Don’t ever take the good news of the gospel and make it into bad news.
AUGUST 30, 2022
Don’t ever take the good news of the gospel and make it into bad news. I’ll explain, on Key Life.
That was author and seminary professor Steve Brown. And this is Key Life. We’re all about radical grace because of what Jesus has done, God’s not mad at you. Keep listening and that message will set you free to live a life of joy and surprising faithfulness.
If you’re just joining us, Matt Heard and I, and Matt is one of the voices of Key Life, as am I, but this is the first time we’ve sat down like this and just talked.
Matt Heard: Because we wanted to compare how deep our voices were cause I’ve always thought, that my voice is as deep as yours, but now we’re discovering, it’s what they’re doing back in the booth. And it’s fooling me all this time.
No, this is my real voice. It’s a very good voice. And frankly, I’m better looking than you too. Nobody ever notices that, but it is a part.
Matt Heard: I would never argue with that.
What we’re doing is, we started out with Scripture. And we’re using a major illustration to teach some important truths. If you were listening yesterday, Matt got us up a little bit into the play and the short story Babette’s Feast. And, you got us up to the point where the community is dying, it’s kind of a gray religious situation. And then somebody shows, who’s a surprise.
Matt Heard: And that surprise had a name and it was Babette. And, Dinesen actually uses the phrase, it was a rainy night. She actually uses it, in 1871. She is bedraggled, she is scarred literally from a revolution that’s going on in France. And she pulls three times on the long doorbell cord of Martine and Filippa’s house. Martine and Filippa were leading this religious sect that their father had started long ago. And they didn’t know who this woman was and she’s bearing a letter for them that they opened up. Now, to understand that letter, you’ve got to go back a few years. Martine and Filippa were beautiful teenagers. And their late teens, they were courted by, their couple of particular guys, one, his name was Lorens Lowenhielm, who was a Lieutenant in the Norwegian army. And he was there visiting his Aunt because he had gotten in trouble debt wise, his father was mad and wanted him to as punishment, I guess, spend the time with his Aunt. So, he’s there and he meets Martine, falls in love, but she doesn’t fall in love with him. The reason I’m mentioning him, he’s going to come into play later in the story. The guy that courted Filippa was a famous French opera singer named Achille Papin. And he was renowned really overall of Europe, was staying in Berlevag, this village where Martine and Filippa lived. And he was trying to do some R and R and just get replenished. He was burned out. So, both young women spurned their,
Matt Heard: For God, spurned their lovers for God. You know, this whole notion of, you know, we’re talking about grace this week. And this thought just occurred to me, Steve, as you said that. And it might be the expression you used, but, too often, grace is just a word, it’s not a way of life. And I’m sure they knew the word grace in their community, but it wasn’t something that they lived out. So, these young women have now become middle aged and they are leading the sect. Their father has since passed away. And on this night, the door opens and this woman has a letter. She faints right when they open the door, they revive her and she gives them a letter. And in that letter, it’s from a French opera singer named Achille Papin. Years later, and he has, he’s told Babette, this is where you go. And so, he says this, the bearer of this letter, Madam Babette Hersant has had to flee from Paris. Civil war is raged in our streets. French hands have shed French blood and Madame Hersant’s husband and son have been shot and she herself was arrested and has narrowly escaped. She’s lost all she possessed and dares not remain in France. A nephew of hers is a cook to a boat bound for Christiana, it was named Oslo later, by the way. And, he’s obtained shipping opportunity for his aunt. And this is now her last and sad resort, how she is to get from Christiana to Berlevag, I know not, but you’ll find that even in her misery, she’s still got resourcefulness, majesty, and true fortitude. He then does a couple paragraphs about missing Filippa and regretting that she’s not singing opera in Paris with him. That had been his dream. And then right before the closing, and we can spend some time unpacking this, he says a three word sentence. Babette can cook. It’s almost a, by the way. And so, as she helps you, by the way, Babette can cook. And I think during this week and our discussions, just having maybe a parallel sentence, Jesus can restore.
