Sandra challenged us to go against the grain of the so-called American Dream and the materialism inherent in it. She also encouraged us to be critical of how we’re already being influenced by it and to allow God to work on all of the broken areas of our lives so that we can make an impact.
This week we heard from Sandra Unger about how God woke her up from a zombie-like state. While in this state, Sandra was entrenched in the materialistic culture that gives the false impression that we are individuals, when we are merely following a script that reinforces the materialistic culture. But this sermon was not only about materialism; Sandra was also very active in church. She had lots of stuff and lots of church. Somehow, rather than finding church and stuff to be at odds with one another, they seemed to reinforce one another in Sandra’s life. In other words, it seems as if everything (including church) pointed her toward “the American Dream.”
Here’s a summary of what the American Dream required for Sandra:
• Buy the best you can afford.
• Mortgage yourself to the hilt.
• Make the lawn look like golf greens.
• Replace old things ASAP (no dents, rust or duct tape).
• Respect the importance of labels.
• Get promoted.
• Maximize your child’s involvement (quality of involvement sacrificed for quantity).
• Realize that important people are busy people.
• Be guided by two considerations: financial ramifications and appearances.
Recall the video clip from “Night of the Living Dead.” Sandra’s challenge was direct and clear: we think we are being individuals because we can personally choose how to do each of the above things, but we are still just going with the cultural flow. This is not life in the biblical sense.
As with many biblical things, something a bit backwards produces the needed result. In this case, we have to die to live. Sandra used the clip to illustrate that though we think we are alive, we are really like walking zombies, walking on the path laid out before us that leads to death. The hope offered in Christ is that we can die to death so that death no longer has dominion over us! (Recall Romans 6.)
In the movie, the way to kill the zombies was to hit them in the head. Sandra suggested that we, who are zombies, need a blow to the head from God which will achieve our death to sin, death, and the ways of this world. This is needed in order to be alive to God; sin would no longer have dominion in our lives. We would have life and life to the full! However, blows to the head are not fun and rarely does anyone seek such a remedy. This is why we have pastors. ? The gospel must be preached as radical and different from other ways of finding meaning in life. To preach in any other way is to compromise the message. In contrast to the American Dream, true life involves suffering with and for Christ for the sake of the hope that is to come and obedience to a vision that is greater than any the world has to offer (see Rom. 8:17-18; Mark 8:34; Phil. 1). Sandra caught this vision here at Woodland Hills, and to her it felt like a blow to the head!
She had been given the impression that suffering in the Christian life was mostly about what you were not supposed to do: don’t drink, don’t dance, don’t smoke, etc. She began to realize that Christian suffering was simply what happens when you follow a radical vision in a world that would rather corral you into the American Dream. Resisting this trend will cause some suffering for us. We will stand out because we won’t pursue the things listed above as our highest goals but rather we will seek first the Kingdom of God.
Sandra offered another list for those who want to follow Christ rather than the American Dream:
• Share in Christ’s sufferings.
• Live with Christ daily.
• Don’t be defined by transient things but by Christ.
• Meet needs in Jesus name.
• Heal and do miracles as empowered by God.
• Touch people deeply.
• Love sacrificially.
• Live a life that captures others’ attention because of the depth and richness of what God is doing in us.
• Live a life of total contentment and joy!
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