For as long as I can remember, sunflowers have fascinated me. That their dark faces turn to follow the blazing sun is a marvel and miracle of God’s masterful design. Their gloriously golden petals are pretty amazing too!
Sunflowers bring to mind Psalm 34:5, which says, “they looked to Him and were radiant…“
Turning toward the sun is essential if a sunflower will be what it was created to be and produce what it was designed to produce. The sun does the work of transformation from seed, to stalk, to resplendent sunflower.
Like sunflowers, we become what we behold.
What are you looking at?
“We’re not simply creatures of our environment. We are creatures shaped by what grabs our attention,” writes Tony Reinke, author of Competing Spectacles.1 And there’s probably more grabbing our attention than we realize.
“We are constantly being formed by everything around us… Everything from shopping centres to televisions to motorways are influencing the way we view the world,” says T. M Suffield.2
Naturally, that includes our screens—phone, TV, computer. “Your scrolling is not neutral. You are becoming something. Your search history tells a story about your soul,” Jeff Mingee warns.3
That’s sobering, isn’t it?
So, what are you looking at? What has your attention? What are you focused on?
If you will become what you look at, what are you becoming?
After a season of allowing my kids to watch a Dora the Explorer video almost daily, I found myself frequently saying, “Let’s go on an adVENture!” just like Dora, without even realizing it. Even though I didn’t watch the show with the kids, my mind passively absorbed it as I heard it in the background, and I became like Dora.
We’re always thinking whether or not we’re aware of it. Something has our attention at all times, even if it’s not intentional. The mistake most of us make is assuming that entertainment or “mindless scrolling” is “a space free of thinking…” suggests Abigail Dodds.4
With the evolution of technology, our beholding is more passive than ever before. We don’t even have to search for something to look at. Our social media feeds scroll endlessly, feeding us stuff we didn’t ask for. Video streaming services auto-start a new episode with no initiative from us. We do nothing, and we’re fed infinite spectacles to behold.
When we become complacent about our passive thinking—the thinking that happens when we’re not intentionally thinking—our becoming happens passively. We drift away from the glory of God and become something or someone we never aspired to be—almost accidentally, like me and Dora.
If we want to become more like Jesus, trying harder won’t get us anywhere. Even the strongest of human wills cannot succeed at the impossible feat of becoming perfect. Transforming from broken, sinful people into God-glorifying saints doesn’t happen by formulaic efforts. It happens from the inside out—it’s the work of the Holy Spirit in hearts that delight in Him.
Are we delighting in Christ?
I fear there’s an epidemic of boredom in the Church. Society has conditioned us to crave constant input, to pursue the ever-present dopamine hit accessible via media, to continually seek the next thrill. We have insatiable appetites, and our fruitless efforts to satisfy them have led to a world of complacent Christians who snooze at the feast of God’s Word.
Jesus Christ bores us.
“To be bored with Christ is for our minds and hearts to be disconnected from the greatest thrill of the cosmos, severed from God’s very purpose for this creation — as a theater to display the worth and beauty of his Son. There’s no greater catastrophic loss imaginable to a soul than to grow weary of Christ, the Spectacle of all spectacles — the spectacle for which everything else exists,” states Tony Reinke.5
How do we prevent ourselves from succumbing to apathy? How can we deflect indifference and restore delight in the Lord?
We say of things like black coffee, “It’s an acquired taste”. That means we start off disliking it, but we learn to enjoy it. Our appetites can be trained and retrained. When we want to eat a healthier diet, we replace unhealthy foods with healthier options, and eventually, our appetite has changed so we crave the healthy stuff. Our bodies learn to delight in healthy food because it’s the healthy food that truly satisfies.
In the same way, delight in Christ can be learned. We must retrain our spiritual appetites to desire what truly satisfies. And nothing truly satisfies our souls but Jesus Christ.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4, ESV).”
Just as we read the labels on our food packaging to discern what’s healthy to eat, we must discern what we feed our souls. If we want to become God-glorifying disciples who delight in Jesus Christ, we must be intentional about what we behold.
Abigail Dodds suggests we begin “by refusing to put ourselves in the polluted streams of entertainment, and acclimating and habituating our minds to righteousness through God’s word and the echoes of his stories we find in other stories. We know when to destroy the strongholds of wrong thinking when we’ve tasted what right thinking tastes like, when we’ve fed on it, when it’s nourished our thoughts and imaginations.”
If we desire to become more like Jesus, we must know Him and learn to think like Him. We must learn to discern the messages of what we behold. What messages are you receiving from your social media feeds? What’s the message of the book you’re reading or the show you’re watching?
Bankers learn to discern counterfeit money by familiarizing themselves with the real thing. The more they know about authentic currency, the easier they can discern a fake. If we spend more of our time consuming the world’s messages than God’s message through His Word, how can we discern what is true and what is false?
The Bible is a lens through which we can discern what we behold.
“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell [think] on these things (Philippians 4:8, CSB).”
Behold Jesus & Become Like Him
All this requires discipline. It’s not effortless. We practice discernment. We make choices about how we spend our time, what we consume, and what we think about. But the transformation—the becoming—happens almost automatically. It’s a symptom of our beholding.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV).”
One change can bring about the God-glorifying transformation we desire—simply choosing to delight in “eternal things”, to delight in the things that reflect the glory of God, instead of mindlessly beholding and feasting on the things of this world.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2, ESV)…”
For me, lately that’s looked like embracing silence, staying off social media completely, listening to worship music without doing anything else at the same time, and scheduling time into each day for reading books that reflect God’s glory. Choosing to delight in Christ will look different for everyone.
John Piper urges us, “Do you want to become holy? Do you want to become new so that you see like Jesus, think like Jesus, feel like Jesus, love like Jesus, care like Jesus, judge like Jesus? If you do, there is an agenda: watch Jesus—a lot.”6
As we retrain our appetites, learn to delight in the Lord, and turn our faces toward His glorious Son, like glowing sunflowers, we will reflect His glory without even trying. He does the work. We need only to gaze at Him in wonder.
- Reinke, T. (2019). Distracted Spectacle Seekers. In Competing Spectacles (pp. 19), Crossway Books.
- Suffield, T. M. (2021, August 30). The Liturgy of Social Media. Retrieved February 15, 2022, from https://nuakh.uk/2021/08/30/the-liturgy-of-social-media/.
- Mingee, Jeff (2021, September 13). The Scrolling Soul. Retrieved February 15, 2022, from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/scrolling-soul/.
- Dodds, Abigail (2019, October 6). We Become What We Watch. Retrieved February 15, 2022, from https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/we-become-what-we-watch.
- Reinke, Tony (2020, November 15). Who Will Have Your Attention? Retrieved February 15, 2022, from https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/who-will-have-your-attention
- Piper, John (2021, September 1). We Become Like The Videos We Behold. Retrieved February 15, 2022, from https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/we-become-like-the-videos-we-behold