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Be religious, but not too much.

Be religious, but not too much.

APRIL 19, 2023

/ Programs / Key Life / Be religious, but not too much.

Steve Brown:
Be religious, but not too much. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.

Matthew Porter:
Key Life is a radio program for struggling believers, sick of phony religion and pious cliches. Our host and teacher is seminary professor Steve Brown. He teaches that radical freedom leads to infectious joy and surprising faithfulness.

Steve Brown:
If you were listening yesterday, we were talking about some of the firewalls that put us in control and refused to give control to the God who loves us. And one of them, and some of you were really surprised when I said this, one of them is religion. I have a friend who’s, who had another friend who came into his office, and they had an appointment and she said, would you excuse me for a minute? And he said, what are you going to do? And she said, I’m going to the lady’s room and I’m going to have my devotions. I forgot this morning and I want to have a good day. And he laughed and he said, God may give you a bad day just because you were trying to control everything. And he was right. Now, don’t get me wrong, I said yesterday that prayers and Bible reading and devotions and doing religious stuff, was often an effort to control. And we need to stop that, Jesus did when he prayed.

I hate this cup, and if possible, take it from me, but not my will, but your will be done.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having a devotional life. And during Christian work, worship, good Biblical theology, and seminary preparation are good. I’m just saying that we have to be very careful that those good things don’t become a firewall to keep us in control. Avoidance can be a firewall too. When I was a young pastor on Cape God, there was an elderly woman in our church who was dying. And this was my first experience with that. Listen to me, I’ve stood beside more death beds than I can remember and buried more babies and cleaned up after more suicides over the years. But this was the first time it had ever happened to me, and I went to visit her and some of her family members, and even her doctors told me that she couldn’t deal with the truth of her condition. I could see that, she never watched the news on television because she couldn’t deal with it. If it bleeds, it leads. She never read novels unless they had a happy ending. And she surrounded herself with happy things like pretty pictures and stuffed animals. Now, she was going to die, and I was her pastor. I didn’t feel comfortable about it, but I was young and everybody knows that doctors know best. You know the difference between God and a doctor? God doesn’t think he’s a doctor. Doctors think they’re God. I’m sorry, don’t send me letters. This is a joke. I love my doctors and if he heard me say that, it was a joke. Okay? So, I joined the game of lying to her. You know, I even helped her by guiding her hand over the forms, giving her son-in-law power of attorney, so the nurses would be paid after her terminal condition got so bad that she couldn’t write checks. When I, just telling you that makes me feel bad. I’ve never done anything like that again, if people want to avoid the bad stuff, that’s a game they’ve decided to play, and I’m not playing that game and I’m not their mother. However, I have decided that if it’s bad, they have the right to know. That’s a severe mercy that enables and releases the power of lament and even the power of laughter. And it brings incredible freedom. I just can’t tell you how many times I’ve hated to give bad news. I remember going to a junior high school where I was to meet with a boy when he was called out of class, whose father had just committed suicide. And I could tell you hundred stories like that. And I thought, I can’t, there’s no way to fix this and there’s no way to say it in a good way. So, they called him out of class and I said, son, come with me. And we sat in the car and I said, I want you to buck up, this is hard, this is really hard, but your father just died. And then he said, how did he die? And he was beginning to cry and I said he took his own life because it got so hard, he just didn’t think he could do it anymore. And Jesus said, okay, I don’t like it, but you come on home. So, we drove home and I walked with that young man for a lot of days. It was a very hard time. And you know, the surprising thing that was going on during that time? The laughter, there were times when we remembered his father and something funny he had done and we started laughing and then we both felt guilty because we were laughing, until I realized the the laughter was from God. There are times when denial is an awful thing. It’s a firewall and we keep at bay the things that hurt us and that are dark and difficult. Somebody tells the story of the science of the mind religionist, who was in hell and he kept repeating over and over again. It’s not hot and I’m not here. It’s not hot and I’m not here. If you belong to Jesus, face it, call it what it is, and lean back and let him drive the car. You think about that. Amen.

It’s Wednesday and sometimes when I have some time, I take the time to answer one or two of your questions. And as you know, Pete will be in on Friday and we’ll spend the whole broadcast just answering questions. I, we love to get your questions. It causes us to dig into the Scripture, to check, to find out the truth. And we’re sometimes wrong, sometimes we’re right. If you’d like, anytime you have a question, you can dial, 24 7, 1-800-KEY-LIFE record your question, and sometimes we put your voice on the air. Or you can send your questions to

Key Life Network
P.O. Box 5000
Maitland, Florida 32794

in Canada, it’s

Key Life Canada
P.O. Box 28060
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 6J8

or you can e-mail your question to [email protected] and if you can help us financially, please do. If you can’t, we understand. So, say a prayer for this ministry, but I promise when you give to Key Life, we’ll be as faithful with your gift as you were in giving it, and will squeeze every dime for the glory of God. If you can, do help us. All right. Let’s turn to one or two of these questions. What in the world do you mean by your comment, love in response to goodness is not love, it’s reward? Well, it makes it a lot more sense if you would use the whole quote in your question because it doesn’t work without the second part of the quote. Here is the entire quote.

Love in response to goodness is not love, it’s reward. The only way you can experience love is to not deserve it.

I got that, by the way, from the Greek word for love, agape. And it’s the love with which God loves us. He just says, I love you, is that okay? And so, if somebody loves you because you’re a good person, that’s reward. And it’s a nice reward. It’s not anything wrong with it. If somebody says, I love you so much, and they’re saying it because you are so handsome or so beautiful, that’s nice. There’s not a thing wrong with that. But it’s not love. If you were in college and you’re taking an exam and you get a hundred on it, an A plus. And the professor says, I love you, you have my permission to say, no, you don’t. Well, maybe you do, but not because I got that particular grade. You just feel good and you like that I did it. But if I had failed that exam and you said, I just love you, then I would know I was loved. I’ve said it often, and I always get letters when I do it, but it’s true and it’s Biblical.

Your sin is the best gift that God has ever given you, when you know it. And your obedience and your faithfulness is your most dangerous place, when you know it.

And that kind of illustrates what I meant when I said, love in response to goodness is not love, it’s reward. You will never no. I have a friend who’s very wealthy. And she’s been supportive of some of the things that I’ve been involved in. And I’ve told her one time, I love you and you’ll never know it cause you think that I like you or that I love you because you give money to good causes. That’s not the reason. I sometimes wish you were poor. I wish you didn’t have two dimes to rub together. I wish you were homeless. And then if you were and I said, I love you, you would know that I did love you. Bible says, we’re dead in our sins. Dead does not mean sick. It doesn’t mean we’ve got a cold and we’ll get over it. It means we’re dead and dead people can’t do much. That’s bad. No, that’s good. When you’re dead and you can’t do stuff to please the one who brings you into a resurrection, you file that under love. I’ve got to go. Key Life is a listener supported production of Key Life Network.

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