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Consumed with Debt and What to Do About It

Todd discusses the disastrous consequences of materialism on our country and on individuals and families, and offers practical solutions for finding freedom from the bondage of debt.

Todd WagnerOct 30, 2005

In This Series (6)
What Stewards Should be Consumed With
Todd WagnerDec 11, 2005
How to Tell Whether You are Among the 'Consumed' and Some Practical Tips for Regaining Your Freedom
Todd WagnerNov 13, 2005
The Antidote That is Community
Todd WagnerNov 5, 2005
Consumed with Debt and What to Do About It
Todd WagnerOct 30, 2005
Why God's Love for You Compels Him to Loathe Materialism
Todd WagnerOct 23, 2005
Materialism: The Lie That 'This is All I Need'
Todd WagnerOct 16, 2005

Stanley Johnson: I'm Stanley Johnson. I have a great family. I have a four-bedroom house in a great community. Do you like my car? It's new. I even belong to the local golf club. How do I do it? I'm in debt up to my eyeballs. I can barely pay my finance charges. Somebody help me.

Narrator: Need a smart way to consolidate your debt? Come to lendingtree.com, and you can get home equity rates as low as 4.99 percent APR. When banks compete, you win at lendingtree.com.

[End of video]

When banks compete, you win? Is that right? Do you know the banking industry, and specifically the consumer debt industry, had profits of over $30 billion last year? It doesn't sound like you're the one who's winning. You may not be Stanley Johnson, but there's no question that there are people in this room who are struggling with the issue of debt.

We're in the middle of a little series called Consumed. We're talking about it because our God who loves us, our Father (God's favorite name for himself), cares for his children. He knows that one of the bear traps of life that will snap your leg off, that will cause you immense pain and suffering, that will become a toil and a trap for you, is the issue of how you become a slave to something that God says you should be master over.

Let me make it very clear to you. God doesn't care about money because he wants more of yours. He owns everything. The Scriptures are very, very clear on this. I'm going to pick through a few of them. Look at this.

Psalm 24:1: "The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it." Leviticus 25:23: "e The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me." Haggai 2:8: "'The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,' [I don't need to corner it through the Hunts. It's mine.] declares the Lord…" First Corinthians 6:19-20: "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." Even your own body is the Lord's. And then Romans 14:10-12,

"But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, 'AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.' So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God."

God owns everything. Even you, and you will be held into account for how you conducted your life. God knows that when you give yourself to anything but him, when you stand before him in judgment, it will not be a pleasant day. We're going to talk today about the issue of debt. It's easy to laugh at Stanley Johnson, and for some of you, it will be easy to scoff at the literally hundreds of people who are a part of our body who are enslaved to consumer debt.

I'm not even talking about home mortgages and home car-loan debt. I'm going to give you that, to your great pain this morning. I'm just talking credit card debt, consumer debt. You might sit out there smugly and go, "I'm glad that this message isn't for me because I don't have any consumer debt. I might be outside of debt except for my mortgage or car loan." There is a large number of people who have paid cash for their homes in this body and who are free and clear in the issue of car loans. So you're going to doubly feel good about yourself.

To you, I would say tune in for two reasons. First, let me remind you that what we're talking about today is an issue that God spent an inordinate amount of Scripture dealing with because he loves others. If you are, by God's grace, in a good place to where debt is not an issue with you, you are called to shepherd and minister to and be gracious and give to, kindly through your life, through your teaching, and as God directs through your resources to others who are in bondage in a way you are not.

But I want to offer this. To those folks who will not be an individual who feels like this is applicable to them because they don't have consumer debt, there's another kind of debt that we've talked about the last two weeks. It's a debt that many of you have to a lifestyle. You are in debt to your wife, relationally. You are in debt to your kids. You're in debt to a schedule that you are driven by in a work and profession that owns you and pushes you into a life that takes you away from the joy that God wanted to free you up to live in.

Though you may have, through your career, the financial means to not have any consumer debt, you are in debt to a lifestyle and standard of living which imprisons you. Also, you might well be in debt to those who are one day going to hold you into account, specifically to your Creator who says, "If you use the blessing that I've given you to consume more pleasures for yourself and to feather your bed and to make it all about your comfort, you will be in debt to me because I never blessed you to make you a consumer of that which would give you comfort. I always wanted you to be a conduit through which I would be glorified and others would be served."

So just because you're here this morning and you're not in debt to Bank of America or Capital One doesn't mean you're not a person who isn't in debt. You might be in bondage to your career, to your golden handcuffs, or one day you will be in bondage and in debt to the one who will stand before you and judge you.

If you, by God's grace, are a person who is living with contentment, freedom, and joy in surrender before Christ, knowing he owns everything, and you honor him with your life and with what he has provided for you in your life, and you are gracious, and you give, and you are kind, and you have turned your heart towards home, you have made your life available to Christ in mission and ministry, then you blessed are you and may God multiply your tribe.

But you, my friend, are in a very small number. You ought to be leading us to the place of freedom that God, in his grace, has brought you. We know there are many others who, this morning, are like Stanley Johnston, and you are in bondage to creditors. It grieves the heart of your Father, who set you free, not so that you might give yourself over again to slavery in any area.

Specifically, we've been talking in this series about the area of making something that was to be your servant your master. We want to give you some hope. We want to offer to you a trail out back to life and light, and we want to tell you you're not alone, and we are not ashamed of you. By the grace of God, we have hope to offer you this morning. This is the way our world thinks and lives. Watch this.

[Video]

Female 1: I'm going to college. I get a degree in theatre, and as I'm getting my degree in theatre, they come up to me and say, "You're getting a degree in theatre? Here's a credit card. It's a $7,000 limit.

