The Default Mode of the Human Heart

A thought-provoking clip from Mark Driscoll’s recent sermon Jesus the Sabbath Lord:

At Mars Hill, I wrote this down, I think the campuses that are most susceptible to religion and to legalism are the Federal Way Campus, the Olympia Campus, the West Seattle Campus, the Bellevue Campus, the Lake City Campus, the Shoreline Campus, and the Albuquerque Campus ‘cause it’s steeped, that whole city is, in Catholicism. I’ll go on record and say it. Legalism and religion are real threats to the health and well-being of those campuses.

Now for Ballard, Downtown, and the UW Campuses, the real threat and risk is reverse legalism. “Oh, they don’t drink? We’re gonna drink. Oh, they don’t smoke? We’ll smoke a pack a day to show our freedom in Christ.” Right? “Oh, they tithe, we’re not gonna tithe. That’s how free in Christ we are. Oh, they serve, well, we’re not any of that kind of works theology, we have a nap theology. We sleep like Calvinists. We don’t do anything, Jesus said, ‘It’s finished.’ So we’re done. Oh, they read their Bible every day, oh, that’s a lot.

Yeah, we don’t have a list like that, yeah, we’re not legalists. We don’t read the Bible at all. Don’t want to get all religious, read a book or pray or serve or care or give. We’re free in Christ. Anybody see my pants? I go to the Ballard campus,” right? We can be total reverse legalists. “Oh, that church doesn’t use instruments, we got a punk band, yee-haw, thank you, Jesus,” right?

And we can just be reverse legalists, and we could appoint ourselves as judges. We could judge all the religious people, and we could condemn them, and we could feel holier than they are because they’re trying so hard, and we don’t do anything.

And so for seven of our campuses, I think religion is a real threat. For three of our campuses, I think reverse religion, reverse legalism is a real threat.

And the answer is not to be a legalist and not to be someone who is a libertine, not to be someone who is religious, and not to be someone who is irreligious, but the whole point is really what the Pharisees and the scribes were missing on the Sabbath, and that is that the Sabbath is a day to stop working, and just rest in the finished work of Jesus, to stop impressing God, and start enjoying him. To stop doing things for him, and acknowledge what he’s done for you.

See, religion and irreligion, legalism, and what I’ll call licentiousness or lawlessness, all it is is just trying to find a way to be righteous in the sight of God by what you do or do not do. And the truth is Jesus lived the perfect life. He died a substitutionary death, and he rises to give the gift of righteousness. So on the Sabbath day, we stop trying to be more righteous, and we receive the righteousness of Jesus.

That’s what they missed. So now that I’ve got you all, right, we made a lot of the fun of the religious people, and you know what? The irreligious people are just another form of religion. We’ve made fun of the legalists, but those who are lawless and don’t obey even the rules in the Bible, they’ve got a reverse legalism going on.

Those of you who are legalists, repent of your legalism in religion. Those of you who are lawless and irreligious, repent of your lawlessness and irreligion. Come to Jesus, all of us, receiving his death for our sin, his righteousness for our unrighteousness, let him do a work for us, let him do a work in us, so that by grace he might do a work through us, that wouldn’t contribute to our righteousness, but would be an outflowing of his gifted to us, Amen?

So I hope I’ve got you all. We had a few laughs at the religious people, but the truth is there’s a little bit of religion in all of us. Martin Luther rightly said, “Religion is the default mode of the human heart.” So let us not just start by criticizing the Pharisees, because if we do so too wholeheartedly, we’re becoming one, by appointing ourselves in the position of righteous, religious judge. That’s Jesus’ job.

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  • James

    Outstanding article. Really.

    • Aaron Armstrong

      Thanks James – I really appreciate how Driscoll is able to communicate complicated ideas with clarity.