If I Appear Arrogant, Flippant, or Crazy…
OCTOBER 6, 2021
Last week I recorded a message to our Key Life sermon CD subscribers that we were no longer mailing those CDs out.
CDs are fast becoming obsolete and new cars don’t even have CD players. Everything is now available online.
Years ago I sent a similar message out to those who were receiving sermon cassettes. (If you don’t know what a cassette is, it’s a small container with tape in it. It’s played on a cassette player that’s sort of like the old 8-track players where . . . Oh, never mind. ?) At that time, we switched to CDs. In fact, we received a good deal on CD players and offered to send people one. For the record, we’re probably not going to offer free laptops to those who don’t have one.
Over the years we have sent hundreds of thousands of cassettes and CDs to people who requested them . . . and now no more. Jesus, in referring to the Gospel message and the church, once said, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins” (Mark 2:22). I suppose no one puts new sermons on old cassettes or old CDs either.
I think this was a wise decision, but I hate it. In fact, I hate change. I hate any change. If I were sent to hell and the angels tried to remedy the mistake, I would probably tell them to just leave me alone.
I think I’ve told you about the elderly couple who went to a lawyer seeking a divorce. “How could you do that,” the lawyer asked, “after 8 children, 23 grandchildren, and over 20 great-grandchildren?” They replied in unison, “Enough is enough!”
If anything requires change, I will never change simply because, for me, enough of the same is never enough.
Lots of luck with that.
I know, I know. The only thing that doesn’t change is the fact that everything changes. In the rapid pace of technology, that lives on steroids. The smartphone, computer, and software you just bought were out of date before you left the store. And rapid social change is almost as fast and even more devastating. There is an interesting statement in Exodus about change: “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies’” (Exodus 1:8-10). Just as in Egypt, God’s people are always one generation away from destruction if God doesn’t intervene . . . and he always does.
We live in a culture similar to Egypt and, just as the leaders of Egypt didn’t know Joseph, so many of our educators, leaders, and politicians don’t know Jesus. That doesn’t bode well for our country in general and for Christians in particular. Humanistic worldviews sound wonderful, but they are almost always utopian, and destroy the good, the beautiful, and the true. That’s nothing new. It’s always been the nature of the battle from the very beginning. Genesis 3:6 says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [the good], and that it was a delight to the eyes [the beautiful], and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise [the true], she took the fruit and ate.” And look where that got us. It still takes us to that same place.
But I’m going down a rabbit trail here, one where I didn’t mean to go. What I meant to say before I rudely interrupted myself was that one of the major reasons I’m a Christian (and there are a lot of others) is that truth, revelation, and God himself never change.
The writer of Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace” (Hebrews 13:8-9). Being “strengthened by grace” is the fruit of God’s immutability. If God never changes and if Jesus is always the same, that is really good news. However, that good news has some surprising downsides.
For instance, if God and his love never change, there is the danger that I appear arrogant. If God’s love never changes, I can lean hard on that fact.
There is an old joke about the difference between a Calvinist (believing in the sovereignty of God) and an Arminian (leaning in the direction of human freedom). While the Calvinist has a TULIP (the five points of Calvinism), the Arminian has a daisy, and pulls its petals off one by one saying, “He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. He . . .”
When I sing, “Jesus loves me, this I know,” I sing it with gusto because I know he loved me at the beginning of creation, he loves me now, and he will love me forever. That will never change. Even my parents didn’t love me that much. In fact, my mother (the wonderful, sweet, and gentle grandmother to her grandchildren) was, when it came to me, not someone I wanted to cross. Something happened between my childhood and the birth of her grandchildren, and, frankly, I’ve always resented that. ?
But if God and his love never change, I may appear arrogant. After all, my Father is the King.
Recently, after a whole lot of years, I’m back in touch with my childhood friend, Doug, and I love him. When we grew up together, the best thing about Doug was that his father owned the local drugstore. The best thing about that drugstore was the soda fountain. And the best thing about that soda fountain was that Doug (and his close friends) always got free ice cream. After school, Doug would go to his father’s drugstore, just march behind the soda fountain, and dish out ice cream for all of us. Frankly, sometimes Doug was quite arrogant over that fact.
My heavenly Father owns the drugstore too . . . along with everything else. It’s hard to be humble when your Father is the King and your big brother, Jesus, is the crown prince. I try, but I can never quite pull it off. It is, however, helpful to remember that when “I’ve done the best I can, and my friends don’t understand.” When Christians are demeaned, disrespected, and disvalued, it is a good thing to remember who we are and whose we are. And when we do that, it sometimes seems arrogant.
When God and his love never change, there is also a problem with forgiveness. We can appear flippant about sin. God’s immutability and love mean that I’m forgiven . . . always. It causes me to write books like Three Free Sins and to sound antinomian when I’m really not. (“Antinomian” is a word coined by Luther meaning “against the law,” a charge often leveled against him.) When people say to me, “How could you do that after all that Jesus has done for you?” I don’t say so, but I think, It’s as if it never happened . . . so there! My pastor friend, Jerry Parries, says, “We will run out of sin before God runs out of grace.” Because that is true and I know it, sometimes it can seem like I’m not taking sin seriously. The truth is, I know the horror and destruction of sin. As much as anybody I know, I want to please God. Still, sometimes I laugh and dance at inappropriate times when people think I should instead wear “sackcloth and ashes” and “eat dirt” in church to show my repentance.
There is something else. Knowing that God and his love never change makes me a far better poker player than pagans. And before you get too upset, poker is a metaphor. I don’t even play poker anymore; but, when I did, I was quite good at it. The fact is, in order to be good at poker, you have to be willing to risk. And in order to risk, you have to be able to afford to lose. That’s not only true of poker . . . it’s true of life.
Christians sometimes do crazy things, risk crazy things, and even say crazy things. Some are crazy for the Kingdom (as with missionaries and martyrs), and some are just plain crazy. If you knew you could never fail, never lose, and never fall without landing on your feet, what would you do? That’s kind of what Romans 8:28 tells us about us. It’s also why Paul said that we should praise God in all things. You have someone who has your back. He is bigger than any bully you will ever encounter. He is richer and he knows more than anybody who demands that you worship at their altar. And he has far more power than any president or king. That has always been true, it is now true, and it will always be true.
That crazy side of Christians is called freedom. Not only does it make you a better poker player, you can dance . . . simply because you’re not always looking at your feet. While you will sometimes get it right and sometimes get it wrong, that’s so much better than never playing or dancing at all.
What have you got to lose?
So, while we may no longer offer cassettes (I hated that change) or CDs (I hate this change even more so), I’m reminded that some things never change. I’m sorry if I’ve sometimes appeared arrogant, flippant, or crazy. Now you know the reason.
It was Jesus’ fault.
He told me I could tell you that.