Richard’s message given at The Center’s Men’s Breakfast at The Country Club of Birmingham, September 24, 2021.
Watch video of this talk.
Well, good morning. Can you in the back hear me? I always ask that question. If you can’t I’m not sure what I can do about it. But anyway, I’m glad you’re here. It’s been two years since we last met here at the Country Club of Birmingham. And so, it’s great to be back.
I think you probably are aware; you saw it on the email, that the message this morning I’ve titled, “Recognizing the Lies of Life”. And I based this from a statement that some of you probably heard me share before, but I think it’s a very powerful statement, and it comes from someone who Einstein believed was one of the most brilliant people who ever lived, a guy by the name of Blaise Pascal, who was a French mathematician and philosopher. And he said something that just really resonated with me, and I find to be just spot on true. He says that one of the primary reasons that people struggle with life is because they have false ideas about reality. And he says that for that reason, it is so necessary to uproot these false ideas and replace them with truth and wisdom in order to lead a healthy life.
In fact, Dallas Willard, who was a much more contemporary, died a couple of years ago, he was a head of the philosophy department at USC. He said that “Our ideas are the assumptions we have about reality. They are the way we think about and interpret life. Ultimately our beliefs and ideas determine how we live, and therefore our ideas about life will lead to certain consequences.” I’ve concluded, and I think we have concluded from the work that we do, is that too many men do not form their ideas and beliefs responsibly.
I mean, think about it. Have you ever thought that maybe some of your most cherished beliefs that you hold to may not be true? I don’t think anybody’s sitting here thinks that that’s the case, but have you ever thought that that might be the case in your life? And so, I share this because so many of our beliefs and ideas can be consequential, particularly if they are in error.
Let me give you an example, just from the real world. I was reading about the practice of medicine back in the 18th century. And they had this time-honored practice that they’d had for hundreds of years of what was called bloodletting. They believed that bloodletting would cure sick patients. And what you would do is you would cure them by removing stagnant or bad blood. And so, what’s so interesting is that it was universally accepted as the most effective remedy to cure people who were sick. It was called a buildup of bad blood, and it caused all kinds of sickness, so you had to purge it from your body and the more blood that was purged, the better. And ironically, and some of you may know this, but in 1799, George Washington suffered from this very severe throat infection. And he requested that they drain four pints of blood from his body. He demanded it. And he died the next day. It really wasn’t until the young scientist Louis Pasteur discovered it was germs. It was not bad blood that caused disease. But think about this. Can you imagine the shock of experienced physicians when they learned that their attempts to heal people had actually harmed them or even caused them to die? Yet, this false belief had been embraced, as I said, for hundreds of years.
Another example comes from the sinking of the Titanic. This was a really interesting fact that I learned. Most people get their understanding of what happened to the Titanic from James Cameron’s movie. But in his book, The Last Log of the Titanic, researcher David Brown says that the ship never had to sink and cause all that, that massive loss of life. Listen to what Brown says, “The ship could have been its own lifeboat. Even after coming around on a submerged iceberg, the 46,000 gross ton liner was capable of saving all on board by floating into mid-morning until the rescue ship Carpathia arrived on the scene. Instead, once the Titanic’s owner, Bruce Ismay, saw that the damage appeared minimal because the hole in the mast measured only about 12 feet and that the ship’s pumps were successfully expelling the incoming water, he ordered engines ahead, half speed. Minutes later, the ship’s fragile buoyancy gave way to its disintegration and demise.” Brown’s inescapable conclusion is that “the Titanic pumps were swamped by massive amounts of water, pushing the ship by its own forward motion. Meanwhile, thousands of people were comfortably, confidently, securely they thought, sleeping below.”
You see, when you believe something is false, it can result in catastrophe for your life. I ask you to think about this as you think about what’s true. You know, truth has got to be discovered. You can’t invent it. It’s an objective reality that you seek to discover and understand. Truth does not change. But the real question is, how does this impact me personally – the importance of having, making sure your ideas and beliefs are true? How does it impact my quality of life?
