During my twenties, Internships allowed me to travel and meet a lot of folks. I still remember many of those conversations. I have their secrets, doubts, and stories embedded in my heart. They have mine.
I vividly remember one story.
It was a late summer night conversation. I needed to leave because of work, but I didn’t care because the richness of the conversation.
My friend was telling me about their faith journey. They loved their hometown, church, and its experience. However, There was a real sense that morality played a big role in their faith journey. My friend really does love the Lord. They were afraid of ticking off God.
Who among us ever wondered if we would make it out of our teens alive? This person regretted some of their decisions, but often wondered if they reached the point of being unforgiven. A few people, this person respected, would often use morality to keep them in line. This person would hear the following statements: “How could you do that? Don’t you want to go to Heaven? Would Jesus be pleased with your decisions?”
My friend received a medical condition because of their constant guilt and worry.
Is morality the point of following Jesus?
As a pastor, I get a lot of jokes about watching what you say around the pastor or this idea that you put your best foot forward when the pastor is in the room. I love those statements and enjoy laughing when folks make those jokes. Is this how we really process our faith journey?
In Luke 7:36-50, One the most heart breaking moments happens to a very “moral” guy.
Jesus is invited to a dinner. All of the “right people” are there. That’s what invitations are for, right? During this dinner experience, A woman of ill repute enters.
She’s sobbing at Jesus’ feet. AWKWARD.
Simon, in a moment of sheer normality, tells his friends – “If Jesus knew who this woman was He would not do this.” She’s not one of those good girls.
In a moment of sheer brilliance, Jesus tells Simon a story. It’s a story about two people who owed money. One owed more than the other. Both debts were forgiven. Jesus asks which one would be more grateful for being forgiven of their debt. Simon rightly responds, “The person with the larger debt.”
What morality does to us:
1. It blinds us to life transforming truth.
Simon NEVER acknowledges he has a debt that requires full payment. He assumes that this woman is the one with bigger debt. Here’s the truth – We are all carry the bigger debt. Morality has a way of blinding us to our sin. It’s so easy for us, at least it is for me, to ignore sin in exchange for what “I’m getting right.” Simon needed to admit he was the one with the bigger debt and give Jesus permission to lead his life.
2. It wants us to believe that deep down, in our hearts, we are good people.
Jesus never tells us to follow our hearts. In John 16:13, Jesus tells his followers that the Holy Spirit will guide them in all truth. Why wouldn’t Jesus leave it up to us to follow our hearts and just be good people? Consider the question Jeremiah asks in Jeremiah 17:9:
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
3. It wants our performance to be the object of our faith and not the work of Christ.
Why would we ever settle for morality when Jesus has declared us righteous?
2 Corinthians states: “God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Many of us, like my friend, have been looking for love and acceptance based on what we can give. We were told that God only loves good little boys and girls. That could not be further from the truth. He is for the arrogant, correct, stubborn, rebellious, safe, and self indulging people. He is for you.
What righteousness does for us:
1. It meets all of the demands that were owed on our debt.
having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he (Jesus) has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. | Colossians 2:14
2. We can actually check off the instruction Paul gives to the Ephesians – Imitate God.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children | Ephesians 5:1
3. We now have a safe place and a running start at living a holy life.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. | Hebrews 4:16
4. It honors God’s boundaries. Sin must be punished. By the righteousness of Christ, We are both loved with the Father’s mercy and justified because of the Son’s obedience.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. | Galatians 6:7
5. It gives us the ability to give ourselves fully to our day.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. | John 8:36
What I would tell my friend
We live in a culture where things, like morality, are up for grabs. We preach about it, vote on it, and argue with it. Jesus was murdered because of it. The cynical part of me wants to tell you if more people read the Scriptures we would do away with this talk about being good Christian boys and girl. Maybe those harsh words would have never affected you.
Please know that everything needed to be done has been done for you. Being declared righteous means you are in the family, you have freedom, and you are being lead in truth. This is why I gave up on morality. I’ve been declared something good boys could never attain on their own – Righteous.