Is Your Phone Changing You?
Is your phone changing you? That’s a question we all must ask ourselves in our iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, Samsung Galaxy S8 culture. It’s a question that must be addressed in the Church as we pursue the sanctification and gospel mission required of us. Tony Reinke’s 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You is a gospel-saturated, biblical, and sociological look at the phenomenon of the mobile phone and how it is re-shaping everything from our communication habits and skills to how we view the world around us. Reinke’s book is a must-read for any Christian with a cell phone—especially those smartphone users who hear that constant voice saying, “surely I have a new notification, right?!” and then look at their phone only to be left with sad reality of a phantom vibration and an unmet need to be desired.
Same Roots, Different Fruit
Reinke wisely reminds us in the introduction that “conversations about our smartphones often do not raise new questions; they return us to perennial questions every generation has been forced to ask.” Our phones didn’t create a new set of heart issues which the bible was unable to address. Rather, our phones are another example of something potentially good that Satan craftily uses to draw out the vices found deep within the recesses of our hearts. For many who haven’t adopted smartphones and social media, it is easy to look at the effects of these devices and forget that the cravings for approval, gratification, distraction, fear of missing out, etc. are symptoms of greater heart issues caused by our fallenness as humans. However, we can rest assured that God’s all-sufficient Word can address the underlying causes of our smartphone problems.
Repentance and Reliance Are Necessary
Throughout 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, Reinke is clear that our smartphone issues are worship issues. He poignantly reminds us, “If we worship idols, we become like the idols…Our idols dehumanize us; they petrify our souls, and dumb and dull and deaden all of our spiritual senses.” As Christians, if we analyze our smartphone habits and recognize idolatry, there are only two options for us: repentance and reliance. 1 John 1:9 reminds that “If we confess our sins, (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” There is no app, no knuckling-up, no deactivating, no shunning, and no self-discipline that can fix the root of our smartphone sin problems. The only answer is to repent and rely upon the faithful and just God who has become our Advocate by dying on the cross and offering us the free grace for true sanctification. It is God who is able to keep us from stumbling and who conforms us to the image of His Son. No other method for change is eternally effective.
The Choice Is Yours
In his conclusion, Reinke is unwavering that he does not advocate for a phone-free utopia envisioned by so many who see the impacts of smartphones. In support of his personal use of a smartphone, Reinke states, “For now, in this season of ministry, I will own a smartphone. But like never before, I can see how unnecessary the phone is to most of my life.” That is the path I find wisest in this season of my life. I will be more intentional in examining my smartphone habits as I seek to gain a higher view of Christ and His glory. However, Reinke applauds those who are willing to give up their smartphones for the glory of God in our culture:
Giving up a smartphone is not only one of the bravest and most countercultural acts of defiance possible today—it is a gift to others. If I’m a social-media junkie, my lack of self-control feeds the social media addiction in you. And the more I text and tweet and Snapchat, the more I drag you and others into the digital vortex of reciprocating obligation… To any addict brave enough to go smartphone free, I applaud you. You will serve the people around you in unseen ways that will never be noticed or celebrated.
If God is calling you to this radical stance, please walk in both obedience and humility. I thank you for your willingness to lead the way for others to follow. There are always saints that God will use in particular ways for His glory, and your stance will impact those who use their phones and those who don’t. There is room for smartphone-using and smartphone-losing saints in God’s future Kingdom.
A Sober-Minded Response
We must each be sober-minded as we ponder James 4:17, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” To answer the question, “Is your phone changing you?” We must all answer “yes!”. The difference is whether that “yes” means we are being changed for better or for worse. That is ultimately a question that must be answered through biblical, Christ-centered self-examination both in solitude and community. It is utterly crucial that we refuse to let a small piece of glowing metal numb us to the greatest glory experienced in the entire universe–God Himself. Eternity is far too valuable for that.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.