Tuesday, March 30

Why Decadence Drives Out Faith

“Take care lest you forget the LORD your God . . ." (Deut. 8:11)

Much of the following is found in Christianity Today by Philip Yancey, in an article, "Forgetting God: Why decadence drives out discipline." Yancey asked Europeans what they thought of when he said the words "United States?" Invariably, he says, he received these three responses, wealth, military power, and decadence. But, he avers:
European nations, with their Christian roots, tend to manifest similar characteristics, which run counter to the teachings and example of Jesus, whose life was marked by poverty, self-sacrifice, and purity. No wonder followers of other religions, such as Islam, puzzle over Christianity, a powerful faith that nonetheless produces the opposite of its ideals in society at large [emphasis mine].  
What accounts for this strange development?
Yancey cites Gordon Cosby, founding pastor of Church of the Savior in Washington, D. C. "He noted that high-commitment Christian communities begin with a strong sense of devotion, which expresses itself in a life of discipline. Groups organized around devotion and discipline tend to produce abundance, but ultimately that very success breaks down discipline and leads to decadence."

How timely is this for us to hear today? John Wesley warned about this himself:
I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches.
Yancey continues: 
Americans who go on short-term mission trips to third-world countries often return with glowing reports about the fervency they found among believers. Eager faith in the midst of poverty and oppression contrasts sharply with the complacency and self-centeredness in our land of plenty.
Is it any wonder that Jesus warned about too much attention to money, and declared great blessings on the poor, urging all Christians to be "poor in spirit." We certainly cannot serve two masters, though I think many in the church try. Who among us does not hear the siren call luring us after mammon every day?

The words from Deuteronomy that began this post summarize it well:
11 When you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, . . . 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth. 

19 And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God (Deut. 8).


Dan said...

Which step in the process is best for the Christian to interrupt? We focus on the decadence. Maybe it should be the wealth production.

David R. Nelson said...

Maybe it's not an interruption, but a moderation, and this emanating from humility. Wealth production, it seems, is nothing really. It all goes to motive doesn't it?

Great success in revivals frankly should not lead to extravagance anywhere greater than in the soul of the redeemed. If God moves in a man's heart it is a devil's argument to assume it should necessarily lead to dullness of spirit. That history shows that sin raises its ugly head is certainly no argument that we should not praise the Lord for his mighty work in society, but pray that it has a further and continuing humbling effect.