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.