MORALISTIC THERAPEUTIC DEISM IS NOT ENOUGHT
James wrote “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17. James must have borrowed what Paul brings to light in this chapter as he continues to address the church in Rome. For the Jewish believers, it removes their assumption of privilege and special treatment as the recipients of the Law. And for the Gentile believers, it reminds them that God’s law has been written on their hearts from the beginning. You are without excuses and what Paul says here is a caution for everyone. What caution? Human beings never seem able fully to admit their wrongdoing. And they never tire of making excuses for their bad behavior. Because they naturally claim they are good people. The most important thing is to be good, nice, and tolerant, and God will ultimately receive you into heaven. Unfortunately the good sinner is not saved by earning their way up the good-works ladder.
Hence the title of my message Moralistic Therapeutic Deism believes….. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem. Good people go to heaven when they die. The beliefs of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism are “moralistic” in that they place a high value on “being good”. The beliefs of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism are “therapeutic” in that the primary value is “feeling good about oneself.”
J I Packer said “The real problem is that moralism is not Christianity, and most people who hold these beliefs are likely to identify themselves as Christians when in fact they are living to glorify themselves!”
What Paul said in the previous verses about this downward spiral of depravity that ends in applause, defense, and celebration; is something the Jews would and say “You are absolutely right Paul, preach it brother!” But what the Jews don’t realize is that they are no different than those pagan Gentiles, which Paul addresses in this long list of sins carried out in the flesh. Most moral people see themselves in the description of the Beatitudes. They think themselves meek, merciful, pure, peacemakers. They imagine that they thirst after righteousness.
Paul is exposing this type of moralistic thinking as He continues to address sinners whether Jew or Greek. But in this section specifically Paul is purposefully speaking to the Jews. Why do I say that? “O man” is a generic address of any human being, but this was a common form of address in ancient times used between Jews. When Paul is saying “O man” here is clearly addressing the Jewish people, though this warning is for all of us. Why? They, a moralist, or religious person, would praise Paul for this message; because they saw themselves as a people above others. They would say to those who Paul exposes, “They are the wretched ones, because we are the privileged ones”…… who are religious and moral. Paul addresses them, due to their ignorance. The same ignorance David had when Nathan addressed him with his behavior. Turn to 2 Sam 12:1-12. The religious moralizer stands condemned, because they practice the same things as unbelieving pagans. God sees sin in their hearts that they do not see, and this condemns them before a holy God.
A self-righteous attitude is an affront to
a holy and righteous God.
Remember who Jesus came to save? “And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:14-17
Your sin puts you in a place where you
stand indefensible before God.
And when you read this portion of Paul’s letter the first thing that should come to mind is this truth from Luke’s gospel. “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
“God be merciful to sinner like me” Regardless how righteous you might think you are, how moral you think you are, or how you think you will stand before God… means nothing! Who do you think you are? The sin of hypocrisy is in view here. What we see in this text is this…… your judgmental attitude towards others, specifically here the Gentiles, makes you no different than them. This is the essence of what hypocrisy is, and what was true with the Israelites, is also true for you and me. If we condemn other people for doing the same things ourselves, then by our condemning them, we are in effect condemning ourselves. Paul transitions from the guilt of the Gentile to the guilt of the Jew… application you can even add the guilt of the Christian. Paul said we are without excuse! 1:20….What are we without excuse?
The Reality Of God’s Judgement (v2)
God’s judgment in based on truth, not on some external appearances or some other standard. In today’s courtrooms we could ask “Was justice really done here, or was this a show between two attorneys who can speak or persuade others with a clever argument to win their case? And truth falls between the cracks because of a clever presentation. Well that is possible in our corrupt world system and the sinfulness of man. But one thing is certain as it pertains to truth! God’s judgments will always be according to truth. Not some fancy presentation to win people over or to pull the wool over someone’s eyes. His truth will stand and judge perfectly according to His holy Word. You and I….. are susceptible to our fallen nature of corruption and brides, and we can become bias to our decisions depending on the circumstances in how it will affect me. But! God is the perfect Judge. See in order to be a perfect Judge…. He must be omniscient in order not to overlook the smallest to the biggest of details. He must know every imperfection to why people behave like they do. He must also be righteous, not given to brides or corruption. He must have the ability and power to make certain that His decisions is carried out.
