CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

L’Oréal Christianity

Apr 30, 2010

By now most of you would have seen the ads for L’Oréal cosmetics with its slogan, “Because I’m worth it”. Other versions of the slogan have been “Because you’re worth it” and “Because we’re worth it”. It speaks loud and clear of a culture which is self-indulgent, pampered, selfish, and spoiled rotten.

We of course expect such things from secular advertisers. But what we don’t expect – or shouldn’t expect – is to find the same mindset in the Christian community. Yet tragically, the same attitude prevails in much of Western Christendom.

lorealEverywhere we look we find this poisonous disposition. Christians have simply imbibed deeply of the surrounding culture, and have incorporated the worldly philosophy of life as their own. If everyone in the world is looking out for number one, then we can expect to see this same understanding in our churches.

A me-centred gospel has for too long been preached, resulting in me-centred Christians. A Christ-centred, world-denying and self-crucifying gospel is seldom heard anymore. A trip to any local Christian bookstore will quickly verify what sort of message we are soaking up. Consider some of the titles which have been big sellers over recent years:

Become a Better You (Joel Osteen)
Eat the Cookies . . . Buy the Shoes: Giving Yourself Permission to Lighten Up (Joyce Meyer)
You Can Have a New Beginning (Morris Cerullo)
8 Steps to Create the Life You Want (Creflo A. Dollar)
Your Best Life Now (Joel Osteen)
Love Your Life: Living Happy, Healthy, and Whole (Victoria Osteen)
How to Succeed at Being Yourself (Joyce Meyer)
It’s Your Time (Joel Osteen)
The Power of Your Words: How God Can Bless Your Life Through the Words You Speak (Robert Morris)
God Wants You Rich (Brian Houston)

Have you ever seen so many you’s and your’s? Every single title has these words in it. It seems that for these authors, it’s all about me. This is a gospel message which seems to be devoted entirely to self. It is all me, me, me.

Whatever happened to Jesus? Whatever happened to the majesty of God? Whatever happened to a crucified saviour who had nowhere to lay his head? Whatever happened to the cruciform life? Whatever happened to doing all things for the glory of God?

What we have here is the L’Oréal version of Christianity. “Because you’re worth it.” It’s the ‘y’ word all over again. It is all about you. The entire Christian life revolves around you and your wants. The universe exists for you. God is here to serve you.

The L’Oréal version of the gospel is no different than New Age paganism. They are into the exact same ‘you’ trip. Consider the closing words of Rhonda Byrne’s best-selling New Age mumbo-jumbo book, The Secret:

“The earth turns on its orbit for You. The oceans ebb and flow for You. The birds sing for You. The sun rises and sets for You. The stars come out for You. Every beautiful thing you see, every wonderful thing you experience, is all there for You. Take a look around. None of it can exist, without You. No matter who you thought you were, now you know the Truth of Who You Really Are. You are the master of the universe. You are the heir of the kingdom. You are the perfection of life. And now you know The Secret.”

That sounds like something that comes straight out of a Joel Osteen or a Joyce Meyer book. Indeed, Byrne managed to cram the ‘y’ word 17 times in that one lousy paragraph. But I suspect you will find a similar ‘y’ count in any of the above titles.

Both are pushing an appealing, self-centred message: ‘it’s all about you’. But this message is directly and absolutely opposed to the Christian message. The biblical message is not about you at all. It is about the one who came and died a horrible death so that we might be set free from the slave market of sin, and so that God could receive the glory that he deserves.

Only He is worth it – not us. Only God deserves all the attention, all the glory, all the worship, and all the acclaim. Not us. It is Jesus that every knee will one day bow to. It is Jesus that we honour. It is Jesus that we glorify. He alone is worth it.

When two young Moravians were setting sail for the opposite end of the world to preach the gospel to enslaved Indians, by selling themselves into slavery, they waved goodbye to their families and loved ones, knowing they would never see them again.

Of course the family members were grief-stricken, pleading with them to reconsider. But they would not. They had a glimpse of what Jesus had done for them, and they could not do anything less in return. Thus as the boat departed, the two young missionaries raised their clasped hands into the air and shouted, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.”

easter 23They knew perfectly well that this life was not about them. It was about the one who loved us so much that he paid the ultimate price for us. They knew that they were not their own, but that they were bought with a price. Thus from henceforth they no longer lived for themselves, but for the one who alone is worthy of all our lives, all our efforts, all our time, all our devotion, all our talents, and all our riches.

These two young missionaries came from the Christian community established by Count Zinzendorf in Germany in the eighteenth century. Zinzendorf himself had been transformed by an encounter with Christ in an art gallery of all places.

Yes, that visit to a Dusseldorf art gallery when he was around 19 years of age changed his life. He stood transfixed in front of the painting “Ecce Homo” (Pilate’s words to the crowd, “Behold the man”) by Domenico Feti. For hours he stared at the painting and its caption, “All this I did for thee, What hast thou done for Me?” He knew that the question was aimed at him, and that he had to respond.

All of us need to respond to that question as well: “This I have done for you, what will you do for me?” It is not about us, it is about Him – because He’s worth it. So what will you do for Him?

