CONSUMERISM OR CHRIST?
"But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" Gal. 6:14.
In Galatia, Paul had to deal with the problem of a different gospel. The Judaizers had come into the churches after he and Barnabas had left and brought in the gospel of legalism. His gospel was only Christ (Gal. 1:11,12; 15, 16). Yet the radically religious Jewish believers added something to the gospel. They tried to add something to Christ.
This was because some of the Galatians never really received the revelation of the cross. They didn't realize that they had been crucified on that tree (Ro. 6:8; Col. 3:3). They actually thought that they still had their own lives! But a dead man doesn't try to obey the Law of Moses. Why would he want to be circumcised? He's dead to himself and only alive to God (Ro. 6:11).
For Paul, to live was Christ (Phil. 2:21), there was nothing else. Nothing else could be added because nothing else existed. Paul got it. Christ was his All. He lived to express Christ, preach Christ, and fulfill God's eternal purpose in Christ. However, we find ourselves in a different situation today.
Our Modern Dilemma
It's very clear from the scriptures that God has an eternal purpose (Eph. 1 & 3). This purpose is something that God had desired since before creation, hence the term eternal purpose. This purpose is centered in his beloved Son:
"He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his kind intention which he purposed in him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ. Things in the heavens and things on the earth" Eph. 1:9, 10.
If you continue to read the letter to the Ephesians, this eternal purpose and will of God should become clear. God wants to increase or expand the sphere of his Son by having a Body for his expression, a Family for his community life, and a Bride with whom to share his love.
But herein lies our problem. We neither see nor understand this eternal passion within the heart of our God because we have been blinded by another gospel. This gospel is predominantly preached to us by our western culture and we have bought into it hook, line, and sinker. It colors everything we do and tints our spectacles to only see that which it wants us to see. This gospel has tightly fit us into its own mold and now everything we do is influenced by it.
We are not free to live by Christ, for Christ, and to Christ, nor are we free to live for God's eternal purpose and passion. The tentacles of this monstrous mindset have their grips on our every thought and action. It's like a wet blanket that is suffocating us from experiencing and displaying the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
I am referring to the "gospel," mindset, and culture of western consumerism.
We are a consumerist society and it pervades every area of our lives. Human need is god, and everything revolves around us getting our needs and desires fulfilled. The cry is, "Hey! I have needs you know. These needs must be met at whatever the cost!"
Needs by the Dozens
This becomes the most telling when we look at organized Christianity. Our "churches" are built upon fulfilling human needs. When Christians go "church shopping" what do they look for? A good preacher so I can be fed the Word. A good youth program so my kids can be taught. A good worship team so I can feel good during the service on Sunday morning. I want a closer location and a schedule of programs that fits my lifestyle. A good discipleship program so that I will mature in my walk with God.
All of these things we look for are no more than features and benefits. These are things that we feel we need. We have wants. We have needs. The church is here to fulfill those needs.
But then there are the needs of the world. What about the lost? They have a need for salvation. What about the poor? They have a need for food. And what about those in prison, or the sick, abused, exploited, neglected, abandoned, etc.? Isn't the church here to take care of all of them?
We have Missed the Whole Point
We have been so "consumed" with human need. Could it be that we have totally missed the whole reason that the church of Jesus Christ even exists?
Our God has a Need!
Now I know that all you theologian types out there just reacted to that statement. However, I do realize that God is all sufficient within his own nature. But in a sense, he does have a need in relationship to his eternal purpose. He has an urgent desire and passion to accomplish something. And he needs certain things to take place to accomplish his goal.
My point is that we are so consumed with human need that we have forgotten that the church exists for one purpose and one purpose only. And that is to satisfy the longing within the heart of God! And that longing is that his dear Son would become the sum, the center, the head, the fulfillment, the expression, and the source of all things (Eph. 1); that he would fill all things with himself (Eph. 4:10); that this glorious Christ would have an expression that would freely express him in all his fullness (Eph. 1:22, 23); and that this expression would put all of his enemies to shame (Eph. 3: 8-12). As you can tell, this is a much higher calling than that of human need!
What about those who have left institutional Christianity? What about we who are involved in the house/simple/missional/emergent church movements? If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we will admit that much of what is happening among these movements is driven by the same exact engine as the institutional church - human need!
As I see it, many of our house churches are setup to meet the needs of those in the group and/or to meet the needs of those in the world. But I propose to you that this is the wrong premise. The only reason that any group calling itself a "church" should exist is to fulfill the eternal purpose of God in Christ. Everything else will flow out from that foundation.
If the eternal purpose of God in Christ is the vision and foundation for a church, then the life of Christ will flow out of that group to both meet the needs of the believers and the needs of the world around it.
"If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" Ps. 11:3
Brothers and sisters, may we all abandon foundations which are other than Christ and his glorious purpose and go for the gold of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ!