A Fruit, Not the Root, and Only Fueled by the Gospel

21 Jun

This is part 3 in our look at the Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism creed, in which we look at point 2, which says, “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”

On the surface, this statement seems quite reasonable.  It gives the appearance of truth and seems to propel us towards peaceful co-existence of various religious traditions that center on morality.  However, beneath this statement is a misunderstanding of what God truly wants, where such morality comes from and how it points us to the Gospel.

Moralism Misses The Point

When people say that God wants us to be good, this assumes that God cares most about our morality and works.  Yet, this misses what God truly wants.  What God wants most and is pleased by most is our faith (John 15:1-8, Hebrews 11:6).  He wants us to depend on His provision (Matthew 6:25-34, John 15:7, Philippians 4:19), trust in His promises (Proverbs 3:5, Hebrews 11:1, 2 Peter 1:3-4) and obey His Word (John 3:36, 1 John 2:5, 1 Peter 1:14) out of a desire to honor and glorify His name (1 Corinthians 10:31, 1 Peter 2:12); thus finding our greatest joy and satisfaction in Him (Psalm 34:8, John 15:11). The Westminster Catechism states it well:

Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Moralism is our default setting.  We think that God cares most about our works and that we must earn our salvation. Thus, we labor to do enough good things in order that God will accept us.  This is the cry of Islam.  We also see this played out in Hinduism and Buddhism, which call people to believe they will receive good for good behavior, and bad for bad behavior.  Yet, the God of the Bible turns this pattern upside down by calling us to put our faith in Him and His promises.

A Different Kind of God?

Many people may object to this, stating that a depiction of the God of the Bible as I have is inaccurate.  They will point to the Old Testament and say that the God of this part of the Bible (which composes about 2/3 of God’s inspired Word) is far different.  But is that the case? Let’s take a look at an event in the Old Testament and see if this is truly the case:

“And behold the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’  And he
brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’  Then he said to him,
‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:4-6)”

So what do we see in this story?  Abram, the man to whom God has given great blessing (for reasons only God knows), is worried about his heir because he has no son.  In this passage, God makes a promise to Abram, telling him that he will be given a son (despite his old age).  And what is Abram’s response to this promise?  He believes God. And how does God respond to this? He counted this belief, this trust in God and His promises, as righteousness.  And this is not the only place we see this played out, but elsewhere in the Old Testament as well: The stories of Ruth (The Book of Ruth), and Shadrach, Meshach and Abegnego (Daniel 3), the cries of the Psalmist in 119 (v. 25, 41, 154 ), and the prophets’ calls for a return to faith in God from a people who had put their faith in everything but God (Isaiah 44, Jeremiah 3:6-14, Amos 5:4,6).  So we see that fundamentally there is no difference in the God of the Old and New Testament.

The Fruit, Not the Root

So we see that what God is most concerned about is faith.  And this is where morality comes into the discussion.  The Christian’s morality flows out of his or her faith as one aspect of the new life in the Spirit.  Yet, true change in one’s life can only come through receiving the Gospel message of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection on behalf of sinners.  We must recognize the enormity and revolting nature of our sin (our turning away from God and what He created us for) and the beauty and power of God’s grace in the atoning death of Jesus Christ.  Only as we receive and recognize these things will true life change and obedience to God’s Word for His glory come.  Thus, we see that the Gospel is the source of, the fuel for, morality and obedience.  Such things are the fruit of our salvation, flowing out from our desire to honor God for the grace He has extended to us in Jesus Christ.  It never has been, nor ever will be the root of salvation.

So we see in part to a fundamental misunderstanding of what God wants. God wants faith; trust in Him and His promises. Not only this, but we also see how the Gospel is the foundation of the Christian faith and the source and fuel for obedience to God’s Word and true life change.

This is our God.

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