Summary: Last Sunday we began a three-part series on the gospel and its alternatives in the gospel of man. We looked at the gospel of law-keeping. The gospel considered now is that of the heart. God already accepts us because he sees the basic good in our hearts.
7/14/13 The Gospel of Man, II
Judges 17:1-13 D. Marion Clark
Last Sunday we began a three-part series on the gospel and its alternatives in the gospel of man. We first looked at the gospel of law-keeping. The good news is that if we do our part well enough, God will do his part in accepting us. The gospel considered this morning is that of the heart. We do not have to do anything to obtain God’s favor. He already accepts us because he sees the basic good in our hearts. If we need to do anything, it is to learn to trust our hearts.
According to this gospel of man, it is the heart that teaches what is right and wrong. It is the heart that is able to feel its way into the deeper truths, so that one knows the absolutes of life, as well as what is personally right. For the heart is able to detect what neither reason nor conscience can do – and that is what truly is of you and connects you to “the other.”
It is the heart that sends one out to find his own way. It is the heart that, in the moment of crisis, makes clear what needs to be done when reason is dead-locked and conscience is stymied. And so it is the heart that leads the timid girl to risk her life to save others, even when reason said it could not be done. It is the heart that leads the soldier to break the rules in order to save his company from defeat, even when his conscience says to obey orders.
It is the heart that leads us through the frightening scenarios that throw our ethical and moral schemes into confusion, so that we can make the right decision for us at the time. Is a particular relationship right or wrong? The heart knows. Is it okay to lie this time? The heart knows. Will there ever be a time in which the right thing to do is to do what seems to be wrong? The heart will know. The heart separates the mean-spirited chaff from the wholesome grain.
Follow the heart. There are many conflicting voices telling us what is right and wrong. There are many tempting voices luring us in opposing directions. Who knows the truth? Who knows what is right for any one person? Who knows but the heart of the individual?
And this makes sense because, as this gospel teaches, inwardly people are good. It makes sense because everyone is unique. And it makes sense because there is a plethora of views, perspectives, philosophies, and religions. It makes sense because there are happy, fulfilled people living widely differing lives. How are they able to do this unless the answer is that they are following their hearts?
Our character, Micah, in the Judges 17 story illustrates the mindset of the good heart gospel. He steals silver from his mother, then, confesses and returns it because he does have a good heart. His mother, who is also good-hearted, blesses her son and even dedicates the silver for his use to make a metal image, an idol. Micah is so excited. He makes a shrine for the idol, adds other household gods, makes an ephod (clothing for a priest) and even ordains one of his sons to serve as priest. He has his own little church. And it gets better. A Levite, who was traveling through, agrees to be hired as priest. A Levite is a member of the tribe set apart expressly to serve as priests and caretakers of the ark and tabernacle. It would be like finding an ordained minister to serve your personal religious needs. Micah was doing what the writer explained: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (v. 6).
When we hear that phrase, we take it to mean something like, “everyone did what was evil because they could get away with it.” As the book of Judges reveals, that was oftentimes the case. But in this particular story, we have a man who sincerely thought he was doing what was right. As far as he is concerned, he is honoring the God of Israel with his shrine, as well as the lesser gods of the land and household. And surely God must be honored, seeing that he would send a Levite to serve as priest. Now Micah knows that God will prosper him. Unfortunately, the story will not end well for him, but for the moment he couldn’t be happier and more justified. This good-hearted man is enjoying the fruit of his good intentions.
The Gospel of the Good Heart: You Are Going to be All Right
Let’s fast-forward to the present day and enter into the Church of the Gospel of Man and listen to a sermon presenting this version of the gospel. The good news is that “you are going to be all right.” You may be poor in any number of ways. Life may be hard; you may have gotten into deep trouble; bad things may have happened to you; whatever the case, you are going to be all right.