Text: Revelation 21:1-8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20

Post-Digital Fall – Redeeming the Digital Space (Full Sermon Manuscript)

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Continuation of Seven Deadly Digital Sins (Part 2)

Digital Sin No.: 4 Cyber Monday Sales/ E-Shop (Gluttony, Greed)

As much as many love these cyber sales, the other end of the strand of the rope is that it leads to overbuying. The extreme case is meaningless hoarding. And yes, there is also digital hoarding. These overbought items and hoarded stuff are manifestations of sin greed and gluttony. Another form of digital gluttony is the compulsive adding or following someone famous online. People tend to like the thought that they have a connection with a certain person—most likely, a celebrity. It might be a second-hand connection but the more we create these illusions that we are “friends” with those we do not know, or that they “follow” us on social media, the more it leads us to stay in our dream world.

Digital Sin No.: 5 Pornography (Lust)

President of Barna Research David Kinnaman (2016) reported that 71% of adults, 85% of teens, and young adults who have viewed pornography did so using online videos. Moreover, John Fesko (2020) noted that “9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls have been exposed to pornography before the age of 18. 50% of professing Christian men and 20% of Christian women are addicted to porn, and sadly, the most popular day for viewing it is on Sunday” (p. 78-79).

Muyiwa Oyatogun, my seminary friend from KY said, “Porn is devilish. Porn is demonic. Porn WILL destroy you, IS destroying you. Porn not only degrades the people (most times victims) engaged in the pornographic acts but the person actually viewing it. If you are a man or woman who watches porn, I ask, no, beg, no PLEAD with you…. GET HELP!”

This is a challenge for everyone, even for married couples. Porn deceives you that what is happening there on screen is the norm of sexual acts. This is not how God designed sex within marriage. Within marriage, it is personal. Each intimacy is unique to each married couple. You are taking away the joy of this gift if you compare or make porn the standard of your intimacy. Again, flee from porn; ask help. You do not need to keep it to yourself. Let someone help you. Professionally, maybe, but it can also be through accountability or a person who can pray for you.

Digital Sin No. 6: Digital Media Addiction (Idolatry, Sloth)

Digital media addiction is a behavioral problem. It manifests in an uncontrollable urge to spend most of the day binge-watching on Netflix, playing video games, scrolling through social media, and other forms of staying online. In New Zealand, playing video games ranked second as the medium for getting through the pandemic (IGEA 2022).

Moreover, reported by Statista Research (2020) that in 2019, “40 percent of U.S. online users aged 18 to 22 years reported feeling addicted to social media.” While another study by California State University demonstrates that “individuals that visited any social media site at least 58 times per week were 3 times more likely to feel socially isolated and depressed compared to those who used social media fewer than 9 times per week” (Hilliard 2021).

Digital Sin No. 7: Identity Theft, Hacking, and Piracy (Stealing, Greed)

A report by Gallup found out, in 2018, that Americans continue to worry most about cybercrimes. 71% worry about the hacking of personal data while 67% about identity theft (Talalaev 2021). It climbed up from the 2016 report of 67%, former, and 66% of the latter (Reinheart 2017). Moreover, hacking, identity theft, and piracy are all forms of stealing. Greed can also be a driving force for someone to steal.

Nevertheless, for many, indifference towards this cybercrime is common. Yet, “70,000 jobs a year are lost in the United States due to music piracy” (Spajić 2021). Spajić went on, “More than 80% of global online piracy is attributable to illegal streaming services.” Torrent downloads are still prominent around the globe. Indeed, there is a need for awareness regarding the effect of those who are negatively affected by digital piracy, hacking, and identity theft. Either piracy of music, movies, books, software cracks, or password stealing, is unacceptable.

Redeeming the Digital World:

Christ commanded his disciples, in the Gospel of Matthew, to “Go,” not “come,” and make disciples (28:19-20). Paraphrasing 9:37, the Indigitous—a ministry arm of Cru (former Campus Crusade for Christ)—slogan, “the harvest is plentiful [and online] but the workers are few [and offline].” Again, Christian missions is not limited to geographical locations; the church needs to ‘go’ where the people are.

In my recent work (Arceno 2021), I noted: “The church has the duty, through the Great Commission, to evangelize—be the salt and light—in the dark realities of the virtual world. Just as the heart of man is corrupted, and the physical world is fallen, thus the virtual world is marred with the sinfulness of humanity which needs redemption by anchoring it in the gospel of Christ towards the ultimate restoration—the telos of Christianity” (pp. 87-88).

