The Heart of True Ethics

By John MacArthur – Grace to You

It is common in the evangelical church today for people to verbally acknowledge that the Bible, as God’s Word, is the final authority for both what they believe and how they live. Yet in reality, a clear connection between that public confession and personal conduct is rare.

Instead of looking to the Bible, many professing Christians look to psychology and sociology for supposed solutions to personal needs and social ills. The rise of postmodern thought has similarly skewed the church’s understanding of right and wrong—as an unbiblical tolerance (in the name of love) has weakened churches to the point where they are as soft on truth as they are on sin. Popular television shows, from Oprah to Leno to the average sitcom, have had a tangible effect (and not for the better) on how American Christians think through everyday issues. The political arena, too, has played a major role in shaping an evangelical understanding of morality, as words like “Republican” and “Democrat” or “liberal” and “conservative” have come to redefine the difference between what is good and what is evil.

The fact is that far too many professing Christians live their lives, day in and day out, on the basis of something other than the Bible. As a result, their priorities reflect the world’s priorities, not God’s priorities. Their patterns of behavior and their plans for the future differ only slightly from those of their unsaved friends and neighbors. Their expenditures reveal that their perspective is temporal, and that they are vainly pursuing the elusive American Dream. Their shortcomings, when they admit to them, receive the same fault-free labels that the world ascribes (“mistakes” or “diseases” or “addictions” rather than “sins”), as they search for answers in psychology, medication, or the self-help section of the bookstore. Though they adhere to an external form of traditional Christian moralism, there isn’t anything particularly biblical or Christ-centered about how they live.

Yet it is in the lives of sinners who have been transformed by the Gospel of grace, that a distinctly Christian ethic must be fleshed out. True Christianity is not defined on the basis of external moralism, religious traditionalism, or partisan politics; but on the basis of a personal love for Jesus Christ and a desire to follow Him no matter the cost (cf. John 14:15). It is only because believers have been transformed on the inside (through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit), that they are able to exhibit godliness in their behavior. And the world cannot help but take notice. As Jesus told His hearers in the Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16; cf. 1 Peter 2:12).

The heart of the Christian ethic, of course, is the Gospel. Only those who have been transformed from within (Titus 3:5–8), being indwelt by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:13–14), are able to exhibit genuine holiness (Gal. 5:22–23; 1 Pet. 1:16). Biblical Christianity is not primarily concerned with external behavior modification (cf. Matt. 5–7), but with a change of heart which subsequently manifests itself in a changed life (1 Cor. 6:9–11).

A true Christian ethic, then, is not possible without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Unless the inner man is washed first, external morality and religious observances are only a superficial façade. Jesus rebuked the hypocrites of His day with these words, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matt. 23:27). Christ was not saying that behavior is unimportant. But rather that from God’s perspective, the heart is what matters most (cf. 1 Sam. 16:7; Mark 12:30–31).

Of course, a heart that has been truly transformed by God will respond in love to His Son, Jesus Christ (cf. John 8:42). And those who love Jesus Christ will eagerly desire to follow and obey His commands (cf. John 14:15), as found in His Word (cf. Col. 3:16). A truly vat Christian ethic, then, eagerly affirms and applies the moral instructions found in the Bible. But it does not do so in an attempt to legalistically earn salvation (Is. 64:6). Rather, having received salvation as the free gift of God through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8–9), it readily obeys out of a heart of love (Eph. 2:10).

If Christians are to live in keeping with who they are (as children of God), they must live according to the Word of God through the power of His Spirit. No other source of wisdom or moral insight will do. By definition, they are people of the Book—and not just on Sundays, but every day of the week (cf. Is. 66:2).

This article is from the introduction of the book, Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong.

Copyright 2007, Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission.


Just a note –by Elmarie

The unregenerate heart will not understand things of God as humans are dead in their sin as unbelievers. 1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

I found this article after  I had a confrontation with someone who say they are born again. I asked myself allot of questions.

We wil know our fellow Christians friends by the fruit of the Spirit as the apostle Paul tells us.

Galatians 5:22-26

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

1 Timothy 1:9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers,

And to close with these my thoughts I am ending of.

Ephesians 4

1  I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
2  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
3  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4  There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–
5  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7  But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
8  Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
9  (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?
10  He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
11  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,
12  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
13  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
14  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
15  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
16  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
17  Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.
18  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
19  They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
20  But that is not the way you learned Christ!–
21  assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,
22  to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,
23  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
24  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
25  Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
26  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
27  and give no opportunity to the devil.
28  Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
29  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
30  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
32  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

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