Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?
James Fergusson (1621-1667) ministered in Kilwinning, Ayrshire. He published a number of expositions of books of the Bible and preached faithfully against the domination of the Church by the civil government.
2 Aug, 2019

This false religion is generally welcomed into the home many times in a day and influences the whole family. This isn’t the cults that only knock on the door nor the major religions studied at school. It helps most people understand and define themselves, providing value and meaning to life and the world. All of life can be influenced by it. It seems to guarantee happiness and fulfilment–without Christ. It’s the false religion of consumerism and it is preached by many of the media messages we are presented with each day. Brands do not sell products but self-image: “You are what you consume”. From newspapers and magazines to TV and the internet–it is inescapable.  The cult of choice can easily dominate our lives.

Secular observers have often recognised the way that excessive and obsessive consumption or consumerism has become the new national religion. “Consumerism has shouldered aside other ways of understanding the world—real political visions, organised religion, a pulsating sense of national identity” writes Andrew Marr in A History of Modern Britain. It’s no accident that advertisers exploit spiritual themes such as the brevity of life; even the most mundane products can be marketed as having spiritual value.

Consumerism has pushed further into our whole way of viewing the world. Choice and freedom are the absolutes. Whether it is relationships, identities, genders, philosophies or anything–just choose and try it out. See what suits you, there are other options to experiment with. But in an age of Starbuck’s services, church shopping and limited commitment, where many prefer relevance over reverence–we needn’t think that evangelical Christians are in any way immune from it. In fact the whole approach to church growth movement has, ironically, often mandated a consumerist approach.  Is consumerism the Achan in the camp?

The Bible plainly tells us that consumerism is a false religion. Covetousness and greed are idolatry (Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5). It captures our heart (Matthew 6: 19-21). Consumerism is insatiable and will demand all of our service and devotion; it will not share anything with God (Matthew 6:24). It’s a deceitful false gospel (Matthew 13:22). It makes us discontented while promising a contentment that will never be attained. This is the reverse of what the Bible teaches (Hebrews 13:5). Consumerism reverses the biblical perspective by focussing our attention on the temporary rather than the eternal, the present rather than the future, the earthly rather than the heavenly (2 Corinthians 4:18).

It’s not of course that owning or buying things are wrong in themselves, it’s the impact that this has on us and the time and energy we devote to it. We are constantly, implicitly told each day that Christ was wrong about the value of life not consisting in what we consume (Luke 12:15). Which message do we really believe? How do we live godly in a world of relentless consumerism? In this updated extract James Fergusson has some wise counsel drawn from what the Apostle Paul says in Colossians 3:5 and Ephesians 5:3 and 5.

 

1. What is Consumerism?

Covetousness is an immoderate desire (Hebrews 13:5) to acquire (Micah 2:2) or to preserve worldly goods (Proverbs 11:24, 26).

 

2. How is it a False Religion?

Whatever thing someone gives the outward or inward worship and service due to God alone is that person’s god. They are guilty of idolatry and giving divine worship to a false god even though they may not think they are doing this. The covetous person is called an idolater (Ephesians 5:5) and consequently riches are their god. This is because they devote to these things their prime affections of love and confidence to an extent that is due to God alone (1 Timothy 6:16; Proverbs 18:11).

The covetous person believes that possessions are a universal good which will completely satisfy (Luke 12:19). But this is only true of God Himself (2 Corinthians 9:8). A covetous person’s desire and attitude towards possessions keep him from making use of them (Ecclesiastes 6:2). Covetous people serve possessions with their heart in the same way as some god is usually served (Matthew 6:24).

Covetousness consists in an immoderate desire to acquire or keep worldly riches. It is not just a sin that provides oil to make all other sins burn, it has a kind of idolatry in it. This is because it draws away our love, trust, fear and joy, from God and from serving Him. Instead we are taken up with and expend ourselves on wealth and riches.

