There are many enemies to Christianity. The greatest enemies come in the form of different ways we seek to save ourselves. Every other religion is about things you must do to be saved, but Christianity is about what God has already done to save us. What makes us Christian is our acknowledgement that we can’t save ourselves, and our confession that Jesus Christ did for us what we could not in coming to save us. Some of the biggest enemies of the Christian faith in the Southern United States are: Cultural Christianity, Moralism, and Legalism. Whether we look at the church as the organization, or the church as the people, both are promoting and pushing these enemies of Christianity as ways to be saved.
The goal of Cultural Christianity is doing religious activities to be saved. Cultural Christianity tells us that we are good with God if we do religious things for or to God. Christianity becomes event and meeting driven, but doesn’t apply to other areas of my life such my work, family, marriage, friendships, time or resources. We are saved by our church attendance, serving in some capacity at the church, how many bible studies we are involved in, or small group community involvement. While these are things we do to worship and experience God, we turn them into an end in themselves as good works that save us.
The goal of moralism is behavior modification. In moralism, we seek to just be a good behavior to show we are a good person or Christian. We live by a certain code of goodness, whether defined some principles of Christianity, our culture, or even ourselves. In their book Gospel Coach, Scott Thomas & Tom Wood address moralism and its dangers, “We rely on our own moral ability or on the way other people perceive us as good, moral people. Moralism leads to methods of behavior modification where we seek to change what we do without addressing who we are as sinful people.” Being a moralist, we seek to save ourselves by our own goodness therefore God must accept me.
The goal legalism is keeping the rules. Self-righteously, we believe we can keep God’s rules. Legalism says we are saved by the grace of God, but here are the rules you must now follow in order to keep that grace or dare I say add to grace. The legalist wants everyone to just “be a better Christian” by following all the right rules, and forgets about the grace that saved them.
The goal of the gospel is freedom. “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Acts 13:38-39” The good news is God sent Jesus is his love for us, and gave us grace in Jesus coming to save us. The law could not save us, but is gracious in showing us we can’t save ourselves. We need someone outside of us to save us. It is good news because Jesus saves us from our sin by living the perfect life we could not. He paid the penalty of sin, which was death. He willingly took our place on the cross dying our death. He resurrected from the grave defeating sin, and now he is alive reigning and ruling with God. We place our trust in what Jesus has done, and not what we can do to save ourselves. We believe the gospel frees us from sin and self-effort in trying to save ourselves. Now we are freed to know God, to love God because he first loved us, and love others as God has loved us.
We respond to this good news of the gospel of Jesus in repentance & belief. We repent of trying to save ourselves even in our good works whether church activity, good behavior, or trying to keep the rules. Paul says, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. Galatians 2:21.” We nullify the grace of God when we try and save ourselves. So we repent of trying to save ourselves, and we turn in belief to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There he meets us with grace, and makes us new people in Christ. The gospel brings freedom, and we need to watch out for enemies of the gospel that spring up in the church. There is only one gospel and it is found in who Jesus is and what he has done to save us.
Guest Post by Clay Adkisson (@clayadkisson)