Well, I want to read to you a couple of verses out of the Old Testament, because I think David and Solomon kind of nailed the issue. In Psalm 119:104, David says, “From your precepts, I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way”. Psalm 119:128, he said, “I esteem your precepts concerning everything. I hate every false way.” And then in the book of Proverbs, this is a verse that I’ve really drilled into my kids’ lives as they were growing up. Proverbs was written predominantly by Solomon. There are 31 chapters, and each chapter has about 30 verses, what they’ve called Proverbs, so, there’s about 900 Proverbs. There’s only one proverb that is repeated verbatim, and so, you have it mentioned twice.
I don’t know if I’m reading too much into it but seems to me it must be significant for Solomon to mention it twice. And it’s in Proverbs 14:12, and Proverbs 16:25. Listen to it. It’s very powerful. He says in both verses, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way of death and destruction.”
You know, in all of those verses that I just read is the word “way”. “Way” is a Hebrew word, derek, D-E-R-E-K. And it means a pathway. So, they’re talking about the path of life you’re going down, the direction your life is going in. Because think about this guys, every single one of us is headed down what the Bible calls the path of life. You’re going down the path of life right now. And the path of life that you’re on will take you a certain destination.
And according to these verses in Proverbs that I read, we can be on a path that seems right, that seems good, that’s very appealing. But over time, it’ll lead to destruction. It can lead us to a destination where we never wanted to end up. And this is what believing the lies of life is all about. And the problem most of this – we’ve got a lot of counselors in this room – but this is one of the things we find. The problem most people don’t realize, they don’t recognize they have false beliefs until they get burned by the belief.
And so, this morning, I want to briefly mention three, that all of us can easily get caught up in. Now, the first I’ve spoken about, I think back in 2011, I mentioned this and talked about it here at one of these breakfasts. It’s from a book called Season of Life written by a Pulitzer prize-winning author, Jeffrey Marx. Some of you are familiar with it. And it’s about Joe Ehrmann. Joe spoke here at the club seven or eight years ago, and he mentioned some of this, but he had been an all-pro defensive end with the Baltimore Colts, but he was coaching high school football and that’s what this book was about. He really wasn’t so concerned, he and this other guy that coached with him, they weren’t that concerned with how many games they won. They were really focused on teaching high school boys on how to be men. And Ehrmann talks about one of the great lies that men are blinded by. He says men’s identities so often get messed up because of what he calls “false masculinity”. He says, “As young boys, we grow up and are told you need to act like men. The problem is,” he says, “most fathers never give their sons any definition of true manhood because they usually don’t know what to tell them.”
And then he shares how he conducts workshops for men. And one of the first things he does is he hands out an index card to everybody who is there. Every man that’s there, he gives them an index card and a pen, and he says, this is what I’d like for you to do. I want you to write on this card, your definition of true masculinity. And he says, when you do this, he says, these guys, these men, they’re clueless what to write. He says, many of them they’re like deer in the headlights. They have no what to put down. They’re clueless.
So, if that’s the case, how in the world do fathers teach their sons about true masculinity? If they don’t get it from their dads, where will they get their ideas of what true manhood is all about? And so, if they don’t get it from their fathers, they get it from the culture. And Ehrmann says, there’s this pattern you see in a young boy’s life as he grows up. He says, it starts out on the playground when young boys start playing competitive games. He says usually the fastest kid or the most athletic kid kind of rises to the top. But think about it. What happens to the young boy that’s not an athlete?
Do you remember growing up, choosing teams? Think about the kids who were always chosen last. I never thought about that. How do you think that impacted them and their lives as they grew up?
He says, “Then a young man hits puberty, and a second component of false masculinity then rears its ugly head; attracting women, and sexual conquests. Boys think that that’s what manhood is all about. The ability to attract and relate to the opposite sex.” That’s what will they believe will validate their manhood because that’s what the culture tells them.