 

3. How Bad is it?

In both Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5 covetousness is singled out together with sexual immorality as being especially loathsome and contradictory to a Christian profession. They are corrupt lusts and affections which are said to be on the earth (Colossians 3:5), because they draw the soul down towards earth. He mentions those which are sensual as tending to fulfil our unlawful pleasures.

There is a great affinity and similarity between the lusts of filthiness and covetousness. When someone yields to the former it requires the lecherous person to thirst after and by indirect means purchase worldly goods, to maintain in a special way this lust of uncleanness.

 

4. How Do We Root it Out of Our Hearts?

(a) Put it to Death

Putting sin to death means that a sinner who is conscious of the evil of sin (Acts 2:37-38) honestly resolves (Job 34:31) and endeavours (2 Corinthians 7:11) to subdue sin thoroughly–root and branch–or put it to death. It is not putting to death only one sin but all known sins (Hosea 14:2).

This is done by carefully avoiding the things that give occasion to sin (Job 31:1). It means using every means which may help to subdue it: prayer (2 Corinthians 12:8); hearing the Word (1 Peter 2:1-2) and in some cases, fasting (Mark 9:29). But the primary means is exercising faith in Christ for strength (Philippians 4:13). This is such a necessary activity that the life of glory to be manifested at Christ’s second coming cannot be attained without it. He connects their appearing with Christ in glory (Colossians 3:4) with this by using the word “therefore” (v5) to show that putting sin to death is essential. Putting sin to death is not completed instantly. The best of Christians must make it their daily task to put sin to death.

(b) Avoid Things That Stir it Up

We are set against sin in reality when we pursue it to the den and labour to pull it up by the very roots. We do this by withdrawing from the things which add fuel to it. Paul wants them to go beyond addressing the outward acts to the inward root of evil desire. They must also set themselves covetousness which feeds and nourishes lust.

(c) Don’t Tolerate it

Paul says that sexual immorality and covetousness must not even be named among believers (Ephesians 5:3). This means that they should not name them with delight and without disgust.  It  is of course lawful to name them in order to reprove them, as the apostle does here. He urges this as necessary in those who were saints–separated from the world and dedicated to God. It was therefore most unfitting for them to defile themselves with such filthy lusts.

It is not enough for saints to abstain from practising gross sin outwardly. Their outward abstinence must flow from detesting them inwardly. Outward abstinence may well make someone outwardly respectable but not a sincere Christian.

(d) Value Your True Identity

The only life that is fitting for saints is to keep themselves pure in heart, tongue and hand from the pollution of fleshly lusts and the immoderate love of worldly goods. When professing saints yield to these things they walk unworthy of their high and heavenly calling; they stain their profession; and declare themselves unworthy of the name of saints (Ephesians 5:3).  Paul shows that the behaviour that befits saints is not practising those evils and inward detesting them; this is made evident not speaking of them.

(e) Look Heavenward

Paul exhorts that, being risen with Christ, they would earnestly seek, know and (from knowledge), delight in things which are above (Colossians 3:1-2). Things above are heaven, happiness, and all spiritual graces. They are not to seek and delight in things earthly, such as riches, honours and pleasures. This is because Christ is their Head, their Husband and He is above at the right hand of God. He is completely glorified and entrusted with full power to distribute all things for His people’s good (Ephesians 1:20, 22).

The saving graces of God’s Spirit are things above as well as heaven and glory. These graces come from above (James 3:17) and elevate the heart of those who have them above earthly things. They raise the heart to seek communion with God now so that they may live above with God forever (Philippians 3:20-21).

Heaven and the saving graces which lead us to it are to be sought diligently.  The original word means a diligent search by those who have a vehement desire to have what they seek for  (see 1 Peter 5:8; Mark 12:12). If we seek heaven and heavenly things with this kind of diligence, it will be because we know something of the worth which is in them and know how to value them. We are to set our minds, affections and will on things above  We are to know them, and knowing them to desire them and therefore seek them.

Earthly things and heavenly things are in two opposite sides of the scales:  the more the heart is given to the one, the less it is to the other. We are to set our hearts on things above, not on things on the earth. 