[1078 words]

33 Responses to L’Oréal Christianity

  • Hi Bill – good stuff. Thanks for the reminder of the Moravians. They were an extraordinary misssions movement. One quick historical correction – there is no historical record that the 2 Moravians actually did sell themselves into slavery. They went with the intention to do so if needed, but from what we know of their work it wasn’t necessary.
    Ed Sherman

  • Thanks Ed

    Yes you are right. In fact in the article written just before this one, I do talk in more detail about the two Moravians: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/04/29/notable-christians-count-zinzendorf/

    There I mention that they did not in the end become slaves, because they were whites. So they instead took manual plantation jobs in order to minister to individual Indians.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill – Oops. Missed that one. Too much to read everything! I appreciate you my friend. Keep it up.
    Ed Sherman

  • Thanks Ed

    Hey, even I sometimes have a hard time keeping up on everything I write!
    Appreciate you too and keep up the great work.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill,
    Thanks for being bold and speaking the truth. It’s a sad state of the church, delivering sermons that will attract the crowd, built mega churches and fill their coffers. There will be denials and excuses and accusations that you are divisive by many leaders, who just don’t care for the true gospel the apostles preached. But they will have to answer for preaching the different ‘gospel’ in the day of judgement. Continue to speak these truth, Bill, for there is surely a lack of such voices today.
    Barry Koh

  • Great stuff indeed, Bill. And reality is not only to be found in our Protestant traditions – I couldn’t help thinking, as I read your words, of my current reading, the (autobiogrpahical) Life of St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582): “O my Creator, do not pour so precious a liquid [as your love] into so broken a vessel [as me]. For You have seen already how often I spill it. Do not lay up treasures like these where the longing for this life’s consolations is not so dead as it should be, or they will be utterly wasted.” – humility and expressions of unworthiness are found on every page, and gaining the love of “His Majesty”, God, is just the only thing of any worth, compared to which, all else is dust … Now that’s real Christianity …
    John Thomas, UK

  • Bill, once again you have completely and totally nailed it. The “live your best life now” poison has comfortably settled in to most churches, and the antidote is not being administered, except by voices such as your own. Lord give us ears to hear.
    Amy Bailey

  • Hi Bill, I remember it occasionally being taught in churches I have attended over the years, that we should personalise the concept that Jesus died to redeem his church, into thinking of it in terms that if I was the only person in the history of the world to respond to the Gospel then He would have still gone to the cross. Whether this hypothetical scenario could ever be true or not, the fact is that it contributes to the me-centered mentality when we should be thinking in terms of being a part of the body of Christ – the church.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Bill, you are worth it.

    Worth five minutes of reading and ten minutes of reflection every monring.

    In as much as anyone points us to Christ they are worth listening to and worth emulating.

    God Bless,
    Michael Hutton

  • Many thanks Michael

    Of course the only reason any of us are worth it is because He is worth it. But thanks for your kind words.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Ewan, the point is that Jesus did give his life just for me, as the only person on earth, because by that means he gave it for everyone. It starts with the individual, and that is the only way it can apply to all. Today, we are encouraged to be suspicious of “individualism”, and I think that’s all part of “Humanism”/materialism, which denigrates individual people, and likes to think of “the mass” – which really means nobody; the evil 20th century totalitarian leaders are extreme examples of this approach.
    John Thomas, UK

  • A beautiful and timely piece Bill…
    Let’s not forget the words of Matthew’s gospel…
    “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)
    Jane Petridge

  • You nailed it Bill. It’s not because we are worth it but because He is worth it . He alone deserves our wor(th)ship.
    Glenn Christopherson

  • Thanks Jane and Glenn

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Great article.
    I continue to forward some of what I read on the website onto others in the hope that they, like myself, will be challenged in our understanding of why we are here.
    Tim Macdonald

  • An excellent piece Bill, you have a real gift for writing quality articles – I know you will keep it up! Actually for what it is worth, I have mended some of my ways as a result of your articles – God has certainly used you in my life to help me become the person He wants me to become.
    Steve Davis

  • Many thanks Tim and Steve

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Steve,
    Whatever it is you are referring to, may God continue to bless you and pour His grace over you, allowing you to choose His path!
    Jane Petridge

  • Hi Bill, I am sure this is a timely piece, not least because the sermon at our local Baptist Church yesterday was on a very similar theme (based on the disciples’ squabbles about being the greatest in Mark 10) and including a video ridiculing the (?) Christian ‘me’ culture by changing words of worship songs eg Matt Redman’s ‘It’s all about you [Jesus]’ to ‘It’s all about me’. I find that God has a tendency to emphasise things by repeating them. However, I am a bit puzzled by the inclusion of Joyce Meyer, the only author from this lot I have read any books by (sorry about the english of that sentence). A book which has greatly blessed me and increased my love and worship for God and enabled me to put to death some wrong things in my life is her one “Battlefield of the mind”. She does indeed talk about self improvement – but in a way I cannot see anything contrary to God wanting us to grow in grace and love and knowledge of him. Pardon me if I am being stupid. I confess I have not read the books you gave the titles of.
    Katharine Hornsby