Narrator: Can you tell us how much you think you might owe?

Female 1: About $7,000.

Male 1: Do I owe? Oh yeah. I'm basically in debt. I went to law school, and now I have to pay it back.

Female 2: I owe a lot of people a lot. Yes.

Male 2: Yes, I owe a lot of people.

Male 1: Who doesn't? Who doesn't in this day in age?

Male 3: I'm an American citizen. I have to be in debt.

Female 2: I think everybody does. I would say 99 percent use credit.

Female 3: Well, it's an easy way to get a quick hit on buying something you want and not having to worry about paying for it until later.

Male 4: I'm trying to leave that to later and not think about that right now.

Male 5: Basically, my plan is to just to pretend it's not there and go on living my life and trying my best to pay for food and things that I need to live in the meantime.

Female 4: I have credit card debt up to $15,000.

Male 1: About $600.

Male 2: About $2,000.

Male 3: $20,000 maybe.

Female 4: With what money I will get from my 401(k) and my retirement, I'll be able to pay all my bills.

Female 3: We all owe money. That's why we go to work, and that's how the economy runs.

Male 3: You have to owe somebody. You can't even get credit if you don't owe somebody.

Male 5: Yes, I have debt all the time, using credit cards, using other things, or borrowing money. You can't help it.

Female 4: Credit cards everywhere, and people get in huge trouble just because of it.

Female 5: My mom signed me up on her card when I was in high school, so I had a Gold card in high school.

Male 5: Oh, I got in big trouble with that first credit card. I got in college. Spend, spend, spend, and had nothing to show for it.

Male 6: I have about 5 different credit cards.

Male 2: Unfortunately, our society is all focused around purchasing and buying, buying, buying, perpetuating the cycle.

Male 4: Hey, as long as I'm paying them, they're getting their interest. They're happy. I'm happy. I'm getting what I want. They're getting what they want.

Male 5: You have one job to pay strictly for the credit card, and you have one job to pay for your rent, food, clothing, other bills, and stuff like that.

Female 4: Basically, everybody is living way beyond their means.

Female 1: Paychecks, paychecks is basically how I get by.

Male 4: I probably owe a little over $20,000.

Male 2: A little bit over $30,000.

Male 7: Maybe about $10,000 or $15,000.

Male 1: $10,000

Male 6: $5,000

Female 2: $10,000

Female 3: Maybe $6,000. Not a lot.

Female 5: When you needed to spend the money, you needed to spend the money. What are you going to do about it?

Female 6: If it's necessary, then it's necessary.

Male 7: Well, if we have the money, we'll pay it off. If not, we'll just make the monthly payment on it.

Female 4: Then just pay each month what I'm supposed to do, and that's all. No big problem.

Female 1: That's the way it works. That's the way it works.

[End of video]

That's the way it works. Not just folks who are outside of communities like this. We know large percentages of folks who are with us every week, because they have been consumed by something other than the instruction of their loving Father and the direction of his Spirit which is available to you if you know Christ, could easily have been in that video.

It's one thing when people who have a father who wants to deceive them, takes them to a place of bondage. It's another thing when people who say they've found the freedom and hope that comes through a relationship with God, find themselves in the exact same place.

We've talked about the fact that money is a tool either for the glory of God or the indulgence of man, how money is a test to see if you were going to then serve it and love it and find trust in it, or if you were going to take that money and realize it's a gift from God and continue to use it in a way that speaks of your relationship with him. It's a testimony. The fact is that the testimony of the church of Christ has been destroyed by the one who has stolen from the truth that our Father has decided to reveal to us in his grace.

We are a nation, we are a people who have been seduced. "Hey, of course, I have that. I'm an American citizen." Listen to some of these basic statistics I want to throw out there for you. This comes from a Reader's Digest article just five months ago.

They said Americans bought over $2 trillion worth of stuff on credit last year; $1.7 trillion of which was not paid off. (Did you catch that?) Current outstanding debt on credit cards (that's the revolving part where we don't pay off every month) is $700 billion, up from just $50 billion in 1980. You're going to find out that 1980 is a key moment in our nation's history when there was a deregulation in the banking industry and allowed banks to work across state lines and, with that, charge different finance rates and different fees for problems folks would have and paying on time and things of that sort.

Three of five American families can't pay off their credit cards each month. The running balance averages about $12,000, which is one-fourth of the median household income. By the mid 1990s, credit card debt held by Americans living below the poverty level more than doubled. Senior citizens, once noted for their frugality, are sinking deeper into debt.

The average credit card balance increased by 89 percent between 1992 and 2001. In the last 10 years, there has been over 100 percent increase (if you take those numbers out through today) in the amount of credit card debt in our country. Total consumer debt in the United States, (according to their statistics) comes to over $7,100 per person. Consumer Reports has an article this month in their magazine. That number, in just a few months, is now up to over $9,000, and we are headed down a road of trouble.

It wasn't always that way, and I want you to follow me through some of this article. Back in the 1950s, banks introduced credit cards to promote customer loyalty. Especially the kind of customer who would pay the bill in full each month (to make it more convenient for them). The business grew steadily but remained fairly genteel until the 1980s when a series of state and federal of deregulations made it possible for banks to charge more interest and operate nationally.

Nationwide marketing opened the floodgates in 2003. Banks mailed out…watch this…5.2 billion offers for credit cards. Does anybody know how many citizens there are in the United States of America? Right around 300 million. It was 5.2 billion offers for credit cards. I think I got 1.6 million of them. They keep coming at you.