(f) Use the Things of This World Carefully

We may use the world and the things in it and seek after them in a moderate way (1 Timothy 5:8). But we must not pursue these things in opposition but rather in subordination to heavenly things. They must not be sought as our ultimate goal and purpose (Psalm 49:11). They must not be sought by unlawful means (Ephesians 4:28) or by neglecting God’s worship (Matthew 6:33). We must also submit to God when He brings about disappointments in relation to them (Job 1:21).

Since believers are dead to sin (Colossians 3:3) they are not to place their happiness in earthly things or to be sinfully eager in seeking after them. This is a strong argument for not enslaving our affections to earthly things. If this was the case it is proof that sin is still reigning and being kept alive rather than put to death.

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10 Reasons Consumerism Can Never Satisfy

10 Reasons Consumerism Can Never Satisfy

10 Reasons Consumerism Can Never Satisfy
Alexander Nisbet (1623-69) was a Covenanting minister and Bible expositor in and around Irvine in Ayrshire. He was ordained in 1646 and was removed from his church in 1662 for refusing to comply with the re-establishment of Episcopacy.
18 Dec, 2015

Consumerism is more than a way of life to many. It has become life itself. They live to consume. This is an absolute denial of Christ’s teaching (Luke 12:15). Many have believed the marketing myth “you are what you buy”. Consumerism seeks to make us feel comfortable. Yet also insecure at the same time because we don’t have the latest product on offer. It holds out the delusion that we can choose happiness for ourselves as long as we keep buying.

The Apostle Paul has already told us that “covetousness is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). It’s not hard to see that it functions as a religion. It seeks to give supernatural significance to material objects. This lie makes consumerism hollow, unreal and fed by broken promises. It promises a spiritual satisfaction that it can never possibly deliver. At the same time, it decreases satisfaction by devaluing everything. According to consumerism everything and everyone, including ourselves, is exchangeable.

Sadly, many churches are now marketing to the felt “needs” of consumers. Church-shopping is certainly a growing trend. Yet it only results in emptying true meaning out of the Church’s core message and purpose. Neither will it satisfy. David F Wells wrote about this in his book God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams. He calls attention to the only way that the Church can reverse this downgrade.

It must give up self-cultivation for self-surrender, entertainment for worship, intuition for truth, slick marketing for authentic witness, success for faithfulness, power for humility, a God bought on cheap terms for the God who calls us to a costly obedience. It must, in short, be willing to do God’s business on God’s terms.

Of course, consumerism depends on never satisfying consumer induced wants (“needs”). It would go out of business if it did. But it falsely promises that tangible material objects will guarantee spiritual realities and meaning. This will never satisfy (Isaiah 55:2). The Lord Jesus Christ has told us that the gain that consumerism offers is only loss. Even if we were to acquire everything consumerism could ever offer, it would be the greatest loss (Matthew 16:26).

Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 confirms this in the experience of one who could have everything that he could want. It left him empty. Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 counsels us that we cannot be satisfied by multiplying wealth and possessions. It is “vanity”. Alexander Nisbet (1623-69) expounds this teaching at greater length. He draws out many of the reasons why covetousness and consumerism can never satisfy.

 

3 Reasons to Reject Consumerism

In this second part of Chapter 5, Solomon dissuades us from covetousness. The inordinate love of worldly things is one main hindrance in the way to blessedness. (The first part of the chapter contains directions about the way to blessedness). He does this by several reasons:

1. There is no satisfaction for a man’s mind in worldly things.

This may be “silver” (which includes any kind of money). It may be precious metal which men use to obtain what they need. It may be “abundance” i.e. any other earthly commodity. This abundance may increase to the greatest height. But he infers that it is vanity for men to give their hearts to such things as though they were their happiness. This neglects the way to happiness counselled in the first part of the chapter. It proves to be a disappointment to them and empty of any satisfaction.

2. As men increase any kind of riches, usually those who eat them also increase.

Their children, friends or relations are multiplied. Or at least, those to whom they owe charitable giving. God calls them to give some of their substance to such. Thus, they cannot with a good conscience hoard their abundance.

