Tag Archives: Apostate Church

Irreconcilable Differences – Why the Call of Christ and the American Dream are not compatible.

The supposition that the Christian faith and the American Dream are incompatible finds little support within America’s Christian community. In fact, enormous numbers of churches teach that the American Dream comports nicely with Christianity, with some even insisting that achieving the former is a product of practicing the latter – God’s blessing to those who follow Him. Other churches simply stay silent, refusing to shine Scripture on the subject. Consequently, Christians often chase the American Dream with as much energy and enthusiasm as their secular peers.

That pursuit, however, requires that Christians ignore Jesus’ comprehensive call on their lives and reject much of what He taught during His ministry, because His teachings consistently contravene almost everything the American Dream represents. His offer to “Come, follow Me” implicitly calls us to renounce our fidelity to the American Dream. We cannot simultaneously make Jesus our Lord and maintain our allegiance to the American Dream. Jesus’ words are instructive on the matter: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and riches” (Matthew 6:24, NKJV).

But the American Dream does more than demand our devotion and divert our attention away from Jesus, it sells us a lifestyle and worldview that are diametrically opposed to the one Jesus taught and practiced. Here are a few examples.

1] The American Dream celebrates self. Jesus calls us to deny self: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34b, NKJV).  More than that, He calls us to die to self: “Unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity” (John 12:24-25, NLT).

2) Materialism and wealth accumulation define the American Dream whereas Jesus challenges us to store up treasure in heaven and not desire worldly possessions. “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15, NKJV). See also Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. Instead, lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

3) The American Dream defines success in terms of career advancement, educational pedigree, and social standing. In contrast, Jesus tells us: “this is eternal life, that they may know … the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent” (John17:3, NKJV). The apostle Paul adds, “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3, NKJV).

4) The American Dream emphasizes external beauty but God looks at the heart. “The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t be impressed by his appearance or physical stature, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way men do. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NET).

5) The American Dream prioritizes worldly concerns and worships the good life, filled with excess, luxury, and pleasure. Jesus warns that “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches , and the desire for other things” suffocate faith (see Mark 4:19). And the apostle John tells us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17, NKJV).

6) The American Dream focuses on relationships with those in your social circle and building your professional network. Jesus calls us to care for and have compassion on the outcast, marginalized, destitute, and imprisoned. See Matthew 25:31-46.

7) The American Dream insists we climb the corporate ladder, climb up in social status, and burnish our reputation. Jesus calls us to follow His example when He came down from heaven and “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and … humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8, NKJV).

 8) The American Dream fuels pride and attributes all accomplishments to one’s own efforts. But Jesus informs us, “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:L5, N KJV).

9) In the American Dream ‘Image is Everything.’ Look no further than corporate marketing departments that sell hundreds of billions of dollars annually by appealing to our carnal craving to be cool, sensual, exotic, popular, attractive, influential, trendy, and edgy. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him” and consequently “He was despised and rejected by mankind” (Isaiah 53:2b-3a, NIV).

10) The American Dream is insatiable, always demanding more, bigger, and better. But God calls us to a life of contentment, pursuing Him instead of the world.

Some may argue that I inaccurately describe the American Dream, unfairly soiling the wholesome image it represents for millions of Americans. That might have been a fair complaint a couple generations ago, but not today. Today the American Dream has devolved into a crass concoction of greed, pride, and selfish ambition. And it has shaped and shifted society so much that our culture now mirrors the apostle Paul’s description of the Last Days: “For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:2-4, NKJV).

Those who pursue the American Dream grow to love the world deeply, diminishing whatever love they have for the Lord. They are the modern manifestation of the rich landowner described by Jesus in a parable. “The ground of a rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater ones, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose things will those be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21, NKJV).

Finally, many firmly believe it is possible to live the American Dream and love the Lord. But the contents of our homes, closets, and garages refute that theory and indict us in the process. Jesus succinctly explains why: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew6:21, NKJV).

Customized Faith.

Increasingly, American consumers demand customized products. From coke bottles that bear individual names to homes designed to meet the exotic tastes of an eccentric buyer, manufacturers recognize the affiliation purchasers have for personalized goods and offer them with growing frequency. They understand that consumers will pay a significant premium for products tailored to their specific palates.

This phenomenon thrives in matters of faith as well, even among American evangelicals. This significant segment of Christianity confesses religious orthodoxy and a literal view of the Bible, yet it ignores passages of Scripture it finds uncomfortable. Most evangelicals view Christianity primarily from a benefit perspective. What can God do for me? They eagerly receive His love, mercy, forgiveness, peace, joy, promises, and blessings. They believe God wants to shower them with these gifts and requires little in return – perhaps regular church attendance and an appearance of holiness but nothing more.