And then, of course, the final component of false masculinity comes when men hit the workplace – financial success. You see, most men today get their identity from job titles and the size of their bank accounts. And the thing that Ehrmann did, he had a real catchy phrase to summarize our cultural progression of false masculinity. And he says, “From the ball field to the bedroom to the bank account. He says, “I believe” and these are his words, “in the process, we find ourselves competing and comparing ourselves with all the men in our sphere of influence. This approach to life sets men up for tremendous failure. It’s just a matter of time.”
So, what is the true measure of a man? I remember the guy that published our book, The True Measure of a Man. He asked me that question and I’ll share you in a minute, what I said to him. But I remember many years ago, somebody shared with me a wonderful verse from the New Testament. It’s Romans 8:28. You may be familiar with it. “We know that God causes things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” And I remember thinking, what a great verse, that for me, whatever happened in my life, God was using it to lead to my ultimate good. The problem I had was I did not fully understand what good was. What is the ultimate good in life for me as a man? You see, I thought it was prosperity; I thought it was financial success. I thought it was, you know, a pleasurable life. I thought that’s what God wants for me. But then it was years later that somebody said, you really need to look at the next verse to understand what the ultimate good is in the sight of God. In Romans 8:29, we are told that the ultimate good is that we might be conformed to the image of God’s son, that we might become like Jesus. Christlike.
Now, I realize that we live in a culture where men might believe Christlikeness is not very manly. That was my first reaction when I heard that. I saw Jesus as just kind of being this real religious guy. He was very serious, and He really didn’t enjoy Himself. That was my view of Him.
But as the years have gone by, and as I’ve studied the four Gospels, I’ve come to realize, first and foremost, Jesus was not religious. In fact, the people who were religious, the Scribes and the Pharisees, they hated Him. They hated Him because he wasn’t religious. They didn’t like who He hung out with. He hung out with a lot of the riffraff in that culture.
And the second thing I learned is, His life was full of joy. On two different occasions, He says, I want to take My joy and I want to give it to you. I want to give it to you.
And the final thing I realized is that Christlikeness, first and foremost, involves your character, and your wisdom, and your ability to love, and have deep substantive relationships. You see, men’s lives today seem to be focused on what they achieve, how much they accumulate, and what they experience in life. Hear this, guys. God is more interested in the men that we are becoming. And the objective is Christlikeness.
I’ve had many men over the years say, well, how do you become Christ-like? Because that cause that sounds pretty good. You have to admit, being a man of strong character, having great wisdom, and having great relationships because you have a great ability to love; that has a great appeal to it, doesn’t it?
But people have asked me, men have asked me, well, how do I – it’s kind of like they want it now – how do I become Christlike? And I have to tell them that you can’t do it on your own strength.
You know, there are a lot of disciplined men in this room, and you have the ability to change your habits. The problem is you can’t change your heart. And so, God has to do a work in your life, and he does that through a relationship with Him because the deeper a man goes into his relationship with God, the greater the transformation that takes place in his life. So that’s the first lie of life, false masculinity.
Now the second one is kind of tied to it in one sense and you’ll see what I mean in a minute. The second lie of life is, and I want you to think about this. What does it mean to be successful? What does it, what does it really mean to have a successful life? I’ve just noticed this recently because I was going to be talking on this. You can’t believe the number of times men will say, “he is so successful”. They’ll talk about another man, “oh, he’s been real successful”. And you know what he means. Usually, it means he’s made a lot of money. He’s been very successful in his career, but you know what? The word success means “to succeed”. The question is, but to succeed at what.
