I’m neurotic, but Jesus likes me a lot.
FEBRUARY 7, 2023
I’m neurotic, but Jesus likes me a lot. Let’s talk about it, 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 looking at some themes of laughter and lament. And if you were listening yesterday, I told you that I was a man of prayer and I even winced when I said it because it sounds so self-righteous. But I am that because that’s the one place in the world where I can be totally honest and know that I won’t be kicked out. Did you know that a good deal of depression and other emotional maladies we experience are simply because we have no place to take our honest feelings. I had mentioned before without being overly critical because I’ve led more of those worship services than almost anybody I know, that church is often not the place where our emotional and profound feelings can be expressed, except in the most superficial way. So, I’m a man of prayer, not because I’m so spiritual, but because frankly, I don’t have any other place to go with those feelings except to God. If you should inadvertently come into my study in the early morning. And it would be inadvertent because nobody gets up as early as I do, and I like it that way. And you saw me praying, you would probably be shocked. I grade God sometimes and tell him what I think he did wrong. I’m sometimes weeping and at other times I’m laughing. Sometimes the anger I express is very angry anger. And at other times, I express my broken heart and the pain I feel for those I love. I complain about my situation and what people say about me when it’s critical, and I thank him when it goes the other way. There are times, there are times you would find me prostrate on the floor of my study in worship, and other times when I feel that God is away on vacation, I play solitaire on my computer. That, believe it or not, is a sort of prayer, however weird because Jesus likes me and because he has created me in his image, he is often compassionately silent in the face of my feelings. And then he says, you through? And I sometimes a bit embarrassed tell him I am. And he loves me. And with Mercy in Pilgrim’s Progress, I laugh and laugh and laugh. I know what you’re thinking, you never heard anything more neurotic and so weird. I’m that sometimes, but before you jump to false conclusions, let me, let me say something that could change your life as it has mine. Not only does God love the neurotic and the weird side of me, he affirms it. In fact, he himself gave me permission to pray the way I pray and even more amazing in his word, God gave me the words I often use when I do pray. You know what we do? We sanitize the Bible to make it more properly religious than it really is. For instance, because Christians sometimes have trouble dealing with a subject of sex, as expressed in the Song of Solomon, we spiritualize it and make it about the church, and there might be in a sense. We take Paul’s and angry words and make him nicer than he really was. We blush at a text that speaks, and I’m going to quote it exactly, it’s in the scripture and I didn’t say it, God said it. And the text is pissing against the wall. There are a number of Old Testament texts that use that phrase, for instance in I Kings 14:10 in the King James Version, it uses that particular text before we cleaned it up in some of the modern versions. As an aside, one of my early mentors, the late John Stanton, had an associate in his church who was lazy and rarely read the Scripture text ahead of the time before reading them in the worship services. In order to cure the young associate, my friend Dr. Stanton, assigned I Kings 14:10 and the surrounding verses in the Old Testament reading. The young man came to the word that I’ve just been quoting and stopped. Then he blushed and stumbled through it. He also, from that time on, read the text before he read them to the congregation at the worship services. Frankly, it might be a good thing if we read the text we ignore before doing life, we might be surprised, but I digress. The point is this, the Bible is a very earthy book. It is not only a two-edged sword, it’s an in your face, sometimes offensive and always authentic, two-edged sword. And therein is the gift of Scripture that we often miss. Because we miss it, we allow a kind of toxic religion to take over when it comes to what Christians are supposed to feel and express. If you want to, if you want to get the flavor of the Bible, read the late Clarence Jordan’s translation of Scripture, The Cotton Patch Gospel. Jordan was the founder of the Christian community of Koinonia Farms with a PhD in Greek. His translations are accurate and he gets the unpretentious and very real message of God’s word. Listen, our heritage of emotional freedom is often taken from us by well intentioned Christian leaders and teachers, and I’ve been one of them. And I fear sometimes that I’ve been a part of that too often. I’m a Presbyterian and we make it clear that we do things decently and in order, a phrase Paul uses in I Corinthians, however, we have made decently and in order mean something. Paul never intended. He was talking about worship services that had gotten out of hand and certainly not the emotional freedom God granted his people. That is particularly true as we try to navigate what is an incredibly broken world as incredibly broken people. Jesus said in John 8:31 through 32.
The people who abide in his word are his disciples, and they would know the truth and the truth will set you free.
How does the truth set us free? The freedom comes from the truth of redemption and the forgiveness Christians experience. The freedom comes from the knowledge that we have another comforter, the Holy Spirit as our companion and guide. The freedom also comes from the true promises Jesus made, which we can hang our hats on and in which we can absolutely trust. It is truth about sin, meaning, hope, and eternal life, but it is also a freedom that comes from staring our demons in the eyes, identifying the dark without running from it, and allowing the truth of our brokenness and the world’s brokenness to be accepted and absorbed as definitive in the Christian world view. As I mentioned before, denial is dangerous, and not only that, denial itself becomes a prison that robs us of the freedom that is the Christian’s heritage. Now, later on as we look at these themes, I want to show you how that happens, but before we go there, it’s important that we go to a dark place. I know this won’t be easy, but it’s necessary. Lament isn’t worth anything, if it’s lament that is shallow and just another kind of denial. It’s superficially saying it hurts, but I’m fine. The reason our lament is so useless is that we run from the dark, cover it up with crazy spirituality, make it something that it isn’t. There is so much evil in the world, pain and sin and brokenness and injustice and fear and abuse and death and disease and destruction, that it will kill us if we don’t find out how to deal with it. Given that Christians believe and the Bible teaches that God is sovereign and good, that can all be troubling. What if we acknowledged and experienced the dark without turning away? What if we kiss the demons on the lips? What if God had a purpose for it? What if the dark was designed to set us free? We’re going to talk about that more, but for now. You think about that. Amen.
The Bible isn’t just true, it’s an authentic and even earthy book. Thank you for that reminder Steve. Today and in all this week we’re talking through the Biblical themes that led to the writing of Steve’s latest book, Laughter and Lament. And we will continue that exploration tomorrow. Will you join us then? Wouldn’t be the same without you. It is said that at parties in ancient Egyptian cultures, a mummified corpse was placed at the head table. It was there, I suppose, to remind the partygoers of their mortality. But it should have been more than just that. Those who were wise also saw that at the party one should never forget that every day the world rolls over on top of someone who was just sitting on top of it. And in the worst of times, there is always a motivation to party. Well, that’s just a little excerpt from an article from Steve that you’ll find in the latest edition of Key Life Magazine. If you haven’t yet, make sure you claim your free copy by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for the magazine. And if you’d like to mail your request, just go to keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses. Again, just ask for your free copy of Key Life magazine. And finally, would you prayerfully consider partnering in the work of Key Life through your giving? You can charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or make it easy, just 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.