Stupid Things

Essays, Featured — By on September 14, 2010 at 8:00 am

I’ve done some stupid things in my short time on the planet. At the risk of incriminating myself, I’ll give you some examples.

Back in high school, on more than one occasion, I would grab a friend, get high, grab a couple bottles of Boone’s Farm and go driving around drinking. That’s bad enough, but just for the thrill of it, we would drive down winding roads on the edge of a river in the middle of the night…with our lights off.

There was the car surfing and that time I hooked up with my crazy coked-out roommate. (She was female in case you’re wondering. I’m not saying she used to be female, like before the operation, just that she was a she…and remains so).

One time I took acid with some friends and went jet skiing. I’ll spare you the psycho-delic details, but it’s enough to say, we could have died.

Anyway, there are plenty more examples, but you get the idea. The point is that I’ve done some stupid stuff.

God I hope my parents don’t read this.

Now, the things I just mentioned all happened over seventeen years ago before I became a Christian. That means that the statute of limitations has run out and these events are now part of my “testimony.” I can safely share them with you and “God gets the glory” for saving a douche like me.

Even so, there are plenty of stupid things I’ve done as a Christian too. Trust me, if God rewarded us for our good behavior and punished us for the bad stuff, I would not have a successful ministry, a house, a wife and three kids. I’d be dead. I’m a firm believer in God’s grace, simply out of practical experience.

My mentor, Steve Brown, has a list of ten stupid things Christians do to mess up their lives. Let me give them to you:

1. We think God is either a child abuser, away on vacation, or he’s like Santa Claus instead of looking to Jesus to find out what God is like.
2. We are obsessed with getting better instead of God’s forgiveness.
3. We forget the Gospel, and sacrifice the joy that sets us free.
4. We wear masks instead of being authentic.
5. We put our leaders on pedestals and thereby demean ourselves.
6. We demonize our enemies instead of acknowledging their humanity.
7. We live in fear.
8. We avoid the reality of pain.
9. We define ourselves by our failures instead of God’s love.
10. We surrender the freedom for which Jesus has set us free.

If you’re a Christian, that’s probably not the list you started making when I mentioned that there were ten stupid things Christians do to mess up their lives. You probably thought of a list something like this:

1. Porn (if you’re a girl, insert “Watching The Bachelor”)
2. Not attending church
3. Not tithing
4. Not reading your Bible
5. Porn (if you’re a girl, insert “Watching The Bachelorette)
6. Not selling everything and giving it to the poor
7. Being a Democrat (if you’re Glenn Beck)
8. Being a Republican (if you’re Jim Wallis)
9. Cussing, drinking, smoking, dancing, going to movies, etc.
10. Not praying
11. Porn (if you’re a girl, insert “Shopping”)

Am I right or am I right? The reason you thought up items on the second list is because of number two on the first list (and maybe a few others).

By the way, I know there are more than ten items on that last list, but that’s because when it comes to trying to be good, Christians go to eleven…and beyond.

Here’s the point of Steve’s teaching: Jesus has come to set us free, and we mess up our lives by preferring our prisons.

I should probably define “freedom” at this point. Again, you’re most likely thinking of something different than what Steve (or I) mean by the word.

Basically, free means free.

We’re free to live according to God’s standards, and we’re free not to. It means that if you don’t do what God says, He will still love you and if you do what God says, He won’t love you any more. That’s because our acceptability is based on faith in Jesus’ finished work, not on our goodness or lack thereof. If you dispute this, you drive a stake in the heart of the Gospel.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The scripture says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). There are many who say that the freedom mentioned in that verse is freedom from sin. It certainly means that, but if it doesn’t include the freedom to sin, then it’s not real freedom.

You may allow that we’re saved by grace, but kept by busting our butts. If so, read Galatians (and pay particular attention to chapter 3 verses 1-3).

Does all of that bother you? It should. God’s ways are not our ways.

Does it make you want to go out and sin? If you’re a Christian, I doubt it. You know why? Because of something that’s key to the message of freedom that Steve and I preach.

The only people who get any better are those who know that if they don’t get any better, God will still love them anyway.

If you disagree, let me ask you this…how’s trying really hard working out for you? If obsessing on getting better worked, we’d all be Mother Teresa.

It’s the goodness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). It’s God’s amazing unconditional love and the resulting freedom for which Jesus has set us free that compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14).

If you don’t start with freedom, you will screw up your life! If you obsess on your goodness, you will never get to the obedience you so badly desire. Instead, we are called to obsess on His goodness toward us in order to be transformed into the image of the Beloved.

So, now that I’m a Christian, I’m free to do all kinds of stupid things, and God won’t love me any less. I might mess up my life or even kill myself, but I’m free. Does that make me want to drop acid and take a spin on a jet ski? Maybe. Even so, my heart’s desire is to follow the One who loved me enough to set me free to go wherever I want. I don’t expect a reward or anything, just the joy of faithfulness and walking with God.

He set you free too! Now what? I say embrace the freedom and stop messing up your life.

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    10 Comments

  • JFaulknerWest says:

    Monk,

    Loved, loved, loved your post. Brown helped me pull my head out of my a**. (First post don’t know if I can say that but…) I might insert Glenn Beck in place of Mother Teresa. I understand what you meant. However, in my experience – having been a converted obsess-or – the fullest expression of such activity would look more like Glenn Beck. We might intend to walk the road of Teresa but obsession of this nature always devolves into priggishness. Sorry Beck I as once a fan but the days of wearing by ass as a head piece are over. For what it’s worth I’ll probably regret writing this in, oh, ten minutes? Great blog Monk.

  • Another way I’ve heard it said is sin has a chain and a stain. We are freed from the power (the chain) of sin and the mark (the stain) of sin. Thank you for this piece.

    I thoroughly enjoy your grace based approach to our salvation. Our identity in Christ is truly primary. We need more emphasis upon this and less upon our external behaviors which may or may not be classified as sin.

    One last thing I often consider in regard to our classification of sins is that among the seven mortal sins in the Catholic church are the likes of pride, greed, and gluttony. There is much to be said for self-control in our spirituality. Not just in sexuality, but in many other areas. Our whole person has been redeemed and we often only think about our genitals. Holiness is wholeness of our entire being.

    Keep up the beautiful work.

  • Chloe says:

    This may seem like a minor point, but can we please get over the naive and sexist belief that women are never tempted by pornography?

    • Emily Timbol says:

      Seriously. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely loved this post and The Merry Monk as a writer, but between some of the comments in this (shopping? really?) and overhearing two men in my office discuss how the movie Memento was too intellectual for their wives to understand, I feel slamming my head into the desk (but not crying. Woman don’t always cry.) Newsflash: women struggle with sexual sin just like men do, up to and including looking at porn.

    • Where are these women of whom you speak…and can you get them to enlighten my wife? ; )

      Seriously, point taken.

      I also admit that the shopping thing was a stretch, but I just couldn’t think of anything else that my wife liked as much as I like porn.

    • Emily Timbol says:

      No hard feelings Monk!

  • Thanks for the strokes guys. Glad you liked the piece.

    BTW Michael, you’re right, I do often only think about my genitals.

  • Jo Hilder says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
    Yes, yes,
    Yep. Yes. Uhuh.
    Yes.

  • Erik Yorke says:

    Dude, thank you. I needed to read that today. We as a race can be so dumb – I’m always thinking, “maybe if I don’t smoke (or whatever) today, God will let something good happen.” And I actually realize how stupid that is, when I’m thinking it, but I still think it. Anyway, great post – you rock.

  • Jesse D says:

    Steve Brown’s pretty great. Love listening to him, and this list couldn’t be any truer.

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