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Influence of American Culture | Freedom & Liberty

Posted in NTBC C&C, theoflections with tags , , , on April 25, 2010 by Mark Hanson

When thinking of American culture, how would you define liberty or freedom?

Generally Americans tend to define these concepts like this:

“Freedom is the very essence of America.”

“Freedom is the right to live as you choose.”

“Freedom is protection from slavery or oppression.”

A dictionary definition of freedom is [1] physical: the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint; and [2] philosophical: the power to exercise choice and make decisions without constraint, autonomy; self-determination. Liberty is similar but slightly nuanced as [1] the right to choose: the freedom to think or act without being constrained by necessity or force.

We must be very careful that these American concepts are just imported without clarification into out Christian understanding. When attempting to understand these two concepts Biblically, there are slight differences between freedom and liberty that should be made. Christian freedom is the absolute removal of elements of sin in our lives. And the Christian liberty is the restriction of personal choices in our lives.

The real essence of Christian Freedom is the removal of sin’s power: Romans 8:2 — For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Christian Liberty is the resulting state of that freedom where we have a greater ability and responsibility to live Biblically: 1 Corinthians 10:23,31-3323 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not… 31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:  33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

There are four guidelines that we should consider anytime we submit an issue to “Christian Liberty”

We must use our liberty to serve others rather than self.

Galatians 5:13 — For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

We must use our conscience to guide our liberty.

Romans 14:1-12 — Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations… 4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. 5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. 6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

We must limit our liberty publicly for the benefit of others.

1 Corinthians 8:9-13 — But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols… 12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. 13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

We must use our liberty for the encouragement and edification of the Church

Romans 14:15-195 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. {charitably: Gr. according to charity} 16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of: 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

We cannot do anything against our own conscience

We cannot do anything publicly against another believers conscience

We cannot do anything in opposition to love and edification in the church

We cannot do anything that would not be considered “as unto the Lord”

Christian  “Freedom entails self-discipline, responsibility, and accountability.” And those elements are often lacking in their American counterparts.

Galatians 3:23-24 — But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

John 13:14-15 — If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

1 Peter 2:21-23 — For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.

Philippians 3:8 — Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

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Influence of American Culture | Consumerism

Posted in NTBC C&C, theoflections with tags , , , , on April 18, 2010 by Mark Hanson

Culture

There are many different kinds of culture. Take for example a families culture, where Thanksgiving might be the big holiday, but no one gives a second thought to Halloween. There is regional culture where its a big deal to have a Philly cheesesteak and soft pretzel with “w’ter” ice, but no one has a clue what to make of shrimp on the barbie. Unconsciously, culture shapes how people view themselves and how to interact with others. Since we live in America, we must be aware of American culture. How often do we evaluate this type of current that is like an undertow, sitting just below the water’s surface, one that can’t really be seen, but has a very real effect? Most of the major culture changes have come within this past century. Thinking critically about how our American culture can and does influence our thinking regarding Christianity is imperative today. So how has American culture had an impact on Christianity and the Church?

Consumerism

Just to give you some facts and figures of what American consumerism looks like.

Our Gross Domestic Product, or what the U.S. sells every year is over $14 trillion. Basically, that means people spend a LOT of money.

Nearly 70% of spending is on services. Things like insurance, electricity, telephone, tv/cable, medical, garbage, mechanics… beneficial things, but not all apply to direct physical needs.

American culture is a consumer culture. The customer is always right. If its bigger, faster, and more expensive its better.

Consumerism – Influence on Doctrine

Some aspects of Christianity have been influence by consumerism. One genre is called the “health and wealth” or “prosperity” gospel. They use verses like the following to support their belief that God provides material prosperity to His followers:

Malachi 3:10 | Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Deuteronomy 8:18 | But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.

John 10:10 | The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

3 John 1:2 | Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

Some people think that God will constantly bless and provide physical health and wealth to the spiritual. They also view God as directly judging sin when periods of material need and want arise.

Consumerism – Influence on Practice

In addition to doctrine churches can get caught up in the consumerism element in their buildings and programs. One such movement is called being “seeker-sensitive” which when churches take the American business model and apply it to making decisions in the church. Their focus is results by sending out as many mailers, making phone calls, having a certain kind of music, building these kind of buildings, have this kind of service, so that the church grow. These kind of elements can be practical, but they can also be driven by consumerism. Their focus is to give the “customer” what they want. When this thinking takes over the gospel bears the brunt of the editing because it contains elements that some “customers” don’t want to hear, and they might not come unless they can be accommodated. The building or the program should never be our singular focus in drawing people to Christ. While it may make it easier at times, to have that focus relegates truth as a minor point and makes “stuff” the major point for the sake of growth and numbers.

Why do you follow Jesus?

While you may not be under the influence of prosperity theology or the seeker driven movement,  think about how our culture of consumerism can influence the church and your own personal life.

  • Can you think of any ways you have you been influenced by consumerism?
  • Do your spending habits in your personal life reflect dependence on God?
  • Does your prayer life reflect dependence on God? Do you just pray for God to do things for you?
  • Does your free time reflect dependence on God? Where does your time go? God gives us 24 hours, do you consume all your time? Or are you giving some back to Him and to others?
  • When you look for a church, are you looking for something bigger and better? Just what you can get out of it?

>> THE POINT <<

Consumerism draws us into Idolatry when we desire cheap creations rather than desiring God the creator. Sometimes bigger isn’t better, sometimes more is really less, and sometimes faster slows us down. If it does not draw us to God it draws us away from Him.

Isaiah 55:2-3,6 | Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live… “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.”

Matthew 6:25-26 | Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

how our American culture can and does influence our thinking regarding Christianity is imperative today.
So what is American culture generally known for?