In 1970, President Nixon decided to make it illegal at that time for banks to send to you preapproved, fully operational credit cards. You wouldn't get applications. You would get credit cards in the mail saying, "This is live and active. You go, Joe. Have a big time." They said, "We can't do that to people."

But what they did is they came charging through another door, and they are almost back at 100 percent. People are using these things that they send them. They're not doing it because they have your best interests in mind. They're doing it because doing business with you is priceless. It feathers their bed, and you become their slave, and they are your master, and they love it. Watch this. It continues.

It says today in more than 75 percent of American families (that number's up closer to 90) have at least one credit card which makes it possible to rent cars, shop on the internet, and buy plane tickets. You know you can rent cars without credit cards? You just have to know what company to do it with. What you don't need, she adds, is the long-term debt.

Banks make more interest when people pay over time. That's why minimum payments on credit cards have shrunk to as low as 1 percent of the total balance. It used to be a large percentage, and they've realized, "If we tell folks they don't have to pay as much, we can charge them more interest." Banks are making money off of you.

There's a current lawsuit filed against Capital One. Capital One is trying to deliver you from the barbarians of other credit card companies. Capital One tells you, "You can transfer all your outstanding balances to us. It's 0 percent interest for 15 months," but in the fine print they don't want you to read, they will tell you that for any reason in a 15-day notice, they can change your percentage rate (even retroactively), and they jack it up to as much as 30 percent, often well within the 15-month period.

They do it for any reason. It says any reason, some of which, though, they've tried to defend themselves with are these. You applied for another credit card which they said changed your credit rating. Or if you go for a car loan. Or if you are late with a payment. Or if you don't make a minimum payment. They will jack you from 0 to 30 while saving you from the other barbarians. But they'll give you good miles, and they won't say no.

They don't have your best interest in mind. What they want is something priceless, which is your addiction being supplied by them. What we have in our country is an epidemic problem. What's amazing is that the problem exists not just in fatherless, godless, directionless people. It is the scourge of the church.

Our testimony has been weakened because of it. The consumerism, the love for many things, has choked out the fruitfulness of the Word of his people. We spoke about pornography as straight forward as we could, the bondage that it's driving men and women into, and how it's hurting our society. For us not to talk about how we are being consumed by deceit would be a grievous error.

A couple of weeks ago, I read to you from a gentleman who was a professor, Alexander Tyler, who lived 300 years ago. I talked to you about his study of nations. I want to read to you now an earlier part of his quote and remind you of what I said. He said this, "A democracy…cannot exist as a permanent form of government." Why do you think it's going to say that?

He's going to tell you that because he knows of the nature of man. When man can be master of his own destiny apart from God, he will not make choices that are in his own best interest but will make choices that will ultimately consume him in his lust.

So professor Tyler said a democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government because as people, even godly people, live according to God's revelation, they will eventually become some fat and happy and comfortable that they will betray the God who has put them in put them in a place of prosperity, and they will bring themselves to great suffering.

He said, "It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury." This is pre-welfare in America. In the 1700s this guy wrote this. "From that moment on, the majority will always vote for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy and is always followed by a dictatorship."

I want to tell you something. I am grateful for our national leadership. I love many of the decisions being made right now by our president, but our president is leading us down a road of absolute destruction in this area. It is anything but conservative, anything but biblical, and anything but wise. He needs to be called into account for it.

One political cartoonist put this up there. We've talked a lot about this being hurricane season. Officials in Washington continue to ignore warnings about the storm which is projected to be a category 500 billion hurricane. I'll tell you this, we cannot stand against that, no matter how much we have. Our own defense will be to line up all our resources and point it at those who will come against us. They will come with great force and anger and energy.

"The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from great courage to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back again to bondage."

One observer used this equation: Selfishness, which rules in the hearts of all men, plus the opportunity to be selfish to both people who will entitle you and pull from you funds from the public largesse will lead to great trouble. Selfishness + opportunity = greed. Greed plus debt, because you will never even pursue greed to the level of your own means would come up with increasing ways that you can feed your flesh, even when you have debt, leads to inflation. Greed + debt = inflation.

Inflation over a series of weeks and time leads to monetary collapse. Inflation + time = monetary collapse. Monetary collapse, if I continue this, leads to poverty. Poverty leads to vulnerability as your want will come upon you as a robber, the Scripture says, and your poverty like an armed man. How does an armed man negotiate with you? He doesn't say, "How'd you like to work this out?"

He tells you what the deal is, how it's going to go down, and what you will do in response. When he says, "Jump," you'd better jump. When he says, "Bark," you'd better bark. That dependence and vulnerability then leads to bondage, and God sets you free as his children. To give yourself back over to darkness and bondage is the height of error and foolishness.

We are a people who have moved from money being just a tool and a test and a testimony to make money trouble for us and a trap. God hates when his people are consumed with anything but zeal for him and his house. Why? Not because God is insecure. Not because God needs your cash. He doesn't. He owns everything.

But because he loves you, and he knows that if you, his child, live foolishly, stupidly, and are in bondage to another, it is difficult for you to talk about the wonders and glories of your Father. He cannot delight in you as his son or his daughter. He can't say, "Look at my children. Look at society, at these people who live above the spirit of the age, who don't live in stupidity of their own chronological age. Because they love me and are in relationship with each other, I teach them to walk according to the light that only a loving, wiser being before them can give them."

So our Father is to be glorified through the way that we live our lives. Not as consumers who choke out what God has meant for us to experience in terms of life but are people who are to be able to give others hope. A wise man said a man is rich in proportion of the number of things which he can live without.

