Most of us whose morals and ethics haven’t changed since at least the 1950’s, find ourselves being referred to as “extremists” from the “far right.” I feel rather strange with that label because I don’t define myself like that. But the problem is that if you still subscribe to an unchanging moral code founded upon the Bible, the “far right” is where you are presently standing from our culture’s point of view. In the 1950’s our entire culture shared a traditional view of morals and ethics, but since it was not founded upon a changeless authority (the Bible) it continued to drift leftward as new fads and trends came along. So today, even though I haven’t changed my moral views, others have, leaving me and other like-minded people occupying an “extreme” and minority position.
Here is an illustration of how this works: According to the Jerusalem Post, some years ago, the President of Israel was speaking to students at the Reali High School in Haifa. When asked by a student whether he favored allowing marriage between two persons of the same sex, he replied: “if such a law were brought before me I’d vote against it….There is too much fuss about this. It is exaggerated. It has turned homosexuality into something beautiful.” He also pointed out that the Bible stands against homosexuality. It also bans Sodomy. “Neither phenomenon can be socially acceptable,” he said. His remarks set off a firestorm of protest from the secular press and many members of his own ruling body, the Knesset. One Knesset leader said he had spoken to the President and “made him understand the gravity and ugliness of his comments.” The interesting thing here is that Israel is a Jewish state. These are the people who passed along to us the Ten Commandments, the words of God, and all of those prohibitions about homosexuality. But any attempt to stand upon those principles today brings the charges of “nasty” and ”ugly” and ”homophobic,” to name a few.
That is why the Apostle Paul warned young Timothy that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12). The reason? God has not changed His mind about sin. And those of us who also refuse to change ours had better prepare for some difficult times ahead.
One thing all human beings have in common is failure. King David was no different. One day, from his balcony, he saw a woman named Bathsheba bathing. He saw, he looked, and he kept looking. Then he sent for her and committed adultery with her. Some time later, Bathsheba informed the king she was pregnant. At first, David tried to cover up his sin by bringing her husband home from battle so he would think he fathered the child. When that plan failed, he had Bathsheba’s husband killed in battle and took his wife as his own.
Yes, David failed big time but that wasn’t the end. It was a moment when all could have been lost, but it wasn’t. With God, failure never has to be final! No matter how bad, how wrong, or how ashamed you may rightly feel, God is there for you. Even though you knew better, God is willing to meet you. At times like these we need to turn to God like David did. Will there be consequences? Sure. Will there be pain? Of course. Does it have to ruin your life forever? No, absolutely not. It is interesting to note that it was God who referred to King David as “a man after my own heart.” And this was after the Bathsheba affair. David also became the measuring stick against which God compared all future kings. It’s not just that God forgives our past failures; He forgets them as well. It seems that He is more interested in where we are, at any given time, than where we have been.
But the difference between the old David and the new David was seen in the way he handled his sin. Although in denial for a long time until he was “outed” by God through the Prophet Nathan, David dared to come clean with God. His response was “I have sinned against the Lord.” He then threw himself upon the Lord’s mercy and compassion.
As a pastor, I frequently see people trying to cut deals with God. This will never work. God provides a way to be forgiven, but it’s not by trading a few good deeds or promising to make up for what you’ve done. Sin must be owned up to. It must be openly confessed. It must not be justified or blamed on other people or circumstances. And then it must be followed by genuine repentance—a conscious turning away from its root causes and a determination to not live that way again.
Some of your greatest experiences with God will come after you’ve let Him down big time. We forget that He is rooting for our improvement and recovery from sin and is more than willing to hasten it by His forgiveness and restoration. Don‘t ever give up on yourself. God certainly won’t.
If you ask a Christian “What do you think God wants most from us?” you may hear “He wants us to be good,” or “He wants us to pray,” or “He wants us to help people.” You should expect these answers. But they are all wrong. They are off by about three degrees. If you begin a journey and you are three degrees off your bearings you will soon be a mile off, and, in a few days, hundreds of miles off. The correct answer is always this: God want us to love Him. That’s what matters most. And in pursuit of loving God we need to toss overboard whatever may distract us to drift off course.
Christianity is complex. Sin comes easily. Those of us who have lived some years as followers of Christ are probably not going to stumble into a life of crime. We are probably not going to wake up one day and choose to reject God and become angry atheists. However, we do need to be afraid of drift and distraction.
Morality is not the point, either. When it becomes the point you will become corrupt. The Pharisees were moral, the most moral people around yet Jesus reserved His most scathing words for them. Morality will not save you from hell; it will not even make you a better person. It may, however, make life miserable for those around you. It is only a means to a much greater end.
I want my kids to behave well and I want your kids to behave well. But if we teach them only morality they well become cold legalists. I propose that we as parents, teachers and children’s workers check our bearings and work to lead our kids to love God first—an informed, well-thought-out and defensible love for God. Considering the character of God, a response of love is the only reasonable one.
If you agree with me then you should be asking something along the lines of “Okay, so how do I do this? How do I love God more?” Even, “How do I help my kids to love God more?” These are exactly the questions to ask. Work on some answers yourself. Ask wise people around you. Read Scripture with just those questions in mind and you will be surprised at how much material you will find, because, after all, that is what God’s Word was written to help you understand. Love is the only motive for life as a Christian.
—Adapted from “Morality is Not the Point,” by Dave Carl
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship