The iPhone 5, boredom, and the gospel

September 20, 2012

Apple recently announced their new flagship phone, the iPhone 5. Yes, it's faster, thinner, brighter, and cooler than its predecessors. Every bit of it is meticulously designed to increase productivity, give you more "surf time", and make your friends jealous because your phone has a bigger, clearer screen and can do so many other things that theirs can't.

No matter how much Tim Cook and the folks at Apple tell us how "amazing" their products are, one thing remains true about every one of them - we will eventually be bored with them. The luster of the upgrade wears off, and we find ourselves in the same cyclical pattern, eagerly waiting for the next new model because that one surely will solve all of the issues and leave us fulfilled.

You'd think we would get the point after a few of these cycles. The "newness" is supposed to satisfy us, right? These things are supposed to make our lives more productive, which in turn frees us up for the things that are "really important". That ultimately makes the world a better place for everyone, right?

Wrong.

Think about the world we live in for a moment. The expensive electronic boxes in our pockets and purses can quickly provide us with virtually all of the information that exists. Connecting with celebrities and the common man alike is now as simple as pressing a few buttons. Our culture tells us that knowledge, relationships, power, and money are the smooth highways that lead us to joy. Yet our exorbitant, ever-connected "smart" phones have somehow made our generation as bored and as vacuous as ever. We set our email clients to check for new messages every 5 minutes and we log in to Facebook before we even get out of bed believing the lie that the next notification or message will somehow alleviate or at least try to soothe the ache of our boredom. And in doing so we drink again from the broken cistern of this present evil age.

Our joylessness is not due to a lack of information availability or a lack of people to connect with. Being disconnected from our Maker, His glory, and the grand gospel story He is writing is the sole reason for our boredom. Jesus, the One who formed the human heart and gives us breath every day, invites us into participation in that story. He was not joking when He said:

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
(John 15:10–11 ESV)

Without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit to obey, abide in, and treasure Jesus above everything else, we stand powerless under the sway of the world's promises of pleasure and joy. Even after our new birth we daily face our proneness to feed on the promises of the world instead of the promises of God's word. Without diligently taking heed (Luke 12:15, Luke 21:34), we too can still be led down the same upgrade-to-boredom-to-upgrade path over and over.

Consciously recognizing that we are bored is the first step to exposing the promises of the world. Though our trinkets and toys may be helpful tools in some instances, we must acknowledge that those things we did not even have 5 years ago are failing to bring us the joy we long for. Then, by our own will and the power of the Holy Spirit, we turn our eyes to Jesus and recall the greater story we are a part of, over and over again. More than a 3 hour action movie we can watch on our devices, we have been invited to be a participant in the epic saga of the ages!

My fear, however, is that there are enough new gadgets and upgrades coming out to numb us to our boredom. The promises of the world and of the gospel ultimately leave us joyless, and we remain bored. As Texas pastor Matt Chandler so eloquently said, "You're not going to hit the lows that Job did to find out that God is great, and you're not going to hit the highs that Solomon did that caused him to say 'it's all meaningless'. You're going to get stuck in that 'nebulous middle', Tweeting, texting, and Facebooking your way right up to eternity." What a fearful thing.

Tomorrow, tens of thousands of mostly bored people will wait in a long line at an Apple Store to spend at least $200 on their new iPhone 5. If you are planning on being one of those individuals, know that I am not condemning you, just warning you - don't fall into the trap. You were made for Someone and something much greater than Tim Cook's latest invention. May the glory of the gospel of Jesus be our sole source of lasting joy and pleasure both in this age and the age to come.

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About the author

Joshua Hawkins is a pastor, Bible teacher, and content creator for disciples of Jesus from College Station, Texas. He co-hosts The Apocalyptic Gospel Podcast, a weekly audio show exploring how a first century Jew would have understood the Gospel. He's also an all-around tech nerd and enjoys road cycling.

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