Sadly, many evangelical pastors and leaders enthusiastically peddle false or compromised gospels that reinforce this view so they can line their pockets with thirty pieces of silver. They readily preach and promote what evangelical audiences want to hear and explain away any objectionable lesson Jesus taught. Sharing the whole truth of Scripture jeopardizes their position, income, and status. Better to preach half the truth and enjoy prosperity, reputation, and acclaim then advocate the entirety of the Bible and walk in camel’s hair eating locusts and wild honey.

What most evangelicals want, and most church leaders willingly teach, is a gospel that legitimizes their current lifestyle. They demand a faith that does not disrupt their dreams, does not inconvenience them, makes no difficult demands, and allows them to enjoy all the accouterments of this world. They insist on practicing a faith that offers the best of both worlds: a life of comfort, pleasure, leisure, and wealth in this world, and eternal life with God in the next.

What such evangelicals fail to understand, however, is that Jesus routinely rebuked that form of faith. He emphasized time and again the considerable cost of following Him as a disciple. In describing His expectations for those who place their faith in Him, Jesus asserted, “if anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me,” (Luke 9:23). Later He added, “whoever does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple,” (Luke 14:33).

The crux of these two verses is that following Christ is a full-time commitment that requires we go all-in. The result is a life so transformed that no one recognizes us. We put to death our own interests, plans, and desires, and replaced them with His. Does this sound more challenging than what the church teaches? Would you prefer a faith that is easy to follow? If so, consider the counsel Jesus offered His disciples. “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the path which leads to life, and there are few who find it,” (Matthew 7:14). Christ does not mince words about the challenge of becoming His disciple. It will be difficult. So difficult, in fact, few people actually find eternal life.

I encourage readers to meditate on these verses. Seek guidance from the Holy Spirit as to how your life should reflect these words from Jesus. Resist the temptation to disregard them or embrace the idea that Christ didn’t really mean what He said. Your salvation is at stake.

Opportunities abound in culture of hedonism

As our culture races toward a full-on embrace of hedonism, I grow increasingly concerned with the long-term viability of our nation. History is littered with states that possessed remarkable power, status, and influence but eventually fell to ruin due to internal rot rather than the hands of external forces. Moral decay bankrupts a nation as easily as it does an individual, or church for that matter.

As I observe society legitimize and celebrate behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs openly hostile to Christianity and biblical principles, I am both discouraged and saddened – at least initially. But on reflection it occurs to me that our culture’s rapid migration away from any semblance of Christian values has some unobvious benefits and yields a host of opportunities. While I prefer that we, as individuals and as a society, pursue God and His ways (not forcibly but freely), believers ought to remain mindful of those benefits and opportunities.

First, as our culture views Christians with increased contempt and hostility, the cost to practice Christianity faithfully grows. This heightened animosity tends to purge the church of its most casual members, those who embrace the faith largely because of what they can get from it. Their commitment to Jesus and His instructions extends only as far as the benefits they receive from Him. These believers often are the ones that malign Christ and His church by selfish behavior and hypocritical conduct – the ones who repulse society at large and from which it draws it caricatures. As more of these half-hearted followers leave the faith, the church will strengthen and grow healthier.

Second, a burgeoning apostate church precedes the second coming of Jesus. As we witness more denominations, Christian leaders, and churches dismiss God’s word as antiquated and allow the culture to inform its doctrine, Christ’s return draws closer. While I prefer to see the church in her entirety remain faithful to the Lord, Scripture makes clear that many will fall away from the faith in the end times and false doctrine will flourish. So we can know that an expanding apostasy in the church foreshadows Jesus’ arrival on earth.

Finally, as hedonism explodes across the culture and envelopes almost everything in its path, the lifestyle and behavior of faithful believers offers an increasingly stark contrast. Light shines brightest where the darkness is greatest. As the salt of this world, Christians can preserve our nation and prevent its eventual decay. With that in mind, society’s embrace of debauchery, selfishness, and moral relativity ought not discourage or frustrate but rather inspire us.

We have an historical opportunity to impact our nation for Christ unlike any other generation before us. The gulf between the cultural worldview and the biblical worldview has never been greater. Now is the time for all believers to commit themselves fully to living out all of Jesus’ teachings with reckless abandon.

–       Demonstrate love to a world that hates and despises us.

–       Display humility to those who treat us with contempt and want to kick us to the curb.

–       Remain steadfast and have the backbone to boldly proclaim your faith in Christ and commitment to His Lordship.

–       Share God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness with a society in desperate need for it but which is resolute in rejecting it.

–       Articulate biblical principles with gentleness and courage when discussing culture, current events, policy, and matters of societal importance.

–       Offer hope, peace, and joy to those around you even when they insist on pursuing activities that bring despair, restlessness, and dissatisfaction.

–       Follow Jesus’ example by holding firm to truth while expressing it with acts of kindness, generosity, and love.

As we live out the gospel with renewed vigor, we can help stem the tide of moral relativity and preserve our great nation for another generation.