Distracted to Death

Posted: September 22, 2017 by keystoneyouth in Digital Detox Lessons
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Series Attention Funnel: Videos

Series Introduction:

  • Do you see what each of those videos are saying? They’re saying technology and specifically the smartphone is having an effect on our lives.
  • And they are saying that we would be foolish to not step back and at least ask what effects they are having.
  • This year the current pinnacle of technology, the iPhone turned 10.
  • 50 years before the first iPhone, a man by the name of John Culkin coined the quote “First we shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”
  • First we create our tools, and then they turn around and recreate us.
  • Goal/Purpose of This Series:
  • The Goal of this series is to take a step back and ask, what are the ways that technology, and specifically our phones, are affecting us. And how does the Bible call us to respond in order to live wisely.
  • As Denzel said in the second video, we need to ask “Are you using your device, or is your device using you?”
  • And with Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:12 we want to be able to say, “I will not be dominated by anything” including my phone.

In this first lesson of this series I want to talk about the ways that technology and our phones are distracting us and what that is doing to us.

Lesson Introduction:

  • On the day after I got my license, I was driving with a friend in the car. We stopped at a stop sign as I cranked up the radio and talked about how much Bri had been checking me out that dayJ. I looked one way, pulled out, and HOOOONNNK! Just as I looked the other way a car swerved to miss my driver’s side and swing around the front.
  • The distractions in that car almost led to physical injury or death.
  • While the distractions of our phone can also produce physical harm or death, I am more concerned about how the distractions of our phones can lead to spiritual harm or death. One of the main ways they can do that is…

Big Idea: Our phones are capable of distracting us from what really matters.

Passage: Mark 4:14-20; Psalms 39:4-6; 90:12; 8:3-4; Hebrews 12:1-2

  • This is the first parable Jesus told.
  • It’s a parable that would have painted a picture familiar to everyone listening:
    • A farmer walking along his fields carrying a bag of seeds over his should. He reaches in, grabs a handful, and throws it out as he walks.
    • The seed lands on all sorts of different grounds as the farmer hopes and prays for a good crop this year.
  • It seems like such an odd parable at first… what in the world is Jesus saying?
  • And then he begins to explain…
    • The seed is like the Word of God that is cast out.
    • The soils are like the hearts of the people who hear it which then shapes how they respond to God and his Word.
  • I want to walk back through this parable and look at it with the lens of technology in mind in order to see the way that technology is specifically distracting our hearts from what matter most.

Main Points:

We use distractions to keep God at a distance (Mark 4:15)

  • The first seed doesn’t make it into the ground because the ground has been hardened and conditioned not to accept the seed into its soil.
    • It has been beaten down by the many people that have walked on it and it has no room for a seed to fit in.
    • I think this is a fitting metaphor for many of us with our smart phones and technology. Our lives are so full of other things that there is simply no room for God anywhere in our lives.
  • We intentionally fill our lives with busyness.
    • We are people who are constantly on. There is almost always a screen in front of us, in our pockets, or within reach.
    • Not only that, but we have so many things we feel the need to keep up with… We need to check sports scores, find out if Kyrie was traded in the 6 hours that I was sleeping, and post a picture of my Reeses Puffs on Instagram #breakfastoflchampions.
    • We need to send out 20 snapchat pictures in order to keep our streaks going. Not to mention, catch up on the news, watch the next season of Narcos on Netflix, respond to any messages I got overnight, scroll through social media to see what everyone else is up to at 9:17am on a Monday Morning (I bet they’re off having some grand adventure, meeting their sole mates, and changing the world, not just eating cereal like me).
    • I say all of that some sarcasm, but also because there is truth in there… because I see it in my own life.
    • Our phones seem to be making us busier then ever… and most of it with stuff that really isn’t significant or important.
  • Why do we do this???
    • I think two reasons…
  • 1) We avoid dealing with our limited nature and mortality
    • We can’t do everything, but our phones make us believe that we can. And until we realize we are limited, we see no need for God.
    • We will not live forever and the thought of death and how brief our lives are should point us outside of ourselves to the God who made us. (Psalm 39:4; 90:12)
    • And yet the constant feed of information, updates, new apps, games, drowns out these things. There’s never any time to sit and just be.
    • And don’t miss that there is a spiritual war behind all those distractions.
    • S. Lewis – “And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.”
  • 2) We replace feelings of insignificance with beeps, buzzes, and updates.
    • It is a good thing for us to feel insignificant. It is a good thing to wonder what makes life worth living. It is a good thing for us to question where we find our value.
    • But any serious reflective thought that might lead me to reflect on these things is shut down as I turn to my phone to distract me and make me feel like I’m important and significant.
    • Here’s the deal… you are massively important and significant, but not because you have 1,000 instagram followers or constantly receive messages, or made it to a further level on a game.
    • You are significant because the one who made everything has created you in his image.
    • This is what David sees as he looks up to the night sky in Psalm 8:3-4.
    • A modern-day psalm for us might sound more like… “When I look at the stars, and I feel so very small in light of how big the galaxy is, and how many galaxies there are, and how much space there is… I take a picture of it and post it so that people can see I’m looking at the stars.”
  • All the busyness in our lives not only keeps God at a distance, it also makes us shallow people.

