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Overcoming Moralism In The Church

by David Guzik

Overcoming Moralism In The Church

Paul wrote something remarkable in 1 Corinthians 2:2: “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified”. Paul used a bit of apostolic hyperbole; after all, he did speak and write to the Corinthians about more than Jesus and His crucifixion. He also told the Corinthians how they should live in response to who Jesus is and what He did.

Nevertheless, Paul wrote, “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” to emphasize an essential point both for the Corinthians and for us. The point is this: the core of the Christian life is Jesus Christ and what He did for us. The core of the Christian life is not me and what I do for Jesus.

It's important to note that what I do for God has its place, and God speaks of this often. Yet I can never be the center of my Christian life, nor can what I do for God. It always is centered on the person and work of Jesus. If what I do becomes the focus, Christianity becomes a list of rules and moral obligations instead of a living, real relationship with the Savior.

What does God want from me?

People don't often think about the question, "What does God want from me?" When they do think about it, they usually come up with the wrong answer, emphasizing a list of moral behavior. God wants me to be honest. God doesn't want me to steal. God wants me to love. God doesn't want me to hate.

First - before anything else - God the Father wants me to believe upon His Son, Jesus Christ.

This list of moral expectations isn't so much wrong as it is out of proper order. First - before anything else - God the Father wants me to believe upon His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus told us this directly in John 6:29: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent”. Jesus first and foremost commanded us not to do, but to trust. If we want to do the work of God, it begins with trusting Jesus.

Imagine a disobedient child who told his father, "Father I will obey you for the rest of my life under your authority. I will do exactly what you tell me to do and do it promptly." That might bring a tear to the eye of the father. Yet, what if the child then added, "But I will never love or trust you. You can have my obedience, but not my love or trust."

The problem with moralism in the Christian faith isn't that it calls us to obedience. It's that it sets obedience before a relationship of love and trust of Jesus. God cares about our moral behavior, our obedience - and we should care about it also. We should be conscientious enough to put it in its proper order, and to first do the work of God by believing in Jesus.

David Guzik

David Guzik is a teaching pastor at Calvary Chapel of Santa Barbara. David is popularly known amongst the Christian community for his online and print commentary on the Bible.