But we seem to forget that sometimes because we have embraced a worldview called consumerism. In this way of seeing the world, the consumer is at the center, and his or her goal is to find pleasure and avoid pain by consuming things, experiences, and people.
Unfortunately, we take this same consumerist worldview to Jesus and his church, but he wants to move us from being consumers to contributors.
If you and I were to record our prayers, what would they sound like? Would they be an ongoing monologue of us asking God for things, like a seven-year-old in Target? Would it be a long list of “God give me” over and over?
Are the things we request from God going to help us become more like Jesus and advance his kingdom, or are they just to satisfy us and make us more comfortable in this life?
Are the things we request from God going to help us become more like Jesus and advance his kingdom
Sadly, many people find themselves disappointed in a false interpretation of Christianity because Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive.” They asked Jesus, but they did not receive what they wanted so now they are disillusioned and angry.
Consumerism says that by trusting Jesus, he has given me every spiritual blessing in Christ so that I will escape hell. He also will give me love, peace, power, and the stuff I need so I can realize my potential and fulfill my dreams on earth. Now, most people I know in the Christian community would not say those exact words but when you sit down with them and get below the surface, a consumerist worldview is alive and well.
In comparison, a contributor says that because I’ve trusted Jesus, God has given me every spiritual blessing in Christ so that his kingdom would come to earth through my life. Jesus’ love, grace, power, and provision are so that his rule and reign will be established on earth as it is in heaven through his church.
You see, we exist for God. God does not exist for us.
Consumerism is an enemy that acts like acid, eating away at everything it touches. In my 2013 book Limitless Life I share about “the empty self,” a term coined by psychologist Philip Cushman, PhD and described in J.P. Moreland’s Kingdom Triangle. Here are some descriptions that may hit a little close to home:
The empty self is individualistic.
People with the empty self will choose a church to “go to” if the sermons are good and make them feel better and if the music is their kind of music. The empty self is not concerned about the church’s vision or how it can make that vision grow and have an impact in the world. What matters is that the church meets that individual’s needs. And once it doesn’t anymore, the empty self will go in search of one that does.
The empty self is infantile.
The empty self seeks to be made happy by food, entertainment, and other consumer goods. It must have its desires satisfied immediately. It has to be pacified because it can’t handle when its desires aren’t instantly met. It is preoccupied with sex, physical appearance, body image, and the need to feel good all the time.
The empty self is narcissistic.
Narcissism is an over-the-top sense of what I call “self-crush,” in which the individual is obsessed by, and only by, his or her own self-interest and personal fulfillment. Narcissists manipulate people and try to manipulate God to validate their own needs for power and the admiration of others. God and people around them are the narcissists’ servants for meeting their own needs.
The empty self is passive.
The empty self is passive in the sense that it would rather do nothing and let life zip right past than to actually participate in life in a meaningfully way. Its primary purpose is to be entertained with as little energy expended as possible. Simply put, empty selves are in search of pleasure provided by others.
The gospel truth is that the empty self is a label that Jesus will gladly strip away in order to give you a new label and a new life: All of God lives fully in Christ (even when Christ was on earth), and you have a full and true life in Christ, who is ruler over all rulers and powers (Col. 2:9–10, NCV).
This full and true life we receive from Jesus will change us from consumers to contributors.
We all need inspiration and transformation. The Creative Arts Team at Transformation Church takes a short snippet from my sermon each week to provide inspiration that leads to transformation. If these weekly videos inspire you, share them!