When the world looks at us as professed followers of Christ, and we live as if we can't live without anything (the latest flat screen, the latest type of car, the finest furnishings), then while we say that God satisfies, the world looks at us and scoffs and says they know better. The fact that fatherless, directionless, hopeless people without revelation from God live as a slave to money shouldn't surprise us. The fact that we are in bondage to the exact same thing is a great source of horror that makes our Father not famous but something that others laugh at.

God says, "I want you to be a people of hope. I want you to be people who draw others to me that I can give them what I've offered you, to live in freedom and not in bondage." It's the Enemy who has come to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus says, "Come to me, follow me, and I will give you life. I want you to have the abundant life. That's what I have offered for you."

Folks, here's the deal I want to share with you today. The Enemy wants you to lose the hope that God saved you for. He wants to steal your freedom. He wants to steal your self-respect. He wants to steal your joy. He wants to steal your rest. He wants to kill your family because you are serving something other than him.

He wants to destroy your hope. He wants to destroy your testimony. He wants to destroy your effectiveness. He wants to destroy your witness. People ask me, "How come there are people who don't know God who seem to live a wiser, more frugal life, than those who are in the church who I would say are a slave to materialism?"

I would say, "Here's the reason. That's easy. Just because somebody has professed to be a follower of Christ, maybe even somebody who has come to grips with their own sin, has acknowledged that apart from God's gracious provision and dying on the cross for them as a means through which men can be restored into relationship with a perfect God by accepting God's perfect sacrifice which he himself was for his sin. The fact that those people sometimes don't live wisely will produce in their life the same thing that folks who never knew Christ and acknowledge their sin in the first place will get when they don't live wisely."

Let me put it to you this way. Why are there so many marriages outside the church that have more harmony and love and care and kindness and oneness in them than marriages that are in churches? Because there are people, who sow the things into their lives that wisdom would have them sow into their life in order to reap the fruit of healthy relationships: forgiveness, oneness, acceptance, and grace.

You could be a person who is fully aware of your sin, who has embraced Jesus Christ as your sole means through which you can be reconciled to God, and yet ignore his love and revelation for you and live a self-serving lifestyle, and it's going to bring horror into your home. I don't care how many times you write Joshua 24 on the mantel of the door, that you'll serve the Lord. If you're not serving the Lord, it's going to show up in the destruction in your marriages and in your relationships with your kids and the way you're consumed by this world.

If, on the other hand, you're a person who doesn't know Christ, but you live frugally and morally, it will bless you on this earth. Here's the trick. At the end of the day, you could have no debt, you could have a fine marriage, and be what the rest of the world would say is a fine, moral citizen, but you're still going to be infinitely separated from a holy God when you stand before him in judgment.

God doesn't want it to be either one or the other. He wants you to be an individual who does live morally in humility with kindness and with gentleness and self-respect and self-discipline and cares for your family the way that he says and uses your money as a servant and not something you're indebted to. And you'll know that no matter how well you'll do that compared to the public norm, you're still infinitely short of a holy God, and you need his gracious provision.

The church of Christ is in bondage. We don't want to just make the message this morning that debt is bad. Some of you guys who are already in bondage to it know that it's stolen from you something God intended you to have. It has killed the joy in your life that he wants you to experience, and it has destroyed the hope that you should have as a child of the King.

The reason God cares so much about this issue is because he loves you, and he cares about you, and he doesn't want to see you again and again given over to things which will lead you down a road to pain. God says all along, "Come to me, and the aching in your soul will go away." To diss you with debt and consumerism when you're consumed with it is like alcoholism. A lot of people's drug of choice is American Express. Some of you it's Discover. God is saying, "Come to me, and I will give you life."

I have a little girl who, just the ways she's bent, her love language is gift-giving. I think it's something I think God has given her. She loves to serve others by giving to people. Like any gift God gives us, it can have a dark side. The dark side of gift-giving is that one of the ways she expresses love to others is in giving and serving, but also in receiving gifts. When she gets gifts, it's the joy of her life. The problem is she can begin to live addicted to that love language and not to the lover of her soul.

I am constantly with her when she makes a big deal out of Slurpee or a new shirt or a new opportunity saying, "If you get this, will you be happy? Is this the holy grail? Is this the last thing you need? Once you have this, will you never need anything else again?" Of course, she looks at me like I'm crazy. She goes, "No, but right now, this is what I need to be happy. I want you to buy this to give to somebody, or I want somebody else to buy this to give it to me because they love me." It's because I love her that I have to continually show her things don't bring you joy.

When I do allow her to purchase things, I sometimes say, "I want you to write down and describe the feeling of satisfaction you have right now. In seven days I'm going to come back to you and ask what the happiest you were all last week," and 99 times out of 100 it's not when they got that new purse, when they purchased with their own money those new shoes, when they went ahead and got that Slurpee, when they went ahead and did that thing. They don't even remember it. Yet, that is exactly what society drives us to believe. God is saying, "Come, and let me help you."

We're talking a lot about money. Let me make this very, very clear. We are really not ultimately concerned about money this morning. Money is the main issue and the main focus, but what we want to let you know that our heart is to help deal with that which will consume you and to find contentment once you have found hope in your relationship with Christ.

This is a point I want to make sure you get. If you're not content with where you are, then you will contend for that which leads to temptation and is a trap. The reason so many of us struggle with so many things is we have never come to the one who says, "Are you weary? Are you vulnerable? Then let me love you. You were designed to live in a relationship with me."

