Why do you persist in irritating everybody?
Steve Brown February 7th, 2011
As you know, for months now, I've been working on a new book, Three Free Sins! God's Surprising Gift. I just finished the manuscript!
As soon as I finish writing you, I'm getting drunk. (Given that I don't consume alcoholic beverages, one beer ought to do it.)
Okay. I won't. But the thought is a pleasant one…transcendence in a bottle.
As I read over what I've written, some of it seems to me to be very good, some of it not half bad and some of it so bad I wince. Trouble is, I'm not sure which is which. I'm sure the editors will tell me…and I'll wonder where they were when the page was blank.
Most of yesterday and this morning, I've worked on the last chapter. It is, as in some of my other books, a Q & A chapter in an attempt to ameliorate the damage I did in all the other chapters and thereby keep my job. The title of the chapter is Are you Crazy? Because that chapter is on my mind (and I always write to you with whatever is on my mind at the time), I'm going to share with you some of the answers to some of the questions in that last chapter.
Well, are you crazy?
Sometimes I think so. In fact, the things we Christians say we believe are quite crazy. We believe that there is a God who created everything, and especially and lovingly created us. We believe that creator God is in charge of all that creation and directs it for his purposes. Then we believe that the same God humbled himself and became a man, walking our dirty roads, hanging out with the worst of us, and then hanging on a cross for his people. We believe that that dead man got out of a grave and walked around, was taken up to heaven and will return to clean up the mess.
If you believe that, you'll believe anything!
But if that doesn't cause you to wince, this will. The Bible teaches that God likes us a lot. And that our sin isn't the issue and it was covered on the cross. Not only that, we believe that the "goodness" of Christ himself was given to us and we stand good before God because of that gift.
Paul called the Gospel the "foolishness of God" and said it "pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe…" (1 Corinthians 1:21).
There is a sense in which what seems logical, balanced and reasonable probably isn't the Gospel, but people trying to create a God who they think ought to exist. That's called "religion" and it's easy to win arguments with that religion. The truth of the Gospel is so foolish that you have to get it rather than understand it. If you don't get it, those who do seem crazy.
Why do you persist in irritating everybody? Free sins??? That's outrageous! Why don't you write and teach in a normal way?
I've tried to say it in a normal way. Nobody listens. So I decided to ditch the theological and religious words, and to be as outrageous as God was in his giving of himself for us. It sometimes makes people angry but they do listen.
What about discipline? You very conveniently avoid Hebrews 12:7. It says, in case you don't know, "It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?"
The reason I don't refer to that very often is that it is the weapon of choice in the hands of the manipulators. They (and me on occasion) give the gift with one hand and take it away with the other. In other words: God loves us without condition; but if you don't respond appropriately to his love, he'll take you out to the woodshed and you won't be able to walk for a week.
What's with that?
I can't tell you how many times I've heard people with cancer, AIDS, rebellious children, lost jobs and a thousand other "dark" experiences refer to Hebrews 12:7. They are sure that God, in his love, is disciplining them. One time a man even told me, after he lost his family, that God was disciplining him because he stole a quarter from his mother's purse when he was twelve.
Nonsense. If there were a correlation between our obedience and his discipline, we would have been destroyed a long time ago.
This isn't a book given over to a proper exegesis of Hebrews 12:7, but it is proper to take the father in that and apply it to the father Jesus revealed. It is also quite proper to compare a good father to our images of a heavenly one. Jesus said, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:11).
My father was evil by human standards, but there was never a man who loved his sons more than my father. He was not a very good disciplinarian and was criticized for it. In fact, he only spanked me twice in all the years I was growing up. That wasn't because I only deserved to be spanked twice (are you kidding?); it was just all he could muster. And he wept real tears both times. Do you know what happened those two times? Afterwards, I got hugged and I got ice cream. In fact, it was worth the spanking just to get the ice cream. The hugs too! It just took me a lot of years to see that the hugs were more important than the ice cream.
If we're going to teach discipline to God's people, it must always be done with the Father Jesus revealed and my father in mind. If it isn't, it's just a back door way to pour on the guilt and to keep God's people in line.
Okay, but where do you draw the line?
There isn't one. And as soon as you draw one, it ceases to be the Gospel.
My friend, Zach Van Dyke, a youth pastor and a regular on our talk show, recently attended a conference for youth leaders with some three or four thousand people. One of the main speakers was Ted Haggard. He was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of a mega-church when it was discovered, based on the claims of a male prostitute, that he was buying drugs and later, he admitted to "sexual immorality."
I don't know Ted Haggard, but I have heard some of the pain he's gone through subsequent to his fall. Shame, financial ruin, and loss of friendships and ministry are just a part of it. I suspect his nights are very dark. But he has "come back home" and his repentance is now as notorious as his sin.
When he was introduced to these youth ministry people, Zach told me that a whole lot of people (maybe as many as a thousand) stood up and walked out of the auditorium. I get that and suspect they felt they were taking a stand for Christ. Sometimes one must do that. But this time when they left the building, Jesus didn't go with them. He stayed behind and rejoiced in the "coming home" of Ted Haggard.
But that isn't the tragedy. The tragedy is that those who were hesitant about staying or leaving because of their own stand, must remain silent, hiding their own sin and their own unworthiness. It almost killed Ted Haggard and it will kill them too.
No, there isn't a line.
What if you're wrong?
I'm in trouble.
You are too.
In fact, if what I've written in this book isn't true, neither of us has a prayer.
He asked me to tell you that it's all true.
This entry was posted on Monday, February 7th, 2011 at 3:14 pm and is filed under Christianity, Church, Culture, Gospel, Grace, Jesus, Steve Brown, Ted Haggard, Three Free Sins. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.