I had an interesting conversation with my two youngest children about five years ago. One of them was, I think, headed to college. They’re back-to-back in school. One of them was headed to college and the other one was going to be a senior. And I shared this with the because I wanted to; we were talking about this issue of success. And I said, I just watched a documentary on, it was a show, I don’t know if it still exists or not, called “Biography”. And they take a prominent person, and they’d basically talk about that person’s life, and they’d follow their life. And I was just like a biography of a person, a 30-minute show. And I won’t mention this person’s name, but one of the wealthiest men in the world, they followed him, and they talked about his life. He was like third or fourth on Forbes 400 lists. Even though he’s no longer on that list, no longer on the top 10, because obviously that’s changed a lot, but this guy was married four times. Nobody really liked him. He was not very popular. Even among his employees. He was not a likable person. And one of the things you learned, he was very envious of Bill Gates, who was number one at the time on that list of the richest men in America. And he was very jealous, and he was very envious, and he was obviously a multi-billionaire.
And so, I asked my children after sharing all that, do you think that man is very successful? And they didn’t say yes or no, but they were wondering where I was going with this. And then, so I asked them, let me ask you this. Do you think Mr. Hurry, who was a math teacher at Homewood High school, and Ms. Cooley, who was an English teacher at Homewood High school, and they were great teachers, and they had an incredible impact on my children’s lives, I said, do you think they’re successful? And they both very quickly said, oh absolutely. They’re great people.
I said, think about it. And they were. I think it impacted them. I said, think about it here. You have this multi-billionaire, who is well-known and famous and rich, and you have two schoolteachers. Who’s really successful? It’s a good question. It’s good for us to think about: what is success? Are you successful?
Jesus addressed this in a parable in Luke 12. And it’s about a rich man. And John Ortberg has taken this parable and he retells it in a modern setting. And I’m going to read it to you. It’s going to take a couple of minutes to read, but I think it’s very powerful and listen to the way he opens.
“There was a very successful man who owned a very successful business and like many successful people, he was consumed with his work. He did what it took to get the job done. And even when he wasn’t working, his mind would always drift back to the business. At home, his wife was continually trying to get him to slow down, to spend more time at home. He was vaguely aware that the kids were growing up and he was missing it. However, the kids had come to the point of really not expecting much from him. He would continually think to himself, I’ll be more available next year, when things settled down. He however never seems notice that things don’t ever settle down. He continually reminds himself and his wife, you know I’m doing it for you and the kids. His wife urges him to go to church and he goes on occasion, but he prefers to sleep in because it’s the only day to do so. And then of course he reasoned, I’ll have more time for church when things settle down. One night he felt a twinge of pain in his chest. And his wife rushes him to the hospital. He suffered a mild heart attack. His doctor informed him of the changes he must make to his lifestyle. So, he cuts down on the red meat and the ice cream and begins an exercise program. Soon he feels much better, and all of the pain goes away. And eventually he lets things slide reminding himself, I’m going to get back in better shape when things settle down. One day, the CFO of the company comes to see him. He’s told by the CFO that their business is booming to the point we can’t keep up with all the orders. Wouldn’t that be nice? We have the chance to strike the motherload. If we can catch this wave, we can all be set for life. However, we need larger facilities, new equipment, new state of the art technology and delivery systems to keep up with all these orders. So, the man becomes more consumed with his work. Every waking moment is devoted to this once in a lifetime opportunity. And he tells his wife, you know what this is going to mean, don’t you? When I’m through with this new phase, I’ll be able to relax, and you and I’ll be set for life. I’ve covered all the bases. I prepared for every contingency. We’ll be financially secure and can finally take all those trips you’ve been wanting to go on. She of course has heard this before and has her doubts. At about 11 o’clock that night she tells her husband she’s going to bed and asked him if he’s ready to go up with her. No, you go ahead. I’ll be up in a minute. I have one thing I need to finish as he sat in front of his computer. So, she goes upstairs. She falls asleep and she wakes up at three in the morning and he’s not there. She goes downstairs to get him and finds him asleep in front of the computer. She reaches out to wake him, but his skin is cold. He doesn’t respond. She gets the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, and she dials 911. By the time the paramedics arrive, they tell her he died of a massive heart attack several hours before. His death was the major item of discussion in the financial community. His extensive obituary was written up in all the papers. It was a shame he was dead. He would have loved to have read all the good things that were written about him. They have a Memorial service and because of his prominence, the whole community comes out for it. Several people get up to eulogize him. One said, he’s one of the leading entrepreneurs of the day. He was a real leader. Another says he was a real innovator in new technology and delivery systems. But a third said he was a man of great principle. He never cheats anyone. He was such a fine guy. And it was noted by many that he was a pillar in the community and was known and liked by everyone. His life, they all agreed, was truly a success. There’s that word. Then they buried him, and they all went home. Late that night in the cemetery, an angel of God comes along and makes his way through all of the markers and tombstones. He stands before the man’s memorial tombstone and tracks with his finger the single word that God has chosen to summarize this man’s life. If you’re familiar with the parable, you know what the word is. You fool, you fool. In fact, listen to Jesus’ simple and direct conclusion of this parable in Luke chapter 12, He says, “You fool, this very night your soul is required of you. And now who will own all that you’ve prepared. All that you’ve accumulated all that you built up. Such is the man who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God or to the things of God.”
