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Toxic religion can kill you.

Toxic religion can kill you.

JUNE 26, 2023

/ Programs / Key Life / Toxic religion can kill you.

Steve Brown:
Toxic religion can kill you. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.

Matthew Porter:
Welcome to Key Life. I’m Matthew, executive producer of the program. Our host is Steve Brown. He’s an author and seminary professor who teaches that God’s amazing grace is the key to a life of radical freedom, infectious joy, and surprising faithfulness to Christ.

Steve Brown:
Thank you Matthew. Hope you guys had a great weekend and I hope your pastor’s sermon was as good as my pastor’s sermon. If you have a Bible, open it to the 19th chapter of the Book of Acts. And if you, as we study the Book of Acts, if you’re driving, you keep your eyes on the road and just trust that I read Bible verses, I’m reading them accurately. And we’re going to look this week and probably into next week at a subject with which I am familiar and it’s called toxic religion. And we have an example of toxic religion in the 19th chapter of the Book of Acts, beginning at the 21st verse and going through the end of that particular chapter. Before we turn to that subject, let’s pray. Father, thank you for the religion that you have given us. Make it balanced, make it Biblical, make it true in our lives. Father, help us not to listen to lies or to have invested self-interest in our worship. Father, be close that our worship may be of you and you only. Father, you know everybody who’s listening to this broadcast, the hard and the soft places, the laughter and the tears. Father, be in both. You are sufficient for everything and remind us of that truth. We worship you and we praise you, and we pray for the one who teaches on this broadcast. They call him Reverend and he’s not. We would see Jesus and Him only, and we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. Now, if you were listening at the end of last week, we introduced this subject of toxic religion and we are able to see that clearly in verses 21 through the end of the chapter, the 19th chapter of Acts. And I’m not going to take the time to review it or to read it. We read some of it last week, but it’s a very interesting incident. There is the Temple of Artemis, or in Latin it’s Diana. In Ephesus, and it was a large and magnificent temple and it attracted a lot of tourists. And there were some people who were getting rich off of the tourists. It’s called fleece the tourist. Do you know I served a church on Cape Cod and we had a fair every year, and you know what really sold? Rocks. This is true. I’m not making this up. You can’t make up stuff like this. We actually sold rocks. How did you do that? Well, we called them pet rocks. And we put two eyes and a smiling face on the front of the rock. We did it with a magic marker and we sold them for three bucks. And we sold a whole lot of them. Well, something like that was going on in Ephesians. Only, they were making silver replicas of that gigantic temple and religious objects. And they had booze and they were making a fortune selling them to tourists. And then Paul came and he started talking about Jesus and things started changing and people didn’t go to the temple much anymore cause they had seen real truth. And once you’ve seen truth, you can’t stop seeing truth. And once they saw truth, they didn’t want a replica of the temple, they didn’t want a silver replica of the goddess, they didn’t want trinkets, they wanted reality and meaning and forgiveness and love and eternal life. Now, the problem with that is that it cut into the self-interest of the makers of the silver trinkets, and they called a meeting, and the meeting degenerated into a riot. And in fact, it was going to turn really, really ugly except that the clerk of the town showed up and calmed everybody down and said, it’s okay. And then he said to the people who were close to a riot, stop this, you’re going to end up in jail and they’re going to throw away the key. And so they dissipated, and that incident comes to an end at the end of the 19th chapter of Acts. But the interesting thing is that when you look at this 19th chapter of Acts, you begin to see some things about religion. Religion is a good thing, but it can be a very bad thing. If you’ve been in the church very long, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Religion makes some people really weird. Do you know that the most normal, the most balanced, the most rational people in the world ought to be Christians. The early church outthought, outlived, outwrote everybody else going. And they attracted people to Jesus because people could see in these believers of what was called then The Way, The Way of Jesus, because people saw in these believers very normal, balanced people. And as you look at this 19th chapter of Acts, you begin to see some things that you have to watch about your church, about religion in general, about what you believe about God, about what you think about your relationship with God. And the first thing that is clearly seen in this 19th chapter of Acts is that toxic religion is filled with self-interest. Look at Acts 19:25 through 27.

These Demetrius gathered together with women or workman of like occupation,

In other words, those who were creating these trinkets.

and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable company of people,

In other words, our customers.

saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is a danger. Not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the Great goddess Artemis

or Diana

may count for nothing.”

And we think when we read a text like that, isn’t that awful? Isn’t it terrible that somebody’s making their living out of religion? And real religion has a tendency to destroy that. But before we go there too quickly, it would be very well for us to think of what self-interest do we have invested in the religious beliefs that we have. Now, I don’t want to go too far with this. Of course, we’ve got self-interest. I have self-interest in being forgiven. I have self-interest in God loving me without condition. I have major self-interest in heaven. I have self-interest in meaning. So, there is self-interest that’s a part of real and legitimate and profound religion, but what you have to be careful about is when that self-interest gets bigger than Jesus. I think it was Saint Teresa who prayed.

Lord, help me to fear you, even if there is no hell. And to follow you and love you even if there is no heaven.

That’s a profound statement. And what happens is that we build empires, religious empires, and then we defend those empires and it becomes a part of our ourself to definition and a part of power that we want for ourselves, and that is dangerous. I have a friend, his name is Dan Bush and he has a PhD from a university in Scotland. He’s a therapist and an ordained pastor, and right now, and I’m working with him and we’re going to have him on our talk show pretty soon. He’s working on a book, no, a seminar from a book he’s already written, and the name of the book is The Undefended Life. And what he teaches in the seminar, in that particular book is that we don’t have to defend anything, and when you start defending it, it is a mark of self-interest. One of the dangerous things about what I do is that I get paid for doing it. I probably ought to go in vinyl repair so that my income isn’t dependent on my religion. I have a friend who says.

If you make your living at religion, you’re going to lose one or the other.

You think about that. Amen.

Matthew Porter:
Thank you Steve. That was Steve Brown and today we continued our ongoing exploration of the Book of Acts. Last week we started with the beginning of Acts chapter 19, and today we continued forward. But of course, we have only just set the table, so be sure to join us all this week as we really start to dig in. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of seconds, as in, that was good, how about a little more. Well, in that spirit, I’m excited to tell you about more from author Michael Reeves. Last week we shared with you our conversation with Michael about the Trinity. But just a few weeks after that, we chatted with him about his book called Evangelical Pharisees: The Gospel’s Cure for the Church’s Hypocrisy. Guess what? We put that conversation on a CD too. Can we send it to you, for free? If so, call us right now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that CD. Or to mail your request go to to find our mailing addresses. Just ask for your free copy of the CD featuring Michael Reeves. Finally, 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 or include 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 and 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 as always, Key Life is a listener supported production of Key Life Network.

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