“CONSUMER CHRISTIANS”                                         By Pastor YAU

Text: Luke 9:23-26                                                     September 11, 2005

 

INTRODUCTION: 

       1) The empty church: In his book, The Empty Church, Thomas Reeves explored factors that contributed to the decline of attendance and power of influence of Christian churches in modern America. He wrote: “Christianity in modern America . . . tends to be ‘consumer oriented’. Christians like to see churches as easy, convenient, compatible and upbeat. It does not require self-sacrifice, discipline, humility, zeal for the lost, fear of God nor love of people. There is little of guilt and no punishment and the payoff in heaven is guaranteed. What we now have may be best labeled ‘Consumer Christianity.’ The cost is low and consumer satisfaction is high.” Some Christians even look for enjoyment, personal gain, comfort level, entertained, feel good and the list goes on and on.

       2) The contradiction: But that is in direct contradiction with the requirements laid down by Jesus in the Bible for those who wanted to follow Him. (Luke 9:23-26) He asked a lot from those who intended to be His followers whom we called Christians today. It was those who accepted the call and were willing to pay the price had laid the strong foundation of the Christian faith that had turned the world upside down.

       3) A winning team: No one would like to join a losing team or in this case a losing church. Jesus never intended His church to be a losing church. That is why Jesus asked so much of His followers in His time and us Christians today. He understood that it takes sacrifices to make His church a winning church. He promised glorious rewards for those who will faithfully follow His plan to a winning Kingdom.

 

 WHAT DID JESUS ASK OF HIS FOLLOWERS? Jesus would never ask things that are not necessary. What He has asked of His followers are the most important both for His Kingdom and for us. These are the things He has asked of all those who claim to follow Him:

1)   Self denial: The word “denial” is used here to mean “place it in lower position or importance.” Following Jesus doesn’t mean we lose our existence or importance. But it does mean “placing our existence and importance second to Jesus.” (Matt. 10:37-38) He also demands that this denial must come from the self, the personal willingness to give up for the sake of Him and His course. This is the most difficult demand on us. Satan lured Eve to believe that she could be as wise or capable if she revoked God’s command. No one could truly serve God as his master if he insists on his rights or position.

2)   Take up his cross daily: The “cross” here doesn’t mean the cross of death as Jesus had. Cross here means so many things in our life: duties, hard work, sacrifice, surrendering, humility, suffering and everything else that we may need to give up in order to truly follow Him. It is our responsibility and duty to carry “our” cross in order to follow Him. The CROSS is the price we have to pay to be His followers. All those who are not willing to pay that price are not qualified to be His followers Jesus said. (Mt. 10:37-38) The word “daily” puts us under a 24/7 position. There is not a time or a place or a situation in which we don’t have to bear the cross. We are purchased with a high price, His blood, and are to do what He commands us to do, no exceptions.

3)   And follow Him: “Follow Him” could be a good title for a book or a thesis. There are too many things included in following Jesus. It could means learning from Him, stick with Him though the highs and the lows, listen and obey Him both His word and His intend, live a life that is exemplified of Him, imitating His character, His heart, His attitude, His way of doing things, just to list a few. Being a Christian is much more than just attending church on Sundays or doing something for the church. It means our decision and desire to be “like” Him.

4)   Even to lose our lives: There is nothing more serious or demanding than to lose one’s life in following Jesus. Losing one’s life is the ultimate giving anyone could give. This doesn’t mean that Jesus asks all His followers to die for Him even though there were many who did. But it does mean that we need to be ready to give Him everything we have such as time, possessions, energy, talents, priorities and supreme position in our daily walk to be His true and worthy followers. (v. 24)

 

WHY DID HE ASK SO MUCH? All of us would agree that for any institution to be on the winning side and to do good job, there must be some kind of standard or qualification for its members. A simple look at what Jesus had asked, we all agree that He had asked a lot more than most institutions or churches would ask in admitting members. Why is that?

1)     Because this is the most important job in human history:  We all would agree that the more important the job, the higher the qualification need to be. Christians are called to continue the plan of salvation began by Jesus with His sacrificial death on the cross. We are talking about giving up the life of the only Son of God and the salvation of all the souls of the world. No job in human history is more important than this. If the Christian church is going to do a good job on this, Christians need to be well qualified. No one would ask a high school graduate to be the president of a college.