Clearly the world would see a man like this as a success. But God says, you are a fool. You are a fool if that’s what your life is all about. In fact, I think the heart of that parable can be understood in the question that Jesus asks the disciples in Matthew 16:26. These are very sobering words. Every time I hear them, it has an impact on me. Jesus asked this great question. I think this would be a great question you would ask a group like us. “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but he forfeits his soul.”
That’s the picture, if you think about it, of what Christ is talking about in this parable of the rich man. You fool. He says, you’re a fool if you gain the whole world, but you forfeit your soul. And so, the question is, he says, I think the question we might should ask is, what does it mean to be rich towards God, rich towards the things of God?
And so, over the years, I’ve really kind of searched, what does the Bible say has value? This is going to be kind of interesting what I share with you. The Bible says there are certain things that God deems to be of great value. And I ask you to think about it as this relates to Christlikeness. In Proverbs 22:1, it says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches. To be esteemed is better than silver and gold.” To have a good name, to be esteemed because of a good name is better than silver and gold.
Did you know this? We probably don’t think about this. You know that everyone in this room has a reputation. You have a reputation. All the people that know you have an opinion of you. I mean, you might not even have a relationship with them, but they know who you are, and they have an opinion of you. You have a reputation, and you know what the biggest impact of your reputation is? Your character, your character. You see, your reputation is the way people see you. Your character is who you really are. We focus too much on our reputations, but the truth of the matter is if you focus on your character, your reputation will take care of itself. So, a good name is of great value, and you know that to be true.
A second possession, and this is throughout the Scripture, the second possession that is of such great value is wisdom. Proverbs 3. “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. Its profit is better than the profit of silver and its gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire compares with her.” Nothing you desire in life compares with the value of wisdom.
Now I could speak for hours on wisdom. In fact, I’m going to make a plug. I’ve written a book on wisdom. It’s one of the more popular books I’ve written. So, if you want a copy, you can buy one when we’re done. But let me just say this, to help you understand its great value. The word wisdom from a Hebrew word Chokma. And Chokma means to have a skill and expertise in living. And so, you need to step back and ask yourself, what would that be worth to me, to be an expert in living this life? Think about how it would impact your relationships. Think about how it would impact your work. Do you possess wisdom? It’s more valuable than silver and gold. Nothing you desire compares with it.
Thirdly, to be rich in the things of God. If you go to Proverbs and you read those 900 Proverbs, and you all know this, the value of your relationships. It talks about how valuable it is to have an excellent wife. That’s what it says. It talks about just the incredible blessings of children, and you wouldn’t believe the number of verses that talk about the value of friendship, and the importance of friendship. God says, that’s what that’s, what has value; your relationships and the people that you love. But think about what I just said about being rich towards God; a good name, character, wisdom, and the relationships you have, the people you love. If you think about it that’s what we said, Christlikeness is. Character, wisdom, love. And what the Bible is saying is that’s what success is; to have those in your life and to live that out.
