Moralism & the Gospel
Dr. Adrian Rogers once quipped, “There is no one so bad he cannot be saved & no one so good he need not be saved.” The question is: Is this true?? We live in a culture that is so much about second chances that we no longer understand or consequences. We love comeback stories where the loser becomes the winner. We naturally gravitate away from stories where cannot is the theme. I mean, we all know that even though Mission Impossible technically communicates an impossible mission that Tom Cruise, in a classic match of short-guy-who-gets-dunked-on-in-real-life-but-is-a-boss in embarrassingly unrealistic movies, will eventually pull the job off.
Why bring up the painful memory for those of you who have endured that cheese-fest? Simply because there is something the Bible clearly teaches cannot be done whether you be a Rudy or a Rambo: you can’t be good enough to get into heaven (Matthew 5:48; Romans 3:19-20). With that being said, most people in America totally miss what it means to be a Christian. The first half of Dr. Rogers’ statement resonates with most people who truly desire to offer the second chance yet the last half of Dr. Rogers’ statement cuts to the heart of Moralism. What is Moralism? It is the act or practice of moralizing. It is where the pure message of Jesus, the Gospel, is reduced to, “the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior… In other words, we communicate to lost persons the message that what God desires for them and demands of them is to get their lives straight.”[i] Moralism is simply the degeneration of a proper understanding of the Gospel.
Equating morality with the Gospel is to fundamentally misunderstand the Gospel because morality is all about what we can do & the Gospel is about what Christ has done. Salvation is when we admit what we can’t do (save ourselves), and allow Him to make us into what we couldn’t make ourselves. So is Christianity about being a nice person? No, its about being a perfect person. Jesus Himself said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). So here’s the catch: if you think you fit this requirement then you’re full of it. There’s no telling what else you lie about. But seriously, if we’re truly honest we’ll see ourselves far from what or where we should be (perfect and walking in daily obedience to God in thought, word, and deed). The difference is that the moral person looks upon their sin as ‘being human’ whereas the Christ-follower looks upon their sin as having caused the murder of the Son of God. The moral person looks on Christ’s work as an example of courage & selflessness Moralism looks in the mirror and says “I’m doing okay because in my opinion I’m doing better than those people” where is the Gospel looks at Jesus and says “He’s the only chance I’ve got.” Are you worshipping yourself or Christ? Who do you look to for deliverance? Are simply trying to do better (a sure path to self-deception), or have you turned to faith in Christ and asked Him to change your heart? If not, don’t put it off. Your heart will only grow more calloused to where you will no longer hear God calling you to repentance. Repent of self-righteousness today and turn to Jesus in faith.
*Check out the podcast for a full treatment of Moralism & the Gospel*