3. Though they increase in riches, they have no real advantage by doing so.

Even the rich master has nothing more than the poor servant who has food and clothing. The only thing he has more than him is merely the ability to behold what he has. This cannot be regarded as happiness.

 

10 Reasons Consumerism Can Never Satisfy

1. The immoderate love of riches is a self-destructive sin.

The more that anyone attains these things, the more insatiable they are in thirsting after more. The Lord has given the spirits of men such large appetites that nothing can satisfy them except Himself. He is “All in All”. Thus, he that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver.

 

2. Those who are moderate in their desires after worldly things may get a satisfactory amount of them.

Although that amount may be only small, they may account it enough and best for them. They can be satisfied with the true riches (salvation in Christ) which are enough to make them happy. Thus, Solomon says that only he that loves silver and loves abundance shall not be satisfied with either.

 

3. The worshippers of mammon do not focus their love and desires on exactly the same things.

Some worship money. Others who place less value on that set great store on cattle, others the things they sell and still others make the fruits of the ground their idol. Men may be free from serving a particular idol served by others but they cannot free themselves from this sin altogether. The covetous man has a wide variety of objects on which to pour out his heart. But they are all equally unable to satisfy. For this reason, the wise man not only speaks of silver but also the abundance of any other earthly commodity. He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver, nor shall he that loves abundance be satisfied with its increase.

 

4. The growing increase of silver, possessions and other things of that nature cannot give satisfaction.

Especially to the heart of those that neglect to seek satisfaction in God’s favour and fellowship. It is not just that the greatest amount of silver or abundance of other things that anyone can have is unable to give satisfaction. Even if these increase they cannot give satisfaction. He who loves abundance lacks any satisfaction in the abundance he has. He shall not be satisfied with a growing income or increase of more and more of these things.

 

5. This is the main proof of men’s vanity.

Such things are of great disappointment and misery to them in the end. They spend money on that which is not bread and their labour for that which does not satisfy (see Isaiah 55:2). The Spirit of God has passed the following sentence of condemnation on such a course of action. “This also is vanity”.

 

6. Covetousness is an irrational lust.

It makes those under its power believe there is satisfaction in that which will only increase their anxiety. They imagine that if there were no one except themselves to enjoy earthly things, they would be happy. Yet if this were so, how miserable they would be. They are not satisfied because the opposite happens. As goods increase, so those that eat them are also increased.

 

7. A covetous worldling whose God is mammon wants to maximise everything for himself.

He cannot give anything to someone else willingly without great vexation and increasing his dissatisfaction. Even though they may be his nearest relations or those t0 whom God calls him to give. His abundance fails to satisfy him because Providence has ordered it in this way. When his goods are increased, those that eat them are increased. This increases the covetous man’s vexation.

 

8. It is of great comfort to a child of God that when he receives abundance from this world, Providence provides many suitable ways to make use of it.

Yet what increases contentment to a man who is dead to the world, increases anxiety to a worshipper of Mammon. It causes vexation to the covetous worldling to see the number of those to whom he ought to give growing. He cannot with a good conscience withhold from them. Yet he cannot get a heart to give to them either. This is why he is not satisfied with his increase, because when goods increase, those that eat them are also increased.

 

9. God never gives a man riches and abundance of worldly things to hoard up.

Whenever His Providence brings someone abundance of these things, the same Providence provides those to whom he is bound to give part of it. His children may be multiplied or the number of his servants and employees is increased. Or else the poor may run and flock about him. Or it may be that something happens in Providence. These things may eat up a considerable part of his increase. This is a general truth: as goods increase, those that eat them are increased also.

 

10. There is no true pleasure or profit from everything men have in the world.

(Apart from what men use to sustain life, are bound to give to others, or put to necessary use). In fact, they have nothing except but merely to see them which means very little. Considering this should make men see their vanity in seeking these things as their chief happiness. Apart from sustaining life and other approved uses, what does the owner of such riches have except being able to behold them with his eyes?

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