Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 18 Number 6 June 2016
Page 8

Consumer Religion

Robert Johnson

Robert JohnsonEconomists tell us our country operates under a market-driven economy. This is in contrast to those societies that are communistic or socialistic where the state sets the tone of the economy rather than the consumer. With our free enterprise system, the consumer often does dictate the ebb and flow of goods and services, and thus, the vitality of the economy itself. Certainly, foreign trade, government policies and other factors help determine the marketplace, but the goods and services we buy and sell play an important part in determining how our standard of living fares.

This consumer-oriented philosophy permeates much of life, including religion. One author made the observation of how the marketplace has affected us spiritually. “The market-driven philosophy currently in vogue says plainly that Biblical truth is outmoded. Biblical exposition and theology is seen as antiquated and irrelevant. ‘Churchgoers don’t want to be preached to anymore,’ this philosophy says. The baby boom generation won’t just sit in the pew while someone up front preaches. They are products of a media-driven generation, and they need a church experience that will satisfy them on their own terms.”

This is really nothing new, as there have always been those who viewed the church as a “what do I get out of it, what’s in it for me” experience. The truth is, there is much we get and much we receive, but only when we put God first and submit to His will. The greatest blessings belong to those who become servants of the Lord and of one another. When Jesus set the example by washing His disciples’ feet, He said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (John 13:17). On another occasion Jesus taught, “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44). Our attitude should not be “What does the church have to offer me,” but “How can I give of myself to the Lord and His church?”

No one knows better how we are created and how best our needs are met than God who created us. He has offered us the best life possible in Jesus Christ, for today and eternity. Blessings, peace and joy in Christ are some of the riches He provides for those who humble themselves before Him and serve Him in a spirit of meekness. Salvation has been bought, but not with dollars; the precious blood of Jesus freely offers us life. May we be servants rather than consumers and in submission to Him by which we receive the abundant life.

A Beautiful Place Called Heaven

T. Pierce Brown (deceased)

T. Pierce BrownHow many hundreds of times we have sung, “There’s a beautiful place called heaven. It is hidden above the bright blue”! We are probably allowed a great deal of “poetic license” in our singing, for it is doubtful that any preacher or author could make a serious statement that the Scriptures teach that heaven is hidden “out yonder somewhere beyond the stars” without being called into question.

Yet, today I want to examine the thesis that the thing that is described in Revelation 21 is a place at all! Do not misunderstand me! I cannot conceive of heaven not existing in some place. Neither can I conceive of the church not existing in some place. However, surely any student of the Bible knows that an adequate description of the church is not a description of the place in which it meets. One may say, “The church is the place where the saved worship God” but does not mean by that some geographical locality, but a spiritual relationship.

Note first that the description we are about to read in Revelation 21 and 22 is that of “the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:20). Verses 8 and 10 show clearly that John is about to see a vision of the “bride, the wife of the Lamb, the holy city, New Jerusalem.”

Now, is the “bride” a place or a people in a place? Assuredly, we have only one serious answer to that! Of all the various opinions about so many other things in the Book, surely there is no difference of opinion about that. The church refers to people, and confidently there is almost unanimous agreement that “the bride of Christ” and “the New Jerusalem” refer to the church. Then, when we have a description (the better term would be “representation”) of the holy city, we should be aware that it is a representation of the people of God rather than of a place.

You may ask, “So what?” One of the answers is, “We should be far more concerned with the quality of the people who are thinking of ‘going to heaven’ than we are with the quality of the place to which they think they are going!” For exactly the same reason, we should be more concerned with the quality of the people who are “going to church” than we are with the quality of the building or place to which they are going.

Surely, we are aware that many times there is more emphasis put on a building – a beautiful church building – than there is in building a beautiful church! I do not know which are causes and which are effects in every case, but I have little doubt that there is some sort of relationship between that sad state of affairs and our rather widespread habit of thinking of either the church or heaven primarily as a place to go rather than as a people who will be some place. My judgment is, therefore, if we would preach about the “description” of heaven in Revelation more in terms of a representation of the people rather than as a description of a place, we would not only be giving a better exegesis of the passage, but also we would help the thinking of those who read or listen to be elevated from material to spiritual things. Are you a jewel of some kind in the walls of God’s people? Some are gold, silver and precious stones (1 Corinthians 3:12), and it appears that the wood, hay and stubble didn’t make it. What a loss!

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