In the context of this series where most of our going, and the reason we're in consumer debt is because we go to find hope in things. In 1 Timothy 6:9-10, it talks a lot about this. "But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

It's become a trap. Proverbs 22:7 says, "The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender's slave." You're God's son. He says, "Why are you a slave to anything? Galatians 5:1 says this. "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." You have to stand firm in this world's current of pulling you toward the belief that things will make you happy, relationships will make you happy, the way to deal with your pain is to medicate it.

God is saying, "Let me deal with the vulnerability of your heart and your soul." This is the key verse, Acts 20:28. Watch this. "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." The point is this. We have to deal with this issue with each other.

Do you want to know why we're dealing with this? We are dealing with this issue today because God loves you and doesn't want you to be a prisoner to anything that's going to lead you to pain. So folks like myself and others who are leading here, the Holy Spirit says, "Todd, if you don't deal with this issue and talk straight forward to people about the bondage of materialism and consumerism, then you are going to be held in account as one who was to care for them.

The reality is that's why we call you deeply into community with one another. That's why we are so passionate about this. Every member, the Scripture says, is a minister. We are a kingdom of priests that the Holy Spirit that has called us to shepherd each other. It is impossible for you to say you love other people if you are not addressing the issue of money, material possessions, and being consumed by something other than Jesus Christ. You don't love others if you don't go there.

People in our body have absolutely wigged out at the prospect of sharing their financial understanding and budgets and giving and living with other people. I'm telling you, the Scriptures say, "You must," because this thing competes with your hearts like very few things.

I want you to know we are not ashamed of you here. I don't know who you've given yourself to, I don't know whether your debt is $10,000 or $100,000. I don't know if your issue is pornography. I don't know if your issue is leaving your wife and that beautiful family for some fleeting wonder some night in Detroit. I don't know if you're struggling with your sexual identity and homosexuality is that which is consuming you, but I want you to know this.

If you are consumed by anything other than Jesus Christ, God wants you to find rest with him. We're not afraid of your homosexuality, your adulterous affairs, or your debt. The last thing I ever want to be a part of is a body that makes me (because I'm a pastor) act like I don't struggle in this world that seeks to seduce my heart. You shouldn't be a part of a body like that either.

I love what happens at our church offices on Monday nights when we have this little thing called Celebrate Recovery where people who are leaders in our church gather together to talk about issues that are keeping them from experiencing the freedom and fervor for life that God intended for them as his children.

But I always regret that too many people are thinking that Monday night is the place that happens. You need to know Celebrate Recovery is just one arm of authentic community in this church. It is a place where you can go and be loved and deal with your hurts, habits, and hang-ups, your debt, your pornography, your homosexuality, your heterosexuality, or your anger. So is right here with us, and we love you.

You need to know that I am a man who lives in the context of community with other people who are helping me take ground in the areas of my life that are not yet all that God intends. I want you to know that you don't have to believe that wherever you are, you have to stay there. You can come, and you can find rest where there has been bondage.

What you have to do is not going to be easy. The Scripture says in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." The day you come back to your Father and say, "Father, I've been sowing into my life my own ways, I've been living according to the Spirit of the age, I've been living according to the finite mentality of a man or a woman my age, and I want to get back into relationship with you," he says this. When you begin to do that and depend on him, find contentment and fullness and him, you are going to be able to climb out eventually of the bondage you have been in.

It's going to look like this though. There is no situation that cannot be overcome, but it's going to take time, it's going to take a plan, it's going to take accountability to that plan, and most importantly, it's going to take you spending a lot of time with you Father being re-parented, re-instructed, transformed so that you wouldn't be conformed to this world about how you view money and material possessions.

He loves you. So in all your indebtedness and bondage, hopelessness and despair, he calls you back into his lap and says, "Tell me what you've been doing, and let me work through it with you. Let me call others in the family in who are going to love you that I myself have been gracious to, and they are going to be gracious with me to you for my glory and your good."

Here's the deal. There are two perspectives on money and material possessions. On one side, there's the pull of culture, on the other side, there's the mind and heart of God. God has given us everything we need in terms of time and resource in order to experience joy and hope. What happens is a lot of us are pulled by culture, and we don't have enough time to love our family well, we don't have enough time to rest, we don't have enough time to restore our soul, and we don't have enough money to make it without being in bondage because we're seeking to find significance the culture's way.

We're seeking to fill our boredom the culture's way. We're seeking to cover our pain the culture's way. We're seeking to gain acceptance before other people the culture's way. We're seeking to try and safeguard our future the culture's way. So we never think we have enough. But there's another way God calls you to, and he wants you to have your focus on your treasure being something that isn't finite. That your treasure would be heavenly.

He wants you to have a perspective that is eternal, and he wants you to serve him. That is why Jesus says, "Choose for yourself who you're going to serve, but you cannot serve money and me. You can't go the world's way and my way. You cannot go south and north." If you are in bondage, if you are losing hope, if you are an individual who is a slave to your world, you can be sure you're not serving the King who loves you.

Here's basically what the world says. The cultural view is this. Things equal happiness, possessions are what defines us, and the more you have the more you should spend. You think the reason that God has blessed you is to up your standard of living. That's not what the Scripture says. Sometimes, he blesses you just to up your standard of giving. The world doesn't tell you that.

Spending is a competition. He who dies with the most toys wins, is the most liked, the most sought after as a friend, the most often invited to parties because your gifts will be great. The cultural view is you can never be content. Do you know the famous line by Rockefeller when they looked at him, and they said, "How much money is enough?" What did he say? "Just $1 more" was his standard line. Never be satisfied.

