This may sound bizarre but it’s true: “the Devil rejoices
more than many Christians on Sunday mornings.” Don’t get me wrong, the Devil is
not a Christian. But he loves what most preachers do in the pulpits around the
world as far as preaching is concerned.
If you have grown up in church or been around church-going
Christians, you know that the focus is first and foremost the Christian and not
The Christ. You are familiar with statements like “What makes you a
Christian?”, “Christians don’t do that”, “What have you done about it as a
Christian” and there is one more that I dread: “Do God’s work and he will do
yours!” If there is any uniformity in all these statements, it is that they put
the saved, not the Savior at the center of the Christian faith.
This ‘spiritual narcissism’ has its advocates behind
pulpits. It’s preached Sunday after Sunday, year in, year out. But this is just
the surface stuff. The problem runs deeper.
Moralism. The mother of the Christian scourge is moralism in
the pulpit. Sermons about behavior and behavior modification are all too
common. They are also deceptive. The accuser has fooled us into thinking that
if we come on Sunday mornings and sit on our hard wood pews, lend our ears to a
preacher and have him feed us on a morality lecture, maybe we will change.
Maybe oh maybe we will do something about our condition.
But moralism is deceptive. It’s not what it claims to be.
Moralism is not the root cause of the human problem, and it has never been. It’s
just a consequence. Even in the practice of medicine, they treat the cause and
not the symptom. Why then do the Good News specialists obsess with eliminating
symptoms and not deal with the real cause?
Paul in Romans chapter one, from verse twenty-six helps us
capture what is wrong with us:
For this cause
God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the
natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men,
leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another;
men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that
recompence of their error which was meet.
And even as they
did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a
reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with
all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full
of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of
God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to
parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection,
Who knowing the
judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not
only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them (Romans 1:26-31, KJV).
If you looked carefully, you will notice that all the matters
Paul touches on here are moral in nature: malice, backbiting, pride, deceit,
fornication, boasting, disobedience, homosexuality among others. But to him,
they are not the root. He opens verse twenty-six with these words: “For this
cause…” Which cause? What is the root of all that wickedness? Why did God give
them over to this immorality?
Paul tells us in verse twenty-one: “when they knew God, they
glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their
imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” This is the problem. “…they
glorified him not as God…” This is unbelief. Unbelief is the mother of all sins
and it originated with the Devil in Genesis chapter three. This is what Paul is
talking about here. The failure to see God as God but instead see ourselves as
god is the root of all wickedness. This is the fountain spring of immorality.
There are two major problems with moralism. One, it cannot
save us. Good behavior cannot save anyone. Paul tells us clearly where our
salvation comes from in Ephesians chapter two, verse eight and nine: “For by
grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of
God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” It is God, through His gift of
grace, which we receive by faith that we are saved, because we are not good. In
fact attaining salvation by trying to be good is to deny Jesus Himself by
thinking you can save yourself by your works. In the verse above, Paul says, “and
that not of yourselves…not of works…”
The other problem with moralism is that it casts the stage
lights on the saved instead of on the Savior, on our work instead of on His
work for us. Moralist preachers work on the assumption that if we can clean up
our game and put our act together by being good people, then God will accept
us. This is not the gospel; its karma at its best. And Devil knows that it
Now, tell me why the Devil will not party hard on the
Sabbath knowing that the preacher is playing the ‘fool’s game’ on his
The German preacher Walter Luthi once wrote: “Humanity
cannot be helped by humanity; our wretched condition cannot be approached from
this side, far less from below; help can reach us only from above.” And he was
right. Only God, not good behavior, can get us out of this.
The preacher is called by God to know nothing “…save Jesus
Christ, and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).” This was Paul’s foundation. He knew
that the ‘do more’, ‘try harder’ sermons don’t work, only Jesus and Him
crucified does. The Devil is greatly troubled about every sermon on grace that
is preached because “…it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that
believeth… (Romans 1:16).”
The solution to our wretchedness therefore, is not a ‘three-pointer
sermon’ on morality but Jesus Christ who died for our immorality. That alone,
the Devil cannot handle.
It is finished.
“so now I say again:
If anyone is preaching to you a gospel other
than the one you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” –Galatians