“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. The cross is laid on every Christian. It begins with the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“More missionaries have been martyred for their faith in Christ in the past 20 years than in the previous 200 years.” (OMF Outreach, July/August 1995 issue)

“Every year since 1950, the average number of those killed for their faith in Christ worldwide is at least 150,000. That’s 150,000 annually!” (Ralph Winter, Community Night, U.S. Center for World Mission – September 1990)

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

This week I continue sharing some quotes and thoughts (FYI…everything in orange font is a quote from either Scripture or an author) from a 1993 sermon series I taught on: Consumer Christianity: Moving from Man-Centered Living to God-Centered Abandon.

The Associated Press released an article from its Los Angeles office that had to do with “Religion in America.” The article said that religion in America today is undergoing some major changes.

It said…

“Many people in North America are today forming their religious beliefs much in the same way as they shop for groceries and other consumer goods.”

The article drew its research from studies that had been done by George Gallup and Canadian sociologist, Reginald Bibby. Three of the religious trends that this article mentioned were these:

1) Americans revere the Bible, but they don’t read it. The world’s most famous religious work has become a family heirloom instead of a source of ethical guidance.

2) Instead of selecting one religion or denomination, most Americans are demanding religion a la carte. They want to pick and choose from various religious sources.

3) In North America, religion is in danger of becoming a flexible product or mirror of existing cultural trends rather than providing moral direction.”

Someone once said, “The job of the preacher is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

C. S. Lewis famously wrote…

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of port [wine] would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity!”

Listen to what one Christian leader said about this:

“In my extensive travels over the past twelve years, I’ve met with pastors, talked with church members, and spoken in hundreds of churches. And from my observations I must conclude that the church, broadly speaking, has succumbed to many of the culture’s enticements.

I don’t want to generalize unjustly or be overly harsh, but it’s fair to say that much of the church is caught up in the success mania of American society. Often more concerned with budgets and building programs than with the body of Christ, the church places more emphasis on growth than on repentance. Suffering, sacrifice, and service have been preempted by success and self-fulfillment.

One pastor confided to me, ‘I try not to talk about subjects that make people uncomfortable. My job is to make sure they come back here week after week.’”

Stanley Hauerwas, who is professor of theological ethics at Duke University Divinity School said:

“The church in America exists in a buyer’s or consumer’s market, so any suggestion that in order to be a part of a church you must be transformed by opening your life to certain kinds of spiritual disciplines which involve hard work, inconvenience and self-sacrifice is almost impossible to maintain.

In America, the “called” church (which is the biblical term for it) has become the “voluntary” church, whose primary characteristic is that the congregation is friendly!”

Dave Dravecky, former all-star pitcher in the Major Leagues, who had to have his pitching arm amputated because of cancer – also a committed believer in Jesus Christ – wrote in his autobiography entitled When You Can’t Come Back, these powerful words:

“In America today, Christians pray for the burden of suffering to be lifted from their backs. In the rest of the world, Christians pray for stronger backs so they can bear their suffering.”

Here are some recent statistics (as of 2012)…

96% of the people who live on planet earth, live outside of the United States. The entire U.S. population only makes up 4% of the total population of planet earth.  If you live in this ‘bubble,’ that could properly be referred to as ‘The United States of Disneyland,’ you are living better than – and have more opportunities and resources than – 90% of the people living on earth today! The bottom class, the poorest of the poor in America, live better than 50% of the rest of the world (that’s 3.5 billion people!).

Chuck Colson, in his book Loving God, wrote this:

“And in the midst of all this [the emptiness in peoples lives, the moral decay within our society] we have the church – those who follow Christ. For the church, this ought to be an hour of opportunity. The church alone can provide a moral vision to a wandering people; the church alone can step into the vacuum and demonstrate that there is a sovereign, living God who is the source of Truth.

BUT, the church is in almost as much trouble as the culture, for the church has bought into the same value system: fame, success, materialism, and the celebrity syndrome. We watch the leading churches and the leading Christians for our cues. We want to emulate the best-known preachers with the biggest sanctuaries and the grandest edifices.

Preoccupation with these values has also perverted the church’s message. The assistant to one renowned media pastor, when asked the key to this man’s success, replied without hesitation, We give the people what they want”. This heresy is at the root of the most dangerous message preached today: the what’s-in-it-for-me gospel!”

J. I. Packer, in his excellent book entitled Rediscovering Holiness, wrote the following [this was written back in the early 80’s]…

“What do we Christians mainly preach and teach and produce TV programs and video cassettes about these days? The answer seems to be not holiness, but success and positive feelingsgetting health, wealthy, freedom from care, good sex, and happy families. I remember seeing in a Christian journal a group of eight new ‘how-to’ books reviewed on a single page. How long, I wonder, is it since you heard about eight new books on holiness? Shall I guess?”

I leave you this week with a few simple, straightforward Scripture verses that tell us unambiguously what the focus of our lives should be as followers of Christ. Let these verses sink deep within our hearts and minds and ask the Lord to give us the grace needed to live these out day in and day out.

Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7)

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:15-16)

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)

“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:3-5)

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)

“It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1-2)

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12-14)