"No money down, because you deserve the good life. Debt is expected; it's unavoidable. Get after it; you're an American. Pay it back next year. Take advantage. Live on tomorrow's promise today. Everybody has credit card debt; you may as well get in it. It's unrealistic to not live with credit card debt. I can always get another loan to cover this one. I can always transfer my balances. Bankruptcy can be an option for me one day. That grandfather is going to die. He did well. That's when I'll pay my debt. I'll marry out of debt." On and on the lies go.

God says it a different way. He says, "Be faithful." You're not somebody who is being given things to consume. You are a conduit, and you will be held into account. It says in 1 Corinthians 4:2, "it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy." You own nothing. You are a steward. Beware of idols, because idols will never deliver what they promise you.

So like in Romans 1:25 when gave themselves over to other things, God let them go deep into those other things and found there was no life there. In Psalm 106 it says, "God gave them the desire of their heart, but he sent leanness to their soul." God says, "There are many things that compete for your worship but stay away from those idols. Guard against greed because even when a man possesses many things, his life is not made up of his possessions.

He says, "Learn to practice moderation. Learn to be somebody who's content." This is what the Scripture says in Psalm 37:21. "The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives." What you do with money determines who you're serving. Are you borrowing and not paying back? The Scriptures make it very clear then which way you're going.

Are you gracious and giving? That's what children of the King, who is gracious and gives himself, do. Are you waiting for tomorrow's deliverance to deliver you from today's struggle? That's not what children of the King do. James 4:13-15.

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.'"

So don't presume, in effect, on what the Lord is going to do tomorrow. Do not boast about what a day will bring forth or what tomorrow will bring forth. You don't know what's going to happen. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Live faithfully today according to the means he gave you today. That's what marks you as a follower of God.

When you live in debt, and you trust in tomorrow's provision for today's needs, you lose your flexibility in order to go where God calls you. You lose your freedom to spend time with kids, to rest, and you lose your fervor for living. There's more than one of you in this room this morning who have driven around looking for bridges that you might go off of just to escape the hell that is the bondage you are in. Looking for it to be a death that was written off as an accident in anything that can get you out of this life that is a slave to the master who has consumed you.

You're not alone. I'm telling you. I know the thoughts that you have had. I don't care if your debt came from gambling. I don't care if your debt came from an addiction to drugs or alcohol or if your debt just came from the addiction that you had to thinking the next thing would bring you life. I know where idols always lead you: to the point of despair where you'll leave even your love for life. You're living in a city that excels at this.

There are really five different places you can be. You can be in a place of great crisis where you've lost your fervor for living. You wish you could just die. It would all go away. You could go to sleep and never wake up. You're beyond depression.

There are others of you who are living greatly discouraged from one paycheck from disaster. Stress is never far from you. You realize if a recession comes, you'll be at a place where you can't stay in your house. You won't be driving those cars. Your life is a façade. One good recession, one layoff, one reduction in pay, one year where your money doesn't come in the way it did before on your percentage of sales, and trouble will hit, and you will be exposed.

Then there are others of you who are in "good" financial shape from the world's standards. Yet, you're still in debt to a lifestyle or one who will ask you to give an account. There are some who are hoarders who are definitely in a position where God is going to say, "We have to chat about why I blessed you the way I have. You're failing the test."

Then there are folks who have learned to live in a God-honoring lifestyle of contentment. To live that way in this city is not easy. Dallas excels in its temptations. Dallas will tell you where you live matters. Dallas tells you that your friends will think less of you if you don't keep up, so you have to drive the right car.

There's no way you're going to be able to date those girls if you don't dress this way, drive this way, wine and dine her this way. How you consume and how you're able to consume matters. Your possessions define who you are. Are you somebody who others want to spend time with based on what you own?

"My kids need or deserve a private school education, the best of the best. I couldn't send them to public school." "The more you have, the more you should spend because God's given you or you've earned in your entrepreneurial hard work that which should up your standard of living." "I grew up in this neighborhood, so my kids should too." That is just common fare and common belief, but you can't say it's consistent with what Scriptures tell us.

There is in God's Word some instructions for those of us who are living in this world called Dallas, Texas, who are living in the world called 2005. Let me say this real quickly about Dallas. Dallas is a city that the current that's sucking us into being consumed by money and material possessions is stronger than in most cities.

There's an article the Dallas Morning News had in May of 2005 that talks about the fact that there are more home foreclosures in Dallas than any other city in Texas, and in fact, the highest foreclosure rate in the country. Why is that? Because in this city that continues to tell you that where you live matters, folks are stretching it out.

When people come to you and say, "This is the maximum home you can live in based on where you are at today," there are people who stretch it to the height of their ability. If anything changes to the economy or in their personal job situation, they're done. They lose all the equity they poured into it.

The folks who gave you the loan don't care. It's already sold. The folks who did the mortgage for you aren't concerned about you. The realtor who closed the deal didn't have your best interest in mind. They didn't tell you to find out what you could do and to live at X minus 1 that. They tried to tell you, "I know it's always this way." When you're preapproved at $150,000, the home of your dreams is $170,000, but we can make it work. It's common fare here.

There's one guy who they interviewed in this article towards the end of it. His name is George Roddy. He runs a Dallas-based foreclosure listing service which tracks monthly foreclosure postings in North Texas. He wasn't surprised to hear that the DFW area ranks high in forced home sales. He said, "This market is really adding it up as far as foreclosures." He's reported more than 16,000 houses in North Texas were posted for foreclosure through the first half of 2005.

He said, "Most North Texas home foreclosures are the result of consumers who make bad debt choices, not a weak local economy. But the layoffs and business failures a couple of years ago played a part. It's a residue of bad economic times." He couldn't even get out of his mouth for five seconds before he wasn't talking himself off the truth. Do you hear that?

