CONSUMER OR CHRISTIAN?

Don’t know about you, but it often puzzles me when (evangelical) Christians are regularly outdone by those outside of the Church when it comes to doing good toward our neighbour. Some will argue that the latter are trying to score ‘brownie points’ – I’m not sure about that. A few weekend’s ago I was at a local disadvantaged school picking up some teens for leadership training, only to find two separate secular organisations toiling under a scorching sun in voluntary upliftment projects.

Recently I have read and re-read Phil. 2:1-11. It points to Jesus’ self-humbling in serving mankind and challenges us to do likewise, “Don’t be selfish… Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (of course Phil. 2:1-11 was a very early hymn, written very close to Jesus’ life on earth). German theologian D. Bonhoeffer loved to speak of Jesus as “The Man for Others.” Shouldn’t we follow in Jesus’ footsteps? (Bonhoeffer did)

Sadly the Church has been profoundly influenced by Western individualism, which I guess sprang from materialism, even a contemporary gnosticism/dualism (which produces self-centred ‘superspiritual’ Christians with not much time for the  ‘worldly’ needs of others). Mix all this with a good dose of media-driven consumerism, and we arrive at a kind of ‘ATM Christianity’ (God performs at the push of a button, a-la-Copeland et al). We used to sing a worship song ‘It’s all about YOU’ – if we were more honest we might as well sing ‘It’s all about ME!’ This egocentric ‘gospel’ is found in pulpits, ‘Christian’ bookstores (check the top 10 books), ‘Christian’ TV and radio stations across the globe. The harvest of this deception is of course mass unhappiness and disillusionment, and little (if any) glory to Jesus.  

Contrast our noble and privileged Christian calling! Gen. 12:1-3 (God’s people are ‘blessed to bless the nations’), Ps. 41:1-3 (‘Oh the joys of those who are kind to the poor‘), Mk. 8:34-35 (‘If any one wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me’), Jam. 1:27 (‘Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you), etc. Does this mean devaluing ourselves as those created in the image of God? Never! (Mt. 22:34-40)
To summarise, in our serving of others, we give expression to our greater and grander calling viz. to fulfil God’s eternal purposes in Christ on earth (Gen. 1-2; Col. 1:15-20; 2 Tim. 1:8-10), thus bringing Him the honour due His Name!

How
 do we migrate from consumerism to Christianity? Some practical pointers:

  • Regular reading of and meditation on the Scriptures…
  • Allow the Cross to ‘kill’ our self-centredness (the Cross is not an adornment but a tool of execution)…
  • Submit to Christ’s lordship in everything (early Church baptismal confession, ‘JESUS IS LORD!’)…
  • Commit to a life of simplicity and sacrifice…
  • Develop a lifestyle of giving, i.e. of our money, time, etc (a good friend of mine points out that the Bible doesn’t speak of ‘thanks-saying’ but ‘thanks-giving’).
  • NB!! In all this live ‘out of’ the life of the indwelling Christ! (Eph. 1:19-23; Jn. 15:1-17)

The result? Jesus will be glorified and you and I will be the happiest people on earth!

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