In the Editor’s Note of the December 2016 Christianity Today, Richard Clark says,
“I’ve always thought it odd that we gospel people so easily fall prey to the false gospels of moralism. Sometimes moralism is directed at myself; sometimes it’s directed at others. In the wake of the right kind of mishap, I can spiral into self-doubt and self-accusation about my own pitiable nature. Yet just as quickly, I can start casting aspersions on those who’ve made similar mistakes. Only the grace of the gospel can pull me out of the pendulum swing” (9).
Though this was written several years ago, it seems more true than ever to me. We can so easily be swayed by outside forces. We are so quick to judge others, to judge ourselves, to shake our heads in disgust or shame and leave it at that. But that is when we need to pull everything back into the context of the gospel, the context of grace, the reality of forgiveness for every sin, won for us and the whole world through the cross of Christ and through his resurrection.
It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that is our sustaining force. It has the power to put right side up every apple cart sin has overturned in our lives and in our world. No sin, no evil, no misdeed is beyond the gospel’s scope of reversing when we come to Christ confessing our waywardness. How so? Only through the undeserved favor of God through the sacrifice of his Son. That is grace. And that is why we call it amazing.
Happy Easter! The popular worship song, “Glorious Day,” includes these lyrics:
You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into your glorious day
On this day when we celebrate Christ emerging from the tomb to resurrected life, we remember that on this day our resurrected Lord frees us from all the “tombs” we have put ourselves in on this earth, “tombs” of guilt, shame, addiction, fear, doubt. Now that Christ has step foot from his tomb alive, we are released from these “tombs” to bask in this glorious day of resurrection joy, filled with victory, forgiveness, confidence and faith in Christ. In his glory, we have all the grace we need from him to overcome all that once held us back from new life. Our life is now renewed and restored forever. What glorious news! Alleluia! Amen.
There are a lot of shows on television these days about rebuilding and restoring and redecorating homes. We are somehow drawn to the process of what carpenters and designers can do to reimagine a space or an entire house. The payoff comes at the reveal, when the finished product is presented to the homeowners with exclamations of delight.
I recently heard the song “Rebuilder” by the Christian group Carrollton. It celebrates the fact that our God is the greatest rebuilder of all, not of our homes, of our very selves. When we are falling apart and in bad shape and in need of repair because of our sins, our doubts, our waywardness, he rebuilds with his foundation of goodness and grace, his blessing and love. He is like the foreman of the project that is our lives. The end result is a new creation because of the work of his Son, the carpenter, who followed through with the rebuilding of all believers by going to the cross for our forgiveness. The old is gone; the new has come, as the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 5:17. And there is great excitement in the reveal of our newly redesigned lives. The Bible says, “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). And we who have come to him confessing and have been rebuilt by our God, rejoice as well, saying, “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3). No matter what condition we may find ourselves in today, God can rebuild us and the results will be glorious. As the Bible declares, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). What a wonderful craftsman we have!
“Judge not lest you be judged,” Jesus clearly states to us in Scripture (Luke 6:37). But it’s easier said than done when we are living in an ever increasingly judgmental society.
It can seem like no big deal to join the chorus of voices who are judging others out of hand for all sorts of things they have said or done.
But as the saying goes, every time you point one finger at someone, there are usually ten fingers pointing back at you. There by the grace of God gooes each one of us. We are all sinners and we all make mistakes.
The difference for us as Christians is to replace judgment that may be welling upside of us for any given person, with forgiveness and love. Because that is how we would like to be treated if the roles were reversed.
Pastor Matthew Peeples talks about how people in our society today in the new realities of communication are emboldened by anonymity. Because we cannot physically see the people we are talking to on social media and other platforms, we often tend to say things we wouldn’t otherwise do in a public setting, Peeples explains, and so we share things publicly that we would normally keep private.
We all know of situations or circumstances in which people perhaps “overshared” on social media which then led to some unintentional consequences or had unforeseen implications.
In a lecture at Concordia Seminary-St. Louis on April 4, 2017 called “Paul, Grace and Liberation from the Human Judgment of Worth,” noted theologian Dr. John Barclay related that our society is currently experiencing a crisis of self-worth. There has a been rise in anxiety, depression, self-doubt and even suicide related to the feeling that we lack worth. Much of this, Barclay said, has to do with the increase in interactions on social media in which there is a great deal of value placed on our posts being “liked,” our pages being “followed,” etc. We, unfortunately, are living in a more and more judgmental world in which we seek affirmation more and more from our peers.
Moralistic therapeutic deism (or MTD for short) may not be a familiar term to most of us, but according to the 2005 book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith and Melinda Lindquist Dento, it is what defines the practices of most Christian young people in the United States today.
Let’s take a look at each part of this term:
Moralistic: The belief that a central part of religious life is being a good and moral person.
Therapeutic: The belief that religion helps us to feel good about ourselves.
Deism: The belief that God exists, created the world and defines our general moral order, but is no longer personally involved in one’s affairs.