Do you know why it's happening? It's because this city is driven, and we are consumed by our loves for things. It has nothing to do with a weak economic condition. But now that I think about it, it is really a weak economic condition, and it's a result of low residual incomes. Unbelievable. We will not admit that we are slave to something other than that which is called to set us free.

Here's what God says. You want to know how to work your way out? This is the way to do it. You have to know where your dollars go. You have to begin tracking your money. I want you to understand this. God gives very simple and clear practical steps. You have to know where your dollars go.

There are some folks in this room who refuse to look at their account balances, who won't look at their credit card statements to figure out if they're paying anything down on principal, what are the interest rates. All they want to do is keep that phone from ringing again, keep the bank from wearing them out, and they really won't sit down with somebody and go, "This is the truth. This is where I've gotten myself. If you are not intimately aware of your financial situation, you have a problem.

You are a steward of what God has given you. To ignore the resources and to not know the conditions of what you have been given or the condition of the problem that you're in the middle of is a severe problem. Track what you have. Know where your money goes. Talk and pray about your responsibilities with others often. Do not isolate yourself. Give generously.

A lot of folks go, "Wait a minute. You're telling me give when I have a great deal of debt?" Yes. I am. I'm not asking you to give to Watermark. This is not about you giving to us. It's not about the fact that we're in the middle of an opportunity to build a resource together that we can use to serve God's kingdom. You want to talk about that? You have an issue whether or not that's a good use of money? Leadership is consistently available for you with that.

We're not doing this for you to give to Watermark, but I will tell you this. You'd better find out where the Lord wants you to give of what he is giving you every week and begin to give there. If this is where you're being fed, Scripture would inform that. The point is, you should begin to give immediately. It is never the wrong time to begin to do the right thing.

I should add right here that there are some of you who are out there that the reason you're not looking where you money is going, and the reason you're not really willing to tell other people about it is because you are already so filled with guilt and shame, your life has been so marred already by consumerism, materialism, debt, and foolishness that you feel like, "I've already blown it. There's no sense in trying to get my arms around it now."

Let me ask you a question. If a gal comes to you and said, "I made a horrible mistake. This weekend in my foolishness, getting caught up in the moment, I gave my heart, my soul, and my body to the quarterback of the football team. It's brought immense pain to me, and I'm in debt to the decisions I have made." Would you say, "Now that you've lost your virginity, let me introduce you to the offensive line and the starting defense"?

It's offensive, isn't it? You'd never say that. You'd say, "Wait a minute. Gosh, there's grace, there's forgiveness, there's hope. You can march down that wedding aisle with white on, with your head held high, but you have to deal with your sin. You have to acknowledge the poverty that was in your soul that made you vulnerable to the deceitful wooing of the selfish being over here. You have to learn to give your heart to somebody who loves you and cares for you and begin to work this way."

Some of you guys are in debt to tens of thousands of dollars. There are people we know in this room with consumer debt that is six figures. The worst thing you can do is go, "What's the use?" There is a way out. I want you to know that. The worst that you can do is say, "I lost my virginity, so I may as well be a whore." Because your Father loves you. He's not ashamed of what you've done, but he hurts with you where you are. He has set you free by his blood. It grieves him to have you give yourself away to guys who say they have your best interest in mind.

Do you know why God cares so much about this and teaches so much about this? It's an area that consumes so many of us. He loves us. He would tell you, "Stop spending tomorrow's money today. Get help." Teach your kids. Tell them about the power of foolishness and tell them about the hope of living according to the way that their loving Father spoke about this issue.

There are three possible ways, by the way, to live with your money. You can live where your income equals your expenses, you can live where your income is greater than your expenses, or you can live where your expenses are greater than your income. So, you have to figure out what you're going to do.

What most people do if they get a place where their expenses are greater than their income is they will then begin to deal with it this way. They'll go, "You know what I'm going to do?" Most folks we talk to, their first response is this. "I think I'm going to begin to make more money. I have to find another job where I can make more money."

Typically what we do when we make more money is we spend more money. They'll think, "This time we'll be disciplined to not lived at a higher standard," but we don't deal with the poverty of our soul. So we're still vulnerable. Now, we just have a greater test we're going to fail in a greater way and bring about greater pain.

You can then increase your income, which very few folks have a chance to do. You can sell your assets. You wouldn't believe the number of people who when they begin to address this issue, they say, "I have to get out of this situation. I'm a slave to debt. I am a slave to my being consumed by things other than Christ. But I have to get out of this.

I'm not going to move. I'm not going to change where my kids are in school. I'm not going to get rid of my cars. It's not realistic that we eat at home every single night and my kids take lunch to school. But, maybe I'll shop at Target instead of Dillard's, and maybe we'll go to Humperdinks instead of Bob's. That's the way we're going to try to address it. But the major things, don't even go there with me. That's why I wasn't going to come to you in the first place."

If you don't begin to address the major areas of your life that were a major illusion that they were yours to begin with, there's not a lot of hope there. If you think you can't be happy apart from those assets, then you need to know that those things are your god, and they're going to disappoint you ever time. Then you can also reduce your expenses. If you're not willing to deal with your assets and to change the frugality with which you live and the standard you think you're deserving of and entitled to, you're going to have issues.

My dear friend, who has since come on staff with us…early days of Watermark, five years ago…who I'd known for many years before that, who's my assistant, had gotten herself into consumer debt to the tune of $10,000 to $15,000, and because of fear and the lies of the Enemy, she couldn't tell anybody.