Constant distractions can lead us to be shallow people (Mark 4:16-17; Psalms)

  • The second soil Jesus describes in this parable is a shallow soil. It’s a soil that is full of rocks and so even though it takes the seed into itself… there is no real depth for roots.
  • And so, as the plant grows up, it quickly dies when the sun shines down on it or the wind blows.
  • Shallow soil is a great metaphor for the effects that technology is having on many of our hearts and minds.
  • We are unable to think deeply.
    • We jump from one thing to the next, we expect quick information, and we expect to never have to work too hard to get information.
    • I found the first of these at work for me the first time I watched that Louis C.K. video on phones. As soon as he mentioned Bruce Springsteen and the song, do you know what my immediate impulse was… Open up Spotify and listen to Jungleland.
    • I want my information quick… I find that if a YouTube video is any more then 3-5 minutes, I’m much less likely to watch it.
    • And I don’t want to have to work too hard to get information. I want to skim every blog I read.
    • All of this is having an effect on us. We are being shaped to think, read, and process on shallow levels.
  • And this is especially a problem for Christians because we are people who are called to think deeply.
    • Knowing God requires that we not just skim his word, but soak in it.
    • We are called to be people of a book, not just of podcasts, YouTube videos, and blogs
  • And we are called to be people who think deeply about the world that surrounds us. Not accepting fake news and or just opinions.
    • Until we recover the ability to think deeply about God and our world… we will be people of shallow soil, who will have no real roots when suffering, temptation, and good arguments against Christianity come our way. And like a plant in the rocks, we’ll wilt under the heat.
  • Our ability to wonder is diminished (We are unable to feel deeply).
    • Christians should be the ones who experience the most wonder and amazement about the world around them.
    • Why? Because we know the God who created it all!
    • Of a watch and a watchmaker.
    • The sun is incredibly amazing… and we should wonder at it, and yet how much more amazing the one who put the sun in the sky with the touch of his finger. And the one who tells the sun each morning, rise again and give light to the earth.
  • And yet our screens often diminish our ability to wonder.
    • We would rather scroll through Instagram then look up at the night sky.
    • I would rather watch Parks and Rec then hike a nearby mountain.
    • We would rather play Call of Duty, then reflect on how incredible our bodies are as we run and play games with friends.
    • And eventually even the TV shows, games, apps, and new phones that once held us in awe, grow old and need to be replaced by something new and better.
    • I’m not saying we need to ditch all our technology and devices to find wonder in this world.
    • John Piper says this when reflecting on technology…
      • “I regard my computer that sits here in front of me on my desk and my iPad and my iPhone as an incredible gift from God. I mean I could almost come to tears over how precious they are to me. All these pagans are behind it. I know that. And they believe stuff I don’t believe. But for all the misuses that can be made of it, for me it is a treasure chest of the glories of God.”
    • Sometimes to wonder, we need to put our technology down and go out into the real world for a little while.
    • Sometimes to wonder, we just need to reflect on how amazing technology reveals a God who is far more amazing.
  • When we lose our ability to think deeply and wonder, what happens?

Our love for God gets choked out by distractions (Mark 4:18-19; Luke 10:38-42).

