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One afternoon in my home office, I was looking for my iPad. I had looked everywhere. There in the corner, I found my seven-year-old daughter with it, singing in a loud voice. She loves worship songs and was streaming a worship song on YouTube about obedience. The popular Brazilian worship song says: “I want to obey, I want to obey, and guard your Word in my heart. I give it all to you, Lord.”

It was an interesting sight. There she was, in the corner, looking at herself singing in the camera, singing about obedience. The problem was, she wasn’t obeying her daddy. She took my iPad without asking, and she knew it. Yet, she was singing about her obedience nonetheless.

The times we are living in are strange. It’s easier than ever to appear as if our conduct is wholly worthy, to appear as if we are fully obedient. But on closer reflection, there’s often far too much image and far too little depth.

Social media has given us this opportunity. There is more noise than ever before and lots and lots of information. On social media, for example, many people step on top of one other to share their most profound thoughts of the day.

Church leaders are not exempt from this recent phenomenon. It’s not uncommon to see pastors with hundreds of thousands of followers posting photos with inspirational phrases in front of a breathtaking backdrop. While the platitudes and phrases may offer some hope, it’s hard not to see irony in it all.

It’s easier than ever to appear as if our conduct is wholly worthy, to appear as if we are fully obedient.

While there’s more noise than ever before, perhaps there is also less deep reflection than ever before. And while there is a lot of emphasis on the form of communication, there is much less emphasis on what is actually communicated, resulting in form over function, method over purpose, a lot of speech but little meaning, a lot of platitudes and little gospel.

We could wonder how the Apostle Paul would respond in such times as this. In 1 Timothy, he spoke clearly to the younger believers, telling them to set an example. “Let no one despise you for your youth,” he said, “but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (4:12).

When I was a teenager, passionate for Jesus, I remember reading this verse and thinking: “That’s it! The older people should stop looking down on me. Stop despising me. Can’t they see I am doing great things for the Lord?”

I totally missed the heart of the verse. It’s about setting an example. The onus was on me—on us as young people. To aspire to honor Jesus above all in my communication, in my conduct, in my faith, in my purity. Both online and offline.

Sometimes young people ask me, “How far can I go?” Whether it’s physical boundaries in a budding romantic relationship, using alcohol, or watching films or television, the question is, “How far can I go and still consider myself a Christian?” And I always respond: “You’re asking the wrong question. The question is not, How far can I go? but rather, What will please the Lord?” Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:10, “Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”

Pleasing the Lord comes from a disposition of hunger for God. In the Beatitudes, Jesus taught us about hungering and thirsting for righteousness. That is the heart behind what Paul is asking the youth to embody. In writing about this beatitude, Martyn Lloyd-Jones noted that the Christian’s experience is exactly this:

The more I am full, the more I am hungry and thirsty, and the more I am hungry and thirsty, the more I experience Christ, and the more I experience Christ, the more I am hungry and thirsty, and it goes on and on. Imagine having a hunger and being satisfied at the same time.

This is the dynamic of the Christian life. And this is what young people need to pursue in their lives and in their discourse.

Imagine if that became the standard by which young people—and even all of us —judged our speech and conduct. By our hunger and thirst for Christ. It would have a radical impact, both online and in real life. It would result in fewer platitudes and more prayer. It would result in less talking and more listening. It would result in less speculation and more contemplation. It would result in a church not marked by media prowess but a church comprising young (and old) believers who humbly choose the old path of reflecting on the Word and going out and doing what it says. Even when a camera is not on, a video is not shot, and no one is watching. Even when there is just silence. Perhaps in the silence, in reflection, we will be better equipped to find out what pleases the Lord. Perhaps this is a lost art, worthy of our consideration.

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From the August 2020 Issue
Aug 2020 Issue