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20. Partake -  Materialism

The Apostle John writing in 1 John 2:15-17: "Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world-wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important-has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out-but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. "

I wonder what you think is the greatest challenge to the Church and Christian Discipleship at the beginning of the 21st century?  What is possibly one of the greatest challenges to Christian Disciples to stand alone and be faithful to God?  Some people I speak to think that the surge of rampant atheism fuelled by the thinking of Richard Dawkins and the writings of Philip Pulmann are the greatest current threat.  Others say it is the weak liberal theology in parts of the church.  Certainly those two examples are threats but they are not what I think is the greatest threat.  I want to propose to you that quite possibly that biggest threat to Christian Discipleship is the temptation of materialism.  This is where following Jesus' command to take up the cross becomes practical for us.  This is where loving God and loving others becomes difficult.  Materialism grips both the Church community and also Christian Disciples if it is allowed.  Eschewing and casting off materialism will see Christian Disciples who are radical by the very society, which we are trying to win for Jesus.

What is materialism?  Every person has in differing quantities: possessions and money.  These things in and of themselves are not evil.  It is however our reaction and attitudes toward them that causes us to be seduced in this area.  Materialism is a reliance on possessions, money people or even the church, as our ultimate objects of trust instead of God.  The Apostle John writing in 1 John 2v16 gives a very accurate picture of materialism: "lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life." That, brother and sister, is materialism!

If there were to be a sin that marks our particular generation, particular in the West, then it would be the sin of materialism and the worship of objects and people. Every day hundreds of thousands of people die from lack of food, water, clothing and shelter.  For each of us, these things are taken for granted.  When we feel like a change of house or location, we just move.  The whole Christian community is one which reflects the Holy Trinity, and that the Church is to be a community where the strongest members support the weakest members.  This applies not only to the local church, but also to the universal Church and therefore has a national and international context as well.  Too often as Christians we are found turning a blind eye to the suffering of others where the bare necessities of life are in sparse existence.  Too often we gather possessions and people, instead of giving up our time and money generously to help the poor and needy of both our world and local communities.

As Christian Disciples living in the world of the twenty first century, where wealth is seen as a sign of success, the cult of celebrity is rife and where family, morals and God have taken a back seat, how should a Christian Disciple respond to materialism?  A lot of Churches measure their success solely by the number of members in the congregations or by how much money goes into the offering pot each week.  However, not just good things grow.  Islam measures its success on the so-called growth in those who would consider themselves a Muslim.  It is the fastest growing religion in Australia, albeit due to immigration.  However, every gardener will tell you that even weeds grow! So counting numbers is not the best way to measure success.

The measure of a successful Christian Disciple can be seen in those verses I read earlier and also in Matthew 22v37-40: Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them."

By doing these two things, we show we trust in God and not in anything or anybody else.  By doing those two things, both as a Church and as individual Christian Disciples, society will see we are neither dangerous nor deluded.  To Richard Dawkins and his aficionados who think all religion is pure evil, based on delusion and that religion has never done a good thing in history to benefit humanity, it will help show the folly and irrationality of their thinking. If Church communities and Christian Disciples make radical steps such as eschewing materialism, both in being and making Disciples, I think the Church and Christian Disciples would no longer be seen as a deluded and irrelevant.  Rather they would be seen as thriving resulting in Jesus being glorified and holy transformation sought.  After all, Jesus is the master of the Christian Disciple and the Head of the Church.

For more to think about, please do read for yourself Matthew 22:37-40.  Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them.  Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1 - As a Christian Disciple, in what ways are you being seduced by materialism?

Q2 - What things can I do, not do or give up to aid the weakest members of my community?

Q3 - How can you use your "passion and prayer and intelligence" this week for the glory of God?

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