You and I are incapable of this; because as Paul says “you practice the same things” What Paul is saying is that “Nobody can stand before the Judgement seat of God and complain “That isn’t fair” God’s judgements are perfect and accurate, for it will be according to truth. And he alone is worthy. “Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals." And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth." Rev 5:1-10
No Exceptions In God’s Judgements (v3)
There is no defense in your self-righteousness. You will not be able to say “I am the exception” W. C Fields lay in his hospital room on his death bed, and a friend came to see him and he was shocked to find Fields reading the Bible. Fields was not known for his religious devotion. Fields friend ask him why he was reading the bible. Field replied “I’m trying to find loopholes.” Thinking he could find another way into the Kingdom without standing before a God, he never loved. Many like Fields do the same thing today. Trying to find clever ways, or loopholes to escape judgement. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.” John 10:1
In Pilgrims Progress Christian meet up with two men who climbed over a wall on the path to the Celestial City. As they approach the mountain they must climb as the evangelist told him earlier “to stay on this road and never leave it.” Hypocrisy and Formalist stand at the foot of Difficulty Hill with Christian, where there are three paths and they must make a choice. Hypocrisy and Formalist takes the paths around the mountain and Christian continues to climb the hill he was told to climb to get to the Celestial City. Shortly after they say their “good-byes”, Hypocrisy and Formalist never made it very far until they faced destruction.
What learn from this story and the Scriptures is this…There is no escaping from an omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent God who is holy, righteous. David wrote this reminder. “LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” Psalm 139:1-12
The only means to escape God’s judgment in look to the Cross of Christ. Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:11-18. But many don’t want to go the way of the way of the Cross, so they continue to look for escape hatches…… yet there is none.
Don’t Ever Assume His Kindness Is A Turning Away From Judgement But To Turn A Sinner In Repentance. (v4)
What Paul is saying is this
“Do you take the goodness of God lightly?
Do you take it for granted?
Do you assume that because God is good He will not judge?
God is a comic bellhop who is at our beckon call day or night.
But Paul will say this later in this letter. “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Romans 9:20. A corrupt Judge is not good, but God is good, then He will judge, and He will judge according to truth.
R C Sproul said “In His patience and forbearing. He puts up with our rebellion and sin. He knows every sin we have ever committed, but he has not exposed them all. He has not visited His wrath on us for all those sins, but we wipe our foreheads and say, “God is good that he will never deal with my sins.”
Do you despise the riches of His goodness which is to lead you repentance? Paul asks in (v4).. It’s only through God’s kindness that leads a sinner to repentance. Paul reminded Titus with this truth, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7. It is through His kindness that makes us aware of our sinful disposition. It’s in His goodness that makes us aware of our sin and our responsibility is to then turn to Him in repentance and faith. But we see here that….. God’s forbearance leads us not to repentance but to stubbornness, to the hardened heart and stiff neck.
The Unrepentant Will Result In God’s Judgement. (v5)
If you go on living as if you are good and no need of repentance, Paul says you’re “Storing up wrath”. Those who presume to think that God’s grace and kindness are all they need is a false understanding of the gospel and God’s judgements. If you are outside of His saving grave and committed nine murders you will be held accountable for nine murders. Just as a person saves/stores up money for something later; slowly but surely you will have something bigger to invest in down the road. Just so, every time we sin, we add an indictment against ourselves, treasuring up wrath against the day wrath. The stubborn and unrepentant refuse God’s gracious pardon for sin through Christ…this is the worst sin of all.