But before I moved to the final, there’s a fourth possession I need to mention that God says has great value, that’ll make you rich towards God. And it’s in a verse in Philippians 3:8, where Paul says, “I consider all things to be loss.” In other words, I consider everything to be worthless in comparison to the incredible value of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. I need you to think about this because I’m gonna come back to this at the end. To know Christ Jesus, my Lord. He says I’ve lost all things, and he’d been a wealthy Pharisee, and he was powerful, he was wealthy, he was well-known, and he lost it all when he became a Christian. He says, I’ve lost things and everything I’ve lost, I considered to be rubbish in order that I might gain this relationship with Christ. And the reason this is of such great value, guys, is because this is why we’re here. God put us on this earth to be in relationship with Him; to enjoy Him forever.
Dr. Peter Moore spent a good bit of his life as an Anglican priest. He was president of several seminaries, including Fuller, which is a very prominent seminary out in California, and in 1983, he was a priest of a small little parish, and he went to his 25th reunion at Yale, and so many of his classmates, he says, “had clearly climbed the ladder of success as they drove around in their nice automobiles”. And during the course of the weekend, they had speakers come up, some that were in his class and share their stories, and he was just a little priest at a little old church. And he said during that weekend, I reflected a lot on my life and there were two questions that weighed heavy on my mind and the two questions were, have I been a success? And, just what is success?
He said, it was Saturday afternoon during the reunion. And it was close to five o’clock. And he said, I remember that they announced there’s was going to be a small, short evening prayer service at the church there. And he goes and there are a handful of people there. And these are Moore’s actual words as he sat there that evening. He said, “We came to a familiar part of the service recorded in Luke two, where the aged Simeon picks up the Christ child in the temple and blesses God with the words, ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy Word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.’” Listen to these words. Moore says, “I felt a quiet assurance subtle over my soul, all the anticipation of wise old Simeon’s many years found joyous fulfillment in one moment’s realization that there in his arms was the long-awaited Messiah. Such was a sense of completeness that his knowledge gave him that he was now ready to depart or die in peace. In the quiet of that service, I discovered what real success was. It came to me quietly, but very clearly, that the only thing worth calling success was coming to the knowledge of God and being able to behold Him in the face of his Son. It seemed to me a knowledge so profound and yet so simple that it made even the smallest accomplishments of great importance when done in its light.”
So, the first lie of life is false masculinity. The second is, I guess you could say lie, is having a false belief about what does it mean to be successful in life. And then the final lie of life, that has to do with false beliefs is obviously about the false beliefs that people have about God and spiritual reality.
There’s so much that I could cover here, but I just really want to focus on one issue. And I want to start with the life of C.S. Lewis. This is kind of a good way to maybe open this up. He talks to me, it’s about a spiritual journey. You know, he was an atheist until the age of 31 then he became a theist and then two years later, he becomes a Christian at the age of 33.
And he shares this incident in his life that he believed was an allegory of his life. He tells of his arrival as a student in the renowned university town of Oxford. He reports that he came out of a railway station, loaded down with luggage and headed down the street, and he didn’t realize it, but he was headed in the wrong direction. He was walking away from the college instead of towards it. He kept walking increasingly disappointed by the frowzy houses and the shops he saw until he came to the edge of the city. Only when he saw that he was on the outskirts of town and entering the countryside, did he turn around. And he said, there spread before him, as he turned around, never more beautiful since was the fabled clusters of spires and towers of Oxford. He said, at that point, he realized he’d gone the wrong way, turning his back on his true destination. In recounting the episode, Lewis concludes that this little adventure was an allegory of my whole life.
And the reason he said this, was because it showed that much of his life, he was lost, and he didn’t know it. He was going in the wrong direction. His belief about Christianity and God had been false. Could this be true in our lives? Because so often we’re not aware of our false beliefs until often until it’s too late.
