Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Greener Grass Conspiracy

A couple of weeks ago God began to deal with me greatly on the issue of contentment. It was the issue that was at the forefront of my prayers, my time in the Word, my thoughts. I was being greatly tempted by feelings of discontent and entitlement. Those are feelings that are not conducive to a productive, worshipful Christian life. About this time I received a complimentary copy of a book from Crossway that dealt with this very issue. The Greener Grass Conspiracy by Stephen Altrogge is a fun, easy, convicting and edifying book that is well worth the investment of the small amount of time it takes to make it through the 140 pages.

Let me briefly comment on Altrogge’s style and then deal with the content of the book. Altrogge is masterful in the way he uses humor to compliment his content. His use of stories is not to fill text or to simply keep someone interested. He uses humor as a means of disarming the reader as he deals with personal and difficult issues in a frank manner. His humor is the anesthesia before the scalpel, and he wields both of them well.

As entertaining as this brother is, the content of the book is the real draw. The Greener Grass Conspiracy looks at the conspiracy between the enemy and our flesh to ensure our discontentment, and how we can overcome this opposition. Chapter one shows us that we are not content, not because of our circumstances but, because of our “idol factory” of a heart. We are constantly creating idols to worship instead of finding peace and joy in the one true God.

In the second chapter, Altrogge explains that he is not the center of the universe. This part was rather obvious to me. The surprising part was that he presented a convincing argument that I actually was not the center of the universe either. And neither are you. When we begin to understand this we can truly begin to be much more content with how God chooses to treat us, because this is His universe. I may have an opinion on how He should run things but that is all I have, an opinion. A difference between Him and I is that He actually possesses a universe that was created for Him and by Him.

Chapter 3 addresses the misconception that contentment is equivalent to “ambitionless asceticism”. Neither a lack of desire nor a lack of ambition is contentment but rather “contentment is a disposition of the heart that freely and joyfully submits to God’s will, whatever that may be”. We recognize Romans 8:28, that God uses all things for the good of those who love Him. But take note of the term “joyfully”. Contentment is not treating God like a “divine dentist”. We do not bear with God, we “joyfully” submit to Him because we have tasted and seen just how good He really is.

“Discontentment is the result of misplaced worship,” and “the only way to grow in contentment is to undergo the process of identifying and destroying the idols in our lives.” Chapter 4 is the part of the book where “we re-break your nose, twist your foot, and rip your toenail out”, “where things get uncomfortable.” All this is necessary because we suffer from a self-inflicted worship malfunction, and the remedy, though necessary and sweet, is often painful.
Chapter 5 argues that contentment cannot be circumstantial, not matter how opulent the circumstances. There are lies that we believe and we must learn to spot them and believe the truth. The worst part of these lies is not that deceive us but that they attack God’s character, leading us to believe things about God that would minimize the glorious nature of who He is. This is not a small problem or an insignificant issue.

The chief offspring of discontentment is complaining and chapter 6 deals with this sin in light of the Gospel. The Gospel is the message that God covered our sins with the blood of Jesus, His Son. He purchased our forgiveness. He purchased us. Discontentment could easily be expressed as contempt of the Gospel. Discontentment and its firstborn, complaining, are a slap in the face of the Gospel and of the God who spared not His Son to redeem us from the sin we loved and the wrath we deserved. As a child of God, I have an eternal relationship with the Father. I have more than enough incentive to be more than content.

Chapter 7 is about suburban, Christian, pre-adolescents and their affinity for less than stellar white rappers…or something like that. Actually it is about the road to contentment, which is very rarely a straight and smooth thoroughfare. The path that leads to contentment is most often littered with hardship and heartache. Chapter 8 reveals the secret to contentment and our need for an “Antiques Road Show” moment.

Chapter 9 is entitled “Eat the Meat and Die”. Altrogge again deals with complaining and the resulting wrath from God that complaining elicits. “Count Your Blessings—Literally,” is a call to see the evidence of God’s love as shown through His provision. It is not, however, an argument for minimizing the burdens and heartaches that we, or others, endure, but rather it is a call to see these hardships for what they are, momentary and fleeting and see God for who He is, eternal and faithful.

“The Furnace of Suffering” illustrates the truth of how God refines the Christian through suffering, hardship, and persecution. We know that we can endure this fire because not only has our God endured it, but He walks us through it. Chapter 12 gets to a key component of discontentment that I wish had been introduced earlier in the text. Discontentment in the life of a Christian is often just a longing for Heaven, an impatience for what God has in store for those He has mercifully saved. We can be content when we realize that Heaven for the believer, that is God’s presence and our holiness, begins at new birth rather than physical death. Heaven, to those of us still in the flesh, may not be fully realized, but it is fully real.

This book is excellent. How is that for straight forward? Altrogge does a great job of drawing you in and then slapping you with the truth of God. God used this book mightily to minister to me on an issue that is prevalent and pervasive in our culture of idolatry and discontentment. I greatly believe that God will do the same for any who read it with a desire to be convicted and broken over their sin and restored by the truth of the Gospel presented within “The Greener Grass Conspiracy”.

"Greener Grass Conspiracy" Trailer - Stephen Altrogge from Crossway on Vimeo.