What the Gospel is NOT: Moralism
As I stated earlier, in an effort to understand a concept, it is often helpful to begin by defining what it is not. So a couple of weeks ago we looked at how the Gospel is not religion. This week I want to show you how the Gospel is altogether different from moralism. By moralism I mean the practice of moral behavior. This is a bit more tricky because morals aren’t bad, in fact morality is good. God gave us His Law to instruct us both about His character and to guide our life. But, for its own sake, moralism is a failure. The reason is because morality is focused on behavior whereas the Gospel is focused on the heart.
For example, check out this lesson or this lesson from a well known organization working in schools across the country to improve morality and character(this is not a criticism of this organization, I’m sure it has been an overall positive influence in our schools). If you notice the lesson plans, they never mention the motivation, or the why of caring for others. Morality tells you to act generously, to volunteer your time, to respect others, and to be a good citizen of your country. However, moralism never addresses the wickedness of our hearts. It simply tells you to act a certain way assuming that we all have good hearts.
The Gospel, on the other hand, acknowledges our wicked hearts. Ezekiel 36:26 tells us,
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh”
Jesus, by his death on the cross, purchased us a new heart, and gives us his spirit that enables us to live morally. The problem neglected by moralism is offered a solution by the Gospel. Even more, we are able to live morally to reflect the character of God. We are not only enabled by our new heart purchased by Christ, but we are also motivated by our Father God. We can act generously because God first acted generously by giving of his life on the Cross for his enemies. We can volunteer our time because our ultimate needs of sustenance are already met by our loving Father in heaven, freeing us to give of our time and money. We respect others because we know that we have nothing to boast of in ourselves other than the grace of God, and that all people are created in his image and likeness. We can be good citizens of our country because our true citizenship is held firm in the Kingdom of God, and by that power we live to better our city, our country, and our world here on earth so as to redeem this broken world.
Altogether, moralism simply falls short, it calls us to be something we cannot be, and gives us no reason to do it. The Gospel enables us, and motivates us to fulfill true morality, all for our joy to glorify God.