Don’t worship at anybody’s altar but God’s altar.
JULY 24, 2023
Don’t worship at anybody’s altar but God’s altar. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
Welcome to Key Life. I’m Matthew, executive producer of the program. Our host is Steve Brown. He’s an author and seminary professor who teaches the God’s amazing grace is the key to a life of radical freedom, infectious joy, and surprising faithfulness to Christ.
Thank you Matthew. Hope you had a great week-end and I hope your pastor’s sermon was as good as my pastor’s sermon. If you have your Bible, open it to the 21st chapter of Acts and we’re going to be looking this week and next week at the first 16 verses of that 21st chapter, and we’re going to be asking the question, what do you do when it gets really bad? What do you do when you’re really in trouble? And we’re going to see what Paul did, and we’re going to see something really good about that. As we’ve seen, Paul spent three years in the city of Ephesus until he had built up a church, until their commitment to Christ became a nuisance and an irritation to the pagans in the city of Ephesus. And a riot ensued and he had to flee. Paul then returned west to Macedonia to revisit the churches he had established on his second missionary journey. And then Paul doubles back with the view of reaching the mother city of Jerusalem before the Festival of Pentecost. Now we saw how Paul preached a farewell sermon in the city of Troas, and we learned about Eutychus who couldn’t keep his eyes open because the sermon was so long. Have you ever been there? Fell out of a window and either died or knocked himself unconscious. And we saw some important points from that. And then we saw how Paul went and we spent the last two weeks there was along the coast of Miletus where he called the Ephesian elders. You say, well, why didn’t he go up there himself? Cause the last time he was there, he caused a riot and he didn’t, Paul may not have always been smart, but he was smart like a fox. And he wasn’t going to go back to Ephesus and cause the problems that he fled from the first time. So, he called the elders to come and meet him at Miletus and we spent a good much time talking about the greatness of Paul. I have to say something before we turn to the new text, and that is this, don’t worship at anybody’s altar, but God’s altar. If you do what I do, and I’ve been doing this for a very long time, people have the wrong idea about me. If you’ve never seen what I look like, I have this wonderful voice and I have learned to talk like I’m absolutely sure about everything that I say, and people often will ask me to pray for them because they think I’m closer to God than they are. And I do pray for them when people ask me to do that. We have a key life prayer list here, and every week it’s updated when you guys ask for a prayer. And we as a staff pray for you and I pray for you, but that isn’t because I think my hotline to God is a better one than your hotline to God. The danger of what I do, if you hear my voice and you know how religious I am is to make assumptions about me that are just not true. And I took a good deal of time over the last two weeks to say that the apostle Paul was not great because he was religious and he wasn’t great because he was perfect or sinless. In fact, he said he was the chief of sinners. He was not great because he was not childish on occasions and jealous on occasions and afraid on occasions. He was all of that. So, don’t worship at his altar. I sometimes, and have with you, when we looked at the incident where Paul and Barnabas, the two leaders in the church could no longer work together. And they had to go in different directions, Barnabas took John Mark with him. Paul took somebody else and they had to work in a different place cause they couldn’t get along. Every time I teach that text, and I’ve taught it several times, I get criticism from people who say, you shouldn’t say those things about people who should be our heroes. And I say, oh yes I should. And they need to be said often cause if we don’t say them often, we’ll become a bunch of discouraged depressed Christians. I’ve said this often and you’ve heard me say it, that if you have a book and I have one in my library that says, The Stories of Famous and Great Christians. And I have it in my library to remind me that people shouldn’t write books like that. If you have biographies in your library about famous Christians and they don’t tell you the times when they were depressed, when they were lonely, when they were afraid, when they sinned, when they failed, then don’t read those books, burn those books, because they’re not true. And why is that? Because we’re called not to worship on anybody’s altar or before anybody’s altar except the altar of God. Let me recommend, if you haven’t read it, a fascinating book to you. It’s by C.S. Lewis and it’s titled Letters to an American Lady. Book was published after the death of Lewis and gives us a keen insight into the makeup of Lewis. Evidently, this particular lady wrote a letter to C.S. Lewis, complimenting him on his books. Thereupon began a correspondence which lasted for many years between C.S. Lewis and this unidentified American lady. As one reads the book, you can’t escape the feeling that this lady worships C.S. Lewis and invests in him almost God-like qualities. And as one reads these letters, one also gets the feeling that C.S. Lewis is trying to show her how dumb it is for her to do that. In the first letter, he says.
Thank you for your most kind and encouraging letter. I should need to be either of angelic humility or diabolical pride not to be pleased at all the nice things you say about my books. I will have you in my prayers.
And then if you read the rest of the book, you see that a considerable portion of Lewis’ time, and by the way, one of the really cool things about Lewis, and we found out this later, is that this woman got into financial difficulties. And Lewis, as you can imagine, had become a bestseller, an author of great repute, and he was making more money than he ever thought he would make, and he spent it very carefully and wisely for the glory of God. And one of the things he did is when this American lady was in trouble financially, he sent her money and that caused her to worship him even more. And as you read the book, you see Lewis and his discomfort with anybody who is worshiping anybody except God. Now, I’m giving you all of this to make a point, and it’s this. Everyone is human. Everyone fails. Everyone is a sinner. Everyone is lonely sometimes. Everyone has doubts sometimes. And there are no exceptions. God did not create superhuman beings. Whenever you see someone who seems to have everything together, say to yourself, it isn’t true. They just clean up better than I do. They hide it better than I do. Be very careful. One of the proclivities of those of us who are Christians, and we do this all of the time, is to take men and women of God and to put them on a pedestal. We do them no favor when we do that, and when they allow it, they do us no favor. Everybody is needful. I remember one time I was on a board and the president of this organization, and it was Christianity Today, and I love those guys. But the guy who was president, or no, he was the Chief Financial Officer. One board meeting morning, he did a devotional for us. And he was talking about prayer and strong Christians, and on that board there were a lot of strong Christians. And he said something that I’ve thought about ever since he said it. He said, pray for the strong cause they are very weak. Everybody is. You think about that. Amen.
Thanks Steve. That was Steve Brown continuing our tour of Acts. Today, we pivoted away from Acts chapter 20 to turn our attention to chapter 21, and of course we will dive into that more fully tomorrow. Do join us for that, won’t you? Well, do you like irony, then check this out. Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words. In 2014, a Los Angeles memorial tree dedicated to George Harrison was killed by an infestation of beetles. And here’s another one, sometimes the more difficult the question we have for God, the greater our opportunity to know him even more deeply. Questions like, does God exist? Am I really forgiven and free? Well, Steve is no stranger to doubts and questions. In fact, he wrote about these things in a mini-book called Faith and Doubt: When Belief is Hard. May we send you this mini-book, for free? Just call us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that mini-book or to mail your request, go to keylife.org/contact for our mailing addresses. Just ask for the free mini-book called Faith and Doubt: When Belief is Hard. And finally, if you value the work of Key Life, would you support that work through your giving? Giving is easy. Just charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or simply pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Just text that to 28950. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.