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Downward Mobility
Scripture: Philippians 2:6-7; Psalm 24:1; Luke 12:1...
Track 6 of in the series
Running time: 1 hour, 01 minute, 33 seconds.
Our culture is obsessed with upgrading. Think about this a minute, how many of us work hard to be less than we were the day before How many of us strive to have less, be less, look less and use less of everything in our lives NO, our culture today is all about upward mobility. We strive to upgrade our lifestyles, our gadgets and games. Some people upgrade relationships. Why do we do this

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Downward Mobility

Our temptation is to let the needs for success, visibility and influence dominate our thoughts, words and actions to such an extent that we are gripped in the destructive spiral of upward mobility and thus lose our vocation. Henir Nouwen

Our culture is obsessed with upgrading. Think about this a minute, how many of us work hard to be less than we were the day before? How many of us strive to have less, be less, look less and use less of everything in our lives? NO, our culture today is all about upward mobility. We strive to upgrade our lifestyles, our gadgets and games. Some people upgrade relationships. Why do we do this, 2A: Psychologists call this the Virus of Affluenza.

It entails placing high value on acquiring money and possessions, looking good in the eyes of others and wanting to be famous.

The Saudi Prince, Alwaleed, who is often described as the most influential businessman in the Middle East sued Forbes magazine for getting his information wrong in their list of the richest men in the world. Forbes reported that he had 20 billion where Alwaleed claimed he has 30 billion. That lower amount placed him 26th on the list of the richest men on the planet.

When it comes to Jesus, we find a whole different attitude of thinking, where the world is striving for upward mobility, Jesus calls his disciples to a life that is totally the opposite. In fact, the incarnation of Christ we talked about last week can best be described in the letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 2:6-7 (NIV) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Jesus ran in a different direction. As man strives for upward mobility, Jesus lived as in example for what it means to strive for downward mobility. Depending on which direction you find yourself traveling on life’s staircase, one asks the question:

Upward Mobility: How fast can I climb the ladder to success?
Downward Mobility: How can I serve with the privileges and resources I have?

Downward mobility flows out of our decision to keep up with Jesus and not the Joness. And when we look into the invitation by Jesus to travel the stairs to downward mobility, we discover that God owns everything and we discover our position as stewards in God’s household. We are invited to serve as good stewards in the household of love, where there is enough for everyone.

Psalm 24:1 (NIV) The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;

Affluenza is a spiritual parasite. Once it enters your system, it can cause great destruction to your spiritual life, balance and perspective. Jesus was speaking to people and He told this story.

Luke 12:15-21 (NIV) Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

Jesus introduces this story with a warning, Watch out for any type of greed. Like a parasite, it is never happy with just a little, it always wants more and more. Peter also warned of the same virus. In the church there were men who were causing all sorts of trouble. As he describes them and their broken spiritual life, he includes this about them.

2 Peter 2:14 (NIV) With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed--an accursed brood!

The root word Peter uses here for experts is the same word Paul used, gymnazo. These men trained in being greedy. They exercise to be that way. Our culture today is also one where greed is all around us. Greed is expected and held up as something to attain.

True or False: I am trained to be greedy.

Wow that is a hard statement to consider. But look at what influences us and how much there is. What are the many ways to train in greed? How automatic is greed in your life?

Greed: An excessive or reprehensible desire to acquire. A selfish desire for more than one's share of something. Greed often accompanies prosperity.

Moses warned the people not to forget God when they entered the promised land and became prosperous. Prosperity, more than poverty, can dull our spiritual vision, because it tends to make us self-sufficient and eager to acquire still more of everything—except God. Instead of leading to contentment, prosperity can just as easily lead to greed. The same thing can happen in our church. Once we become successful in terms of numbers, programs, and buildings, we can easily become self-sufficient and less sensitive to our need for God. This leads us to concentrate on self-preservation rather than thankfulness and service to God.

How can we follow Jesus as middle class Americans?

We have to be careful that greed not cloud our perspective. We first have to stop lying to ourselves. When it comes to this topic in life, we have to start training naked. We are not middle class; we are very rich.

Do you ever see in the Bible anything from Jesus about the middle class? There are only those who are without and those who have much. There are only the poor and those who are rich. The poor are those who have nothing and are dependent on the help of others. The rich are defined as those who have more than enough.

But today many Christians hide behind the lie called being middle class. They don’t want to be either one. This group wants to play in the middle where there are no rules, no expectations. In the middle we aren’t poor and we don’t need help. In the middle we aren’t rich and we can bash rich people like the Saudi Prince and not feel guilty of our own upward tendencies. No, it is the middle class where most Christians claim they belong when in reality, this group is very rich. It is the middle class where the incubator for the greed parasite resides.

In the story of the rich farmer that Jesus told, how many times does the word “I” or “me” show up?

What do these words in reality do to him? They isolate him. They make him a man on his own. It is a pitiful thing when a man or woman becomes so rich that their achievements leave them with themselves as a dialog partner. How gratifying is it to have so much and no one to share their wealth and successes with?

Greed does some serious things to people. The first thing it does is isolate them from others. Greed isolates I from our, it cuts off. When this happens, spirituality suffocates. A journey upward is characterized with ever-growing layers of isolation. When we live with greed, other people become competitors instead of companions. BUT raw spirituality trains us downward and outward. There is no I, just us.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray the way He did, what did Jesus tell them? What He said is what we call today the Lord’s Prayer. In that prayer, how many time does a single personal pronoun appear? Is there an “I” or a “me” in the text? Why? How perverted would it sound if I or me was inserted?

In our daily prayer life, how much of your prayers are devoted to God, to yourself and to the needs of others?

True or False: Joining the church is like joining a medical insurance group.

Now this might sound weird or ridiculous but think about this a minute. How is the church affected when its members are constantly upgrading their lifestyle? If our lifestyle is upward mobile, does our spirituality get affected? Can we as the church see the world as Jesus see it? When someone applies to join an insurance group, that person goes through screenings to make sure he or she is not a high-risk member. Insurance companies have actuaries that work to calculate the medians, determining who is allowed in and who is not.

Do we have high-risk members at MPCC? Are here members that we are better off without? How might this attitude be communicated to other members or those outside of Christ?

This kind of attitude is not knew within the church. It shows up in many different ways. James wrote about this and gave the church careful instructions.

James 2:1-6 (NIV) My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?

What steps do we need to take to become downward mobile Christians?