2)     Because Jesus Himself had set the standard:  Often times we ask a lot of others but save the easy job for ourselves. But that is not the case with Jesus. He did ask a lot from those who want to follow Him but not as much as He did when He took the job from God, His father. Jesus did not ask His followers to die in order to follow Him. He only asked them to deny themselves and carry their cross to follow Him. Jesus set the supreme example on what does it mean to be dedicated to a call. It is not unusual for followers to do what their Master had done.

3)     Because the call demands complete dedication: Just as Jesus totally committed to the task His Father had entrusted Him to the point of giving His life, the task Jesus entrusted to us also demands our total commitment without distraction. No one may serve 2 masters and makes both happy Jesus said in Matt. 6:24. The mission Jesus gave to each one of us demands we give Him all the priority and first position. Our life, our family, our job, our possessions and everything else God allows us to have are for one purpose: to accomplish the mission we were called to.

4)     Because of the glorious rewards He promised: Our dedication and service to the Lord should never be “reward oriented.” But Jesus did promise to those who have giving Him the highest priority the most glorious rewards: eternal life and highest honorable position in the Kingdom of God. (Matt. 19:28-29) The rewards are superior therefore the demands are also the highest. Nothing anyone may do in this world will receive rewards as that promised by Jesus.

 

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?  Since the early days, the disciples and millions of His true followers in the 2,000 years of Christian history have done what Jesus has asked and the Kingdom of God has spread to the utter most parts of the world as He has promised in Acts 1:8. Here are some suggestions we all need to take into heart to be call His true and worthy followers:

1)   Get rid of the consumer attitude: Christ died on the cross not to satisfy our demands or expectation on Him or others or the church. He died to give us an example so we may follow His foot steps in self giving and sacrifice. No one in the church is responsible to satisfy your consumer demands. We should not expect anyone in the church as a performer to make us happy. Never look for low costs and high satisfaction in your Christian life.

2)   Measure your life with His chart: No one is able to do all that Jesus has asked of His followers. But we need to look into our own life frequent enough to see if there are areas we need to do better. It is important to know where we are lacking behind and be able to catch up and be more like what He asks of us. This is the only way we may grow higher, better and stronger. Stay close with Jesus and be connected with Him so you may be more able to bear more fruits that the Father in heaven will be glorified. If you want to point a finger, point it to yourself.

3)   Realign your purpose of life: We are not called to “enjoy” easy life in this world. We are called to be light and salt. It is our duty and honor to be worthy representatives of the Most High God on earth. Refocus our future, our purpose, our possessions, our life style, our priority, etc. to fit the command God has given us. Present all that we have to Jesus and ask Him to takeover for His use at home, in church, at work or anywhere else He may want you to be. Be someone who gives not takes. Be someone who serves and not waits to be served. Someone who is cheerful to help, to cheer up others, to take the last seat, to care and to comfort others. It is not what you have accumulated for yourself that makes you a good Christian but what you have given to God, His church and others that makes you a true and worthy Christian. No one will respect anyone who cares only for himself and had accumulated much for himself. But all will remember and respect someone who is generous and willing to give and to help.

4)   Get involved NOW: (Matthew 20:28) There are many things the Lord had set example for us and one of them is to serve and not to be served. It is through serving both the Lord and people we receive our true identity. There are many ways to get involved in service through organized programs or volunteering yourself in doing something small but important: helping in the nursery, clean the bathrooms, vacuum the classrooms, empty trash cans, setting chairs right in the dining hall, pickup trash from the floor, lineup chairs nicely in the sanctuary, turn off the lights after use, the list goes on and on. If you treat your church like your own home and love it as your own house, you will always find something you can help. You can do it starting today.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)    It is about identity: Who you are and what you want with your life? We are children of God and His representatives here on earth. We are called for a purpose and that is to actively participating in saving and serving the world through His church.

2)    It is time to get involved: If you have a willing heart, your eyes will see many needs and opportunities. There is NO need to be invited. All you need to do is “Just do it.” Do something starting today.

3)    It is time to become a Christian: You may have been coming to this church for a long time and still stay on the sideline, hesitate to step in. Now is the time to be a Christian. Stop watching a show. God wants you to be on His team. You will find meaning and fulfillment in becoming a child of God.