In my last post on ‘gospel centered’ ministry I highlighted the dangers of ‘religion’. The default position of the human heart is always a move towards a performance or works based approach to God in life. We need to remember that the gospel is that God accepts me because of Jesus’ cross work alone, and so I trust and obey him in life. The gospel is not I trust and obey him in life so that God accepts me.
The problem for many Christians though is that if we don’t gravitate towards ‘religion’, we move towards ‘moral relativism’. Just as you can stray from the gospel as a Christian by slipping into a performance based Christian faith, you can stray by slipping into moral relativism or apathy. A moral relativistic faith is a nominal faith, where you belong only in name to Jesus, but without any impact in how you live the Christian life. You want Jesus to save you, but he has very little to do with how you live your life, except to be there to serve you, to validate your lifestyle, and to affirm your needs. A moral relativistic approach to God will always lead to self-centered hedonism.
Like I shared in my sermon tonight, most people only want ‘$3 worth of God’, a Jesus who will save me, give me what I want, but who makes no moral or ethical demands or changes in my life. Wilbur Rees with great irony describes it this way in speaking of those of us who hold to this kind of gospel and nominal faith: “I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please – not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of him to make me love a foreigner or pick beets with a migrant worker. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of a womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I’d like to buy $3 worth of God, please.”
It’s so true isn’t it – we want the warmth of the womb, but not a new birth. We want just enough of Jesus, but not enough to so radically change our lives or disturb our comfortable lives. We want just enough to make us feel good, but not enough to transform us. We want the warmth and assurance of being saved, but not a new birth. We don’t want a Jesus or a gospel that demands that we pick up a cross, make major sacrifices, repent of our sins, change the way we live, make us give up our selfish ambitions, and cause us to change our plans in life.
The gospel is that God accepts me because of Jesus’ cross work alone, and so I trust and obey him in life. What we often forget is that repentance, trust and obedience is the fruit or evidence of a life that has been saved. The problem with a moral relativistic or nominal approach to God is that it gives you the false assurance that you’re ok or even worse, that you’re a Christian. You can have a convenient gospel and a Jesus who makes you feel good, who doesn’t make any demands on your life, who will allow you to do and live as you please – you can have that Jesus and you’ll end up in hell, because that’s not the Jesus of the Bible or the gospel.