Thursday, January 31, 2019

Men, Moralism and the Gospel

Many men in the church today do not know what the gospel is. They cannot restate it nor explain how they live in its good. Nor do they love it and savor it. They may say Jesus is Lord, but can’t explain why. They cannot tell you why they go to church or serve or give money there. They can't explain how the gospel informs and empowers how they live during the week. They are unable to give credible evidence in word and deed to convict them in the eyes of others they are really followers of Christ.

The gospel is where we must start when talking about what a biblical man is to be.  And if we fall short of believing and loving the gospel, then we fall short of everything else too, prayer, evangelism, discipleship, leading our family and loving our neighbor and enemy. The foundation of manhood therefore is the gospel. The first priority of any ministry to men is to continually, boldly and passionately teach them and remind them of the gospel, our greatest treasure. Then we must show them of the fundamental difference between the gospel and moralism. Moralism is rampant in churches and consequently floods their teaching and leading men.

What is the gospel?

My late mentor R.C. Sproul put it this way:
"The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.”

***Check out John Piper's six-minute presentation of the  gospel and why we never outgrow our need for it - Here

*** Also, check out this short overview from Burk Parsons - Here

What is moralism?

Moralism has different meanings, but in relation to Christianity, it is the practice of keeping various moral laws so as to please God and obtain and/or maintain one's salvation. Moralism is similar to legalism where keeping the Old Testament commandments is advocated in order to achieve and/or maintain salvation...To the Christian faith, moralism is the position of obtaining and/or maintaining our right standing with God by behaving morally often using tips, techniques and methodologies borrowed by the secular culture.

****For a more detailed description click Here

Why the Difference Matters

Dr. Michael Horton in his book Christless Christianity, The Alternative Gospel of the American Church puts it this way:

"Reduce Christianity to good advice and it blends in perfectly with the culture of life coaching. It might seem relevant, but it is actually lost in the marketplace of moralistic therapies. When we pitch Christianity as the best method of personal improvement, complete with testimonies about how much better we are ever since we “surrendered all,” non-Christians can legitimately demand of us, ‘What right do you have to say that yours is the only source of happiness, meaning, exciting experiences, and moral betterment.’ Jesus is clearly not the only effective way to a better life or to being a better me. One can lose weight stop smoking, improve one’s marriage, and become a nice person without Jesus.”

Self-help, self-improvement via methods, tips, techniques and therapeutic moralism is how the world pursues personal happiness, purpose and peace - which can never ultimately satisfy restless, hardened human hearts. Yet many churches and ministries have bought into it. Self-help, therapy or religion cannot cure the sin-saturated human condition. Sin can only be killed, crucified, and that has to be done by Jesus Christ who then graciously gifts new life to all who repent and believe in Him.

Another brief way to contrast the two:

Moralism says, “I’m clean because of my clean moral living.”

Gospel says, “I’m a filthy moral failure made clean only by the blood of the Son of God.

Moralism says, “I obey because its my duty and, therefore I am accepted.” 

Gospel says, “I’m already accepted because of Jesus, therefore I really want to obey.That's my deepest desire”

Moralism is oriented toward my keeping the rules and “doing the right thing.

Gospel is oriented toward being completely dependent on and enamored with Jesus

What's At Stake:

Dr. Albert Mohler describes why moralism is often difficult to resist:
"The danger is that the church will communicate by both direct and indirect means that what God expects of fallen humanity is moral improvement. In so doing, the church subverts the Gospel and communicates a false gospel to a fallen world.

Phil Vischer, creator of the Veggie Tales, once said this in an interview:

I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, ‘Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,’ or ‘Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!’ But that isn’t Christianity, it’s moralism.

Pastor Donald Barnhouse, once asked in a radio interview years ago what it would look like if the devil took control of Philadelphia said this:

If Satan took over Philadelphia, all of our bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘No ma’am,’ and the churches would be full every Sunday… where Christ is not preached.”

In closing..

There is so much more that can be said about the gospel and its false rivals and the bible does so from cover to cover, from the first garden to final garden. But is one passion encapsulates the historicity and truth of gospel:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me." - 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

PLEASE NOTE "Of first importance"

The gospel is not afterthought or something to be brought to our ministry work or men's gathering once in awhile, but is of "first importance" and at the very heart of our ministries to men. It is of first importance because it is through the gospel that God works to take men from death to life and give them the greatest treasure of reality - His only begotten Son Jesus Christ.


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