Every time I listen to the White Horse Inn radio broadcast I’m reminded that what we want in the church for our congregation is not moral conformity, but regeneration. I know this may come as a shock to many, since they believe the church to be a place with lots of rules to live by.
Many of you know the rules: Do not smoke, cuss or chew, or go with girls who do. There are many more unspoken rules that are placed upon those of us of faith that are found nowhere in Scripture. For instance, I once has a step-grandfather show moral outrage toward me because me and my father toasted Sam Houston at the dinner table during Thanksgiving one year. I guess there is a little book of rules for pastors that says that pastors shall never show any sense of joy, humor, or camaraderie while dinning with smug moralists. I guess I failed his test for righteousness.
Yet, we all fail all tests for righteousness no matter what rules may be placed before us. This is why the church should not be a place of rules, especially the unspoken ones like: a woman should never wear white shoes after Labor Day! This is really important in high-fashion churches. Another rule I became aware of in the South was that pastors are never, ever, ever, to grow facial hair. Apparently, Jesus wouldn’t be acceptable in such established and righteous churches.
The point is that while we may conform to a lot of spoken and unspoken rules, that is not what we want for our members. We want regeneration for our members. We want our members to be participants of the first resurrection, to be born again, to be made new again by the Holy Spirit. None of those things can happen in a church full of man-made rules.
This is why it is so important that our pastors preach the gospel. This is what is necessary in our churches because the gospel in it’s fullness shows us our inadequacy in living the perfect life. When I say the “perfect life” I do not mean perfect life in some human standard which many may think we have obtained, such as having the perfect job, with a beautiful wife, and 2.5 children, a BMW, a timeshare in the Rockies and one down in Destin, Florida, along with plenty of stocks and bonds for retirement along with a bunch of gold in the closet, and plenty of guns and ammo in preparation for armageddon. That is not the perfect life I’m referring to.
The perfect life I’m referring to means that we are living in complete conformity to God’s Law and His revealed will. This means that we have not sinned at all, not even once, not even a tiny bit. We have been in perfect conformity to all Ten Commandments and have not erred once.
Given that most of us have broken the Seventh Commandment alone, just in our lust of the opposite sex, shows that we don’t measure up in this regard. All it takes to break all Ten Commandments is to break one alone.
The gospel shows us this reality: we are condemned by the Law and the Lawgiver. Yet, there is ONE who did keep the Law perfectly, and did have the perfect life before the Father. He told us He was in perfect communion with the Father and perfect in His obedience to the Father. John 5:30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.
There is quite a bit of truth in that statement. Jesus is in a dispute with the Jews who have accused Him of breaking the Sabbath by healing a man on that day, and by making Himself equal with the Father, which was blasphemous. Jesus doesn’t deny that He healed on the Sabbath. He also doesn’t deny that He is equal with the Father. In fact, He confirms both by saying that He does what the Father directs Him to do with perfect obedience to the Father. For this reason, He is given authority to judge all mankind and give eternal life to those who believe in His word. He has a right to heal on the Sabbath and claim equality with the Father. While the Jews recognized these two realities, they failed to understand them correctly.
To believe these truths about Christ take a converted heart. In other words, we must be born-again in order to believe in Christ for salvation. All the morality in the world cannot bring this about. In fact, morality itself is a hindrance to the gospel because when we obey the moral codes of whatever society in which we live, we are under the illusion that we do not need the gospel, or conversion, or salvation. Morality actually hinders us in seeing our need for Christ. It makes us believe that we are OK in the culture in which we live and therefore, we are OK with God.
We are not OK with God. We all stand condemned as sinners and if we do not believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, we will remain condemned for all of eternity (read John 5:24-30). This is why it is so important that pastors do not preach moralism, but preach Christ crucified. To preach moralism hinders the gospel, and weakens the church. Preaching moralism makes those inside the church think they can do it on their own. But we cannot. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot convert ourselves. We cannot make ourselves morally clean before the Father. We cannot cause ourselves to grow spiritually. We cannot do anything for ourselves.
Only Christ can save us. He is the giver of life. He is the One that we look to be cleaned up and changed. Moralism cannot do this, only Christ alone. This is why the church cannot be a place for moral conformity. It must be a place of humility where we see our true moral bankruptcy, which leads us back to Christ, time and time again. We may be moral in the end, but that is not the goal. The goal is the gospel and the gospel doesn’t need our moral conformity.