Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Anti-Gospel View of Moral Demands


Eph.2: 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

To expect and even demand that people who obviously do not follow Jesus should support moral issues that can only be fully understood through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit is not only illogical but self righteous as well, especially considering that we only hold our views by the Spirit's enlightenment. Can there be any greater unproductive demands on a lost and dead world? How can a blind man be required to step over a chair that is in his way? How can a deaf man be required to give a review of Beethoven’s fifth symphony? It is akin to demanding a car run without gas, or even more explicitly, without an engine.

And yet how much of the western evangelical church castigates dead people because they cannot understand Biblical morality? Even Calvinists of many stripes accuse lost sinners of espousing unbiblical moral principles even though their theology contends that only God can enlighten them to divine truth. In essence, we stand amidst a graveyard and holler at skeletons. But we seem to receive much affirmation by our hollering, and in fact we seem to suggest that God Himself desires us to scream at dead men in lieu of offering the way of life which is the everlasting gospel. The very last command Jesus gave before He left this earth was to preach the gospel. He said nothing of parading our moral convictions.

Oh how we stand and proclaim our own moral self righteousness knowing full well that the dead are busy burying the dead. But it makes for a good sermon and self affirmation. And if, perchance, someone is hung from the gallows for his moral beliefs, what pity, what consternation, and what outrage would emanate from within the evangelical community? We cannot even abide words and laws that are incongruent with our moral convictions, so what in God’s dear Name would we do if some among us would be crucified for their moral convictions?

Moral crusades are antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, the gospel is for the immoral. Those that have a fallen view of morality and self image are the mission field. They were us. And in many ways, when juxtaposed upon the overall teachings of Christ, they are still us. Grace is not something used and then discarded as if we have arrived. Grace is the spiritual essence of redemption that is embraced in a moment for a sinner to be born again, but it then remains as a mainstay throughout our earthly lives.

We seem to quickly and conveniently forget just how patient the Lord was in bringing us along as it pertains to Biblical truth and specifically Biblical morality. But once we reach a certain point in our journey, is it Biblical to throw out a moral tarp and identify all who are not under such a tent? And after we see and identify those whose moral views are incongruous with Biblical absolutes, are we empowered by the Spirit to attack, judge, and present them as targets of our condemnation? And if so, then is the gospel an offer for them to align themselves with moral absolutes or is it the door to a redemptive journey which should lead to that truth?

The cart before the horse illustration is applicable here. In fact, given the present representation of Christianity as a set of moral tenants, we run the real risk of subtly convincing conservative unbelievers that they stand justified before God. And because of the many political machinations and the moral crusades, that is exactly what many conservatives believe either overtly or subliminally. That is significantly counterproductive to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is not about making sinners better; it’s about making them brand new. And beginning at the moment of conversion that will be a lifelong process.

But over the years the evangelical expression of Christianity has formed a list of issues about which all must follow in lockstep, while the liberal wing has expanded the doctrinal borders to include heresy. But in Biblical reality there are only a few truths necessary to become a believer. One must believe that Jesus died for your sins, and that He alone is the Savior of all mankind, and that He resurrected from the dead, and perhaps a few more are essential to a born again experience. Many of the truths we all have come to know and embrace are part of the journey and not part of the prerequisite. If inerrancy of the Scriptures, or eternal security, or even the Trinity were prerequisites of salvation, I would never have been saved. You see, we have taken the Door and adorned it with all kinds of issues that are not part of grace through faith alone. Let the Spirit do His work. And in reality issues like nationalism and just wars and heterosexuality have become part of the doorway to salvation in these modern times.

The complex maze of morality and the finer points of doctrine have shrouded the clear and simple gospel of Jesus Christ. And now sinners must jump through a series of manmade hoops in order to be announced as “saved”. But even more egregious, the church reaches out with caustic words of moral indictments that identify the obvious, and in so doing we inadvertently present a works gospel. In 1975 when I was born again I had never set foot in an evangelical church. I knew I was a sinner, but I had no idea about the Mosaic Law and I really was not severely convicted of my sin. I only knew, by the Spirit, that Jesus was the only way to eternal life. And upon that truth I committed my life and soul.

