One of the most dangerous spiritual conditions occurs when someone confuses their "goodness" with life in Christ. "I'm a good person" is not what saves you. Everyone has the capacity to muster up within them a measure of "goodness." Jesus said this: "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" (Matthew 5:46) Yes, the tax collectors, swindlers, bitter people, those who hate many enemies... they all have the capacity to muster up some goodness for those to whom they choose to be good.
This is likened to what I have witnessed in people as "neutral spirituality." In other words, people believe that somewhere between heaven and hell; somewhere between Jesus and the devil is this condition of neutrality. We can be good, okay, status-quo, benign, not-as-bad-as, and just get through life and into eternity with our general goodness. This has caused the church of Jesus much harm.
Neutral spirituality always elevates the power of "okay-ness" over the power of sin, all the while it acknowledges Jesus with a nod of religiosity but "denies it's power" because of its reliance on mere "goodness." It's insidious and deceitful and is destroying the church. Neutral spirituality is to blame wherever we see sin creeping in the church and people tolerating it as if that was okay. We obviously need to be reminded that if God calls a particular act or behavior or motive or heart condition "sin" then no amount of our reasoning will change that. God doesn't call it sin so you are judged and condemned to death, He judged sin and condemned His own Son to death to pay for it! What grace! What ... amazing ... grace!
How then, in light of that wonderful grace that saves us, can we even entertain the thought that our goodness can replace the gift of God in Jesus? It can't. If you are in spiritual neutral then you are deceived. Again, Jesus says this to us: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Matthew 6:24a) Either Jesus is your Master, or the sin nature is your master. If your sin is not surrendered under the blood of Jesus, then it still has power over you. If you've not allowed Him in to convict you of the sin in you, and you find that you're trying to navigate life, managing your sin while nodding in the direction of Jesus, then the sin nature still has power over you.
Don't nod at Jesus, surrender to him.
Today, more than ever, there are people whose aim is to try to correct the church and set them straight by getting them to welcome sin. The church must always welcome sinners because that is the heart of Jesus, but it must never welcome sin as its bedfellow. The church is not the problem. Sin, and the sin nature, is what must be set right. When it is, then the church becomes the collection of those who see the eternal value of Jesus and therefore surrender their "light and momentary" troubles. We surrender addictions, sexual struggles, our tongues, our will and our ways in exchange for his. The church doesn't need the world's ways, the church needs the higher ways of Jesus Christ.
Dear Lord Jesus, uncover for us the deceitful ways of spiritual neutrality and show us your most excellent way. Show us that we forsake you and deny the power of the finished work of the cross when we give in to sin. Let us see our sin for what it truly is and lead us in the way of life.
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.