People from most religions aspire to live according to a code of good morals, and Christians are no different. The Judeo-Christian morals are best summarized in the Ten Commandments. However, when it comes to how to live a moral life, Christians who believe the Gospel view things vastly different from other religions. Within Christianity there are two very different schools of thought; one based on the Gospel of grace, and the other a moralistic view of Christianity. The Gospel view is that good morals are unattainable by human effort. Though an appearance of morality can be obtained through various rules, rituals and behavior modifications, true morality starts with a transformed heart.
When Christians pour all their effort into movements like the Moral Majority, or Moral Clarity, or getting “America back to its moral foundations”, though such efforts are noble, they are, in fact, counter productive. If morality could be obtained by setting a standard of holiness or by motivational teaching then Jesus’ coming would have been in vain. Instead, the Gospel view is clear that good morality is the result of our yielding to Jesus, who works in us. Without Him, we can, at best, create an appearance of good works, but when Christ is allowed to live through us genuine holiness and sanctification results. The way to good morals is first to receive Christ and be born again, and then to allow Christ to live through us.
When Christians forget this gospel distinction and instead preach morality, they are encouraging a belief system that, in fact, leads to immorality. Unbelievers look at Christian preachers whose main message is morality and they are quickly turned off, whereas if the focus is on Jesus the heart is transformed. Once the heart transformation has occurred, behavior is not only modified but also transformed.
A major illustration of this is Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus, a man of high morality. Yet Jesus makes no allowance and does not credit his morality in any way, but quickly tells him that he must be born again. When Paul lists those things that are “dung” to him, he includes his own morality, his own righteousness. These things, he says, are not to be compared with the righteousness obtained through Jesus Christ.
I am getting a fair bit of attacks from people who seem to want to misunderstand this teaching. Yet, it is crystal clear Gospel. Do we really want our society to embrace Jesus? Christians have been praying, prophesying and declaring revival as long as I can remember, yet do we really want this thing called revival? Do we really want our society to turn to Christ? We are not going to get there by focusing on morality but by focusing on Him whose indwelling power produces good morality.
Send me your thoughts…