July - August 2016

Written by Daron Brown
From his column Pressing On

pressing-on-05-16-1

“You all should try my church,” she exclaimed. The break room door swung open every few seconds, giving way to the overpowering hum of machinery. As the ladies swapped their safety equipment for sack lunches at their lockers, she added, “I have never been at a church where I get as much ‘bang for my buck.’” A couple of heads turned. The rest of them pretended not to hear. When asked what she meant, she clarified, “I put my money in the plate. I do my share, and I get a good return on my investment. The music is just right. The kids’ programming is exactly what we look for, and the preacher scratches all my itches. With this kind of return on my investment, I can’t imagine being in the market for another church for a long time.”

Her language may be more pointed than most, but similar conversations play out frequently across America. For many of us who hold the church in high regard, discussing the Body of Christ as if it were an investment in a mutual fund is akin to hearing nails on a chalkboard.

Apart from religious life, consumerism is dangerous in what it does to people. When applied to religious life, it reflects something similar to the worship of Baal, the ancient Canaanite god of fertility. People worshiped Baal for what they believed he would give them—things like rain for their crops. Like current religious consumerism, the focus was not on the pagan deity, but on the individual as a customer of sorts.

It may be surprising to realize that the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, is—himself—a consumer.

It may be surprising then to realize that the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, is—himself—a consumer. In fact, many scriptures use the language when describing God’s dealings with people. However, the difference between the kind of consumption advocated in scripture and that which we see around us has to do with who is doing the consuming. In the Bible, humans were not consumers—God was. And the offerings of the people were the objects of His consumption. The dedication of the temple in 2 Chronicles 7:1 offers an example: “When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.”

The scriptures make clear that God is the One who consumes. Moses, in the book of Deuteronomy (4:24), and the writer of Hebrews (12:29), declare that God is “a consuming fire” of offerings and objects—even people. In Romans (12:1), Paul urges Christians to offer themselves as “living sacrifices” to this God who consumes.

Paul urges Christians to offer themselves as “living sacrifices” to this God who consumes.

On Pentecost, the God who is “consuming fire” came upon the first followers of Christ. In a sense, they were consumed by the Holy Spirit. The rest of the book of Acts tells the story of how this affected God’s followers—He made them a holy, missional movement.

This image of being consumed for God is a helpful way of experiencing and articulating the reality of the holy life in a way that runs counter to the self-centeredness of our world. Additionally, it represents an excellent metaphor for what it means to be entirely sanctified.

I like to imagine there was another lady in that break room—someone whose life bears the fruit of the Spirit. She forgives freely and gives generously. She is humble, gracious, and compassionate toward others. In short, she radiates the character of Christ. This woman doesn't see church as something to be used like skin cream, rather, she is more interested in being used by the One she worships. And that is what makes her different.

Lord, make us different. Consume us for your glory.

Daron Brown lives and pastors in Waverly, Tennessee.

Subscribe to eNews!