What would we do with three free sins?
Now, you may say, “Hold on a second: That question presupposes that there is such a thing as sin and that we are accountable to pay someone for them.” Okay, so let’s suppose these two things are true. Then, what would we do if three of these were free?
Before you answer, let’s make sure the rules to this game are clear. Although we would still have the possibility of suffering consequences for the three nasty things on our lists, no matter what we do, we won’t owe God jack. Regarding these three sins, the slate would be clean. They wouldn’t count against us at all. They wouldn’t even show up on Santa’s list. So now, do you want to play?
I’ll go first. I’m a pretty simple guy with common vices. I think I’d get drunk, enjoy some porn and smoke a joint… not necessarily in that order.
Now, you may say, “Hold on a second! That’s just not right! If you’re really going to ‘enjoy’ pornography, it’ll most likely lead to two sins. That makes four sins total!” I understand where you’re coming from, but I don’t buy it. One without the other just isn’t worth it. Press me on this and I’ll use my second free sin on another joint or maybe give you a purple nurple. (I’m sorry, that was harsh, but I’m trying to get to a book review here and you keep interrupting.)
Actually, let’s forget about the game with three free sins. What if, instead, Jesus gave us unlimited free sins?! We would still have to deal with cause and effect on this side of the veil, but God would never be angry at us for what we did or didn’t do with our lives. Essentially, that’s the heart of the message in Steve Brown’s new book, Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad at You.
At this point I need to insert a disclaimer. I’ve worked for Steve Brown for almost 15 years, but I was still asked to write a review of Three Free Sins. To me, that’s like asking Robin to review Batman’s work. What do you expect? Robin’s going to tell you his boss is the coolest and he wishes he could trade in his lame uniform for one just like Batman’s. Batman wrote the book on vigilante justice and that book gets five stars from the boy in green underwear… all day long. Even if Three Free Sins sucked, I’d use one of my free sins to lie about it because Brown signs my paycheck.
However, I don’t have to lie. This book is Steve Brown at his finest. As Steve admits, he couldn’t have written this book only a few years ago. He had too much to lose then, but not today. Steve’s old. He’s done everything he set out to do, and more. He’s a successful author, broadcaster and seminary professor. Nobody is pulling Steve’s strings and nobody has any leverage on him, so he can tell it like it is.
Three Free Sins is the gospel of grace with no punches pulled, but it’s more than that.
It charts a course-correction for the church. It’s a call to abandon the fruitless efforts of sin management in exchange for, as Steve puts it, “a life of radical freedom, infectious joy and surprising faithfulness to God.” In fact, Steve argues that the reason Christians are so bad is that we’re trying so hard to be good and that the only people who get any better are those who know that if they don’t get any better, Jesus will still love them anyway.
Without this focus on God’s grace and unconditional love, the church has become filthy with the grotesque sins of self-righteousness and pride while frantically scrubbing at a few select sins with the narcissistic zeal of someone with OCD—Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, in case you were wondering. Three Free Sins is pure, cleansing water of gospel sanity. Not only that, it’s funny. Steve’s illustrations and crotchety attitude are sprinkled throughout, making it a delightful combination of revelry and revelation. (By the way, Steve is secretly a multi-millionaire playboy who has a jet car and a utility belt with all kinds of great gear, including shark repellant.)
So, if you think God is mad at you, or you’ve been trying really hard to make God happy and you’re tired and want to give up, you must read Three Free Sins. The infectious joy of finding out that God is already quite pleased with you will give you strength in your weakness.
If you think you’ve got it all together, this book will probably just tick you off, but please read it anyway. If that’s you, hopefully there will come a day when you find out the truth about yourself and you’ll remember reading a book by that old white heretic, Steve Brown. Maybe then you’ll be able to hear the message that all your sins are free because Jesus has already picked up the tab.
Well, that’s my book review. I’ve got to go finish this spliff and wash the Batmobile. Buy a copy of Three Free Sins. Steve has a staff to pay!
Erik Guzman is Executive Producer at Key Life Network and can be heard on the nationally syndicated talk show Steve Brown Etc. and as announcer for Key Life. He has a wife, three children, a BA in Mass Communication and an MBA. He’s also a drummer, 4th degree black belt in Aikido and Master of Theology student at Reformed Theological Seminary.