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Christian “Morality”

December 9, 2011

I think one of the fundamental challenges of Christianity is sorting out how to replace the right external works: legalized and the law, with some other principle motivation that still, you know, motivates.

Some would say it’s not specifically about our works, but what we’re trying to accomplish through them. This is true in a sense but it can only be half right. Paul says I have become all things to all men that by any means I might save some. And so people measure their works in this way and judge the works of others the same. You get the kind of silliness where people say, “What is the point of my job if I’m not evagelising my co-workers?” Well, the point is to get paid, work hard and make your boss happy, of course! What ever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord and not for men.

So what is wrong with trying to live your life in a way that glorifies God by trying to get people saved? Or, a la John Piper, glorify God by enjoying Him? The problem is two fold. One is hard criteria for our lives (joy being one of them) means we become responsible for judging our lives, our hearts, our motives. People say things like “How is God’s kingdom served by reading the books I’m reading, or working a job without proselytising, or being friends with non-Christians if I’m not making a plan to get them saved?”

But this is all an attempt to deduce externally a matter of our own heart. Is your fantasy football team consistent with your Christian walk or is it a deviation? Is it idolatry? The test is not so simple as whether you are worshipping God through it, or enjoying Him in it (consciously) or using it as a way to get to know people so you can get them saved.

The second problem with these efforts at external motivation is they all involve things outside our control, our limited knowledge and our authority in the Universe. You might go on a hike to enjoy God in His creation and then it rains. Some experienced souls may fulfill their calling to enjoy God through what they are doing in spite of the rain, but not you. Day wasted. Did you really want to waste your life going on hikes, getting your boots muddy but being miserable and cold and wet, unable to experience the joy of God’s majesty? See, the failure to accomplish what is outside your control lead to self judgment and self condemnation.

The answer is, it’s not about what you do, it’s about who you are. The ultimate end man isn’t to glorify God and worship Him forever. Or to do so by enjoying Him. The goal is TO BE a disciple, to be a worshipper, to be one of the sons of light, adopted into God’s kingdom and to live out the effects of this new identity and transformation into our new identity by the Holy Spirit.

I think at this point you might think, “Well, all I ever meant to do is explain how to be that person better…” If that were true, why do people go astray? Why do the people I know who love John Piper the most seem so miserable, concerned about making their life count by enjoying God properly?

This is why I think the distinction is important. How could you ever think to teach people how to BE? That’s why the Holy Spirit is so vitally important an idea in discipleship. We are not doing the discipline, but He is. The point of correction, the purpose of rebuke is to create a resonance between what we say and the Holy Spirit says in person. Any clear moral teaching we have for someone is useless if it is not the right time and the Holy Spirit is not working with us on their heart. I’m all for ignoring problems when it’s not our place to speak and when it only discourages a young disciple rather than teaching them.

“You know what you should do, just read the bible and do that” is terrible advice. Do you know who God is? Do you know how much He loves you and what He’s called you to? That’s why we read the bible. That’s why we enjoy God and worship Him and share the gospel, when we’re called to share. That is the constraint on our dissipative living, when our hearts are full and we don’t seek satisfaction elsewhere.

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