The Problem with American Dream Christianity


Recently, I watched the documentaries Father of Lights and Holy Ghost directed by Darren Wilson. Both films are incredibly faith boosting, as they highlight what happens when an individual totally surrenders themselves to the agenda and purposes of God. In these films, they interview people who have been heavily persecuted for their faith. They go to places that are resistant to the Gospel, places where one could be arrested, or killed, for trying to share the gospel. I see such fire and passion in these individuals. It is clear that the gospel to them is everything. I can't say I always see this same level of passion and intensity in the American Church. I wonder sometimes if we have been lulled into a sense of complacency and even apathy by the comforts and luxuries of the American life. In his book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, David Platt describes how we have in many ways traded the call of the Great Commission for the American Dream. He writes, "We desperately need to explore how much of our understanding of the gospel is American and how much is biblical. And in the process we need to examine whether we have miscontrued a proper response to the gospel and maybe even missed the primary reward of the gospel, which is God Himself." I think that as American Christians we assume that God's number one objective is to make us happy. Our grid for happiness is usually wrapped up in financial success, relationships and careers. We want the beautiful home with the white picket fence. None of these things are bad things, but they are not the purpose of a relationship with Jesus. I love how Platt makes it clear that Jesus Himself is our reward. He is the prize. He wants us to share in His mission, which is to "seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). This mission is echoed in the Great Commission, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..." (Matt. 28:19).

Jesus encourages us to count the cost before we make the decision to follow Him. We can be sure that following Him will cost us something. He says in Luke 14:27-33,

And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, 'This person began to build and wasn't able to finish.' Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won't he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able , he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

Are we willing to give up everything that we have to follow Jesus? Are we willing to sacrifice the comforts of the American dream to see His purposes fulfilled in the earth? Are we willing to follow Him even if it means we lose friends and loved ones? Are we willing to serve Him even if it means persecution? Are we willing to share in His sufferings or only in His joys? David Platt puts it this way, "Surely more than praying a prayer is involved. Surely more than religious attendance is warranted. Surely this gospel evokes unconditional surrender of all that we are and all that we have to all that He is."

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