Jesus Saves from Morality

Audio Transcript

Until we are gripped with joyful impulses of the gospel — joyful inner impulses of the gospel of grace, from the inside — until we’re gripped by that, we’re always thinking in terms of doing external duties with pressures from outside. “Here’s the list of stuff to do, God will be pleased if we do it, and now we’re going to work up the will power to do it.” That’s just religion. That’s religion, that’s morality.

C.S. Lewis is massively penetrating and insightful at this point. Listen to these two quotes.

A perfect man would never act from a sense of duty. He’d always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love of God or of other people. Like a crutch, which is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times, but of course, it’s idiotic to use the crutch when our legs, our own loves and tastes and habits, can do the journey on their own. A perfect man would never act from duty.

Now, the pursuit of holiness, therefore, is transformed. My teaching on sanctification is transformed. Some of you come from traditions in which this — what I’m saying right now — is just totally, utterly unknown. Unknown. Everything is lists. Conformity to external pressures in the church. You gotta dress a certain way, talk a certain way, do stuff. C.S. Lewis is saying no good man acts that way. You say, “Wait a minute. We built a whole church around that!”

Now, here’s the really profound thing. This next quote, this is the one from the Oxford History of English Literature. It’s about the Reformation, it’s about Puritans, and it’s about William Tyndale in particular. What was William Tyndale about? What were the Protestant Reformers about? Listen to this:

In reality, Tyndale is trying to express an obstinate fact which meets us long before we venture into the realm of theology: the fact that morality or duty never yet made a man happy in himself or dear to others. It is shocking, but it is undeniable. We do not wish either to be or to live among people who are clean, or honest, or kind as a matter of duty. We want to be and associate with people who like being clean and honest and kind. The mere suspicion that what seemed an act of spontaneous friendliness or generosity was really done as a duty, subtly poisons it. In philosophical language, the ethical category is “self-destructive.” Morality is healthy only when it is trying to abolish itself. In theological language, no man can be saved by works. The whole purpose of the gospel for Tyndale is to deliver us from morality. Thus, paradoxically, the puritan of modern imagination, the cold, gloomy heart doing as duty what happier and richer souls do without thinking of it, is precisely the enemy which historical Protestantism arose and smote.

That’s powerful. That’s powerful. I just want to keep smiting, that’s what Christian Hedonism is. It’s the smite on morality. It’s the smite on religion. It’s the smite on externality and performance, and laws and lists that don’t come from in here. That have never tasted the joy, that have never embraced the absolute rock solid, heart-enlivening truth. We’re at war, that’s what Christianity is in my judgment.

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