By Cheryl Mah
As humans, we have the tendency to put ourselves first before others, and very often, before God. Indeed, social and consumer culture has twisted our understanding of what we want versus what we need. Nowadays, everything is deemed “expendable”. We are encouraged to consume something for as long as it makes us happy – and if we are not, move on. Naturally, many of us have succumbed to this consumer mindset even in church… “I don’t like this pastor’s preaching”, “The worshippers here aren’t fun and cool”, “God didn’t grant my prayer” and so forth. If we do not get what we want out of God or the Church, we lose interest or move on.
Let us remember that the Church is a faith community built with Jesus Christ as the foundation. Therefore, we must renew our minds (Romans 12:2) to refrain from thinking of God as a vending machine and the Church as a consumable product.
1. Moving away from consumer culture
Life in the church does not centre around us, but around Christ our Lord and Master. While consumerism has conditioned us to think that we take priority, Jesus instructs us to do the exact opposite by prioritising others first (1 Peter 4:7-10). We must become Christ-centred by emulating Him and following His lead to serve others. As John the Baptist so wisely frames it – “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)
2. Embracing humility and brokenness
Sin separates us from God. However, Scripture also does promise that God will not despise a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). To be humble and broken down is to admit that we are sinful, and completely dependent on Christ as our Saviour and Master (Proverbs 11:2). Humility also expresses to God that we are teachable and willing to be moulded by our Lord for His purpose (Philippians 2:5-8). We are all broken in different ways, but through God’s grace we can be redeemed, transformed, and conformed to the image of Jesus – essentially, made whole again (1 Peter 5:6).
3. Fasting and prayer
In the New Testament, prayer and fasting was a common biblical practice (Acts 14:23). Even Jesus Himself fasted (Luke 4:1-2). John Wesley, the founder of our Methodist church, also advocated fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays as an important part of a Christian’s life. He himself often fasted from sundown on Thursday nights to Fridays 3pm earliest.
Fasting is the ultimate act of self-humility by declaring to God how much we need Him and showing the depth of our desire for Him (Joel 2:12). Literally and metaphorically, fasting is expressing hunger for God. By emptying ourselves before God, we allow Him to use us to do His good work. Coupled with seeking God in prayer, we can hear God more clearly as we build a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him (Daniel 9:3). Additionally, as we become more connected with God’s Spirit, we are equipped with the spiritual strength to overcome spiritual warfare and subdue our natural carnal instincts, and to ultimately change our hearts for God.
To be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ and for Him to truly be our Master, we need to surrender ourselves fully to Him. Matthew 6:24 reminds us of the stark truth: No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.
- What does it mean to treat God as a vending machine and/or the Church as a consumable product?
- In what ways do you find yourself struggling to depend on God?
- What practical steps might God be calling you to take in unleashing the inner breakthrough you need?