None Of Us Are In Danger of Extreme Obedience

neitherpoverty.jpgBlomberg was pretty hard-hitting for me this morning:

“It is arguable that materialism is the single biggest competitor with authentic Christianity for the hearts and souls of millions in our world today, including many in the visible church.

[Speaking of Matthew 6:33: ‘But seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, all all these things will be given to you as well.’] Either one must entirely spiritualize this promise or relegate its fulfillment to the eschaton [the end of time], neither of which fits the immediate context of one who is worrying about current material needs; or…we must understand the plurals of verse 33 as addressed to the community of Jesus’ followers corporately…. As the community of the redeemed seeks first God’s righteous standards, by definition they will help the needy in their midst.

…Serious application of this principle to contemporary churches would require such radical transformation of most Christian fellowships that few seem willing even to begin. But Schmidt remarks, ‘To stand still because the end if so far away is to miss the point of discipleship as a journey.’ And against those who fear too radical an application of the text, he adds, ‘Most of us could travel a considerable distance on that road before anyone suspected us of extreme obedience'” (132).

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36 thoughts on “None Of Us Are In Danger of Extreme Obedience”

  1. I would like to be accused of extreme obedience. In many areas, but as of late, in the area of finances and giving.

    So many times and in so many areas we think we have to have it all figured out and then we can get to what God wants to do in our lives. We say things like “once I get out of debt then I can start giving” or “If I could get to point X then I’ll do Y for God. What if we started doing Y because we know we are supposed to and pray that God provides X? Do we not have enough faith that God will provide X?

    I knew a guy once who was struggling with tithing. So what did he do? He gave 10 times the amount he normally tithes. He was in no position to do this. Yet as an act of extreme obedience, he gave sacrificially as a way to loosen his grip on his money. That man is now in a homeless shelter. No, I’m joking. He’s fine. God provided. And now when things get tight he is reminded of when he gave sacrificially, as an act of extreme obedience, and God provided. And why shouldn’t He. Its all His to begin with.

    Sorry. This has really been on my heart lately..

  2. If there was a world health organization set up to track the sicknesses and pandemics of the church, they would recommend vaccinations against consumerism before entering an American Evangelical establishment.
    Of course, the problem really lies in our hearts–in my heart. God has been in my face about this issue for a good three years. He is slowly winning the battle.
    He has shown me that–as with any sin–there is a root issue. He asked me over and over “Why would you have a craving for something that doesn’t satisfy?” ” Maybe it’s not always an issue of outright rebellion or selfishness (even though as humans we deal with our fair share of these). Maybe it’s an issue of searching for satisfaction and joy in the wrong place. We are made for intimacy with God through Christ. That should be our deepest need and deepest satsisfaction. We can’t have intimacy with God if we are worshiping at another altar (whether it’s shopping malls or alcohol). And therefore, consumerism is a disease, but also a curable one.

  3. RJ:

    I think your comments are a good first jab at the question, but I also think it’s more complex than that.

    We aren’t just made for intimacy with God through Christ. We are also made for intimacy with each other. So a search for satisfaction and joy in others around us is a *natural and good* thing (even though I agree that our ultimate satisfaction comes from relationship with God). God wants us in relationship with others!

    But that natural desire to be in relationship with those around us has a downside; we tend to behave like those around us.

    Those around us here in wealthier parts of America tend to be quite rich as compared to the rest of the world, exceedingly private about our incomes, and stubbornly unwilling to give in truly meaningful ways to people in need. We turn our incomes over to God only insofar as we see other people doing so, and only insofar as we really trust God.

    Here’s what has led me to that conclusion. I’ve struggled with this issue too, and I keep coming back to the issue of being satisfied. And I keep realizing that I really am truly satisfied with the “stuff” I have. I can honestly look at my life and say “I’d enjoy that new car, but I don’t need it.” So, since I am satisfied with my ‘stuff’ but still struggle with the issue — there has to be something else at work, and I think it’s the overwhelmingly human desire to be like those around us in order to be in relationship with those around us.

    So my point is this: I argue that our unwillingness to give God full control of our income stems from communal sin (with apologies to Miroslav Volf) as much as personal lack of trust in God. As such, it requires community-based correction in addition to personal discipline.

    -BMR

  4. Another phenomenon that usually goes without being mentioned in the conversation about Christians being faithful with their finances: churches taking out HUGE loans to finance mega-building projects. It’s funny how we, on one hand, uphold programs like Crown or Good Sense to teach church members how to be responsible with our finances (especially our credit), and
    at the same time, claim that it’s God’s will for the senior pastor and CFO to take a $19 million dollar loan out to pay for the new, technologically magnificent sanctuary. Something doesn’t add up.

    To be honest, I think the days of the megachurch are quickly coming to an end…but that’s just me.

  5. Going back to the discussion about our satisfaction needing to come from Christ and not other “stuff” — The frustrating thing is – I KNOW THIS – and yet I have a hard time making it work. Most of the time when I’m down or whatever, I have a choice between going to my bible or devouring the proverbial chocolate bar (or fill in the blank). I’ve chosen both, but sadly 9 times out of 10 the “chocolate bar” gives me more of a satisfied feeling. I know this is wrong. I know it’s false satisfaction, but it works. I WANT to get that satisfaction out of reading my bible, praying, etc. Is there some switch I can flip inside myself to change that? What must I do??? Anyone???

