#struggle - Week 5: "Rest"


Today we are going to conclude the sermon series that has taken us all the way through the month of August--a sermon series we've entitled #struggles: Following Jesus in A Selfie-Centered World.  We've been thinking together over the past several weeks about how technology and social media have shaped the way we think about what it means to be content, to have real relationships, to be fully authentic, show genuine compassion... 

And today we are going to take the final step in our journey as we explore how technology and social media have shaped the way we view what it means to rest. 

Turn in your Bibles to Hebrews chapter 4 verses 9-11.  

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works,[a] just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

In Genesis chapter 2 the narrative tells us that God rested from all his work. After creating for six days, God rested on the seventh.  When the Hebrew people are freed from their 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God recalls this regenerative act and compels those who would be in covenant with him to do the same--to rest on the seventh day of the week.  

This observance of a day of rest, which became known as Shabbat, or Sabbath was to remind the people that they were no longer slaves.  They did not have to work without ceasing for the benefit of an empire.  They could push back against the cultures around them, and live differently.  

Over time, however, keeping the Sabbath became a bit of a chore for a lot of Jewish people, and there was a sincere desire on the part of many Hebrews to conform to the rest of society--to work and to earn, and to gain more wealth.  Taking a day off was seen as lazy in the first century.  

So the writer of Hebrews sets up this passage with a look back and also a look forward.  The look back is to the idea of Sabbath, and what it meant to the people of Israel, when they were finally freed from the slavery of working solely for the benefit of the empire.  There is "a Sabbath-rest for the people of God" the writer declares--a mindset, a way of being, a lifestyle that pushes back against the status quo, especially when the status quo is so draining and life-taking.  

And much like the Torah, the writer here frames the conversation about the Sabbath in life or death terms.  God unequivocally stated that if His people didn't keep the Sabbath they would die.  He didn't mean that he would destroy them, but that they would be destroyed by their actions.  In the same way the writer of Hebrews states that those who find new life in Christ, are given the opportunity to have a new sense of Sabbath that extends not to merely keeping rules and regulations for a particular day, but the kind of rest that affects all aspects of your life.  

We are going to come back to this in a moment.  
But first, I have to tell you about my love/hate relationship with technology. 

To begin with, I love my iPhone.  I love my iPad.  I love my Macbook Pro.  I am waiting until my birthday or Christmas so I can start loving my iWatch.  I have an Apple sticker on my car that lets everyone from my tribe know what's up.  I love being connected, I love being able to be informed about what is happening in the world, or around the corner.  I love knowing what my family and friends are up to on random Tuesdays in February.  I also love the fact that when I am traveling I can use my phone to find the best restaurants, best hotels and then use the same phone to help me get there quickly.  I love that I can be in touch with work and home wherever I happen to be, which makes my schedule more flexible, and makes me more productive.  

That's a lot to love, I know.  

But I also hate some things, too.  And I guess hate is too strong a word to use for this so I will defer to the words strongly dislike instead.  I strongly dislike the fact that I am so connected and so informed that I am never out of touch with people who sometimes I don't feel like talking to at the moment.  I also don't need to know everything that happened in the world last hour--some of it is depressing, heck all of it is depressing and it makes me feel like poop for most of my day.  I also strongly dislike the fact that to some degree my technology owns me.  I have this Pavlovian response every time my phone buzzes, vibrates, tweets, plays a tune, or otherwise indicates that someone is emailing me, texting me, calling me, facebooking me, or tweeting me.  The other day I was in a meeting with a bunch of pastors and someone's phone vibrated on the table and we all instinctively reached for our own just to check it.  

To coin a phrase--Technology is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.  

Here are the top 7 ways that you know you are addicted to social media:

You plan your #TBT’s a week in advance 
Your cat has it’s own Instagram page 
You look forward to going to the bathroom so you can own some candy crush while you are in there. 
You change your Facebook profile more than a 12 year old girl 
You sleep with your phone like a teddy bear 
You know what Kim Kardashian wore today. and yesterday. and the day before that. 
You came on to your spouse by texting them #areyouinthemood? 

There is actually a recognized phobia that is has now become widespread and totally associated with smart phone technology.  It's called Nomophobia--the fear of being away from your phone.  

Listen to these crazy statistics.  

58% of people don’t go one waking hour without checking phone
59% check email as it comes in and 89% check it daily on vacation
80% of teenagers sleep with their phones 

84% of people believe they couldn’t go one day without a phone

For many of us our phones are the last thing we check before we go to bed at night, just to see if we missed any texts, emails or Facebook status changes.  And they are the first things we reach for in the morning.  

I used to smoke cigarettes:  two packs a day.  I would often have a cigarette close to bedtime--out walking the dog and whatnot.  And my cigarette pack was the first thing I reached for in the morning after I had a cup of coffee on deck.  

So yes, our phones have become as addicting as cigarettes.  

