Three Ways to Respond to God
- Irreligion – “I avoid God by ignoring him and rebelling against him.”
- Religion – “I obey; therefore I am accepted.”
- The Gospel – “I am accepted by God through Christ; therefore I obey.”
Preaching the Third Way for Everyone
- Nominal believers – “Sunday Christians”
- Genuine believers who are angry – “Superior Christians”
- Cultural believers – “Seasonal Christians”
Moralistic Behavior Change
- People behave out of fear of punishment – “you will be in trouble”
- People behave out of pride – “you are better than this”
- Will yourself to change your behavior, and you can save yourself.
- Moralistic behavior change simply manipulates and leverages radical selfishness without challenging it.
- Without the “gospel heat” – the joy, love, and gratitude that result from an experience of grace – people will simply snap.
Gospel Behavior Change
- The gospel, if it is truly believed, helps us out of the extreme neediness that is natural to the human heart.
- Through the gospel, we come to base our identity not on what we have achieved but on what has been achieved for us in Christ.
- The gospel destroys the inner engines that drive sinful behavior.
- The gospel destroys pride, because it tells us we are so lost that Jesus had to die for us.
- The gospel destroys fearfulness, because it tells us that nothing we can do will exhaust his love for us.
- When we deeply embrace these truths, our hearts are not merely restrained but changed – their fundmental orientation is transformed.
The Importance of Idolatry
- Idols can be good things (family, achievement, work and career, romance, talent, etc – even gospel ministry).
- A sure sign of the presence of idolatry is inordinate anxiety, anger, or discouragement when our idols are thwarted.
- Idolatry is the root of our other sins and problems.
- If the root of every sin is idolatry, and idolatry is a failure to look to Jesus for our salvation and justification, then the root of every sin is a failure to believe the gospel message that Jesus, and Jesus alone, is our justification, righteousness, and redemption.
- Those who preach and counsel for gospel renewal should constantly speak about underlying idols, which show us our hearts’ particular, characteristic ways of failing to believe the gospel.
NEXT: The Work of Gospel Renewal