If someone had argued about smoking pot or abortion or some other moral issue I would have immediately tuned them out. “If I be lifted up…”, said our Savior. The love of God through Christ has been marginalized through certain moral tenants. The church does not energetically criticize sinners who are divorced or who accumulate great sums of wealth? Why? Because those moral tenants are breached fully within the community of faith. But homosexuality and abortion are like skeet shooting; they present available targets which can be shattered by unkind words and attitudes of condemnation. But Jesus did not come to condemn the world; He came to seek and save that which was lost. At least that is what He said.

How often do we intercede with tears for those sinners who display lifestyles that are an affront to God? Do we stay up late or rise early in order to beseech the Lord on their behalf? Or do we pronounce sentence in the midst of the fellowship of like minded believers? I believe that for every time President Obama’s name is lifted up before Christ that same name is spoken with disdain among men. That is not the faith. That just mirrors what the people without Christ do, and that is a disgrace. If ours is not the ministry of reconciliation then just what is our calling?

For too long we have refused to see the distinct difference between speaking correction within the church and going without the camp bearing His reproach. And when that line is broken, the church becomes a judge rather than salt and light. Redemption and condemnation are mutually exclusive. I mean that when we condemn sinners our whispers of the gospel become useless wind. We are bearers of good news to those who desperately need to hear it. We should never want to come across as bearers of rules and moral codes.

The gospel of grace is the eternal revelation of the heart of the Father. It is His love through Christ that we must allow to shine through us. Salt and light and a city on a hill are what we are called to, not some moral policemen. When the early apostles came before the church in Jerusalem, Peter exhorted the brethren to understand that even the fathers of Israel could not keep the law, so to place that yoke upon the lost is not the way of the Spirit. And that is true today as well.

In order to preach morality we must leave preaching Christ. Christ died to redeem us from hell and make us a brand new creation in Him. Yes our morals will change, but only because we have been given a new heart. But choosing certain moral issues makes us feel moral and righteous. But I have news for all of us.

Regardless of how righteous we think we are,
our only righteousness comes from Jesus Christ by grace through faith.
And it is Him we should be lifting up.


Cherie c. said...

As I read the post, I could not help but repeat these words again and again: "it is the gift of God"

A gift, something we have been taught has strings attached. A gift. Something those who celebrate christmas exchange.

This gift is a gift you cannot hope to shop to reciprocate, nor exchange.

The gift of of Grace is a gift you can only receive and accept. There is no way to repay it, no matter how hard you think about doing so. Can anyone else feel the enormity of that? The sting of tears are in my eyes and I do not know why. I read those words so many time, but they just hit home this moment.

A gift that I didn't do anything to deserve. A gift not held with hands, but held with the heart. It makes you pause.

And so called people of the faith take it and twist it and use it as a means to get.

I have the awesome privilege to help my niece. When I dropped her off yesterday we sat a while and talked. My heart ached when she told me how christians she knows (family and friends) have told her all kinds of conditions on salvation. Things like that if she gives her life to the Lord she can make more money, that her circumstances will get better. But she has to do this and do that. I wanted to cry. She is so lost right now and I was furious that instead of being there for her, she became the object of lecture and ridicule. Supposed brothers and sisters in the Lord did this. My sister is a Sabbath Keeper, this type of christian follows the law and puts strict requirements on those who say they follow Jesus to do the same. She is hard hearted and she has no idea that she is fallen from grace. And my nephew who my niece is staying with wants her to talk to my sister. I told my niece not to do so, that it would further confuse and sadden her. I sent her to the Word of God starting in Chapter 17 of John. She asked me for advice and I told her we would talk again after she spent time in the Word of God. I thank God that He may use me to plant a seed that has been mutilated. What struck me even more was I was an obscure member of my family. No one goes out of their way to talk to me or spend time visiting. They say "Cherie is just there" When they call in need, I give, no strings attached like they do to each other but as far as even knowing I am alive, well they don't unless they have a need. But I think it is a blessing! God is using me, and I am humbled. Me! Who am I? I could be them, but I am not! So why would I be puffed up towards them. Nope, not me. I know they make fun of me, but I am able to do for them that no other family member does and I do not comment, or condemn, or anything. I give what I can and I lift them up in prayer. I have finally got understanding although I have a ways to go on this journey. I have been searching for a way to serve the Lord and I have been without even knowing it until now. I do not deserve this blessing, but if it Glorifies God, then, thank you Jesus!

