Before I get very far, let me first affirm the orthodox Christian virtues. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, self-control, gentleness, modesty, propriety, chastity and any other Biblical virtues that I may have missed, are good things. They are marks of a Christian life, and God looks with favor on these things. We are called to all of these things. However, they are not an end unto themselves.
In the movie, The Emperors Club, Kevin Kline plays the role of a teacher in an all boys’ boarding School. He is a professor of the classics, using the classics to teach the virtue of leading a moral life. By the end of the movie, which I enjoyed, I noticed that moralism was an end unto itself for Kline’s role. While one of Kline’s students rejected morality, the rest of his students followed in Kline’s footsteps of morality, and at the end honored Kline for his stand.
Morality is good. A moral lifestyle is beneficial. However, leading a moral life for its own makes us self-righteous. If we are to say that we are moral because of our own power and will, we deny our sin nature. We deny that we have a need for a Savior, and we approach God as if He is a buffet that we can pick and choose from.
How is morality for its own sake a denial of our fallen nature? First lets look at what Scripture says about our nature.
Eph 2:1-3: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
The Greek word used here for dead, means, well…dead. It has in mind the idea of literal or metaphorical deadness, metaphorical being used in verse 1. We are described as enemies of God, possessing nothing that we could use to recommend ourselves to God. Verse 3 makes us out to be no better than the non-believer, and the non-believer to be no worse than us. What a miserable state.
Rom 3:10-18 As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
In this passage in Romans, the Greek word none, means…you guessed it, none. Looking at the Greek meaning in all of the negatives in this passage, they mean complete negatives, no exceptions. The Greek for “all” signifies completeness. Again here, in Eph 2, we are enemies of God, with no desire to change.
Eph 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Here we see Gods overwhelming commitment to make for Himself a people for His glory. When we were enemies of God, when we were spiritually dead, and bound only to sin, He gives new life. Why? So that we can proclaim His glory.
We have been saved by faith not by our own works of any kind. We aren’t good enough, we can’t be good enough, our righteousness is filthy rags, and what’s more, according to these passages, we don’t want anything different, after all, God is our enemy. While we have nothing in and of ourselves to recommend to God on our behalf, He credits the work of Jesus to our accounts. His righteousness, His morality, His obedience and His sacrifice are credited to us for our benefit. We have nothing to boast in but Jesus.
On top of all that, God created us to walk in good works that He prepared for us. So even now, when we call Jesus friend, the good works we do were prepared for us. They aren’t ours, they are still His, and He graciously gives us the credit.
Everything we need, Jesus provides for. He provides everything we need to submit to Gods law. He provides us with good works. As we increasingly realize this, Biblical morality becomes a by-product of the work of the Gospel in our lives. That is why we refer to them as the fruit of the Spirit.
Moralism doesn’t come close to this amazing grace we are given, and to live like it will offer even a crumb of that grace is to live for an unbelievable disappointment in the end. Moralism may get us a little respect now, but it is not what God requires. God requires perfection. His standard of perfection not only has to do with our actions, but it has to do with our motivations and hearts.
Morality for any reason other than the loving Jesus is just filthy rags. Morality is a fruit, a by-product of the affect of the Gospel on our lives. Love is something that can be proven. Jesus gave us a clear measure for us to verify our love for Him: keeping His commandments, not moralistically or self righteously, but simply because we love Him. No other motivation is good enough for God.
Moralism can’t provide this motivation. Moralism does not affect our hearts. The Gospel does. Thankfully, He provides the proper motivation through His spirit. Hallelujah what a Savior, Hallelujah what a Salvation!!!