20110824-091745.jpg“Always look on the bright side of life!” Eric Idle sings these words in the closing scene of the Life of Brian. For those not familiar with the Life of Brian, the film follows Brian, a Palestinian Jew during the time of Christ. It is a sort of mockery of people and conventions in the first century. (as well as some of the foibles of religious folks) The closing scene depicts Brian being crucified. After several misguided “attempts” at rescue turn out to be far too silly to work, Brian becomes frustrated and downhearted. Enter Eric Idle, who does his best to cheer up Brian by singing this startlingly cheerful song. It’s a crazy scene because we see people being crucified, arguably the most horrid form of execution in history, but they all sing about whistling and being happy even as we face death. Comic genius – though, it is sharp enough to make most Christians pretty uncomfortable. I’ll own up pretty openly that I love Monty Python and I laughed quite a bit at this movie.

This is the scene that came to my mind as I listened to a sermon in my car the other morning on the way to work. The sermon was by a popular pastor, who was giving a set of clever tips on how to live life better. There were scripture verses cited that supported all the things we needed to do to fix this particular area of our lives. It was fairly Christian-esque in the respect that it presented a message that was positive and the Bible turned up occasionally as a part of supporting a particular point, it was entertaining, and encouraging and everything else a good Christian message should have. What it lacked was a clear message that in struggling with our sins, we can only find victory in Christ’s atoning death for our sins on the cross. Without forgiveness, we are working to be good through the law. The book of Romans tells us that the law is death.

For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. Romans 7:5

Actually, this is one verse. Go read it in context. The surrounding chapters drive this point home. The law is death to the sinful man. More law equals more burden we cannot bear. Sermons like this are like throwing a drowning man an anchor.

Thus, we see the scene from the Life of Brian. Men and women dying and cheerfully singing that the best thing they can do is sing and try to be happy by looking at the bright side. Our sins are killing us. Christless Christianity gives us more laws, more burdens and more death. So, to deal with it, we sing and try to be cheerful. Its not really any kind of good news for someone to tell me that I need to overcome the sin in my life through my works and effort.

The only salvation we can find is to realize that we are dying in our sins and be renewed in Christ through his death for our sins.

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:24

Managing a great life through principles can never compete with righteousness in Christ through grace. It’s the difference between us merrily singing as we die and him dying so we can live and sing praise.