I went into your typical Christian bookstore the other day. At the outset, I must be open and admit my view of most Christian bookstores. The truth is, I don't particularly care for your cookie cutter Christian bookstore, and I don't think they bring glory to our great God.
- Most of the merchandise is over-priced, to the point of peddling the gospel at times. I can only imagine the Bibles that could be given away if only they would mark down some 3" cheaply-made plastic crosses (designed for display on the mantle of a wealthy, religious suburbanite) for which they charge at least $10 more than it's worth.
- Much of the music section drives me crazy. The hip-looking CCM artists weigh less than than the hair gel and eye shadow that they primp themselves up with. You'll almost never find a CD cover that doesn't have a young, sveldt glamour-style portrait. It's all so shallow, yet these "goods" are gobbled up like last night's Chinese take-out. The standards, as well, are often well below the world's standards of excellence. Many of these CD's are a showy, cheap imitation of what the "world" actually does better. [Dr. Russell Moore quoted a GQ article, I believe, in which someone compared much of Christian rock to those cheap perfume knock-offs found in your average dollar store with labels that read, "If you like Stetson, you'll love..."]
- Many of the books could only nominally be called Christian. Much of the books come from extreme Pentecostal-Charismatics who believe in a false gospel of health and wealth. They believe that Jesus (you know, the Son of God who didn't have a place to lay his head) wants Christians to be prosperous. Their idea of a "best life" includes developing wealth and influencing people. And, keep in mind that one of these popular authors, T.D. Jakes, denies the doctrine of the trinity, making him a true heretic. So, when I throw out my remarks about Christian book publishers and their authors, it's not just an issue of theological preference but one of theological fidelity.
However...to the point of my rant--"Biblezines," these glossly magazines that contain the text of Scripture interspersed among shallow articles about beauty tips with an array of pictures that simply confirm Hollywood and television's shallow view of beauty. Although I could evaluate the merits of Biblezines, I want to draw your attention to one designed for guys (probably in the early 20's to mid-30's range).
The cover of this particular Biblezine for men includes a wonderful, Christ-honoring comment below the title: "Sexcess: Success with the Opposite Sex!" So, buy the Bible, and it will show you how to get lucky with women. As I read that in that bookstore of that unseasonably warm day after Christmas, I couldn't help but experience a mixture of indignation, dismay, and utter disgust. How sad that the holy, sanctified Word of God is being peddled in such a distasteful manner.
This brings into mind Romans 12:2, which encourages us, "do not be conformed to this world." Instead of mentioning the Gospel or even the Person of Jesus Christ, this Biblezine would rather focus on sex, people skills, prosperity, fitness, and technology--much of these things are actually the major sins that keep most men in bondage: not simply "sex," but fornication, adultery, and pornography; not simply "people skills," but the manipulation of others in the attempt to be winsome and climb the corporate ladder; not simply a desire to do well and "prosper," but the desire to amass wealth out of a sinful, greedy heart; not simply "fitness," but the vanity of obsession with physical appearance; and not simply "gadgets," but the prestige that comes and the finances wasted on purchasing the latest technologies.
Of course, I haven't even mentioned how damaging the picture of the front is to your average male. Is Christianity all about looking handsome and being successful in the business world? Such a "Starbucks Christianity" panders to the vanity of our "Desperate Housewives" culture of philistine debauchery. As a professor of mine stated, what about the healthy teenage girl who picks up one the biblezines designed for her age group and finds only pictures of thin, attractive models interspersed with the Word of God? She is led to believe that this is what Christianity is all about--shallow, physical, lustful beauty. How does one approach this same girl who has been led to the pit of despair and a struggle with bulimia.
May we be careful about becoming so much like the world that the world misses the exclusivity and uniqueness of the Gospel message. Coming to Christ is not about coming to someone that's going to make you a really likeable person and give you success in business or with the opposite sex. It's actually about denying yourself. Remember that Jesus Christ told the rich young ruler to actually give all that he had to follow Christ. However, this young man went away lost because Jesus was able to reveal that this young man had no desire to truly follow Christ. The Gospel is not about finding success, it's about losing ourselves. I paraphrase John MacArthur who has stated that he views salvation as an exchange of all that we are for all that He is. It's about sacrificing and crucifying ourselves, laying aside the "old man," our old way of living, and becoming a new creation (something different altogether). Granted, God will often bless us in many and numerous ways, but true conversion is about giving us, in essence, giving up.
It's about resting in Christ. Jesus did not say, "Come to me, and I'll make sure you find an attractive spouse." No, he says, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28, NKJV). Then, notice what he says next, "Take My yoke upon you" (v. 29). He tells us to forget our own will and put ourselves into a yoke with him. The yoke was what combined two oxen for the purpose of labor. God has work for us to do as believers, and it's not always easy. In fact, as I'm studying 1 Peter, I'm reminded that we're called to suffer. The Word of God clearly states with regard to suffering: "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21, NKJV). We are actually called to suffer, and we're to follow Christ's example in our suffering.
So, in lieu of the "Sexcess" caption, I think many biblical ideas could be proposed:
- "Sacrifice: Give Everything to Find Rest"
- "Death: Dying to Self for Life in Christ"
- "Church: It's Not About You"
The Bible is to be considered holy, because it is holy! It is different from any other book, because it is inherently powerful, active, and living (Heb. 4:12). Our methods are not powerful; it is God's Word that is powerful, "because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Cor. 1:25, NKJV). It's not about clever human wisdom and marketing techniques. It's not "with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:4, NKJV).
End of rant...