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Episode 14 - We're a Mess, and We Just Can't Help It


Date: September 12, 2018
Run Time: 13:57
Host: Dr. Gregory R. Perry
Guests: Dr. Steve Brown, Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.
From the Series: Growing Bold, Not Old, in Our Faith

Program Notes

"The essence of Christian faith is forgiveness … given by screwed up people to other screwed up people."* This week, we welcome back Dr. Steve Brown, President of Key Life Network and friend of Third Mill, and Dr. Richard Pratt, President of Third Mill, who talk about:

  • Steve's thoughts on retitling one of his books
  • How the Christian message is not for good people; it’s for people like us
  • The growth of God’s kingdom beyond our own backyards (and the desperate need for well-trained Christian leaders)

*from Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad at You, by Steve Brown

Sponsor this Month: Key Life Network

Our guests this month are Dr. Richard Pratt, the founder and President of Third Millennium and his friend, Dr. Steve Brown, President of Key Life Network, an organization that encourages lots of folks through its weekly broadcast on over 600 radio stations. Please go to their website at keylife.org to experience their programs and many other resources, which are designed to help us understand God’s astounding grace to us in Christ. Both of these men have been pastors, seminary professors, quite unconventionally we might add, in order to provoke Christians to stop playing it safe, but to truly be 4 the World as Jesus' witnesses.

Podcast Transcript

EPISODE 14: We're a Mess, and We Just Can't Help It
Guest: Dr. Steve Brown and Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries where we believe every Christian deserves a well-trained pastor. To study Scripture deeply or to learn more about how you can partner with us to provide Biblical Education. For the World. For Free. download our App to your phone or visit our online classroom at Thirdmill.org. And now, your host 4 the World, Dr. Greg Perry.


I've titled this episode, "We're a Mess and We Just Can't Help It," and that that's a way of talking about the gospel. So Steve, Welcome back. We really appreciate your friendship here at Third Mill and your willingness to drop in.

Steve: That's the gift I receive, not you.

Well, thank you, brother, for being here with us. Now, in one of your books — that has a really interesting title, Three Free Sins — you talk about four almost impossibilities about the gospel.

Steve: You should know that if I had it to do over again, I'd retitle that book.

Did you get a lot of grief from that?

Steve: Oh, you have no idea. And the criticism comes from people who haven't read it. It really is orthodox, and Reformed, and solid, but the title — and everybody thinks I'm antinomian, that I approve and encourage sin, which I don't — but that book, the title sure didn't help. So it's been into a number of re-printings. Next time I'm going to change the title and stay out of the fire for a while.

But you might not sell quite as many copies.

Steve: That's true. But, you know, I need the job, and that's not a good way to move.


You said it's almost impossible to accept something that we don't think we need.

Steve: That's true.

And what do you mean by that?

Steve: Well, it's an advertising kind of understanding, which is helpful to Christians. If we don't have any takeaway value for people that come to Christ — and the best takeaway value we have is forgiveness. I've been criticized a lot for saying, and I say it to Christians, "God's not angry at you" because of justification and imputation. And I say to unbelievers, "I don't care where you've been or what you've done. I don't care who you've hurt, you're sleeping with, or smoking or drinking. If you go to Jesus, he won't be angry at you," which theologically is a justifiable statement. And it doesn't lessen the wrath of God, nor does it lessen the horror of sin. But all of a sudden, people who don't become Christians — my father was one of them. I think one of the reasons I'm driven is that my father, he was a drunk, and he was a womanizer, and he never went to church, and I never heard him say bad things about the church, he just didn't, but he didn't think he was good enough. He missed the whole message. And he would show up at church when my brother and I were doing something, and after we finished our children's choir or whatever, he left, because he didn't think he was good enough. And three months before his death, a Christian doctor said, "Mr. Brown, you have three months to live, and we're going to pray, and then I'm going to tell you something more important than what I just told you." And he told him about Jesus loving sinners, hanging out with the prostitutes and the drunks, even having a reputation for doing that. It's not for good people; it's for people like us. And one of the things that both Richard and I have bought into is that we're willing to say that. We're willing to say that about our self.

Richard: Yeah, you know, in the first chapter of Romans when Paul says the good news of Jesus came first to the Jew and then to the Gentile, that's not just a history lesson. It's a fact that it did come to the Jews first, but when he says it came to the Gentile also, he was saying there that it came for people who were so far away, so deliberate in their rebellion against God, so corrupted, so wicked, so vile you could not even name — "unspeakable," he says — the things that they were doing, and yet, it came for them. And it is like a boxer with a very long arm who can reach out very far; that's the effective boxer, with the long arm. And we have just got to get over this idea that people have to be decent before they can become Christian, before they can meet Jesus and have salvation in him. It's just simply not true. And like you, I can say — there's a place in a bigger sermon I have in my brain where I actually look and say — "Look, if he could reach a person like me and hold onto a person like me…"

Steve: He can, you. That is so good.

Richard: Because I know me well enough to know just how long that arm is.

