The Danger of "Be Good" Sermons

From Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching p. 282-283:

“When the focus of a sermon becomes moralistic–Don’t smoke, or chew, or go with the girls (or guys) who do–then listeners will most likely assume that they can secure their relationship with God through proper behaviors. Even when the behaviors advocated are reasonable, biblical, and correct, a sermon that never moves from expounding standards of obedience to explaining the source, the motives, and the results of obedience, places people’s hopes in their own actions. In such a situation each succeeding Sunday sermon carries the implicit message, “Since you weren’t good enough for God last week, hunker down and try harder this week.”

Preaching of this sort sounds biblical because the Bible can be quoted at length to support the exhortations. As it runs its course, however, such preaching destroys all Christian distinctives. Preachers caught in a purely moralistic mode of instruction end up speaking in tautologies:”Be good because it’s good to be good, and it’s bad to be bad. Boy Scouts are good, Girl Scouts are good, and Christians are good. So be good!”

Ringing clearly through such preaching is the implied promise, “Obey God because He will love you if you do, and get you if you don’t.” A following week’s sermon may b an evangelistic appeal to come to the cross for grace freely offered, but what grace means in this context probably has little to do with biblical teaching. Evangelical preaching that implies we are saved by grace but held by our obedience not only undermines the work of God in sanctification but it ultimately casts doubt on the nature of God, making salvation itself suspect.”

Josh Larsen, a student at Northland while I was there, has also written an article at SharperIron about this very topic: A Moratorium on Moralism, Part 1 and Part 2.


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