I have a cure for self-righteousness.
JUNE 8, 2023
I have a cure for self-righteousness, on this edition of Key Life.
God’s grace changes everything how we love, work, live, lead, marry, parent, evangelize, purchase, and worship. This is Key Life, with practical Bible teaching to get you home with radical freedom, infectious joy, and surprising faithfulness.
Thank you Matthew. If you were listening yesterday, we talked about unconditional forgiveness. That’s the message of the gospel. And that’s the message that a lot of Christians don’t get. When we’re in pain, it’s because we robbed a quarter from our mother’s pocket book when we were 12 years old. When things have gone really bad, the first question we ask is, what did I do wrong? Maybe you didn’t do anything wrong. Maybe if you’re forgiven, that’s cleared away and that can no longer be the cause for the lament. My dear friend, Barry Smith, he writes blogs for Key Life’s website and he heads up a seminary in prison ministry. He wrote recently, and I’ve got to read this to you cause it’s so good.
Fifteen or so years ago, I made a dreadful mistake. During a terrible time of depression, discouragement, and despair, I found relief in an after dinner drink or two. It wasn’t long however, before those one or two drinks became three or four more. And after dinner drinking became all day drinking. I had become an alcoholic. Things fell apart rapidly. Within just a few months, I was dismissed from my job as an executive pastor. My wife asked for me to leave our home and with no place else to go, I found myself living in an inner city rescue mission. It was like being a leper, as lepers were cut off from the community and lived in leper colonies, I was cut off from my family, friends, and church and was living in a colony of other alcoholics and addicts. During the last conversation I’d had with my pastor before I was dismissed, he said to me, you know, according to the Bible, what you are is a drunkard. The thesaurus lists these other terms for drunkard, and I checked it, bad person, wretch, blighter, bum, low life, good for nothing, derelict, worthless, human wreck. All these were things I felt about myself. That’s what I’d become. I was a modern day leper, lowlife, and good for nothing.
If you think, and those were his words, if you think he could handle that and that God didn’t give my friend more than he could handle, you’ll believe anything. They say, God will never give you more than you can handle. That’s insane. That’s just not true. There are authentic lament, from the awareness that he couldn’t fix any of it. He ran to Jesus and Barry continued with these words.
When I was at the rescue mission, I’d thought I had gone far away from Jesus. As my drinking had gotten worse, I’d thought that the distance between Jesus and me had become like a great chasm. I was far away from him, I felt really alone. Knowing that I needed Jesus, the leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, as did the leper who came to Jesus in Scripture, he said to Jesus, if you will, you can make me clean. Jesus was moved with pity, stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, I will. Be clean. And immediately the leprosy left him and he was made clean. The leper had the same experience, I had a visceral sensation that Jesus was with me just as he had with pity, moved toward the leper, touched him, and made him clean. I knew. I knew that Jesus was with me. And with pity had moved toward me. I knew that Jesus loved me, that he touched me, that I was okay with him. It was then that Jesus began to put my life back together again.
My friend Barry Smith is a lot of things and one thing he is not. If you ever really blew it bad, sin deeply, the person you want to talk to is my friend. It’s the reason he has a prison ministry and he’s so effective at it. And the reason that we publish Barry’s blogs on our website because there is not even a little bit of self-righteousness in him. And then there’s one other thing, and then I’m finished. It’s the boldness we experience and the process of lament, joy, and repentance. And that boldness is a gift. Earlier when I was talking about this book, I mentioned that I was old, and that one would do well to listen to old people. They’ll tell you the truth because old people don’t give a rip. I’m not suggesting that you not give a rip, but that you can be bold as an old man or old woman without having to be old. It’s the gift of boldness that comes from our lament and all that is a part of it. Once you face the demons and survived and not only survived, have discovered that you are accepted and forgiven and loved, you become dangerous in the sense that you’re no longer afraid to say what you think, be who you are, and act in ways you know are right. It becomes, well, it’s sort of like dancing without looking at your feet. It’s the freedom that comes from genuine lament. You’ll probably offend people more, but you’ll sleep better, laugh more, and cry without having to hide it. I’m sure you’ve noticed that we live in a culture where free speech seems to have disappeared. Everybody I know is very careful because they don’t want to offend or question the snowflakes, the prevailing and acceptable narrative of the culture. Of course, the Bible’s narrative is clear and often contrary to what everybody accepts. It’s just that most of us don’t want to go there, except with trusted friends who share our views. You and I know that’s not right. In some countries there’s no freedom of speech and people in those countries remain silent and compliant. In America, we have freedom of speech and we often remain silent and compliant. Not much difference, is there? But it’s not just boldness, it’s boldness where love, not fear, is the gasoline that drives the engine, Scripture says.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, for fear has to do with punishment and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
That’s I John 4:18. When life has done its worst and God’s love is experienced in the midst of the words, there is a freedom that is no less than exhilarating and surprising. It is gospel boldness, loving, kind, truthful, understanding, and gentle, but still boldness that others find offensive. I once was on a committee that planned a march on Washington for Jesus, and I wish I could remember the black pastor who spoke to that breakfast. We were all scared. There were hundreds of thousands of Christians and you get that many Christians in one place and some of them are going to be weird and do bad things. And he stood up in the middle of the breakfast and said, I have a word from the Lord. And we all stopped talking and he said, the Lord said for me to say to you, if you get over, if you Christians get over your fear, you are going to be dangerous. That was profound and that was true. No matter how bad it gets, if you’ve lamented properly, cried out to God, experience his presence and his forgiveness, you know that you’re acceptable no matter what, there is incredible freedom. And in that freedom, there’s incredible boldness. Go when they try to shut you up, when they try to make you repeat what they say after them, when they try to cancel them, don’t let them. Okay? You think about that. Amen.
Thank you Steve. And that wraps up another great week of Bible teaching. We will of course, resume our ongoing guided tour through the Book of Acts soon. But first, tomorrow, it’s time again for Friday Q&A with Steve and our good friend Pete Alwinson. Tomorrow they’re going to address artificial intelligence. Wow, that should be a good one. Hey, while you’re here, have you been to Keylife.org lately? To borrow a phrase from Steve, it’s not half bad. Check out Keylife.org/biblereading where you can hear Steve reading entire books of the Bible. In fact, we now have gone live with the entire gospel of John. Also, check out Keylife.org/simplysermons that’s our latest podcast, and it features digitally remastered full length sermons from Steve, no commercials, no interruptions. What a great way to spend your daily commute, right? Oh, and if you’re looking for a new read, be sure to stop by Keylife.org/store and of course, all of these features are free, thanks to the generous support of listeners just like you. If you’d like to donate, just call 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. To send your donation by mail, go to Keylife.org/contact for our mailing addresses. Or e-mail [email protected]. You can charge a gift on your credit card. You can include a gift in your envelope. And of course, you can now give safely and securely by texting Key Life to 28950 and then following the instructions. 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.