If you make your living in religion, you’re going to lose one or the other.
JUNE 27, 2023
If you make your living in religion, you’re going to lose one or the other. Let’s talk, on Key Life.
That was Steve Brown. He doesn’t want to be your guru and he’s not trying to be your mother. He just opens the Bible and gives you the simple truth that will make you free. Steve’s a lifelong broadcaster, author, seminary professor, and our teacher on Key Life.
Thank you Matthew. We’re studying the 19th chapter of Acts, where there’s an amazing description of toxic religion. Now, it was religion that worshiped Artemis, or in Latin Diana. It was one of the major religious centers of Asia. And, the incident that happens is very informative for those of us who are Christians because if your religion is just religion and not relationship, you can fall into some very dangerous territory. And we saw yesterday, and I’m going to talk a little bit more about it today, is the first thing you note about the toxic religion described in Acts 19 is that there is a whole lot of self-interest. I gave you the quote at the beginning of the broadcast, it’s from my friend Richard Pratt, and Richard would say, not uncommonly to seminary students.
If you make your living at religion, you’re going to lose one or the other.
Now, that’s a unique way to say be very, very careful because self-interest gets mixed with religion and when it becomes the central theme of religion, what can I get out of it? Can I make some money at this? Is this something that will be good for me? When that is the question, then you’ve moved from real religion into toxic religion. Let me give you a very good quote from G.H.C. McGregor.
When devotion to religion and patriotic sentiment can be made to coincide with self-interest, then fanatical intolerance knows no bound.
That’s true, and it is profound. I was saying yesterday about my friend, Don Bush, Dan Bush, that his book, The Undefended Life, is an important book and pretty soon he is going to be doing seminars in places maybe where you live. And you ought to be watching for it because we need to be reminded you don’t have anything to defend. The problem with religion is that it becomes an institution and then the institution becomes something that has to be defended. And then pretty soon everybody has vested interest and Jesus is no longer the issue. I one time said from the church pulpit that I thought it would be wise if for a year we canceled everything, except the worship service, that we stopped every meeting and every committee and every group of leaders that met for any purpose, and we just worshiped. And then on Wednesday had a prayer meeting. Now, I said it in a humorous way, but I had a committee visiting me that week and they said, pastor, you can’t do that. And then I thought, yes we can, and probably we should, just to see if Jesus is still here. One of the dangers of church is that we get so organized, we have so much self-interest that if Jesus left the building, nobody would even notice. And so, as we read in the Book of Acts, we see the self-interest that these creators of trinkets had, in fact, they had become quite wealthy and they had vested interest in the religion because of the money the religion brought them. You have to be very, very careful. When I was teaching in seminary, I often said to students, you’ve got to keep a resignation letter in your files that is undated. And you’ve got to be willing to submit it at any time. And if you can’t and you won’t, you will become a kept woman and a man of God and a woman of God should not be that in the church. Now, what was I saying? I was saying, as I said before, of course there’s self-interest. It’s self-interest to believe in heaven. It’s self-interest to believe in forgiveness. It’s self-interest to believe in love. It’s self-interest to know that you are redeemed. But when that begins to move over into the dark side where you have things to defend, things to promote, things to sell, you have to be very, very careful. Religion that is centered on self-interest instead of God is toxic religion. All right, I have a lot more to say about that, but let’s move on. Secondly, you should know that toxic religion is always judged by what standard, not Biblical standards, but the world standards. Look at the 27th verse of the 19th chapter of Acts.
“And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess of Artemis
one of the seven wonders of the world
may count for nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”
Hmm. What’s going on here? I’ll tell you, they’re looking at the big temple and how beautiful it is, in the same way the disciples looked at the temple in Jerusalem and said to Jesus, that’s something else. And Jesus said, I tell you, the time will come when not one stone will be found on another. In other words, they were judging by human standards. And we do that too. I don’t know about you, but I grow tired of the many books that are being written today about the tragedy of the church. You know, you know you can get depressed if you start reading the sociologists, the nuns, those are the people who believe nothing, that the nuns are leaving the church. If you read the sociology books, you are convinced that we’re living in a pre-Christian era, that the church has seen its time and it’s going to die. And if you are a part of it, you don’t like that and that makes you wince. Listen to me, it’s nonsense. The church is the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, and she will be around forever. And what’s happening in our culture, I believe, and I believe it’s a good thing, is that we’re getting down to the muscle. When I was at graduate school at Boston University, a man who was a leader in the Methodist church in the south came to speak to some of our classes, and he told us that because of the stand that the church was making on racism, that it was a sin and that we needed to get rid of it. People were leaving the church and the bishop was upset that people were leaving the church. And this man, this leader, a district superintendent, was in the Bishop’s office, and the bishop was talking about how many members they were losing. And this district superintendent said, Bishop, I wouldn’t worry about it none, we’re just getting down to the muscle in this church and I believe that’s what’s happening in our culture. There are a lot of people, who was it that said, because you sleep in a car, it doesn’t, in a garage, it doesn’t mean you’re a car. The late Jim Kennedy at Coral Ridge used to say that the greatest evangelistic field in America is in the church, what he was saying is that there are people in the church who aren’t Christians, people in the church who are there for the wrong reasons, people in the church who are in the church cause it’s an in thing to do. When the church becomes an in thing to do, then it becomes toxic and God begins to get down to the muscle. When you measure the church of our time by the standards of the world, how much do you get in the offering, how many members do you have, how many famous people do you have in the congregation, how big are you, how fast do you go, how great are you? Man, that’s dangerous and that’s toxic, and that’s what was going on in Ephesus at the temple at Artemis. Don’t let it happen in the temple of Jesus. Okay? You think about that. Amen.
Steve Brown there, continuing to guide us through Acts 19 and we’ll continue digging deep here tomorrow. Be sure to join us for that and please do remember that you can stream all of our episodes anytime you want at Keylife.org for the very reasonable price of free. Suffering, I’m not a fan, one star, would not recommend, but if the Bible tells us we will definitely experience it, then the question changes from why am I suffering to, how should I face it? Well, if you’re going through some hard times right now, or maybe you know someone who is. There’s a resource we’d love to give you for free. It’s a mini-book called When Life Falls Apart. In it, Steve writes honestly about his own struggles with suffering, but then also shares the hope he has found in the presence of Christ. Claim your copy right now by calling 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 to find our mailing addresses. Just ask for your free copy of the mini-book called When Life Falls Apart. And one last thing, would you partner in the work of Key Life through your giving? It’s easy to do. You can charge a gift on your credit card. You can give a gift in your envelope. Or just text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Just text that to 28950 then follow the instructions. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. Both of those organizations assure financial accountability and we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.