In one of the social protest songs on U2’s “Rattle and Hum” CD, Bono asks, in an irritated tone: “Does that bug ya? I mean to bug ya!”

There are passages of scripture which have always bugged me. It’s always in the gospels, and it’s always Jesus talking. The only reason a person would have been bugged by Bono was if he or she was part of the “system” that worked to oppress people. The only reason people were bugged by Jesus is that they were part of the world system that oppresses people. Or did you think that porn was a victimless pleasure? Sorry! I don’t mean to bug ya!

So, in Mark 7 the Pharisees trek up from Jerusalem evidently to confront Jesus, bringing along a few scribes with a burr under their saddle. It didn’t take long for Jesus to bug ‘em, allowing his disciples to eat without washing. Now this would have bugged my mom, too.

The part that always bugged me was Jesus stating that it is things that COME OUT OF A MAN WHICH DEFILE HIM. The reason it bugged me was that the Holy Spirit always convicted me of my secret sins. Did Jesus really know what secret thoughts and desires were lodged in my brain?

I’m a Christian. I’m a preacher, a pastor! How is it that the words of Jesus would bug me??? I would preach on this passage, pointing out the insidious hypocrisy of the Pharisees — they were so blind, so callous, so, so HYPOCRITICAL! NO WONDER JESUS BUGGED THEM! He knew them. He knew the human heart. Their words and actions betrayed them. The moment they opened their mouths the evil of their hearts would dribble out on their chins! Oh, if there was anyone sitting in the pew with a hint of a Pharisaical attitude — I meant to bug ‘em. I wanted to open their eyes, so they could see the fault within them. And on I would go, blah, blah, blah. We’d go 10 minutes over, cause I was on a mission to help people see inside themselves — as Jesus did. I had, after all, spent all week determining how this message might apply to anyone who might be sitting in the pew that Sunday morning.

And it was a good sermon! My words were right on! Who could argue with them. My words were directed to the congregation. But the words of Jesus were directed at me: and He meant to bug me!

Let me tell you what I heard when I read the words of Jesus to a Christian man bound by addiction to pornography (personal Holy Spirit paraphrase of Mark 7):

“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you! You are a hypocrit! As it is written: you honor me with your lips, but your heart is far from me. You worship me in vain.

“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the values of the worldly, sinful men. You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to pursue your sinful addiction. For Moses said, “Do not covet thy neighbor’s wife. But you say, “This isn’t my neighbor’s wife” — it’s just a PICTURE!…though you know it’s a picture of someone’s daughter, if not someone’s wife. And thus you nullify the word of God. And you do many things like that.

“Listen, Richard. And understand this: Nothing outside you can make you ‘unclean’ by going into you. Rather, it is what comes out of you that makes you unclean. For out of your heart come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, adultery. You look at the picture, or watch the video and you think about what you would do if you were alone with this girl, and no one could ever know. This evil comes from inside you and makes you unclean.” And I can just hear Jesus just then: “Did I bug ya? I mean to bug ya!”

If the Pharisee would have been willing to look into their sinful hearts and recognize how their ‘uncleanness’ separated them from God, they could have been healed. Friend, if the words of Jesus bug you, it’s the Holy Spirit convicting you of sin. Freedom will meet you at the point of confession.

That’s my story, anyway. Years and years of denial. Of refusing to repent. Of separation. Then confession and restoration. Freedom. Spiritual power and vicory have replaced defeat. I still stumble from time to time. I’m still offended by the thoughts and desires that rise up in me. But I see the truth in what Jesus said, and I repent. Jesus doesn’t bug me anymore!

— Richard A; Accepted Christ 1971. Finally fully admitted sin 2006 at EMB seminar in Atlanta.

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