Moral Determinism versus Grace



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  • Moral Determinism versus Grace

    My wife and I came away from an evening church service Sunday night, saddened by yet "another gospel" presented as the counsel of God. While I don't want to name names, Pastor Carter Conlon and Pastor Paul Washer recently have spoken out regarding the nature of a certain denomination. We have multiple times visited this certain faith mindset at various locations, and consistently the message is "Moral Determinism." A philosophy that stresses you must try harder to conquer your appetite bent on sinful behavior.

    The urgent message was along these lines: "Have you been looking at those things again and defiling yourself? Women are as misbehaved as men today, they lust without shame. Do you find yourself falling into sin because of your weakness to resist? Do you watch R-rated movies and look at the opposite sex inappropriately? You need to come back and do what is right. You need to rise up and take control over your sins. Come and pray with us to be an overcomer."

    While these statements are easily accepted as beneficial to consider, what is theologically erroneous is pressing people to conform to a moral code of conduct as to be found acceptable before God. When we are guilted into repentance for failing to conform, we are no longer under Grace, but under the heavy hand of legalism. "Who has bewitched you?" starts Paul in Galatians 3, "Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain...?"

    Read carefully Colossians 2:21-23 "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These [efforts] are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence." Conforming by an external standard of moral purity is what Jesus warned the religious of his day. "You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence" Matthew 23:25.

    Is it no marvel the Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:3 "I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling." It wasn't a human fear of what others thought of him, but rather the awesome and daunting task of sharing the mysteries of Christ without contaminating the Good News with human wisdom. Is this not why the preaching we often hear today is dry intellectualism, without Holy Spirit power? A recital of text in neatly typed scripted order to arrive at a conclusion, yet without spiritual depth of revelation? Paul realized, he in of himself was utterly corrupt and none other than Jesus in him could conquer his wicked tendencies. In a like manner, less the Holy Spirit fully abide and controlled Paul's words, his own corrupt nature would malign the message declared.

    The Apostle Paul also wrote, "The mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ," (Eph. 3:4). and again in Romans 11:25 "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited." and "Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past" Romans 16:25. The mystery was the Grace of God in Christ Jesus, not repeated failed efforts to be good or better.

    The Gospel is the GRACE of God through His son, Jesus. You cannot save yourself; you cannot be good enough to be as Christ. You are fully incapable of doing anything to satisfy God. Christ alone is our perfection. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith..." Eph. 2:8. As we learn to "grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ" (Eph. 3:18) it is this love that transforms our heart to walk as Christ walked. We must cast aside the false teaching of "moral determinism" and instead fall in love with the one who loved you from the foundations of the earth, who surrendered self in perfect innocence, to cover you in HIS robe of white as coheirs. It is the love that God has for us that persuades us to change from the inside out, by faith, from beginning to end.

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