Every spring holy day season, we deleaven: thoroughly cleaning out lockers, backpacks, rooms, kitchen appliances, cars, garages and so on. And as we deleaven, we examine ourselves for hidden “leaven,” or sin—and work to deleaven ourselves.
Very often, God chooses this time of year to expose problems in our lives. Though this might often be uncomfortable and even painful, it is wonderful—because once something is exposed, we can deal with it. You cannot deleaven something if you can’t see the leaven.
How do you feel when God exposes one of your sins? How do you feel when you’re corrected for something you’re doing wrong?
The Apostle Paul wrote, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth …” (Hebrews 12:6). God corrects you because He loves you!
Correction doesn’t feel good in the moment: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (verse 11).
If we respond to God’s “deleavening” the right way, it yields beautiful results! It can be embarrassing—it can sting—but it helps you grow. It makes you more righteous! That is what this time of year, and in many ways, our whole lives, is all about.
Let’s look at one area where most teenagers in the world, and even many in God’s Church, have a lot of leaven: our use of technology.
We are so reliant on technology today. For students taking Imperial Academy classes online, technology makes receiving a godly education possible! Technology makes many things possible, but it also has serious potential problems. It makes it easy to find trouble. Perhaps even more dangerously, it makes it easy to hide trouble—to conceal what we’re doing from other people.
But even if you can hide your online activity from other people, God sees everything. And often, people who think they are getting away with things really aren’t. God often exposes activities that shouldn’t be happening and stops them. But—and this might surprise you—He won’t do that in every case.
Let me explain.
Consider all the safeguards already in place in God’s school and within His Church to guard against misusing technology. Imperial Academy, for example, has a rule that all websites other than the class link are closed, and instant messaging programs are prohibited during class. The Internet on the headquarters campus is equipped with several content blockers. For college students, access to the Internet turns on at 7 a.m. and turns off at 10:30 p.m. In 2020, Gerald Flurry banned smartphones at IA and Armstrong College. God is serious about trying to protect us!
But He also gives you free will. Deuteronomy 30:19 reads, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” God gives you a choice—and you must choose.
God does want to protect you, and will use your parents, your teachers, the school, the ministry, and even your peers to do that. But if you are determined to get yourself into trouble, God will let you do that! If you are determined to find ways around all the rules, boundaries and obstacles that are there to help you—if you’re determined to lie and deceive so you can do what you want, then there is a point when God will say, Fine. If that’s what you want, go ahead.
Many of you have parents who check on you. They may keep your computer out in the open, look at your browser history, read through your chats, and monitor your other online activity. This is a helpful safety net. But some of you don’t have that much supervision. And if you come to Armstrong College, you will have more freedom. The deans won’t read your texts and chats to make sure you aren’t communicating with people you shouldn’t or making off-color or inappropriate comments.
But of course, God does observe all your texts, chats and search histories, regardless of your age or circumstances. You are personally responsible before Him for the sites you visit, the movies you watch, who you talk with, what you say, what images you share with others. God sees it all and judges you by it.
Let’s look at a few areas of technology you should examine and deleaven where needed.
Texting and Chatting
Think about this statement from Jesus Christ: “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:33-34).
What is in your heart? Whatever it is, it will come out in your words and actions, and God will judge you for it, good and bad. We will all have to give an account for “every idle word” (verse 36).
In the age of texting, Snapchat, TikTok and other social media, “idle words” are easy to come by, and they spread like wildfire. Texting and chatting of itself is not necessarily wrong, but it easily leads to problems. I believe it is a bad idea for teenagers. I generally think even singles should avoid it, especially with people of the opposite sex.
Sending or receiving a text triggers your brain to release dopamine, which creates a pleasant sensation, a feeling of reward. You tend to crave more of those dopamine hits, so texting quickly becomes addictive.
Many people try to “multitask” by texting and chatting while doing homework or other activities. But multitasking is just another word for doing distracted, subpar work.