  6. BMR; I do believe that we are made for intimacy with each other. I would be the last to say that we are “only” made for intimacy with God (and not those around us).
    And I have nothing against stuff, persay. We all need stuff in our lives. I am certainly not against recreational stuff and stuff that brings us closer to other people.
    However, stuff that is filling a place that God should fill (when the first thing I do is pop in a movie every night after work–when I really need to sit down and relate my problems to Him–instead of just numbing the discomfort and pain) is no less than idolatry. It is expecting inanimate objects–even objects with intrinsic value to give us comfort instead of God.
    Can God speak through my movies and music? Of course :). He has done it many times in my life. I think that a lot of it is about intent. When I pull up my itunes and click on a song–I am worshiping God when I ask and expect to hear Him through the song.
    I heard somewhere that the first person we bring our troubles to–with that person we have intimacy. I am trying to make that person God, in my life.
    I don’t want any of these statements to seem black and white. These are a few things I have seen in my struggles with consumerism–which in my case God has told me is idolatry.
    Tiffany;
    I don’t think there’s a magic switch. It took me a while to even notice how destructive was my need for “things” in the place of God in my life. But I really think God needed to impress upon me the implications of turning to other loves before Him–and how this part of my life keeps me from moving forward in every other place.
    I don’t think God’s going to tell you to sell all your possessions and give them to the poor. That wouldn’t solve the problem anyway, because if you feel that need for satisfaction again, the shopping mall is right across the street. I think the only answer is to want God above all else. I think we need to diligently ask God to give us that desire 🙂

  7. Tiffany, I have talked to and counseled many people who struggle in the very way you describe. At the risk of being accused of accomodating consumerism (which is not my aim), may I suggest that the problem is not reading your Bible vs. blank or praying vs. blank. It may be that you need to adjust your view of worship. There is no doubt that Bible reading and prayer are necessary disciplines that will bring you joy in time, but they will not satisfy in the same way as entertainment, even when you grow to love them. Watching a movie satisfies in a different way than reading. A nap satisfies in a different way than praying. And, here’s my point, all of these activities can be God-honoring worship, if you believe 1 Cor. 10 on the subject. Television and your iPod can be idols if not used to God’s glory, but used appropriately they and all the other good things God allows us to have can be ways of resting in and worshipping God.
    I guess my question to you would be this: If your satisfaction came only from Christ, what would you do with your time? Is Christ’s satisfaction only found in a few, church approved activities?

  8. Thanks guys for the good insights. All very helpful stuff. When you’re surrounded by Christians nearly 24/7, it’s easy to compare yourself to other “more mature” believers and think you’re not measuring up as a Christian, and that the only thing you should ever need to cure any emotion is a prayer or a good devotional (which doesn’t always work for me, though looking at others it seems like it should). I do have trouble with balance, and I suppose that even though the goal is to strive to be like Christ, we all need to give ourselves a little grace and know that we are all human and shouldn’t expect that we’ll ever be as perfect as Him until we’re made perfect in heaven. 🙂

  9. I like the Real Jesse S’s quilt block!!

    TRJS – I’ll trade your pink quilt block for my yellow one!!! What say ye? Pink is my signature color. 🙂

  10. Someone give me a pink one!!! 😉 I’m disgruntled with baby poop yellow while all the boyz get the pink ones! 😉

  11. So I don’t check back for a few days, and this becomes a quilting blog? Nothing like sitting in a glide-rocker, sippng Ensure and talking theology, I guess…

  12. So has Bryan just changed everything and run off into the sunset, leaving us to our own devices with no comment or explanation whatsoever?

  13. Well pink really is my color, nut if you must.

    Wait. . .wait. . .I think I hear something. Aw nevermind. I thought I heard typing. Turns out it was just mice in the walls. Crap.

  14. Oooh!!! Steve, your quilt block would take HOURS to make in real life! A more complex spin-off of the “flying geese” pattern. Nice.

  15. I think I know what’s going on here. First, a blog entry on seeking first the kingdom of God. Then, mid-discussion mind you, quilt blocks appear. And then, strangely, the dissappearance of Bryan all together. I think this is a study in human sin behavior. I think Bryan has introduced quilt blocks to see if cyber-materialism and covetousness would result. Bryan is just sitting back and taking notes.

  16. Kyle you’re right — It’s all coming together now. Here’s whats really going on: I’ve got some inside dirt on Bryan that he’s pretty threatened by. To protect himself, he “claims” he has some kind of downlow on me with which to counter-blackmail me. This is all a deliberate attempt to expose me in some way so that he actually really DOES have something on me.

    Well, Bryan, you’ll never take me down! I KNOW your secret shame and you’ve got NOTHING on me except that I prefer pink over corn mush yellow…so HA! Better luck next time. Sucka. 😉

  17. Bryan,

    I noticed that you have a possible related links link at the top of the comments section. I have been reading on a few other blogs that these automatically generated links sometimes lead to inappropriate content. You might want to keep an eye on these or disable them altogether.

  18. We don’t pass the buck here at TWOG and we don’t blame shift. Just accept the fact that you’re the reason that Bryan isn’t blogging. Huh, blame it on poor inocent Tiffany. For shame I say. FOR SHAME!

  19. No, it’s fine. I did totally de-rail this particular post. But blame me indirectly, because the real person to blame is Bryan, who hasn’t posted a new topic in TWO WEEKS! The funny thing is, if he ever does come back, he’ll return and post like seven topics in one day. I for one have said all I have to say about extreme obedience. What are we supposed to do??? 😉

  20. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way…

    sorry, breaking into related singing is probably NOT what we’re (or at least I am) supposed to do, huh?

    While we’re waiting for Bryan to return, AJ could make quilts, ones intended for more feminine users. Be sure to mix in some “sensitive red” while you’re at it, AJ.

    FYI: I would advise against reading the related link “Suburban moms in Deadwood.”

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