Steve: And, you know, there was a time when people would have jumped all over you. But we're living in a time when people are beginning to see it. You know, we've got to tell… I one time did a funeral for my barber, and he was the biggest pagan. His name was Tom, and I loved him. He used to tell me dirty stories. And yes, I do go to a barber; it just doesn't take very long. And he loved to… He said when Christians would shut down a strip club, he would say, "I think every time a strip club gets closed by Christians, you ought to close a church, just to keep it even." And you know, and he would tell stories that were sometimes funny, and it was hard not to laugh. And he came to hear me preach the night before they took him to the hospital to die. And I went to him, and I talked to him about Jesus before, and I said, "Tom, I want you to shut up because you're going to die, and I don't want to go to heaven if you're not there; so, you listen to everything I say." And I told him as clear… In a childlike, wonderful way, he ran to Jesus and died. And when all of his friends, they didn't know anybody religious, so they needed somebody to do the service, and they asked me to do it. So I show up with a tie, and they've got bikinis, and pot, and booze, and balloons and a jazz musician for him. So I went over, and I said to the jazz musician, I said, "Son, when you finish this set, stop, because I'm going to do something religious." And he said, "Cool, Dude." I never had a worship leader say that to me before. What I did, believe it not, I confessed my sins. I said, "I'm the best dressed person here, but let me tell you something else. I'm the most phony person here." And I began… And people were putting down their beer and they were listening, and it was amazing how they were listening. And I'll tell you, when you get into ministry, and a ministry like Third Mill, that's incredible. I always knew it's incredible, but I went to the banquet this year, and man, I just stood there with my mouth open the whole time. This is a ministry. And every ministry says, "We're changing the world." This one really is. It's really changing the world, and it's maybe the most important ministry of our time.

Well, one of the things you said…

Steve: Wait, let me finish my thing. Because some of you don't get involved in ministry because you don't think you're good enough. Trust me. God only had one perfect preacher and minister and that's not you, and it's not me, and it's not the three of us.


Well, the other thing you said picks up on what Richard was talking about the night of the 20th Anniversary, and that is that it's almost impossible to serve a king by ignoring his passion and substituting your own. And that was really what you were focused on the night of the 20th, wasn't it, Richard?

Richard: Yeah, it was.

In terms of a vision of this kingdom and it's advancing. If you would share a little bit about that.

Richard: Well, we're promised by the prophets in the Old Testament that when the king finally comes, there's not going to be any end to what he does in the world. It's going to get bigger, and it's going to get stronger, and it's going to keep going and keep going. Isaiah chapter 9 is what I have in mind. And we don't believe that anymore, because our vision for what Jesus is doing is just our own backyard. If it's going well for us, going well in our local church, if it's going well for our friends, our family, then okay, Jesus is good. He's winning. Way to go, Jesus. But when it doesn't go well in our backyard, then we forget that he is active and alive and doing all kinds of wondrous things everywhere else in the world. And that is what I think Christians need to get on board with.

I think some of our listeners will remember, like us, painting by numbers. And you did a painting by number that night. You gave us some numbers to see something of what God is doing in the world.

Richard: There are people that make a living out of predicting what the Holy Spirit's going to do. Did you know that? And they make good livings out of it too — write books and all kinds of stuff. I don't know how they get that job, but they do it. But they basically are predicting if Holy Spirit continues to do what he has been doing for the last forty years, what's it going to be like in forty years? All kinds of things can shake that up, wars and things like that. But assuming he does basically what he has been doing, we know that in North America Christianity is going to diminish in size. There's no question about that. The same in Europe. The same even in other parts of the world. But the first time you get a real turn is Asia. We kind of know that already. We know lots of Christians in China, India, those kinds of places. But the number one place of church growth in the world between now and 2050 is Africa. It's going to go from about a half a billion professing Christians in Africa to over a billion professing Christians in Africa. A billion of them! And if you take a chart and lay it up, who's the greatest and who's the least of the growth of the church in the world, and you look at that and flip it on its head — this is where my heart is — you can say, where are most seminaries in the world? Well, flip the chart over. It's everywhere the church is not doing well. We've got lots of seminaries, lots of opportunities for Christian leaders to learn the Bible and sound theology, but where the church is growing, they don't have it. So that's what we do at Third Mill. I mean, we're aiming for the bottom of the heap where most Christians are, where the church is growing. We want them understanding the Bible. We want them leading the church.

And so, if we just take a conservative estimate of say one pastor for every one hundred of those new Christians, we've got a big math problem on our hands.

Richard: A big math problem on our hands. And so you can't do it in the old way.

Steve: Richard's kingdom passion blows me away. And if you're a Christian, you may, you know, play in your own backyard, but you're not hanging out with Jesus much. Because something happens, and you begin to weep where he weeps and to have passion where he has passion, and to care about the things that he cares about.

Richard: For all kinds.

It affects every area of life.

Richard: It does, and in different ways in different people's lives. And so life is tragic in different ways for different people, and Jesus offers salvation from those tragedies. That's what he gives. And it is a gracious thing because he brings you into his kingdom, which is unending. So…

That's right.

Steve: It's not a bad deal.

Richard: No, it's not a bad deal at all since it's free.

Steve: Right. I did a biker's conference in northern California once. A guy said, "I was drunk every day of my life for thirty years, and then I didn't have enough money to buy booze. Then somebody told me Jesus was free, and so I became a Christian." And he just lit up when he started talking. It's free! Now, it doesn't mean it's cheap, but it's free. It cost a lot, but it's, for us, it really is good news.

Thank you, gentleman.

Richard: What are we doing next time?

Well, next time on 4 the World we're going to talk about how do we keep growing, because everybody is getting back out in their yard now, they're getting back out in their garden, and things are starting to grow here in central Florida again. But how do we grow as Christians? That's what we're going to talk about next time on 4 the World.

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries where we are reimagining biblical education for Christian leaders in a global church. Each week we bring you conversations to cultivate your curiosity about God's word, to inform your intercessions for God's people, and to equip your efforts in God's mission for the world. Our host is Dr. Greg Perry. Our sound engineer and editor is Christopher Russell. Our web designer is Ra McLaughlin. And I'm your announcer, Cindy Sawyer. Today's podcast was brought to you by Keylife.org where you can find radio programs, weekly devotionals, and books produced by our guest, Dr. Steve Brown. He's also our host for The Book of Revelation in our online classroom. Enroll at elearning.thirdmill.org today. And we'll meet you next time on 4 the World.