Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dave Doran on How to Produce Self Righteousness and Judgmentalism

Dave Doran makes a powerful point in his recent sermon from Galatians 5. In the context of explaining that the Pharisees crucified Jesus for confronting their self-righteousness, he says:
You can squeeze from the outside and get an appearance of good that actually has not penetrated the heart. And often, the danger that has crept in among believing people is to so emphasize the external that you actually have a generation that has no internal relationship with the Spirit of God. And the next generation has nothing of Christianity because it actually filled up the church with dead people.

Listen to the words of Jesus: "You whited sepulchres, full of dead men's bones." He was saying that to the religious leaders of the people of Israel. And so we have to constantly, constantly remind ourselves that genuine spiritual life is something that comes from the inside by the work of the Spirit, and then, and let's not miss it, then, then bears fruit.

Okay, because here's the objection, and we're living right where Galatians is with this objection. And you say, "But Pastor, you're basically saying that we can't deal with anything on the outside now." And I'm saying, "No!" Because if the inside is being changed, here's nine things that the Spirit of God is going to produce. Love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, self control.

So don't get into a game of saying, "Well, It's either got to be external or internal." It's actually supposed to be both. But which comes first, and which controls? Because if you start with external, you have no guarantee that you'll get to the internal.

And in fact, and I can say this on the basis of observation in the Scriptures and life, there is ample evidence that if you start at the outside, you actually never get to the inside because what you create is self-righteousness. What you create is judgmentalism. What you create is a life that lives by appearance rather than reality. And what we have to do is recognize that we must go for the heart because that's where the Spirit is at work, and if the Spirit's at work, that will produce it.
I doubt that anyone preaches contrary to this truth. Well, okay, some do. I've heard a couple. I doubt that many people do.

I'm convinced the greater danger in our circles is that we teach salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. But we get a little ambiguous on sanctification, possibly emphasizing the role of our effort in accomplishing that ongoing transformation a bit too much. And then the weight of the rules and discipline-heavy culture we've created in our institutions teaches far more powerfully than words ever could.

There's also a terrific example of humility and transparency at the end of the sermon. It's been rare in my experience for a pastor to expose his own struggles to his congregation, and I'm grateful that the trend line seems to be reversing.


Don Johnson said...

I've been preaching a bit on this passage in recent weeks myself. There are two key things to note:

1. You can't produce love, joy, peace, etc, that is the Spirit's work - the fruit OF (from) the Spirit

2. You must, however work at something, and that is found at the end of the passage in Gal 5.24: crucify the flesh.

And 5.25 - you can walk in the Spirit once you've done 5.24

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ben said...


Here's Galatians 5:25 in the KJV (to meet you on your turf):

"And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."

So I think you're misconstruing the text. Believers HAVE crucified the flesh. It's not something that this text argues they prospectively need to be working to accomplish.

Of course, in no way am I suggesting that believers have no obligation to live out the implications of the gospel. That's clear from a multitude of passages, and it's perfectly consistent with what Doran said.

Don Johnson said...

Ben, the KJV isn't my turf, if that's what you mean.

The verb is an aorist indicative which looks at the action as a whole (not simply as action in the past). This is the net effect of a Christian life well lived: they that belong to Christ have crucified the flesh. The subject of the verb is the believer, the action is his.

In context, what is the flesh that Paul is speaking of? Read the list from vv. 19-21, add in the "passions" [sexual urges in this context, according to the NET Bible] and "lusts" [inordinate desires of any kind].

All right then, who is acting when these things are 'crucified'? The believer. How does he do it? By restraining the passions, fighting the desires, making choices to avoid temptation, etc. These choices provide fertile ground for the Spirit to work.

Isn't it true that there are Christians in need of doing a little more vigorous 'crucifying'? What does that look like?


I am not so much arguing against Doran's point, as adding that one can't work up the fruit of the Spirit by some mysterious process. That's the department of the Spirit. That's His work. But you can cultivate the ground for the Spirit's fruit to grow. And you do that by crucifying the flesh.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3