Over-the-Counter Christianity

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I come from a family of pharmacists. My dad and uncle were pharmacists, as are my brother, sister, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law. Back in my HS years, I used to work in my dad’s drug store, mostly receiving the shipments and making sure the shelves were well stocked with merchandise. A large part of our inventory was devoted to what we called “OTC”. These were over-the-counter drugs; medicines people can buy without a prescription. These included cough syrup, aspirin, cold capsules, antacids, eye drops and the like. We sold a lot of OTC products. What is funny is that, as a family of pharmacists, we never kept very much of the OTC stuff in our personal medicine cabinets.

Dad told me the reason for this was that: OTC drugs may take care of the symptoms, but they really don’t take care of the problem. OTC medicines make you feel better, but they don’t make you better. In fact, people who use OTC’s too much run the danger of ignoring the larger issues by focusing on taking care of the symptoms. A person with an ulcer can delay needed treatment because he appeases the symptoms with large doses of Pepto Bismol.

As a pastor I see in many Christians an alarming trend towards “Over The Counter” Christianity. This is characterized by the following:

1. Focusing on the symptoms (what is wrong with life around me?), but ignoring the issues (what is wrong with life within me?)

2. Wanting the quick fix (inspirational worship, Christian seminars, profound sermons) rather than pursuing the cure (personal prayer, Scripture intake and meditation, spiritual mentoring).

3. A “Me-first” mentality (faith to make my life better) versus a “Love Others” mentality (faith to make other people’s lives better).

4. Emotion, instead of Devotion. Obligation, instead of Obedience. Religion, instead of Relationship… (you get the picture)

I don’t have enough space to deal with each of these topics; let’s start with #1 and see if we can get to the others in the future.

When life gets hard we have a tendency to blame the things outside of us (people, situations, demons, etc.) But this is contrary to what Jesus taught. He instructed us to “take the beam out of our own eyes” before attempting splinter removal in others. We need to confess before we blame.

David says: “Search my heart, O God .. See if there is any offensive way in me.” (Ps. 139: 23-24)

James says: “Confess your sins to one another so that you may be healed.” (James 5:17)

Confession is one of those lost disciplines in the Christian church, but it is badly needed in today’s OTC world. Confession roots out the cause of poor spiritual health. It requires ruthless honesty and intense humility, in an atmosphere of safety and trust. But Dr. Jesus will use it to set you free.

I encourage you to take time today to allow God to search your heart. Start an accountability group with a trusted Christian friend to get things out in the open. (If you need help with this, feel free to contact me – I have materials and ideas that can help get you started).

3 thoughts on “Over-the-Counter Christianity

  1. Thanks, Doug. This is SO true and I catch myself looking for the OTC quick fix too often before I tackle the real problem. This is very helpful. Please continue to write about them if you can. Thank you.

  2. Well, I know for me one of the first issues I discovered that I need to address is obtaining clarity from God because confusion and conflicting “good things” is the first attack from the enemy. If I focus on trying to fix things, then the first thing I see is that there are multiple good things in the mix and they are competing against each other in a way and this confuses me and my confusion causes me to get off track with God. Only when I can step back and see things from a higher perspective can I see how the enemy has taken pieces of godly things and tried to confuse me with the way I prioritize things. Getting to the place that I can stop and focus on God only is the difficulty I experience. Hearing God again breaks the cycle of confusion and releases me from the bondage of confusion but it is the hearing from God part that confusion takes away from me and it easily becomes a vicious never ending cycle. So, if you could write on how to (1) recognize that it is enemy attack and (2) how to prioritize real life stuff to justify letting go of the responsibilities of life temporarily in order to focus on God and obtain his clarity, that would help me at least.

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