The writer of Hebrews declares to us that God has a special rest in Christ for those who are willing to embrace it.  Like I said, this is more than just keeping rules and regulations.  It's a lifestyle, a way of life, a mindset.  The special Sabbath we find as followers of Christ frees us from the tyranny of the urgent, the slavery to our schedules and allows us to find newness of life, rest, regeneration.  

Almost all of the moments where Jesus has conflict with the religious elites of his day it comes over the Sabbath.  He healed on the Sabbath, which apparently was a no-no.  His disciples were walking along in a field on the Sabbath and picked some grain to chew on.  Not a lot of grain, just enough to chew on.  And this was apparently work, so some religious elites got their robes in a bunch over it and spouted off to that effect.  Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."  

The Sabbath is a gift.  Rest is a gift.  But what we do now instead of worrying about whether we are keeping some religious rules, we never stop to rest because if we do, we fall behind at work, or we feel guilty for taking time for ourselves, or we feel like we aren't being good parents because we aren't over scheduling our kids.  

St. Augustine once wrote, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our soul is restless until it finds rest in you."  

So how do we find rest in a world that is being shaped so sharply by our reliance on social media and technology.  

Well first, we need to be still.  Psalm 46:10 simply states:  "Be still and know that I am God."  

In our historic sanctuary we have this verse emblazoned on the wall in gold lettering.  This past week I conducted a funeral in there and a man I've never met greeted me at the door.  He'd been sitting on the side of the sanctuary where the verse was positioned.  "That verse," he told me, "that verse is what I needed to see today."  He was choked up for some reason, and I asked him why it was so meaningful to him.  He said, "I need to do that.  I need to be still and just know God, but it's so hard to do."  

How many of us feel like that, though.  We feel like there is a rest that is in Christ, that God could give us--but we can't even sit still long enough to know that God is God and we are not.  

Have you ever been around a small child that won't sit still.  If not, I can let you hang out with my soon-to-be five year old.  Seriously.  Take him home with you to try this experiment.  Just long enough for his mom and I to nap--is about how long it will take, if you were wondering. 

Try being still just now.  Let's see if we can go for a minute.  I'll time us.  

That seemed like forever, right?  So here's what I want you to do.  I want you to try being still and quiet for 5 minutes today.  No TV, phone, books, no conversations, no distractions at all.  Just total silence and solitude.  

I've been trying this while I drive in to work most days.  I have a 45 minute drive, so I turn the radio off, put my phone away so I won't be tempted to answer it or use the iPod... and I just sit and drive in silence.  It's magical.  

So if you feel like you can do 5 minutes okay, try 10 the next day.  And then keep adding time until you have some serious silence and solitude time worked out.  Maybe in that time you can journal, or pray.  But mostly just be still and know that God is God and you are not.  

Second, you need to make a plan.  Proverbs 13:6 says, "Righteousness guards the person of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner."

I have recently started coaching football on my son's city team.  This doesn't come as a surprise to anyone here, but you need to have an offensive plan and a defensive plan if you want to be successful in football.  But when you are coaching, you start to realize this simple fact on a very real, very practical level.  If you don't have a plan for either,  or if you focus on one to the detriment to the other, you are probably going to lose.  

So when it comes to finding rest, you need to have an offensive plan and a defensive plan.  

Think about this right now.  You may want to even write something down on your notes as we talk through what this might look like.  

A defensive plan is all of the things you won't or don't.  In other words, you won't have your phone on you during a meal, in fact your entire family will put their phones away during a meal.  When you are on vacation, you will tell people, "don't call me unless it's a real emergency--the kind of emergency that I would think is an emergency."  Then don't answer your phone--get the message and decide if it is emergency worthy.  Don't answer email, either.  Just don't.  Form your own list, of course, but you get the picture. 

An offensive plan is all of the things that you will do, and will add to your life in order to replace the things that you are taking away.  This would include, adding in some daily Bible reading and devotional time each and every day.  Finding time for solitude and prayer.  Actually resting during the times you have designated as restful times.  Go on vacation and enjoy every moment of it.  Take time during the week to eat and laugh with friends, spend time with your grandkids, take your son to a ball game.  

God has a special rest in Christ for you and I.  A rest that is freed from the worry over what comes next, anxiety over death, fear from illness and decay.  We shouldn't care about any of those things because Jesus has overcome them. Death and sin and ickiness don't get to win.  Jesus does.  

As I think about that man I met this week, my heart goes out to him. The twisted pain on his face was undeniable.  He had reached a point in his life where he knew the things that mattered, he saw what was life-giving and regenerative, but still couldn't take the step to fully embrace that Sabbath lifestyle.  

What will we do going forward from this place today?  Will we immediately check our phones to see if someone texted us? Left a message on our last Facebook post?  Or will be simply take a few moments to be in the moment.  

Technology is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.  Don't let it have mastery over your life.  Turn that over to Jesus.  And rest.  

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