Conclusion:

The church, as a whole, or at least 90% should commit to this vision. There is a wise saying, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov 29:18). Church, we saw the cultural gap, the reality of the post-truth age, and the presence of the next generation in the digital space, society, and their need. How many years have you been a Christian? (30? 20? Since birth?) Well, you have been partaking in the Word of God for many years. It is time for you to be the one feeding others. Let us all redeem, engage, and feed the next generation.

 

Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
February 6, 2022

 

This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript here.

 

 

Text: John 8:31-47

The Digital Fall (Part 1) – Full Sermon Manuscript

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Part 1 of the Seven Deadly Digital Sins

Introduction:

have you ever encountered that today’s generation seems to be all-knowing or knows a lot of things? Even tidbits of any kind of subject. It is because of accessibility to information and data. Unlike before, in the 1970s—to 90s, we needed to go to a public library, ask our teacher, or do serious research just to learn something that we wanted to know. Today, information is just in our hands.

The same is true for the church. Why memorize a bible verse if we can just Google it in a second? This dilemma was present even during the time of Plato, the Thamusian skepticism; he said, those who write down things will tend to become lazy memorizing important information about life.

Moreover, it also shapes who holds the authority of truth now. If you have watched the documentary in Silicon Valley entitled The Social Dilemma, then you will see that everything in social media, digital technology, and cyberspace is somehow manipulated data information (not all). Since post-truth (explain) is here and now, authority is no longer based on the person who preaches in front.

Background:

Digital technology has given us a lot of benefits in our daily living. Helland and Campbell said, “Many people using the Internet no longer distinguish between life-online and life-offline—rather, being ‘online’ has become part of their daily life and social existence. Checking emails, searching for information, and maintaining friendships and social networks are part of the everyday routine.”

However, during our discussion with the youth last Friday, they said that even though the Internet can be a good tool for communication, learning, and accessing information, it can be damaging, disruptive, and harmful. Indeed, same as the Creation narrative, even though God designed humanity to be “good” in Genesis 1 and 2, in Gen 3, the Fall of humanity came when sin entered.

Main Idea:

Focusing on the reality of the post-truth age, let us explore more about truth and grace as stated in our passage today. In our passage, Jesus maintained and stated several times the importance of truth and knowing the truth. He said, “Truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32). Indeed, Jesus was fully aware that he will liberate everyone who puts faith in him.

Jesus’ claim in verse 36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Yet, the Pharisees and other Jewish groups during that time were not convinced about the claim of Christ as the Son of God—who bears and is the truth—that will liberate everyone from the bondage of sin.

To this rejection, we all know that the contrast of truth is “lies/ lying” or in our day known as fake news. In verses 43-45, “Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” No wonder, God included in the ten commandments, that His children must not lie (Exodus 20:16). Sadly, in this post-truth age, fake news, conspiracy theories, and disinformation are normal to hear and see on the news today.

Digital Sin No 1: Social Media Fake News (Lies, Pride)

Filipino Theologian Rei Crizaldo (2021) says that “social media morphed into a toxic wasteland flooded with fake news, causing its inhabitants to suffer both online fatigue and trauma, and seeing friendships built over a long period of time ripped apart in an instant.”

Digital Sin No 2: Selective Posting #Selfie (Pride, Envy)

Instagram has all the evidence when it comes to selective posting. People tend to curate and judge each other’s lifestyle based on each posted picture (Raising 2015). Oftentimes, we take twenty photos and choose the best one to post online. The other extreme to this dilemma is to become online social climbers. We build our own ideal self that others would see who you want them to know you; not as the real you, but the ideal you.

This thought of getting away from shame and embarrassment of the real situation of one’s life creates a seed of pride that can outgrow one’s heart. It leads to corruption, misery, and guilt. At the very least, each selected post shouts that “I am having a great life!” even if it is unreal.

Digital Sin No 3: Cyberbullying/ Keyboard Warriors (Anger)

In a short explanation, “Cyberbullying is deliberately using digital media to communicate false, embarrassing, or hostile information about another person. It is the most common online risk for all teens and is a peer-to-peer risk” (O’Keeffe and Pearson 2011, pp. 800-804). As said, teens are the most vulnerable when it comes to this manifestation of the sin of hate, anger, and rage. Likewise, it is also the teens that are most likely the suspects.

Conclusion:

Finally, the sinful nature of humanity manifests in how we use technology in the digital world. Online and offline life are intertwined and no one can distinguish the difference. A Yale theologian said, “Today, daily living is no longer divided into online and offline times or practices.”

