Trying to Come Up with the Perfect Instagram

I was sitting in church this morning, Easter morning, trying to think, “OK, how can I get the perfect combination of pictures to stitch together for my Instagram?”

I was in the back in the sound booth, so I had a good vantage point of the choir up in the front. I snapped a quick picture of them while they were singing about Jesus’ resurrection. Seeing as how I was in the sound booth, I thought, “Why don’t I get a good picture so that my followers can experience everything I’m doing?” Snapped one of the sound board.hc-social-media-icons-istock-23515213

As soon as I did, a thought hit me. How silly are you, Zach? Why does it matter what you post on Instagram?

Holiday Fever

With holidays like this, I know I get tempted to try to post the best social media thing possible. Here are my attempts:

  • Good Friday: “Praise the Lord for this day so many years ago, when my Savior took the punishment I deserve for the sins I committed today, yesterday and every day until I die.”
  • My birthday: Instagram stitch, “Incredible 21st birthday with some great friends and family, great food and a great Elon soccer victory in PKs. God is good ALL the time. #PraiseHim#turning21.”
  • Election Day 2012: “Today, I pray America would not trust in a Romney or an Obama, but in Jesus, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Prince of Peace, whose Kingdom will last forever after the old heaven and old earth have passed away.”

Now, before I move forward, let me say that I think it can be good to post things like this on these days. I believe that we can use social media to lift up the truth in Scripture and point people to Jesus. But I want to challenge myself, and you who might read this, with something.

Do you try to make the best holiday-related status possible? Why? Do you try to be “more spiritual” than others on Facebook?

I do. Good gracious, I do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve posted a status that in some way attempts to bring glory to Christ, but I check my Facebook every two minutes for the next 30 minutes to see how many people appreciate my statement with a like or a comment.

I’m not writing this to bash those who might like or comment on my statuses or links or pictures or Instagrams or whatever. I’m just saying that more often than not, there’s a part of me that yearns for that social media affirmation like nothing else.

But is that how it’s supposed to be?

Who Are We Speaking to Please?

A week ago, I posted about speaking the gospel with boldness, pointing particularly to Paul’s testimony in 1 Thessalonians 2. I want to zoom in on one particular part of verse 4:

…so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

Paul was speaking specifically about preaching the gospel in the face of opposition, and moving forward in spite of the opposition because we’re ultimately accountable to God. I think the same thing can be applied when speaking about social media.

Writing about this for The Gospel Coalition, Dustin Neely says: “Social media offer us a glimpse into our worldly significance with such tantalizing immediacy as our blog and tweet stats. Many of us check our stats because we are more concerned with the applause of man than the affirmation of Jesus. We forsake justification in the gospel for seeking to be right in our followers’ eyes. In these moments, we are guilty of doing the exact opposite of what we set out to do in the first place—glorify God and serve others.”

I like the way Neely puts it. The temptation with social media comes when we are too concerned with people liking what we post and finding our affirmation and joy in that rather than in the fact that Jesus laid everything out on the line for us.

I’m there. All the time. I tweet, Facebook, Instagram to seek the applause of man. Ultimately, it’s a short-coming on my part, not relying on the satisfaction of Christ’s sacrifice and love for me to find my purpose and significance.

We Have All We Need

I love what Peter says about God in 2 Peter 1:3 –

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…

Peter’s saying that, through knowing God, who’s called us to know His glory and His excellence, we’ve got all we need for “life and godliness.” There’s so much in that, so much that you could probably write a whole book, but I want to focus on one thing. To live, we need affirmation and significance. We were created for that. We were created to find it in God.

crossjesusAnd He’s given it to us, by allowing us to know Him and love Him, by showing us His love for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. That’s all we need to be satisfied. We need to be thinking on the truth that God has given us all the joy and satisfaction we need in the fact that we have a relationship with Him.

Much harder done than said, of course. But I would encourage those of us who struggle with seeking affirmation through our social media posts, or through anything that’s not God, to remember what God did to give us the opportunity to have a relationship with us.

He died.

Don’t waste that, especially for the sake of a few likes or a retweet. Those things are temporary. God is eternal.

As Neely aptly ends his blog post: “We are more excited about what strangers say about us that what the God of the universe has already spoken over us through the cross. We are stitching together a flawed coat of fig leaves out of followers, “friends,” and retweets to try to hide insecurities that can only truly be addressed in the gospel. But, by God’s matchless grace, if when we are tempted to go to the the fleeting approval of man, we instead go to the eternal approval of God that is ours in Christ—the approval unaffected by the abundance or absence of re-tweets—we, our followers, and the kingdom are better for it.

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Boldness in God to Declare the Gospel

In the film God’s Not Dead, a young man named Will stands up for the existence of God in his philosophy class, giving three 20-minute presentations explaining evidence for the presence of the Creator. He faces some fear, but he’s unwavering in his commitment to preach the truth. Watch the trailer here if you haven’t seen it.megaphone

Will expresses a boldness that not many of us, I feel, would show easily. He faces obstacles: a stubborn teacher, a classroom full of students who don’t believe as he does, a girlfriend who doesn’t want him to go against the grain, overwhelming academic disapproval.

The Bible has an answer for how we should handle obstacles like that. Paul offers it to us in 1 Thessalonians 2:2,

But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.

Paul and his crew had boldness in God to “declare the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.” As any study Bible would tell you, Paul and the disciples faced constant persecution of their physical bodies, as well as mockery and spite from an unbelieving world. He writes that they “had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi,” and the Bible, Acts specifically, records that Philippi was not the only place they suffered this treatment.

I often get scared to speak the truth in the middle of “persecution.” But these guys suffered much greater than I ever have and probably ever will, and they still preached the truth. They went to work even when their friends were being killed. Why can’t we do the same? Fear, of course. But the Spirit can give us boldness to be a witness for our God, to declare the gospel, the good news.

We can speak the gospel in a number of ways: straight up gospel-sharing, bits of truth in conversation, in classroom discussion, anywhere. But often we lack boldness. We need to go to God for the boldness that we lack. I cannot sit here and say, “I can’t be bold.” That’s a lie. Paul and his crew faced death, yet they stayed bold.

I think part of that came from their perspective. Verse 4 of the same chapter says:

but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

They had the perspective that they were speaking to please their Lord, the one who saved them, the one who will test their hearts. Man does not have the final say on our eternity like God does. Are we going to live to please Him? A lot easier said than done. We fear what people think about us. But our purpose to serve God. I encourage you, and tell myself, to keep that in mind.

I pray that all of you who might read this might grow to have the same kind of boldness that Paul and his crew had. I pray that I would have it. Let’s live to be bold, going to God every day for this boldness. We’re called to that life.