- ENTITLEMENT & FOMO: If I was forced to peg a transitional date, I’d say 8-10 years ago was when I started noticing the entitlement attitude bleed into generations normally responsible and others-focused. In the academic world, I’ve dealt with the millennial crutch of “you owe it to me” for as long as I’ve been teaching. The stories I could tell you! But, usually my non-traditional, more mature (ahem…older) students were respectful and humble and willing to learn and earn the grade they’d worked toward. I rarely had issues with anyone my senior. Then something transitioned. And I started seeing it in the Church. And in my own heart. Gag. There’s no place for entitlement in the heart of a believer. To understand the deep sacrifice, the grace (giving us what we don’t deserve) and mercy (not giving us what we do deserve) leads us to one conclusion: I am wholly undeserving of a holy God’s love and forgiveness. In Matthew 20, Jesus describes a parable of a landowner who goes out and hires workers for an agreed wage and then does so again mid-day and again and later in the day as well. And at the end of the day, his foreman hands them each a denarius. To which, the earlier hired men cry foul. Can’t you hear their whines, “Hey, no fair!”? But their position didn’t change from morning to the evening. In agreement, they worked and earned what they were told they would earn and thus, were treated fairly.
We, as the redeemed saved, have been given far more then we could ever work for, and yet, we grumble and complain and think that life is too hard for us–that we should have it easier. And that life should be about us. We are so afraid we are going to miss something important or fun that we lose sight of why we are even on this planet in the first place. News flash: His glory and His story.
Now, we are not called to be blind and inept in our weighting of scales or flippant about our role in this life. Step up, believer. Join in the missional work. We should fight for justice (Prov. 31:9, Ps. 106:3, Micah 6:8) for our God is a God of right and what He rallies for, we should as well, but our motives should always be for the betterment of others and the glory of God, not our own self-edification or comfort. The words, “I deserve this [gift, time, luxury, etc.],” should never depart from our lips, for all we deserve is death and separation from a holy God. To start to think we’ve somehow earned a place at the head of the table is to forget what we come from and what we are going to and that we had nothing to do with the incredible gift. We are storing up treasure in heaven, where the last shall be first and the first shall be last (Matt. 20:16), which brings us to another cultural misnomer that has no place in the heart of the Christian.
- THE AMERICAN DREAM: Where is your treasure? What do you spend your time trying to attain? What takes your attention and devotion? Where do you rest your security? Your identity? Your hope?
If the reality of those answers puts you somewhere other than the heart of God’s glory and eternity, then you might want to assess your energy output. “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:33-34).
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (I Timothy 6:17-19).
As our pastor pointed out recently, “It’s not that man shouldn’t serve both God and money; it’s that he cannot.” (Matt. 6:24).
- UNITY OVER TRUTH: “Can’t we all just get along?” It’s the mantra of our culture (in theory at least) and the heart of the Church (peace, as long as it depends on me). But never, ever peace at the cost of truth. First off, basic logic says we can’t really be unified within the church if we aren’t bonded by a common belief system, goal, or purpose. We can pretend–religious people have been doing that for years–that all is well and we are all “in the same boat”. But some of those within the church are paddling another direction, oblivious to the roaring waterfall and sharp rocks below, happily riding the easy raft downstream. Bottom line: If we aren’t rowing in the same direction, we can’t be in the same boat.
John Calvin said: “Peace is not to be purchased by the sacrifices of truth.”
- SELF-SUFFICIENCY & PRIDE: Our culture saturates itself in egotistical assurance, despite knowledge–or the lack thereof–, despite failure, despite logic. People walk around claiming a standard of understanding and insight beyond those around them. And what’s more, these same people won’t necessarily have more facts and research behind their beliefs, but they have one thing: strong feelings. Hello, postmodern relativism. We walk by a different standard though; set apart in absolute determination by Someone outside our emotions–thank God–we as believers stand in the light of His truth. Christians should be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, leaning in on the illumination of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Apart from those two gifts, the believer is just as lost as the world.
- COMPARTMENTALIZED FAITH: True discipleship is not a Sunday-service, once-a-week obligation. True fellowship with Jesus is not a religion. So many Americans believe they are “saved” and going to heaven because they go to church occasionally, or even because they said “the sinner’s prayer,” which incidentally, as Francis Chan points out is NOT outlined in the Bible. Saying a sinner’s prayer isn’t what saves your soul. It’s about a continual decision to follow Jesus, to obey Him, to live in submission to Him as Lord in all areas of life. “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” I John 1:6 Jesus said, “Follow me,” and to follow the steps of the Messiah. We are to die to self, to avoid loving the world, and to take up our cross. (I John 2:15). “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). Jesus never stamped approval on marginal religion. The lukewarm Christian is spit out of His mouth (Rev. 3:16). What is He asking us to do and be? Are we there? Do we even know how far off course we’ve become? “You can’t keep your life and just add a little Jesus.” Francis Chan
We, the Body and Bride of Christ, must return to the all-sufficient foundation of Scripture. Pushing aside the encroaching ideology that has nothing to do with God’s ideas, we must realign our thinking with a perspective that is eternal, God-centered, and highly sacrificial. It’s not going to be easy, but better for us to recognize and pull the weeds that are overwhelming the wheat than require the Holy Spirit’s fire to burn through the field.
John L. Cooper, lead singer and founder of the band Skillet, said this: “It is time for the church to rediscover the preeminence of the Word,” Cooper says. “And to value the teaching of the Word. We need to value truth over feeling. Truth over emotion. And what we are seeing now is the result of the church raising up influencers who did not supremely value truth who have led a generation who also do not believe in the supremacy of truth. And now those disavowed leaders are proudly still leading and influencing boldly AWAY from the truth.”
“Is it any wonder that some of our disavowed Christian leaders are letting go of the absolute truth of the Bible and subsequently their lives are falling apart? Further and further they are sinking in the sea all the while shouting ‘now I’ve found the truth! Follow me!!'”
“The rule is: listen and allow the Word to make the beginning, then the knowing [God] will nicely follow. If, however, you do not listen, you will never know anything. For it is decreed, God will not be seen, known, or comprehended except through his Word alone. Whatever therefore one undertakes for salvation apart from the Word is in vain. God will not respond to that. He will not have it. He will not tolerate any other way. Therefore, let his Book in which He speaks to you be commended to you. For he did not cause it to be written to no purpose. He did not want us to let it lie there in neglect.” –Martin Luther