However, the downside is we let the works of the evil win in this battle. This is not just a virtual battle but a spiritual battle. In John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The tension between using technology for God or for the world is a battle we all need to fight. Fight with Christ—making sure that he is the center of this battle. In this post-truth age, do not take part in fake news, or any other disinformation of truth. Be for truth and grace, proclaim Jesus through your technologies.

 

Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
January 30, 2022

 

This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript here.

 

Text: Genesis 1:26-28; Revelation 21:1-2, 22:3-4

God, Creation, and Technology: From the Garden of Eden to the City of Restored Eden (Full Sermon Manuscript)

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Introduction:

AI, VR, IOT, these are all thoughts towards utopia, idealism, and the pursuit of having a perfect world. However, these realities have been influential to the church ever since the Covid pandemic happened. Sadly, the challenge and the transition to embracing digital technology as part of the church were not thought critically two years ago. Many thought that it will just subside after the trend of Zoom Online Worship, Hybrid services, and Worship Online streaming. That is why we are going to have this sermon series about God, the Bible, Technology, and the Church.

Background:

Nowadays, GenX (and Baby Boomers) people are digital immigrants who see digital tech as progress. While Millennials see digitality as a norm, essential. And the GenZ—digital natives—as language. The distinctions are needed to be understood to close the techno-cultural gap. Hence, the study of DT is significant to all generations.

The greatest technological influence on Christianity was the invention of the printing press by German innovator Johannes Gutenberg in the 1440s. The first book produced by Gutenberg’s Press was a Bible—known as Gutenberg Bible. This technology, his press, was the means to crystalize the Reformation Age of Martin Luther and other Protestants through printing pamphlets, books, church letters, and sermons.

Lastly, during Apostle Paul’s missionary journey, he utilized Roman’s road during the Pax Romana period. This road was an advanced technology made by the Roman Empire to connect their main city to the outskirts and neighboring towns. This road was mainly used by the military. Yet, Paul used this to advance the gospel of Christ as seen in Acts 28. To this notion, the roads that Romans built to move their legions were traveled by Christian missionaries of the first century. Now the network built by the US Department of Defense can be traveled by the Christian missionaries of the twenty-first century at virtually no cost.

Main Idea:

Is it biblical? In a word, yes. How? Let us explore this idea of the Theology of Making. Found in the book of Genesis, the biblical grounding from God as the Creator (Genesis 1) also extends to perceiving humanity as imago Dei. Humanity as the image of God bears the calling to create, rule over, multiply, and subdue all creatures on earth (1:26-28). The beginning of the principle that human beings, as the image of God, are called to be co-creators in this world. Part of this co-creating is the creative development of digital technology for society which includes the church.

The Bible starts in the Creation narrative (creating the world; Genesis 1) and ends in the New Creation (Revelation 21-22). God commanded Adam to give or “create” names for the animals (Genesis 2:19-20). God created covenantal bonds for redemption starting with Adam and Even (3:15) also known as the protoevangelium. Next, God asked Noah to build or “create” an ark to preserve life (6:14-18). Moreover, through Abraham (12:2-3), God will “create” a nation—descendants of Abraham (15:18).

The New Testament is also full of creating narratives. Jesus Christ “created” the church as the new covenant family (Matthew 16:18). The Holy Spirit creates “new hearts” (Ezekiel 36:26-27) in the believer’s heart and created a “new temple” as the indwelling place of God (Rom 8:9-11). Finally, fast forward to the coming future. On the day of the Lord, we await the New Creation (Rev. 21:1-2).

Does it Glorify God? Why is it important to ask this question? In 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” A similar passage in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Yes, because it is conforming to God in His creation, and it serves its purpose. To create something is a part of our daily experience. We create a decision, you create a meal for breakfast. We create relationships. We are even called to procreate to multiply. Even in the church, we are called to create a worshipful atmosphere.

Conclusion:

Again, technology is part of God’s providential wisdom. God is not surprised with these things that our society develops and creates. However, the church must maintain to be part of this engagement. We are not mere consumers and observers of this technology. We ought to take part in this techno-cultural shift. Remember in the 90s and early 2000s, what mobile brand was famous during that time? Nokia, right? However, in the following years, they have been left behind from the rapid changes of development. Likewise, the church will be left behind if we will not be critical of this matter. Digital We praise God for technology. We can continue worshipping God even many of you are there Online, via Zoom, and FB Live.

 

Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
January 16, 2022

This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript here.