  • Thanks Bill – Your article reminded me of an excellent sermon at my church on God’s Grace based on the parable of the Vineyard owner and hired workers (Matthew 20:1-15) As the story goes due to the generosity of the owner those who had worked the least hours are paid the same as those who worked hard all day. Grumbling occurs because those hired first wrongly expected more than what they were promised and agreed to work for as they had come to see themselves as more deserving. If Christians live with this type of false expectation they will be envious and complain when God seems to gloss over the hard work they have put in while he is being generous to others. But if Christians want to receive that which they deserve then remember Rom 6:23-For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. If we live with the attitude that God somehow owes us a better life – we are living for wages. But believers are directed to see their new life in Christ as a priceless gift given generously to those who are undeserving of it and that is why Eternal Life it is called a gift and not a wage.
    Lyle Hutchinson

  • Thanks Katharine

    You need to read another article which I wrote just before this one to get my fuller perspective on her: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/04/29/they-seek-to-survive-while-we-indulge/

    There I discuss her newest book, and there I say in a comment below the article, “I must confess to not having read any of her books, but I have heard her on the radio now and then. I am not suggesting that all of her stuff is of no use. Probably much of it is alright.”

    So you need to read my other article to more clearly see where I am coming from.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill.

    My two sons are particularly interested in cooking shows and home improvement shows so popular on television. I pointed out to them the reason they are so popular is because they appeal to our own self indulgence.

    So much of our culture is now marketed to “the most important person”.

    Richard Jardine, Melbourne

  • To Jane Petridge – thank you for your kind words and encouragement – for your information the thing I was referring to was the concept that it is all about God, not all about me – I realised that I was forgetting that fact in my Christian life and as a result of reading one of Bill’s articles (cannot remember which one – I read all of them!), I came back to that truth and now each day I remind myself of it. I think things can only get better from here on.
    Steve Davis

  • To Richard Jardine – while you might be correct in your assertion in some cases, I think it is fair to assume that some people watch these shows to improve their skills in certain areas and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.
    Steve Davis

  • Shout it from the rooftops Bill. We need to hear it! If we’re not hearing it in our churches, we can learn all we need to know through prayerful attention to what Sacred Scripture teaches us. As well as my Bible, I use the Divine Office for the basis of my daily prayer. The readings and psalms, in this joyful Easter season, are full of who we are in Jesus and of all that He has done for us. May He be praised adored and glorified from grateful hearts! There is no shortage of teaching either about what our response should be if we have really put on Christ. Just today we read 1 Pet.1:13-16. Reflection after reading makes me ask myself what it means, in my particular circumstances, to be holy as the text calls me to be. And of course the answers are all there. I won’t go on quoting, you’d do it far better yourself. I thank God for you Bill and today am praying Psalm 17 for you {prayer against persecutors}. I had a prayer plan for your present needs but the Holy Spirit gives different ones every day so I’m trying to be obedient.
    Anna Cook

  • Many thanks indeed Anna. Blessings,

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Dear Bill, I a writing about your criticism about Joyce Meyer’s book Eat the Cookies and buy the shoes. Sometime Joyce uses strategies to get her work out into the marketplace. She has found the same as you that people in western countries are very self centred, but she does not teach that, if you live under her teaching, you will find her saying that you need to go out and help someone else, not wallow in your own misery, etc etc. She is a very well rounded lady, and her teaching is phenomenal.
    I bless her in Jesus Name.
    Anna Wise

  • Thanks Anna

    But I much prefer to”live under” the teaching of Jesus.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I knew people would dispute Joyce Meyers LOL. They always do.

    Jenna Priest

  • There’s one popular song that we sing in church every month or so, although I usually stop singing as we approach the end of it. It states, “Like a rose trampled on the ground, He took the fall and thought of me, ABOVE ALL.” (emphasis mine). Really? On the cross, of course, Jesus did ask the Father to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing. But He also cried out, “My God, my God–why have you forsaken me?” Or, “Into thy hands I commend my Spirit.” And “It is finished!”

    A ‘me first’ view of the Gospel will, sooner or later, lead to disappointment in God, then depression, and if left to run its course, suicide. I know this too well–and God continues by His loving grace alone to save me daily from myself and for His glory and the honour of His name.

    I would commend John’s Piper’s modern classic Desiring God for a fuller, profound exposition on the God-centredness of God’s desire for His own glory and its implication for us as Christians and for this world.

    Steve Swartz

  • See Paul Washer tell it straight on Joel Osteen and the others like him:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igKhXFAfnzI

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Well, to be fair (per the above video link), Benny Hinn’s preaching/ministry is centered around The Holy Spirit. I’ve watched him (off and on) for the past 30 years or so , and he doesn’t talk about having riches or “being the best you you can be”. His focus is (pretty much) The Holy Spirit. He’s right about Joel Osteen, though., as are you, Bill.

  • Great article Bill!
    You are certainly on target.
    I immediately thought of Paul’s letter to the Galatians where he said in Galatians 2:20
    “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

    Although the “m” word is here Paul clearly transfers the focus to Christ. You’re in good company!

Leave a Reply