As I worked on refreshing my teaching notes for a homiletics course (how to preach and teach God’s Word) in Ethiopia next month, I re-read Tim Keller’s excellent book on preaching.
In chapter 2, Keller addresses the dangers of moralism. In it, he writes about:
1) how the whole Bible points ultimately to Jesus (Luke 24:27), and
2) why we must make Christ and the Good News of the Gospel central to all we teach and preach.
Here are a few excellent quotes from this chapter…
“Any sermon that tells listeners only how they should live without putting that standard into the context of the gospel gives them the impression that they might be complete enough to pull themselves together if they really try hard.
“Ed Clowney points out that if we ever tell a particular Bible story without putting it into the Bible story (about Christ), we actually change its meaning for us.
“It becomes a moralistic exhortation to ‘try harder’ rather than a call to live by faith in the work of Christ.
“There are, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: Is it basically about me or basically about Jesus? In other words, is it basically about what I must do or basically about what he has done?”
(Page 60, Preaching by Timothy Keller)
“The moralistic way of living feels like being on the end of a yo-yo. If I feel I am reaching my goals and meeting my standards, I become self-righteous, entitled, less patient and gracious with others.
“If I am failing in any way, I fall into self-loathing, because my very identity is based on my image of myself as a better person than others.”
(Page 61, Preaching by Timothy Keller)
“Only if we hammer home the gospel, that we are loved sinners in Christ – so loved that we don’t have to despair when we do wrong, so sinful that we have no right to be puffed up when we do right – can we help our listeners escape the spiritually bipolar world of moralism.”
(Page 62, Preaching by Timothy Keller)