Sometimes the truth is offensive.
MAY 18, 2022
Sometimes the truth is offensive. Let’s talk about it on this edition of Key Life.
Key Life is a radio program for struggling believers, sick of phony religion and pious clichés. Our host and teacher is seminary professor Steve Brown. He teaches that radical freedom leads to infectious joy, and surprising faithfulness.
Thank you Matthew. If you have your Bible and want to kind of see where we’re going, we’re looking at one verse in the 13th chapter of Acts, the 13th verse. And once we finished talking about my friend, John Mark. Boy, I can identify. Man, he left and I can’t tell you how much my dear, late friend Yechiel Eckstein, who founded and was the head of the Fellowship of Christians and Jews. One time after he had been criticized a lot, we were staying in the same hotel and he came into my room and he said, Steve, you ever want to leave? And I said, about every other day. And he laughed. We ended up praying together and I miss him a lot. But at any rate, I can identify, I’m not just preaching at you about John Mark and some of these things. I’m talking about myself, but I’m still here and I didn’t leave. So, but John Mark did, but he came back. You know, if you understand grace and you get the message, you always come back. If you don’t understand that and you slip into the darkness, you sometimes stay there. But at any rate, we saw yesterday that John Mark just didn’t like the change of leadership. You know Barnabas was his uncle, his hero. He loved him. And God, for some reason, chose Paul to be the leader and not Barnabas. And John Mark, I think said, I’m outta here. And I gave you some verses on how that leadership changed. And we’re going to talk about that later when we get to that point, in the book of Acts. But I think John Mark didn’t like the leadership. And I said, you don’t have to like a leader, you have to find out if they’re anointed of God. And if they are, speak your peace, don’t be a mouse. Say what needs to be said, but then say to the leader, I’ll follow you. I may not like it, but wherever you go, I will go, because you have been anointed by God. And you said, Steve, or you probably said, Steve that’s not Biblical. You can’t do that. Jesus did it. In Matthew 23:2-3. And by the way, don’t read the 23rd chapter of Matthew for your evening devotions. It’ll keep you up all night. That’s when, that’s, when Jesus went after the religious leaders for their hypocrisy, called them whitewashed tombs. And I mean, he was not very nice to them. But do you know that he says in that same passage, listen to what he says. This is verse two through three of the 23rd chapter of Matthew, Jesus said.
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but don’t do what they do.”
What was Jesus saying? He was saying don’t leave. He said, do you know, these guys have been set aside Biblically as leaders, so listen to them. Do what they teach because they’re teaching God’s word. Just don’t look at what they do and fall. And then he goes on and details what they do. And it’s not very pretty. So, liking someone is not the measurement of whether someone should be a leader. It’s the anointing and the gifting of God. And sometimes we need to simply stay and not leave. Let me show you something else. Secondly, I would suggest that for John Mark, the message was too strong, too clear cut. Truth is sometimes offensive. Look at Acts 13:40-41. And after we finish talking about John Mark, we’re going to get into this message, but let me jump a little bit ahead at that 40th verse.
Beware, therefore, lest there come upon you what is said in the prophets: “Behold, you scoffers, and wonder and perish; for I do a deed in your days, a deed you will never believe, if one declares it to you.”
And then in the 10th verse, this is not a nice thing to say.
“You son of the devil, you enemy of righteousness.”
Gee. Now I don’t, I’m not, this is not a brief for being offensive and offending as many people as you can and keeping track of it and telling Jesus that you did good, because there’s something that ought to be winsome about the witness of a Christian and a Christian leader. There ought to be something that manifests the Fruit of the Spirit, you’ll find in Galatians. And Paul wrote that, so he knew what that was. And even if he didn’t do it perfectly, he manifested the Fruit of the Spirit in his ministry, but he didn’t back off either. He spoke truth. I remember early in my ministry, when I was serving a little church on Cape Cod and it was a union of all the churches in that little village. And I didn’t know Jesus very well and they didn’t either, so it was a good mix. All I had to do was talk for 15 or 20 minutes on Sunday morning. And if somebody got sick, I needed a visit them in the hospital. But other than that, that was it. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I played golf and fished, but I remember when we started kind of getting serious and there was a mission committee meeting. And a woman said, are we saying that we’re right and they’re wrong? And I said, sort of. And she said, I’m out of here. Well, John Mark kind of said that too, in a different kind of way. Truth can be offensive sometimes. You think about that. Amen.