If you text and chat, examine the time you might be wasting. And closely examine the content of your messages: What are you texting about? Chats might be innocuous, but they can also be silly and worthless. And chats often include pictures, memes and gifs that lead to more time-wasting Internet-surfing for the next hilarious meme to share. Beyond that, it is so easy for this to devolve into inappropriate exchanges: insults, complaining, obnoxious opinions, worldly language, off-color pop-culture references, innuendos, raunchy jokes, sexually suggestive comments, flirting.
Would you be comfortable letting your parents or a minister read your texting threads?
What should you as God’s royal teens be talking about? “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). Can you honestly say all your text messages and group chats are “edifying” and “ministering grace”? Or are they corrupt?
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice” (verse 31). Does your conversation—online and in person—have any of those ingredients? Clamor means crying, uncontrolled grief. Evil speaking means slander, speech that hurts someone else’s good name, or speech against God. Malice means trouble, ill will, desire to injure, depravity, wickedness that is not ashamed to break laws. These things can cover a lot of topics. For example, do you casually put down other races or countries? What would the God who made those races think about that? Would the God who wants all people in all countries to be in His Family approve of something like that?
Now read the contrast: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Ephesians 4:32; 5:1-2). That is describing some beautiful speech!
Verses 3-4 continue, “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.” There are things you just shouldn’t talk about. Yet wouldn’t you say that “filthiness,” “foolish talking” and wrong “jesting” describe a lot of group chats? Proverbs 15:2 says, “The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.” Even if you or your friends are not “pouring out foolishness,” the memes, YouTube videos and Spotify songs you share might be.
As God’s royalty, you should be walking as children of light, not the darkness of this world (Ephesians 5:7-8). And when others start getting into darkness, don’t go along. Instead, rebuke and correct that! (verse 11).
“It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light” (verses 12-13; New International Version). Strive for light, not darkness, in your texts and chats.
This leads to the next point to consider and deleaven in your use of technology.
Lying and Deceit
Besides the content itself being a problem, more often than not, inappropriate chats or hangout groups have been started in secret, without parents’ permission or knowledge. Why go behind your parents’ backs? Because you know you are breaking their rules. As is often the case with this type of behavior, it is compounded by deceit.
Many teens are careful to delete text threads regularly, if not after each use. Many teens are good at covering their tracks, though some inadvertently make clumsy mistakes that enable parents to discover what they had wanted to hide.
Some teens have thought, Well, they took away this device, they deleted that app—but I outsmarted them. I found a loophole that enables me to keep listening to that music or watching those videos or chatting with that person. They’re not smart enough to take that away.
I hope you can clearly see how wrong that mindset is! Remember, God gives you a choice. If a teen is determined to skirt the rules, lie about it and cover his tracks—then congratulations, he found a way to sin.But that doesn’t make him smarter than his parents or anyone else. That just means he is choosing death—and God isn’t obligated to protect him from himself!
Numbers 32:23 says, “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out.” Teens, God will give you enough room to make mistakes. In many cases He will expose them before they become too entrenched and do even worse damage to your conscience—before you make irreversible mistakes. He will allow you to make mistakes to the degree that you can get a good look at yourself. He wants you to see how easy it is to get involved in things you shouldn’t—how one thing leads to another—how it starts taking you down the wrong road, until before long you’re doing things you would never have imagined doing before.
1 Corinthians 11:28 says baptized Church members must examine themselves before taking the Passover. But baptized or not, self-examination needs to be a regular part of all of our lives—especially this time of year.
Beware your human nature getting in the way of honest self-examination. We all tend to think we’re good because we don’t want to face our flaws. It is easy to underestimate how sinful you are and how much Satan influences you. It is natural to defend your errors rather than try to change them. In the process, you can easily deceive yourself and others, including your parents.
Teens, I challenge you to overcome these obstacles and really examine yourself! See where you have gotten caught up in worldliness—whether in bad language, suggestive memes, ridiculing people or any number of things.
Ask yourself this important question: How different am I from the world?
I want to encourage you to talk to your parents. Be honest. If you’ve been misusing technology, show them. Bring it all out into the light.Let God deleaven you before the holy days. Wherever He exposes a problem, thank Him for that, and then do all you can to root it out entirely!