Many of my best ideas for these blog posts come from reading what others have said, and I always seek to give them credit.
In the May 21st edition of Christianity Today’s, The Exchange, Mark Galli introduced Sam Kim, co-founder of 180 Church in NYC, who warns against materialism among “celebrity preachers.” (I have stated in a previous blog that those two words, “celebrity preachers” are incompatible.) Kim calls out some of these preachers who flaunt expensive Adidas Yeezy shoes in their effort to appear cool. Frankly, where I live on the economic ladder, I have never even heard of Yeezys.
Kim also refers to Christian apologist Os Guinness, who asserts that “when we look at evangelicalism today, it is the world and the spirit of the age that are dominant, not the Word and Spirit. The church in the U.S. is strong numerically, but weak because it is worldly. The church in America is in the world and of the world; and as a result, it is in profound cultural captivity.”
Those are very harsh words, wouldn’t you agree?
William Wordsworth, Romantic English poet, offered a similar lament in 1802:
This world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our power; – …
Wordsworth was not lamenting materialism within the church but was challenging his culture to not ignore the joy and refreshment of spending time in Nature. If those words were relevant in 18th century England, what would Wordsworth say about 21st century American culture?
I understand Wordsworth’s lament. That’s why I choose to climb a butte several miles from town, rather than the more popular Pilot Butte in the center of our city. I am refreshed by the solitude when I am in Nature.
Let us enjoy all these good gifts that God has provided for just that purpose—to be gratefully enjoyed. Hoarding wealth, however—or wasting God-given resources on personal pleasure or image-building—runs contrary to the teaching and the personal model of Jesus in whose steps we profess to follow. Consider these comparisons: Jesus would never wear Yeezy sandals, even if they had been available in the marketplace. He would more closely resemble a homeless person. Jesus didn’t even have an address. Unlike the foxes secure in their dens, He didn’t have a place to call home. He borrowed a donkey for His great Palm Sunday parade, and He was buried in a borrowed tomb. His heart was with the poor. He was poor. Poor in spirit and in reality.
With the temporary exception of a few days following Palm Sunday, Jesus was no celebrity. He knew from disappointing personal experience what it meant to be a “prophet without honor.” In His own hometown He was simply “Joseph’s boy.” And even that might have been said with a sneer, since the word around town was that He was illegitimate. (Now there is a word we don’t use anymore.)
I quote Kim again: “If we only know a God who is compliant to our every whim, he cannot be the God who carried a cross to die on Calvary. He is instead an abstraction made by a church in profound captivity. The prerequisite to following Christ is a certain death. Death is the only antidote for the spirit of the age; the old rugged cross and the power from on high are inseparable.”
I respond, “Amen!”
Jesus laid out these conditions in bold print: To be a Christ-follower meant denying yourself; not gratifying yourself. It meant giving up your life, if necessary, rather than denying the Master. Jesus demanded absolute loyalty to Him. He still does.
Dutch Statesman Abraham Kuiper once noted, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”
If you, as a reader of this blog, also claim to be a Christ-follower, please pause to contemplate the following words from Sam Kim:
“The sin of omission overtakes the Great Commission if the sovereignty of the individual is not fully surrendered to the sovereignty of Christ. Jesus said to make disciples, not crowds. The current crisis in the Church is that we have great crowds, but few disciples.”
So I am asking myself, “Where do I find my identity? In Christ? Or, in the world?”
It’s a question that never goes away.