The following are the notes from this week’s CROSSROADS lesson. Words in bold identify key phrases from notes pages handed out each week. If you would like copies of our slides, please feel free to reach and request them. As these are from the notes pages for each week, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors.
Let’s take a moment and go through a day in the life of “you”. Start at the beginning and go all the way through when you go to sleep at night. You get ready in the morning and might eat breakfast. You commute to school and attend class… you might even stay awake for all of it! At some point in time you probably eat lunch before having more class, then you come home. From here, different people have different things. Some people have chores, others have after-school activities. No doubt there is a lot of social time with friends, zoning out on your phone, and playing video games. Dinner pops up at some point before you brush your teeth, get a shower, and go to bed.
Break all of those activities into 15 minute increments. How many little increments do you have invested in sleep, school, and eating? Let’s throw those out because most of us don’t have a choice in most of that. Look at what you have left. There is probably a little pile for homework and after-school activities and probably a super huge pile for video games or your phone/tablet. Here’s the question: how big is your pile for praying? What about Bible study? What about dedicated time to serving other people selflessly?
For most of us, these last piles are not going to be nearly as large as the piles representing time spent on “us”. That doesn’t automatically make us “bad people”, but it does start to show what our priorities in life really are. Let me put it this way: when I was dating my wife, I had other things I could have been doing. I could have obsessed over school, I could have gone to the gym, or I could have spent time with my friends. Instead, I made time for my wife. I didn’t necessarily spend more time staring at my wife than I did anything else, but I did make time for her so that we could form a relationship.
Our relationships with God work in a very similar way. If God is important to us, we will make time for him. This doesn’t only mean reading your Bible and praying. What about things God tells us are important? What about serving other people? What about forming relationships with our parents? How big were those piles of 15 minute increments?
BUILDING OUR IDOLS
When you look at your entire day, you only have so many hours. Something adults say all the time is “there aren’t enough hours in a day”. That means that to make time for something, we have to make sacrifices. Are we upset that we have to make these sacrifices? Sometimes. In general, though, we are happy to make the sacrifice because we are conditioned to SACRIFICE for things we find the most important in our lives. It brings us a lot of joy and happiness to know we are dedicating what we find valuable… mainly our time… to the things we see as a priority.
There is a great picture of sacrifice-gone-wrong in the Old Testament. In the book of Exodus we see the Hebrews who have just been saved from Egypt. Moses parted the Red Sea and the Hebrews have been actively watching miracle after miracle on an almost daily basis. At one point, the Hebrews stop and Moses leaves the camp to spend time with God. The people in the camp almost immediately forget their priorities and instead of focusing on God and the miracles God has accomplished, they start focusing on their own needs. They asked Aaron, Moses’ assistant, if they could make personal sacrifices so that they could build themselves a replacement for God.
When the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make gods for us who will go before us because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!” Aaron replied to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the gold rings that were on their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it into an image of a calf. Then they said, “Israel, these are your gods, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 32:1-4)
Think about how crazy this is. These people have been witnessing the awesome power of God day-in and day-out and they want to build a fake idol to worship? You see, they revealed what was important to them: themselves. They didn’t really care about God in this moment; they cared about themselves and about feeling good that they could physically see and touch their god. So, they gave up their GOLD, their MOST VALUABLE POSSESSION, so that they could build something to worship in place of God.
This sounds crazy, but let’s bring this closer to home. As a teenager, what is your most valuable possession? What is something you can freely spend that has real value? For someone like Baron Trump, maybe it’s cash, but for most of us it’s OUR TIME. Let’s face it: most of you don’t have high-paying jobs or a robust stock portfolio. What you do have is time. So here is the hard question: what are you sacrificing your time to? Are you sacrificing it to your family, God, or something else?
This is a hard question to ask and an even harder one to answer. What makes it so hard is that it forces us to admit that we all have IDOLS in our lives. We have things that compete for the #1 spot in our priority list when it should be God. Does that mean you have to spend hours and hours in meditation, pondering deep theologies, and mumbling prayers? Absolutely not. What it means is that we have to be realistic about what we are willing to sacrifice in our life in order to make time for God and the things God wants us to do.
Here’s a good gut-check to see what things you idolize. If I took something away from you for a week, what would upset you the most? Could you do without your phone (including access to all the apps) for a week? What about a hobby? What about Fortnite or some other game? If you say “I could do without all of those things!” then maybe the question you should be asking yourself is if you feel it would take away from your joy. Do you have THINGS in your life that, if taken away, would take away your joy?
WE ALL HAVE VICES
I’m not going to be cute or vague when I say this: some of yall have issues. Don’t get upset because adults have them, too. If you think you’re the first generation to ever have a video game that is massively popular or magical devices in your pocket that you can’t get away from, you’re kidding yourself. When I was in college, there was a student that lived in my dorm. A group of us were hanging out in the hallway and heard him screaming at his computer playing World of Warcraft. We decided to figure out about how much time he spent on any kind of schoolwork including lectures, homework, and even just walking to class and we came up with 8 hours per week. EIGHT. If you thought he was going to fail his classes… you were right. He failed and quickly found himself on academic probation and eventually kicked out of student housing altogether.
Think your phone is cool? Yeah, we had wireless phones, too… but they were wireless house phones. When I was in high school I was glued to that thing talking to my high school girlfriend. The point is, we all have VICES. That doesn’t make you a “bad Christian”; it makes you human like any other sinner or saint who has ever lived.
Here’s the deal: being a “good Christian” doesn’t mean you don’t have any vices; it just means not letting your vices CONTROL YOU. If you have anything in this world that is controlling you, including your mood, your temper, and your feeling of self-worth, that’s something that is filling a role that should only belong to God.
Let me end this on a happy note: God doesn’t allow things like games, friends, and technology to exist because they’re “bad”. In fact, the Bible says that these things that you’ve been given SHOULD be enjoyed because God gave you those things as a blessing! God is just saying that those things shouldn’t matter. You should enjoy the things in your life, but only if you are mature enough and disciplined enough to know what’s really important. Take a look at the words of Solomon, the richest man to ever live.
There is nothing better for a person than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from him? (Eccl 2:24-25)
Solomon says that there is nothing wrong with enjoying the things God has given us on one condition: we realize that isn’t really what matters.
As Christians, we don’t enjoy our social life, our video games, our hobbies, or our accomplishments because they are, by themselves, something that fulfills us; we enjoy them because we know that these are things God has put in our life. The impact of having that mindset is that it allows us to detach when we need to so that God can use us in other ways. We can detach to spend time in pray, detach to spend time with our families, and detach to serve other people. We can detach because we are serving God and God is the only #1 priority.