of the drawing power of the Father unto Christ without which no man will truly come unto the Savior (John 6:44), and of being found in Christ whereby the Father’s sword of justice can be put in its sheath and the sinner can behold His reconciled face.

May we not be satisfied until we know what David, the man after God’s own heart knew. We read of this in Psalm 16:11, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” The priorities of those that possess this desire of David will be apparent in their life including a discreet usage of the internet.

Submitted by JVZ

 

Book Review: A Pilgrim in Media Land

“How can we create more openness in our families when it comes to discussing our Internet activities and our use of media time? What agreements can we make with each other to put this into practice?” These are just two of the many discussion questions we read in the book, A Pilgrim in Media Land. This book, authored by Mr. Steef de Bruijn and Mrs. Henrieke Hoogendijk-van Dam, is originally written in the Dutch language as an initiative of the Driestar Christian University and the Erdee Media Group. The Modern Media Committee from the Lethbridge NRC has, with the permission of the authors, translated and published this book to be used in our denomination. We are thankful for this effort.

Much has been spoken and written already about modern media. In our Reformed circles we have always been very reluctant and cautious to use modern media like the Internet. We realize, however, that we cannot stop this development anymore, not even in our circles. Almost all of our families have an Internet connection to be used as a resource in schools and business life. Consequently, therein lies the danger that it gets used too much and in the wrong way. Therefore, this book is intended to be a guide for the proper use of modern media and to warn against the misuse of it. The title is well chosen as it clearly implies that we are in media land. There are many available devices which have good uses; nevertheless, there undoubtedly are also many traps and dangers.

Therefore, the authors take us by the hand in our journey through modern media land. They do that in a very appealing way. In eight chapters they provide a lot of information about many topics related to modern media. Repeatedly, they do this using attitude keywords such as temperance, consistency, reflection, and faithfulness. In a tender but honest way, they do not shy away from the practical dangers of appealing and alluring sins which have such devastating consequences. Therefore, each chapter starts with a real-life scenarios which can easily be recognized by parents and educators in raising our children and youth.

At the end of each chapter are questions for discussions. The vocabulary used by the authors should not keep us from reading this book because it is “to the point” and easy to follow. Most importantly, time and again we read the question, “What does the Bible say?” Based on specific Bible texts, the authors want to guide us in an honest and biblical way through media land and point us to a proper lifestyle. They realize that not everything is said when only warnings are given. “A Christian is characterized by watchfulness and resilience. Therefore, it is not enough only to point young people to the dangers of the web. It is important that we also demonstrate how to use modern media in a positive way. In this way, we can demonstrate to teenagers how we live as a Christian in a digital world.”

We were pleased to read that the authors realize that even with having everything in place to warn, inform, and protect, we still need heart-renewing grace. The hope for our day and age, for our youth and families, lies not in man, not in filters, but in the Lord who continues to gather His people until the last one has been added to His kingdom. Daniel and his friends also lived in the world but by grace did not want to be of the world. We read that Daniel had an inner room where he sought strength in God. He realized, like Jehosaphat, that in us there is no strength “against this great company,” but his eyes were upon the Lord. Daniel also knew that in order to fight this battle we have to use the means available to us. We do not battle against flesh and blood but against many spiritual enemies.

Finally, the authors see this book as “a small introduction to media attitudes and media wisdom.” We wholeheartedly agree with their wish that “our children see us living the life of a true pilgrim” and receive the desire to become such a true pilgrim themselves. Therefore, we cannot endorse the use of social media, and encourage all to stay away from social media such as Instagram and Snapshot because of the many dangers and waste of time associated with the use of social media.

Yet, we would like to see this book in the hands of our families and office bearers to build awareness. May the Lord use it to open many eyes for the manifold dangers inherent to the modern media. By nature, our own hearts are so connected to these dangers that we need the grace that is found in Him who still has a willing people in the day of His power. Such people may delight in God’s commandments. Do we recognize ourselves as being one of these people?

The book is available from local modern media committees or church book rooms.

—The Synodical Modern Media Committee

Rev. E. Hakvoort, Chairman

Elder John Van Zweden, Secretary