Key Text: verse 20:“...just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Theme: The Choice Before Us.......Consumerism or Discipleship
This past week Pastor Adam and I were sharing about last Sunday’s message and this present series. I shared with him the tremendous weight I felt regarding what I am presenting to you, and that I feel as if I am vision casting but that it is not vision casting in the sense of planning ministry functions etc.. He suggested that it is more a matter of vision casting with respect to values. In other words what is being presented is a vision of the values we feel are essential to the life of this community. And regardless of what we do in ministry these are the values that must define our activities. That made a great deal of sense to me and helped to put into proper perspective what I am feeling and doing at this time. Perhaps we should call it “value casting.”
Concerning the value I am presently casting it should be clear why I have been reading for the past several Sundays from John’s record of the prayer of Christ. And I would remind you again that what He prayed for is the very thing He died for just hours after that prayer. Based on that prayer we must understand that the purpose of the gospel goes far beyond personal salvation and heaven by and by.
We discover that the present purpose is not believers of the earth going to heaven. Rather it is heaven coming to earth through the believer – and the only place on this planet where that is truly happening is where there is a true covenant relational community that reflects the covenantal unity and oneness of the Godhead Himself.
When I use the term – Christian discipleship– I am not talking about some abstract, undefined or mystical idea; I am talking about Christian discipleship worked out, walked out and demonstrated in the very practical, nitty-gritty realities ofrelational covenant community.
Whatever Christianity may or may not be it is authentic relationship – true, transparent, open and honest relationship.I can tell you exactly the measure to which I am a true disciple of Jesus Christ – its measure is equal to the grace and character of Christ I demonstrate in my relationships.
The core reality I am trying to address in this series is spiritual formation. Every person on the planet is being spiritually formedinto something and none of it is happening in a vacuum. There are definite forces at work in us and around us, and those forces are shaping and forming us spiritually. That primary force in North American culture is consumerism. And regrettably, it is the number one defining reality at work in the culture of the North American church.
Let me back up to the final comments from last Sunday’s message: We have come to the place now where to even suggest – much less preach – that to make a decision based on anything other than how it benefits me is seen as countercultural at best and heretical at worst. It is impossible to create authentic Christian community with people whose commitment is dependent on having their perceived needsperpetually and continually met
The core of Christian discipleship is serving Christ through our service to others. Christ came not to be served, but to serve. The core of consumerism is perceived personal need.This is as old as Gen.3: 1 – 6.
Try to imagine the state of our first parents. Each was directly created, fashioned by God Himself. God personally breathed into them and gave them life and existence. They were bearers of the very image of the God who created them. He set them down in a garden paradise that provided for all possible needs. He personally visited them and had fellowship with them.
How complete do you think they must have been? What was their state of perfection? What was their state of innocence?
Into whatever their reality was there slithered a serpent. And notice with care his first question: “Has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” Apart from the fact that he deliberately twisted what God had said, we need to clearly see what his question was designed to create in the mind of Eve. And again, apart from accusing God of withholding, we need to understand how that translated in the head of Eve.
Last week I suggested that the purpose of advertising is not to sell product; its purpose is to create the perception of need. That’s exactly what’s going on in Genesis 3. Satan is creating a perception of need. To accomplish this he must convince Eve that she lacks something, that she is less than she can be, that she is insufficient as she is and that she is incomplete in her present state.
Once he gets her there it is a small step to move to the issue of blame: ‘Eve, you are lacking, insufficient, incomplete and less because God deliberately made you that way.’ Out of our consciousness of lack (perceived need) it becomes easy to move to accusing God for that perceived lack.
This perception of need was based entirely upon a lie. Eve, as God had created her, had no real needs at all, but by the end of a single conversation with the enemy she was conscious of lack. That consciousness of lack was all smoke and mirrors – the deception of Satan. Paul told us that Eve’s mind was beguiled and now we understand why it was beguiled – it was beguiled by a lie concerning personal identity built upon a consciousness of lack.
That same beguiling lie is at the heart of consumerism. If I just had that I would be complete. If I just looked like that I would be a real person. If I could just accomplish that I would be significant and fulfilled.
We need to carefully discern any voice that focuses upon and builds in us a consciousness of lack; a consciousness that we are perpetually less than, and that we continually need more to be a whole person and to find our true identity. This same voice will also focus you on religious works: If you just prayed more, believed more, studied more, witnessed more and on and on. All of this is as old as Gen.3:5.
Follow the process in this. First he creates a consciousness of need. He does this by arguing that we lack, we are incomplete, insufficient and less than. Secondly, he assigns blame and accuses God for that sense of lack – God is withholding from us. And in verse 5 we find the third step: this is the first self-help experiment in human history. And as the term suggest, it centres in self – self effort, as opposed to centring in God and His sovereignty. The first position centres in works – the second position centres in trust.
Notice the phrase: ‘...in the day that you...’ It does not matter what comes after the word ‘you’; the lie is that through what you do, through your works and self-effort you can make yourself God-like. And from that point forward in human history man has been playing at being God.
In a very real sense when Eve extended her hand and took the fruit of that tree (however that looked and whatever it actually was) she became a consumer, and the deception was that by this means she could meet her own perceived needs and complete herself; she would no longer live in lack.
I don’t know what it does to you – but I find it amazing and very fearful that the spirit of consumerism that defines North American culture, that defines our whole economic system, as well as the culture of the North American church – is as old as Genesis 3. It is no less demonic. It is no less a lie. It is no less anti-Christ.
Lk.12:15...Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
‘Every form of greed’ and we all know the forms of greed are many and varied. But no matter what form it takes at its heart is the old lie of lack; that we are not sufficient or complete, and therefore God is not to be trusted. And all the while the Bible makes it clear that our life is hidden with Christ in God. Our true identity is in Christ alone. In Christ I am complete. In Christ I am a whole person. In Christ there is all sufficiency. In Christ there is no lack – and I lack nothing.
Consumer or disciple: a disciple lives out of and by his trust in his teacher. A consumer lives out of and by his own effort to meet his perceived need. Discipleship is all about the teacher. Consumerism is all about self. And as long as church is about me and my perceived need there can be no lasting community – no in-depth relationship.