Thank you Steve. That was Steve Brown, continuing to teach us from Acts about leaders and how we don’t necessarily have to like them to follow him. That idea is both bold and freeing at the same time. More good stuff tomorrow. Make sure you join us then. So, you may know the name, Philip Yancey, but you probably don’t know his amazing and inspiring and at times a shocking story. Recently, Philip joined us on Steve Brown Etc and wow, what a conversation. Take a listen to part of that discussion. Then I’ll be back to tell you about a special free offer.
Philip Yancey: When I was just a year old, my brother was three years old. When we were that young, our father got Polio. That was the dreaded pandemic back in 1950. My father was 23 and he was put in an iron long because he couldn’t even breathe. And the machine, just vacuum sucked air in and out to force his lungs to breathe, miserable existence in a charity hospital, they didn’t get good care. They were planning to be missionaries, my mother and father to Africa. They had several thousand people on a mailing list that were going to support them. Those people thought, well God couldn’t possibly take somebody with that kind of potential as a missionary in Africa. And they started praying fervently and finally believed, truly believed that he would be healed. I found this out as an adult, actually, when I came across the clipping from the Atlanta Constitution newspaper, and it told the story of him being removed from this hospital against medical advice and put it into a little clinic that they really couldn’t care for Polio patients. And I knew that nine days later, he died. So, here was this huge leap of faith. These people personally loved my father. They were supporting him, but they took on a prerogative, they didn’t really have the right to do. They decided what was God’s will and acted on it, in a tragic way. That determined our life. My mother was crushed. She was unprepared for life. She’d never written a check. She didn’t know how to drive a car. She had no income. She also dedicated her sons to replace our father as a missionary in Africa, it was that specific. That vow became a kind of curse and it mainly fell on my brother, Marshall. He was amazingly talented musically. He could play any number of instruments. He could hear a concerto at a restaurant in the background and sit down a week later and play it from memory. And then he decided that he wanted to go to Wheaton College, because they had a conservatory of music. But the group we were around looked on Wheaton as this liberal bastion, they support Billy Graham. And so, my mother literally cursed him. She said, if you go there, I will pray the rest of my life that you will be in a terrible accident and either die, better yet be paralyzed so that you have to lie there and look at the ceiling and realize what a terrible thing you’ve done. My brother’s memory is a little bit different. He thinks the curse was, I will pray every day that you will lose your mind because that’s what happened. His final semester at Wheaton, he dropped out. He was diagnosed chronic paranoid schizophrenia, and he came back to Atlanta broken, became one of Atlanta’s original hippies, used a lot of LSD. Kind of fried his brain instead of being a concert pianist, he ended up being a piano tuner, playing the same note over and over, nair, nair, nair. Moved to California, like a lot of hippies and had an adventurous life, where he tried to get her as far away from that evangelical fundamentalist subculture we were raised in it, but it’s not a triumphant story at all. Often when we think we’re finding freedom, it ends up being a form of slavery, which is what addiction is. I, of course have made my living as a Christian writer, just picking up things in the past, trying to figure out what’s worth keeping and what I should discard. My brother has been trying to get away from it, ever since. And this memoir for me was the way of stitching it together.
And your book, is a catalyst for the rest of the story, you think?
Philip Yancey: Yes. There have been examples of progress. In fact, just a month ago, Steve. I was astonished to hear my brother say that he sent a card to our mother, and he’s not done that in more than 50 years. It’s hard for him. He’s had a stroke and he only has the use of his left hand. So, to stick something in an envelope and to write it and seal it, that’s not an easy thing for him to do. And I said, what was in the card? Three words. I forgive you.
And guys, that was just four minutes of this amazing episode. We put this entire conversation on a CD and if it’s okay with you, we’ll mail it to you, for free. Just let us know where to send it, 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 CD. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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