Theologian and Desiring God founder John Piper is weighing in on selfies, urging Christians and social media users to recognize that in a self-obsessed culture their self is actually meant to point to God.
In response to a question he was asked Monday about whether the large presence of selfies and self-centered social media is an indication that the last days are near — where 2 Timothy 3:1-2 speaks of "difficult times" and people being "lovers of self" — the theologian said yes and no.
"Vlogs, selfies, and self-focused social media are often (not always) an expression of the self-exaltation, self-preoccupation, and self-fascination of these last days," Piper acknowledged.
"But no, these new technologies are not the emerging of such final experiences of sin. They've always been there. The new technologies are giving new ways to express old sins."
While these are the last days, they are not the very last days, he continued, and Christians ought to wait in hopeful expectation of an all-satisfying Christ who will one day return.
"When Jesus came into the world as the long-expected Messiah, he declared the arrival of the kingdom of God, which the Old Testament anticipated as part of the last days," Piper explained.
And at Pentecost Peter explained that the supernatural events that were occurring were the fulfillment of the prophet Joel's words, when he said "and in the last days it shall be ... that I will pour our my Spirit on all flesh." These "last days" Joel was referring to in the time just after Jesus came to earth were the start of the "last days" and we have been living in them ever since, Piper argued.
That the Apostle Paul counseled Timothy to "avoid such people" who are "lovers of self" indicates that the last days had already arrived, because the people to avoid were already present, not 2000 years away from showing up brandishing smartphones, he said.
"God gave us a self, not so that we would have something to exalt in, but something to exalt with. He gave us a self, not to be the object of our joy, but the subject of joy. That is, not to be the focus of happiness in front of the mirror or the selfie, but the furnace of happiness in front of Jesus."
And the self is an instrument of worship, he went on to say, a "desire factory" that points to something outside of ourselves, the joy of the Lord, since nothing in this world ultimately satisfies.
"The desires of the human self are meant to lead us to God, in whose presence is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore," he said, making a reference to Psalm 16:11.