Yeah. That’d be a great, that’d be a great way to do, you know, the thing is, and we’ll talk about what Babette does cause it’s incredible, later on. And we’re referencing the book of Ephesians and Psalm 103 about God, who he really is. Do you know what I remember when I first saw that film? More than anything else, how dark it was. You know, it really was a rainy day. It was gray. They were very religious. They loved God. They wanted to be obedient. They’d given up everything for him. And man, if you were going to write a commercial for the Christian faith, that Christian community in that little village would not be the one you used as a way to demonstrate what the Christian faith. It was just plain dark. It was sad, morose, there was, we’re doing, they even ate food, that they ate and it was bland because they wanted to give the money and use it for God. They didn’t wanna waste anything. These are the people who were the church at that little village. And that’s happened in a lot of Christianity too, hasn’t it?
Matt Heard: It really has, I mean, where we have, kind of turned this whole walking with God into the rubbing the genie bottle. And if we do things in just the right way, and demonstrate our piety, maybe God will love us and maybe he will bless us and maybe some other people will be impressed by us and it’s rooted in something good, but it grows into something that is absolutely deadly.
And that almost becomes demonic. It’s a spirit of deadness, that takes over. That’s the nature of religion. Religion, if we just let it run wild without truth, that’s what it does to you. It makes people weird and down and depressed. There is a statement that is sometimes made by people that pagans go through heaven to get to hell. And Christians go through hell to get to heaven. That’s from the pit of hell and it smells like smoke. And it’s just not true. Jesus, the first chapter of John says came, Moses brought the law, but Jesus brought grace and truth. And I have a friend Roger Parrott, who’s the president of Belhaven University, who says if we at the church would emphasize grace as much as we do truth, then the world would be drawn to our doors.
Matt Heard: You know, when we do the grace without truth, it’s kind of like we have the, or when we do truth without grace, it’s like lyrics without music. And as a result, you know, we just kind of have this mantra. Have you ever noticed that, and please, forgive me, you don’t have to forgive Steve, but if you’re in a church with the name grace cause I’m not referring to any particular church, but just over the years. Hey, the more familiar we are with the word grace, it seems the people that are most familiar with it, understand it the least and sometimes churches that have the name grace in them can be some of the least gracious churches just because it’s a word, but it’s as we’ve already talked about, it’s not a way of life. And so Martine and Filippa, part of that straight jacket, that religious straight jacket that they have, comes out when they say, well, we don’t really need somebody to help, but we need to be good. And therefore we’re going to help her, but then they prescribe, they limit her and they tell her, okay, we know you can cook and you’re from France. They don’t know anything more than that, but they know that’s enough to alarm them. And so, they limit what she can cook for them and they just prescribe and say, okay, you can, just this particular, split cod and bread and ale soup. That’s all you can do. But she did it faithfully because she was preparing the way for something that I don’t even think she realized she was going to do down the road.
Now, we’re going to talk tomorrow about what she does down the road. I have a friend who says the problem in the church is that we’ve all got our nose up against the windows of the church, looking out at the fun that everybody else is having, the joy they’re experiencing and wishing we could be out there instead of in here. And he said the church ought to be just the opposite. The world ought to have their noses up against the windows of the church, listening to our laughter, watching our party and enjoying our feast. And they should be the ones who are saying, I wish I could be a part of that. I wish I could join that feast.
Matt Heard: Yeah, exactly. And that’s what I’m talking about with the music and the lyrics, we need both in order for the dance to happen.
We really do. And we’re going to talk about it more tomorrow. And you don’t want to miss it. After all, you should think about it. Amen.
Thank you Steve and Matt. How amazing is it that God’s truth can resonate even through fictional stories, as we’re seeing in our exploration of Babette’s Feast. So challenging, so insightful, and we will continue this exploration tomorrow. Let me ask you something. Have you ever known a controlling Christian? You ever wondered why they do that? Could it be that one of the bad side effects of moralism, that idea that our good works earn us love, is that the moralist thinks he should run everyone’s life. And thus the controller is born. Well, Chad West offers a fascinating insight on this in an article he wrote called Why Controllers Control. You’ll find it in the current edition of Key Life magazine. Why not claim your free copy right now? Just call us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for the magazine. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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