  • The final soil is one that accepts the seed and produces a plant with roots.
  • And yet something begins to happen.
  • Other things start to grow up alongside the plant… thorns.
  • These thorns are not necessarily bad things… money, food, friends, a Netflix series, a new game, fantasy football, etc.
  • And yet as these things pile up and the desire for them becomes stronger… they replace other things. And one of the first things that can get choked out is a love for God.
    • Like a young child in a toy store… we run from one thing to the next. From the Legos, to the nerf guns, to the bikes, to the games… meanwhile we fail to realize that we have lost our mom who we walked in with. The one who truly loves for us and cares for us is thrown aside in favor of lifeless toys.
  • How do we do this with technology?
  • We prioritize entertainment over communion with God.
    • Rather than reaching for a Bible in the morning we reach for a phone… or more likely we stay up too late on our phones and watching TV, and playing video games that we only wake up at the last possible second to run out the door and get to school or work.
    • We all do it? We tend to know we shouldn’t do it? But I want to ask why do we do it?
      • We find our screens more interesting then God.
      • But God is FAR more interesting than anything our screens can produce.
      • And the story he has written is writing is far better than the stories they tell.
      • It’s like being so interested in the pine cone at redwood tree produces that we completely fail to look up at the massive redwood tree standing in front of us.
    • 2) We trade lasting joy for trivial amusement.
      • We are told in Psalm 16:11 that in God’s presence there if fullness of joy and everlasting pleasure.
      • As we look to God, as we seek him, as we marvel at who he is both in creation and who he says he is in his word… what is at stake is fullness of joy.
      • And yet, we are often so satisfied to just stare at a screen and let it dish out temporary amusements. Amusements that don’t matter in the end…
        • Sorry, your SnapChat streak won’t matter in 5 years.
        • Sorry how far you make it on Destiny 2 won’t matter in 1 year.
        • Sorry, that YouTube video I just spent 5 minutes watching won’t matter next week.
      • And usually these temporary amusements leave us feeling unsatisfied.
        • No one binge watches a whole season of DareDevil and then looks in the mirror and says, “I feel great, that was a really productive use of my time.”
      • I’m not saying these things are bad in and of themselves, but what I am saying is that they are bad when they choke out our love for God.

 Hope: Look to the one who laid aside all distractions to come rescue us.

  • So how should we respond?
  • I think Hebrews 12:1-2 lays out a good battle plan for us…
  • This tells me two things…
    • 1) We are currently running a race. And like runners in a race we need to work hard to avoid, set aside, and control anything that might distract us from the race.
      • Like picture someone running a race in front of a stadium full of onlookers. And yet mid race they stop to take a selfie with a group of bystanders. You would look at them and think, “How foolish, he or she needs to stay focused and run!”
    • 2) We have someone else who ran the race before us. He is trailblazer, the pioneer, the one who has already run the race for us.
      • And his race included a cross, a grave, and a throne at the finish line.
      • See we will fail along the way. We will get distracted. We will waste time. We will trip and fall. We will feel like we can’t possibly make it another 7 laps. And yet Christ is the one who says, “Look at me. Follow me. You can make.”
      • He’s the one who picks us up when we fall. He’s the one who carries us along when necessary. And he will see us through to the finish line.

Application: Like runners in a race, we need to discipline ourselves for what is most important.

  • Be thankful if your parents have certain limits and boundaries in place with technology. They have them there for your good… to guard your heart and mind.
  • Be prepared for the day when you will set you own technology boundaries…
  • Some Recommendations…
    • Turn your phone off at night.
    • Leave your phone off for the first hour after waking up.
    • Take a weekly break from your phone – Turn it off for an afternoon, a day, etc.
    • Take Social Media Sabbaticals – Remove yourself from social media for a day, week, month.
    • Discover where you are most likely to be distracted and put some boundaries in place
    • Deliberately leave your phone behind sometimes – with friends, with family, going for a run, etc.
    • Replace your time with tech with something better… spend the first or last 15-30 minutes of your day reading and praying.
    • Take an afternoon that you might normally spend in front of the screen and plan to take a hike. Take an evening you would normally spend in front of the screen and start a fire outside and sit under the stars – and wonder.
    • Spend some extended time memorizing or meditating on a small chunk of scripture.
    • Read a book.
    • Be able to sit by yourself and just be.’


  • What are some of the good things we can celebrate about technology and our phones?
  • How much time do you think you spend in front of a screen each day? Do you think that is a good amount? Why or why not?
  • What things easily distract you? Is there a specific time you are easily distracted?
  • What are some other ways you think technology and your phone is effecting you?

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