Today’s post is a blog by Tim Morey*. It’s a challenging message to the consumer mentality that has subtly invaded the Church. Take time today to honestly ponder the questions posed at the end. What better way to start the New Year than an exercise in self examination. Tim writes:
A friend put this manger scene on the lawn of their church, and man did it stir up trouble. I found it rather profound, so I thought I’d post it here and let the trouble continue to stir . . .
If you can’t tell exactly what’s going on in the picture, Jesus is alone in the stable, and his would-be worshipers are . . . watching TV. And God’s people said ouch.
Too often it seems our discipleship mirrors this picture. Yes we love Jesus, we quickly say, but how often are our affections divided between love for him and our love for the world? Our consumer mentality, desire for more and more stuff, insatiable desire to be entertained in all things – I sometimes wonder if these temptations pose a greater danger to our spiritual well being than the ones that most naturally spring to mind (sins of the sex, drugs, and rock and roll variety). Slowly and subtly our culture teaches us that the center of the universe is me, and the purpose of life is to shop, to eat, to pursue a nonstop succession of quick fixes to prevent our ever falling into boredom or leave us wanting for amusement. Is it any wonder we are a generation with so little staying power? We are epitomized by Jesus’ description of the seeds that fell among thorns – those who hear God’s Word “but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4).
A life of discipleship doesn’t happen by flitting from one amusement to the next. It is, as Eugene Peterson puts it, “a long obedience in the same direction.” It requires a prioritization of those things which intentionally put us in the presence of Jesus, opening us to his transforming work. Don’t hear me wrong – entertainment, pleasures, “stuff” – none of it is bad in and of itself. But we need to ask ourselves honestly: do I let these other things choke out the real, substantive, more deeply fulfilling life that God actually has for me? Am I being spiritually formed by Jesus, or by the culture?
· Do I carve out daily time for prayer and Scripture, or do I allow that time to be squeezed out by late night TV and my subsequent need to wake with only enough time to stagger out the door for work?
· Do I prioritize worshiping with God’s people in song and prayer, Word and sacrament, or do I treat Sundays as optional, subject to whim and the emergence of any better offers?
· Do I serve in ways that require sacrifice, or only in ways that don’t pinch my lifestyle?
· Do I choose a lifestyle simple enough to allow for generosity, or give from my leftovers?
· Do I pray, act, and speak the gospel among my friends and coworkers, or do I hope God sends someone (anyone) else to be his hands and feet for that person?
*Tim Morey (D.Min., Fuller Seminary; M.Div., Bethel Seminary) is founding and lead pastor at Life Covenant Church in Torrance, California. He also serves on the Evangelical Covenant Church‘s national church planting team and as an adjunct professor teaching practical theology at Talbot School of Theology. He blogs at: http://embodyingourfaith.com/blog