To do so is to magnify one’s guilt by
rejecting God’s goodness.
A person who does that increases the severity of God’s wrath upon himself in that day. Each little indulgence of sin is a coin of wrath stored up. Each angry word, each selfish thought each harmful act is a piling up of wrath’s treasure. Each year of grace, each day enjoyed and life pleasures without genuine thanks to God builds wrath. When God’s goodness is persistently taken lightly the result is certain and proportionate judgment.
The Judgement Of God Is Based On Who We Have Really: Been, Sought, And Done. (v6-v10)
Paul says “He will repay each one according to his works.” This is an echo from the Old Testament. “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah. Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them. Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work.” Psalm 62:5-12
Prov 24:12 says, “If you say, "Behold, we did not know this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?”
Every single person will stand before Him. Not based on family or certain social groups. (v6-v9). Paul contrasts two paths, two lifestyles that have different results in the end.
The first group seeks the things of God and His glory. (v7). The second group seeks to satisfy self and think they are a good person (v9-v10). In (v7-v8) we see the consequences of these two groups’ under God’s judgement.
The first group…….eternal life
The second group…… wrath and anger
This is the alarm Paul is trying to send out, here specifically to the Jews. Because Paul’s desire is for sinners to be saved. The question we should ponder and ask is this! “Where will I spend eternity?” It’s this question that we flee and run into the sovereign arms of God through Christ and the Gospel to find refugee and rest.
God’s Judgment Is Without Partiality. (v11)
For the Jew they did have certain privileges; but these privileges come with responsibilities. Unfortunately we read in Romans 3:12, “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." Jesus said, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” John 1:10-11. We see Paul pours out his heart later in his letter as the Jews squandered this privilege. “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” Rom 9:1-5
A promised people, living their lives as if this didn’t matter. And not only them, but many live their lives this way today; and will continue this path not realizing the Angel of the Lord who stands holding His sword. As Balaam was blinded by his own desires when the donkey refused to go forward. “Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face.” Numbers 22:31
Judas’ ignorance for not seeing the Loving Savior the three years he spent with Him. Mankind who daily ignores the only way to find eternal life. This is God’s great indictment against the Jew and Gentile. And according to God we are all “guilty” and this leaves us silent before a holy Judge. All will be judged by the same divine tribunal, but all will not be judged by the same standard. Those outside (Gentiles) will be judged by the law of conscience and the sense of right and wrong which God has implanted in every imago dei. Those inside (Jews) will be judged by the law and the measure of light that they have received according to the Scriptures and their failure to keep the law.
“We knew our duty but did it not”
And both groups will be found condemned by the verdict of the conscience and the by verdict of the Scriptures. The gospel is the Jews only hope; the gospel is the Gentiles only hope; to escape such a great and perfect condemnation. As Jesus said, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:18. The gospel and the power it brings is the only way anyone can escape such a perfect wrath. Those who judge others, but do the same, cannot come before God and say “I was a member of a church” or “I am a descendant of Abraham.” They forget the Golden rule! “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matt 7:12
Have you always treated others the exactly as you
have wanted them to treat you?
Have you never been impatient, gotten angry unjustly, accused them falsely,
and taken advantage of others for personal gain? God will render to every person according to his or her deeds as guilty. The only escape anyone has is not in your moral goodness, but in Christ alone. Many believe Hell is Hell because God is not there. That’s not true. Hell is hell because God is there. It’s the flaming, perfect, wrath of God, where He manifests His perfect justice and the punishment that always fit the crime. If someone committed thirty sins, he is going to be punished thirty ways. The warning is this! As long as our hearts remain hardened, we are adding to the condemnation moment by moment.
Your morals and self-goodness will
never save you from this indictment.
Paul seeks to bring the whole guilt world before the tribunal of God so we will stop giving excuses, shut our mouths, and go to the gospel. Only Christ can save us from such a horrific and perfect wrath of God.