Jesus exposes one of the great lies of life that has severe consequences. And He addresses this twice, and this really has to do with, how do I know that I’m going to, I’m going to Heaven. That’s a great question. And Jesus addresses this twice. So, this was of a real concern to Him. In Matthew seven, verses 21 to 23 (Matthew 7:21-23), Jesus starts by saying, “Not everyone who calls me, Lord, Lord is going to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Think about that.
He says, on that day, and He’s talking about the Judgment Day. “Many are going to stand before Me and they’re going to say, but Lord didn’t we preach in Your name, Lord didn’t we cast out demons in Your name? And in that name, we did many wonderful works.” And then Jesus says, “But I never knew you. I never knew you, depart from Me.”
You know, guys, I think clearly this means that the mark of a Christian is that they know Christ. They have a relationship with Him. And so, I think it’s probably wise to stop and ask yourself, do I know Him? Do I really know Him?
Now some people would argue, but Richard, these people believed. They did all these wonderful works in His name. Now over the years, and some of you know this, I’ve done a lot of research on the word “believe”. It’s used a lot in the Bible. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” What most people don’t realize is the word “believe” that you see in the Bible comes from the Greek word pisteuo and it has a very dynamic definition, very dynamic meaning. It means to trust in, to cling to, to rely upon. I even went and looked up the word again this week as I was preparing and in the Greek dictionary, the best synonym for the word believe is to entrust, to entrust. It’s a belief that does not just enter your mind, it transforms your life, where your whole being is set to act and follow what is true.
I mentioned Dallas Willard right at the first of this talk and he believes many people who call themselves Christians do not realize that they have what he calls a professing belief, which is not necessarily a true belief. He says professing belief is when we mentally assent to a tenant or a statement of fact that something is true. It’s an acknowledgement that we believe in idea or assertion is valid. However, this type of belief does not impact the essence of who we are.
And then he tells this story of his dad. It’s really an interesting story. He says, “My father knew and believed, we talked about it. He knew and believed that smoking was incredibly harmful to your health. Nevertheless, he smoked two packs of cigarettes a day up into his middle seventies. However, one day, while at the Veteran’s Hospital, which is where he went for healthcare, my dad noticed a man who was sitting there smoking with the assistance of a machine that allowed him to smoke even though his lips had been eaten away by cancer.” Willard says, “For the first time, my father saw the danger of smoking and he truly believed it because he never smoked another cigarette in his life.” That’s what true belief does. It converts the heart. It transforms the direction our lives are going. And in contrast, it illustrates how just professing belief is really no belief at all.
This is what I think Jesus was talking about in Matthew seven. All these people that called Him, Lord, did all these wonderful things in his name, they had a professing belief, but that’s not real faith.
Another way to understand this is to think of this illustration. Imagine you go to the doctor You’re feeling terrible. You go to the doctor, and you know something’s wrong with you. And he comes out and says, you know, I’ve got good news and I have bad news. Well, give me the bad news. You have a rare form of cancer and if it goes untreated, you’ll be dead in six months. And you’re stunned. Well, what’s the good news. There’s a new treatment for this cancer. It involves surgery and chemotherapy, but there’s a hundred percent chance that you’ll survive. You’ll be fine. And so, you walk out of the doctor’s office quite relieved because you believe up here what he’s told you is true. We share our good news with others.
However, professing belief in what the doctor has told us is work is worthless unless we had trusted our lives into his care. We must surrender our physical well-being to this physician and be willing to follow him and his guidance. And in essence, we surrender to his care. I’ll do whatever you tell me, doc. This understanding of what it means to believe should enable us to understand what Jesus is saying in Matthew seven. He uses this language to make sure we clearly distinguish between a belief that is merely professed and true belief that converts the heart.
Professing belief is all about believing something up here. True belief involves the surrendering of the heart, entrusting yourself to Christ. I’m going to wrap this up. We’re about done with two true stories that involve two events that took place here at The Center.
The first happened 20 to 25 years ago. Some of you know, and I’ve got permission to use his name and share his story. Some of you know Dr. Tom Brown. Tom was my personal physician for about 30 years. He retired several years ago. And I don’t know how long ago this was. It’s 20 to 25 years ago. Tom says, you know, I felt great about my life. Particularly, he says, as a Christian. I went to church every Sunday. I believed in Jesus.
He was a faithful husband and father. And think about it. He served the community as a physician, a doctor. He helped people. What a good Christian man. Right? And then, I’m not sure. It was either at a breakfast or maybe he heard a sermon, but those words from Matthew seven that I read a little while ago, not everyone who calls me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of Heaven. He heard those words. And he said, they rocked me because he said, I realized, I’m just like these people. They’re describing me. And it caused him to take a good, hard look at Christianity, which led him to true faith in Christ. And Tom today is a devoted believer.
And then finally, on November the 21st, 2008, my dad passed away. And it was a shock. I mean, it was not, we didn’t see it coming. And I was, he had asked me when he does die, he said, I want you to deliver the eulogy. And, an hour before the service, our family was all there. I decided to go into the church just to kind of get a lay of the land and to go up to the little, go to the place where I was going to be delivering the eulogy. And I looked out in the empty church, and I saw a man there, really were two men. I saw this one man. And I really didn’t know him, but he was a friend of my dad’s. And I knew who he was. He was 89 years old. And he was just sitting there. I didn’t really pay that much attention to it. I went back to my family, and we had the service. A week later, ironically, Dr. Tom Brigham died. I think y’all, most of you know Tommy, in fact, he’s sitting right over here. What a great man. Well, what a wonderful guy. He died a week after my dad. And I remember going to the funeral and it was a very powerful funeral because Dr. Brigham had written a letter to his pastor who did the service and the pastor read the letter during the service.
And Dr. Brigham shared with him how he had come to faith late in life. It was very powerful at the funeral. There was a visitation. And I just remember I was sitting there. I was standing there talking to someone. Now there’s this tap on my shoulder. And I turn around and there’s that 89-year-old man that I’d seen just a week before sitting in the church at my father’s funeral, same guy. But he had this perplexed look on his face. He was concerned, and I’ll never forget what he said to me. I need your help. So, what can I, how can I help you? He said, today here at this service, I just realized for the first time that all these years I’ve had Jesus up here in my head, but he’s never made it into my heart. I just realized I’m not a Christian, can you help me? And so, we met, and he surrendered his life to Christ. He’s 102 years old today. He’s involved in one of Todd’s Bible studies there every week. And so, I want to leave you as we wrap this up. I want to leave you with two questions to consider.
Is it possible that you could be where Tom Brown was? He believed in Jesus, but he didn’t know Him. And second, could it be that Jesus resides in your head, but has never made it down to your heart?
And so, guys, if this message in any way resonated with you this morning, or if it’s raised questions about your own personal faith, I want to suggest that you go through The Investigative Study. There are two guys in the room. I’ve just gone through it with and they’ll tell you it’s had a profound impact on their lives.
So, you just got to check it here. We’ll get in touch with you. This is my favorite thing to do at The Center. I’m glad to go through it with any of you. And so, you can just check one-on-one Investigative Study. You can leave it on the table, or you can send it to us, but just put a stamp on the back. I’m going to close us with a prayer and then, you’ll be dismissed.
Father, we thank You for this time together to be with other men, to be in relationship with others, to fellowship with others, grateful for each of these men and their lives and the fact that they chose to be here early on a Friday morning. I pray that You would give us eyes to see. I pray that You would enable us to take a good hard look at our lives and to be honest with ourselves and ask ourselves, am I in right relationship with You? Thank You for this beautiful day. I pray You would bless it and this weekend for all these men. We pray all this in Christ’s Name. Amen.
All right. You’re dismissed. Thank you for being here.