She worked her way out the first time thinking she had learned her lesson. Yet, having gotten back to square one, next time goes back. This time the debt crawls to $30,000. Then, by the grace of God, or so she thought, somebody came and took care of that monster for her in the form of family. They said, "Listen, if you ever do this again, I'll kill myself." So now, getting out of it once by herself, getting out of it again because family came delivered my sweet Becky from $30,000, Becky then again went into debt.

Because she hasn't dealt with the issues in her heart, or she wasn't consumed with the life-giving God, she found herself now in $50,000 worth of debt and was imprisoned. She felt like she couldn't tell anybody here because she was on staff at a church, the pastor's assistant, all the time living in "community" with everyone, living the life of deceit and isolation that was bringing death to her and bondage to her family.

Until finally, by the grace of God, one day, in her tears, we broke through, and we began to help her. Five years later, Becky is out of debt. Not because anybody wrote a check, but because of discipline living, because of the practices of the things we've talked about this morning, and because of community, the plan, the accountability, learning to love her Father and let her Father speak into her life. This time, not because she was rescued by a relative but because she was rescued by a reigning King. Listen to her story.

[Video]

Becky: The world says, "That's okay. Shop. You work; you deserve it. Shop. Go buy those new clothes. Don't buy them on sale. Just go buy those clothes. Buy that new car. Buy those shoes. Buy that purse." Media tells us it's okay. So I bought into the lie that it was okay. I didn't realize it had become my idol. It had become my god. Instead of God being my god, the shopping was. The debt was just growing and growing.

I didn't realize the effects it was having on me. It affected my whole being. It affected my health, and I didn't realize that. It brought on a lot of stress, and I didn't realize that. Spending became my coping mechanism. Whether I was happy or sad or if something didn't go well at work or at home or with my son, I would spend. That would medicate me and bring me immediate gratification, but it never lasted.

Through a series of circumstances, I realized what I was doing, and I was broken. The pain was so great that I wanted out. Whatever it took, I wanted the pain to stop. I want the chaos to stop, and that meant I needed to learn new habits. I need to replace old habits with new healthy habits. The way I did that was I sat down with people who I felt I trusted and I felt safe with. They helped me prepare a budget, and they helped set up accountability. That is what worked for me.

I've been walking now in victory for four years. The freedom is so sweet. At first it was intimidating thinking I had to show someone my budget. It's embarrassing, but I was received with such grace and loving arms. They let me know I am not in this alone. I am not identified by my sin.

[End of video]

The hope that we have is wherever you are, whatever it is that consumes you, you can come to the one who desires to give you the rest that you were created to experience only in a relationship with him. We've been talking about money, but I want to make it very clear, whatever you're in debt to, in bondage to, there's somebody who has purchased you with his blood. He wants you to come out from your shame and your fear.

Don't buy the lie that you've already made a mistake, you may as well go that way. "Oh, these people in this room, they all have their acts together. I'm the only one who's struggling in this way." No, you're not, but that's what the Enemy wants you to believe, so we call you to come.

On November 5, there is another one-day seminar where 20-some-odd folks in our body have this as their ministry. The MoneyWise ministry. They're going to gather together just to serve you. There is one-on-one financial counseling available for every member of our church. You can email them at moneywise@watermarkcommunity.org. Say, "I need help. I need somebody to sit with me and begin to process this stuff. We might be doing good. We think we're doing good, but we're doing it in isolation."

We need help. We are calling you to come. Don't live in bondage and in isolation any longer. Don't be consumed by the lie. This is a great series and chance for us to become the body that Christ wants us to be. Can you imagine if nobody in our church lived in debt?

Can you imagine the call that would go out to others and say, "I want to know a people whose Father loves them so much that he delivers them from the bondage that the consumerism that is in our world today entraps so many of us in." Will you come? Will you focus with us on the one thing that lasts?

Scripture tells us a story about a woman who was convinced that nobody could handle her pain. She had been abused by doctors for 12 years, exhausted all their money trying to find help in other places, yet still was filled with the shame of the issue of blood which continually came forth from her body. She lived in isolation from a lot of people and felt like she was hopeless. She felt like she could never tell anybody.

Finally, in a fit of despair, she had heard about Christ and heard that he was in town. She said, "I don't really care because I have nowhere else to turn except this one who says he can heal the pain that's in my heart." So she came, and she fought her way through the crowd. She said, "I'm going to go to you, and I'm going to touch you. I'm going to seek to live in you in the way you said I could find life like nowhere else."

She found that healing, and she dealt with her shame, and she found that hope. Like Becky, Christ said, "Tell others that you've come to me, and I've delivered you from the oppression of darkness." If you're out there today and you feel like you still want to hide, I want to tell you one more time what they said when Jesus was alive. Come to him, and he will give you rest.

I don't care what your issue is. We focused on money this morning, but I've mentioned others. Will you come to other broken people who have touched him, and who, by God's grace, began to walk with him in a way that's given us life, and with us begin to walk in freedom in a way that will make him famous?

Will you do that with me? Come. If you know him, will you go? As you bump into folks all alone out there, tell them about your Jesus and the healing that's brought into your heart. As you do that, you will be a worshiper. I pray you have a great week worshiping, either in coming or in going.


About 'Consumed'

Whether youre deep in debt or have the tendency to hoard, the Bible is clear that there is a direct correlation between our attitude toward money and our relationship with God. Through these six messages by Todd Wagner, pastor of Watermark Community Church, you will learn Gods heart on the issues of materialism, debt, and being consumed with money and possessions. Our hope is that you will take away practical tools for handling what God has entrusted to you and surrendering your finances to Gods wisdom and direction - ultimately leading you to financial freedom.