It’s dark…really dark.
FEBRUARY 9, 2023
It’s dark…really dark. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
The deepest message of Jesus and the Bible is the radical grace of God to sinners and sufferers, that’s what Key Life is all about, so if you’re hungry for the hopeful truth that God isn’t mad at you, keep listening. Steve Brown is a professor and our teacher, on Key Life.
Thank you Matthew. If you were listening yesterday, you don’t want to listen today. We’re looking at some themes of laughter and lament. And in order to understand lament, you have to look at the darkness the way it really is. Early in my ministry and I had never done this before. I’d never been to a funeral, well one, but when I was a young pastor, I was not aware of the pain in the world and what people went through. And a lady, an elderly lady in the church that I served was terminally ill, and all she did was read stories that had happy endings. She wouldn’t countenance anything that was negative. She was a person who only wanted to think positively and then she got sick and she was going to die. And the doctors told me we can’t confront her with her death cause she can’t deal with it. Now I’m old now, I would’ve said to them, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I owe her that. But I didn’t know to say that in those days. In fact, I even propped her up on a pillow and helped her sign a power of attorney so that when she went into a coma, the nurses could be paid. It’s an awful time, an awful menace memory in my life, and it was absolutely wrong. We do that so often as Christians, we want to turn away from the darkness and not talk about it. And in this book and in this broadcast, we’re looking at it. And I don’t like it anymore than you do, but I promise you that if you’ll stay with me, it’s going to get a lot better because it always does. In five poems, making up the Biblical book of Lamentations, the writer expresses the darkness of his beloved nation. The world and himself, and he does it with such starkness that it’ll keep you up at night. For instance, chapter three of that book is so hopeless and so painful that I can hardly deal with it. The writer properly addresses God and his words are devastating. The writer says that he has seen affliction. And then gives a list of his experiences, darkness without light, broken bones, wasting away flesh, desolation, death, anxiety, fear, and being walled in and becoming a laughing stock. In verses 16 through 18, this is what he cries out.
He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”
He wrote at the beginning of his book, his opening cry of lament in verses one through two.
How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies.
A similar hopelessness is found in the Psalms of lament and even in the words and feelings of pain and rejection felt by Jesus himself on the cross. But there’s more, as we talk about this template of the world and the flesh in the devil. There’s the flesh, in Galatians 5:16 through 21, Paul talks about how Christians are to walk by the spirit, which is at war with a flesh, and that Christians should not gratify the desires of the flesh, but we do, don’t we?
Then Paul makes a list of the works of the flesh, sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, and orgies.
And if you don’t find yourself in that list, you probably should read it again. Paul confesses his own failure in Romans 7, where he says.
That the good he wants to do, he doesn’t do. And the evil he doesn’t want to do, he does.
And then he cries out in verse 24.
Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death.
I’ve made that same cry. And that cry is called lament. It would possibly be inappropriate here to stop and talk a little about what the Bible means by flesh. Misunderstanding of that has caused many of us to go to some very weird places. Docetism, which was an early Christian heresy that you can still smell in the church and that the flesh is evil and by flesh that meant anything that had to do with the human body, they even went so far as to say that the Incarnation of God in human flesh was an illusion because a Holy God would not have anything to do with nasty flesh. And if it did, he certainly wasn’t crucified. That too, they said was an illusion, as was the resurrection of Jesus’ body. There is some event among Christians who think that sex is dirty, beer is bad, and God is ticked, to the contrary, God created us. As we’ll see later, God has been quite generous in affirming healthy, Biblical parameters and the beauty and the value of the human body. When Stokely Carmichael, one of the early civil rights leaders, said he wanted to create a culture where a young black girl could stand in front of a mirror and say, I’m black and I’m beautiful. He was perhaps without knowing it, expressing a Biblical view. Not only should that sentiment be uttered by every black girl, it should be uttered by everybody. Human is beautiful because all humans are created in God’s image. When the Bible talks about flesh and the war between this spirit and the flesh, it’s talking about a battle that we often lose, a battle between spirit and flesh. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard stories of greed that morphed into dishonesty, pride that morphed into self-righteousness and arrogance, and lust that morphed into family destruction. When we read of those things, we almost always express shock and indignation. A proper response should be a healthy awareness that it could have been us. My late mentor, Fred Smith, used to say that until a Christian came to the awareness of his or her capability of committing any sin, falling into any dark place and intentionally breaking God’s commandments, they have not understood the greatness of God’s grace. I have a former student, who asked an old friend and retired pastor when the struggle with lust got better? Son, the pastor replied, when you are dead and you have been buried for at least three days. What does the struggle with the flesh mean? It means, it means that we live in a dark world. Now, I’m coming to the end of today’s broadcast and the broadcast, the teaching ones for the week. We still have one more place to go and then I promise it’s going to be better. But right now we’re looking at the world, we live in an incredibly bad world. A world where dishonesty and hatred and division and killing and murder and war are always extant. We have to deal with a flesh, the sins of a flesh from other people and us, and it gets hard sometimes. Sometimes we’re successful and sometimes we’re not. But it is a hard and dark place. And next week we’re going to look at the supernatural darkness of the world and the flesh and the devil, and then it’s going to get better because we’re going to see the joy that God has given his people in the dark. Light is light, insofar as you have visited the darkness. You think about that, Amen.
And just like that, we wrap up another amazing week of learning what the Bible says about laughter and lament. Thank you Steve. If you missed any episodes, be sure to swing by keylife.org where you can stream those for free, 24 7. And don’t forget, tomorrow is Friday Q&A with Steve and Pete. One question on tap for them tomorrow, will I be left behind? Tune in for their answer to that question. So, you’ve heard about it, but have you actually heard it? Our first ever live recording of Steve Brown Etc. It’s a special event we did last year and it was a blast. In fact, we put that entire episode on CD and if it’s okay with you, we’ll send it to you for free. 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 booklet. And if you’d like to mail your request, just go to keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses for the U.S. and Canada. Just ask for your free copy of the Laughter and Lament episode of Steve Brown Etc. And finally, a question, have you considered partnering in the work of Key Life through your giving? Giving is easy. You can charge a gift on your credit card. You can include a gift in your envelope. Or join the growing number of folks who give safely and securely by text. Just pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 and then follow the instructions. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And as always, Key Life is a listener supported production of Key Life Network.