What is even most amazing is that I was the mean and nasty one thirty years ago. You would not recognize me at all! Oh I stood up for people, but I would condemn, lecture, puff myself up. I was cool didn't you know? How the Lord changes you without evening knowing it, or did I know it just not recognize it? I look back at who I used to be and I shudder. I didn't get half as much grief then that I get know, but I wouldn't go back for all the kingdoms of the world. I am undone in Jesus and that is where I want to stay.

Pastor, this post is more than what you meant it to say I believe. Although I am not one of the church-ed, it still reminds me of what I used to be, and what I have now. Conviction written all over it and I am grateful. Thank God and thank you for being brave enough to tell the truth. I will have much to share with the Lord on this.

God bless.

Cherie c.

Cherie c. said...

Oh my! I can't stop crying and smiling! This is too wonderful to bear! People are going to think I am totally nuts today, and all the Glory to God!

Cherie c.

Kim K. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Agree and Amen!

This just reinforces how there's so much confusion and torment and lack of peace in the church. Contentions, railings against one another, and this done in the public domain through media, radio, television, internet, politics, and platforms where it draws thousands and thousands of unsuspecting believers.

However, there are good men who are willing to speak the truth and separate the fake from the genuine, voices in the wilderness, like "Judah's Lion" and elsewhere.

One thing I've observed is western christians who are extremely blessed, are still not satisfied, and show their discontentment about sin in the nation. Yet with their blessings and gifts, they could easily share their energy and time fellowshipping, edifying, going to prisons, widow's houses, women's shelters, homeless shelters, streets, and sharing the simple gospel. Doesn't it seem impossible for an "arrived" man to just do something incognito? Why do the bountiful insist on turning their good deeds into organizations tax-exempt organizations, or charities made in their names? I know that many charities have helped many people, but the charity eventually grows into a small empire, where the founders want to become public spokesmen for every problem in the world. They soon become influential with the world and get on a moral bandwagon. Yet these 'moral' groups, like "right-to-life", for example, use these donations which get gobbled up by overhead costs, paying employees and the founder extravagantly. They get invited to the King's tables and celebrations. These organizations might write a newsletter once a month. They might get the "word" out that abortion is wrong, but they preach to the choir. Western christians, other than missionaries or traveling evangelists, or those who teach without pay, are a fraction of the church. More than ever, western churches love to filter large amounts of money from hand to hand, to social cause to even supporting a wealthy restaurant chain because they stand for traditional marriage. It's all about the money.

If it was about Jesus, none of this would even exist. These megalomaniac churches wouldn't be involved in any of it. Politics in the church - "I'll rub your back if you rub my back" behind the back rooms thinking.

Meanwhile a young woman who never heard of Jesus, is weighing whether she should abort her child. Do these groups ever find her? She's the one who lives on 'straight street' in the paint-peeled apartment complex. None of that right-to-life staff will ever give her a nod, and most importantly, none of them even drive into that neighborhood. They have bigger fish to fry, like spending their energies on fund-raisers. And how does that glorify God? Two hours after the fund-raisers are patting themselves on the backs, that young girl feels hopeless and decides to go for that abortion.

The loud barkers of righteousness, with their mailing lists, and invites to christian women's groups, and their commiserating with the wealthy philanthropists, throwing famous names around, to impress each other, can't see the forest for the trees. And the church falls for it hook, line, and sinker.

Anonymous said...

"For too long we have refused to see the distinct difference between speaking correction within the church and going without the camp bearing His reproach. And when that line is broken, the church becomes a judge rather than salt and light. Redemption and condemnation are mutually exclusive."

Worth repeating! May we submit to Him.

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