Causing Moral Change in Others

Causing Moral Change in Others examines what the Bible says about moral change in us, how this change takes place.

What is the Problem?

When we look at what a church is supposed to be, the answer is that God created the church to accomplish various important matters to God. (1) God uses the church as His physical workers of His will on earth. This does not exclude any action of angels, the Holy Spirit, or the influence of Jesus. But God uses the church in relation to His will. He could by-pass humans altogether, but He does this to share the glory in eternity with those humans that are used by Him. One of the key purposes in God’s will and work is the evangelism of the unsaved.

(2) God uses the church in order to keep His children in His will. What is key here is the Word of God. It must be preached correctly (correctly interpreted, explained, and emotionally and forcefully given to God’s children). One of the key links here is that this preaching will not happen if, simply put, God’s children don’t show up. Showing up and being distracted by being hunger, children crying, phones dragging one’s attention away from the preaching, etc., or simply put, people show up and sleep during the service (or daydream instead of listening).

(3) God uses the church as a launching point for world influence, to repress sin. Churches should hold some kind of influence in their community against sin.

(4) God uses the church as a workshop for His children to gain spiritual fruit to their accounts in heaven. We get rewards for serving Christ, and what we do to even the least of His brothers, we are doing to Him. All of this gets Christian spiritual rewards in eternity.

All of this hinges on the people in the church doing these things. The problem is that Satan “guts” the spiritual impact of every one of these when God’s children are not spiritual. They do what they do for the wrong motive. Spirituality is not because of good works. We have a close relationship with God, being saved, and therefore we do good works. Works flow out of salvation, and they do not procure salvation for anybody

What is the Crux of the Issue?

The problem really is that once saved, we are still the same person that we were before being saved. That is both true and false. We still have the same way of thinking, of speaking, of our motives, and all that is carnality. True salvation is being born again (John 3), being a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). The bottom line is that the personal is morally changed. Between what we were and what we will be (the image of Christ) is where we draw the battle lines for fighting spiritually.

Very few people are of the educational character and moral fiber to improve themselves on their own. Some people can lose weight, work out physically, change a bad form of speech, etc. But behind all of that are usually spiritual people (a mother, a father, a pastor, a teacher, a friend, etc.) that has something to do with this change.

But the crux of this issue of the church being God’s hand in accomplishing His will is moral change. How does it happen? What are its conditions? What ruins it? etc.

How does a personal morally change?

Principled Teaching

I have both an education background (masters in Education Administration and Supervision) and a Bible background (B.A. in Missions, Masters in Bible), so I look at this from both sides.

God uses words, His words, and these need to be spoken and explained. People learn when principles are given clearly, forcefully, and then they are explained. People very seldom “learn” anything just because others are working on them or around them. For example, just because we go to a doctor or dentist, that does not mean we really “learn” anything medical from the experience. They are not teaching us, they are serving us, and barely a handful of these professionals fully explain what they are going to do, what they are doing, and what they have done. But when you come across one that does that, you consider him as being excellent.

So, an excellent Bible teacher or preacher is a speaker that states clearly the principles behind what they are teaching, and then explain those principles, and uses examples that illustrate (the best examples are from the same Word of God).

But the critical key here is to be able to understand (the speaker must learn in his study before he can pass anything to somebody else) and correctly discern the spiritual principle of a situation or passage of Scripture. Understanding absolutely MUST BE on a personal level. A man who smokes 3 packets of cigarettes a day can have that habit and teach others not to smoke. This brings us to a second requirement.

The Teacher must be a LIVING EXAMPLE of the morality is trying to teach

Hypocrites only teach hypocrisy, not the Bible.

While many will try to “maneuver themselves around this requirement” true moral change is rooted in God, not in us. God will not bless moral change passing from one person to another if the giving one doesn’t live the principle in their own lives.

So the point here is that the teacher excellently communicates the principle because he understands it, and he understands it well because he practices what he preaches. Without personal compliance to the principle, all he does is preach hypocrisy. A smoking teacher that forcefully tells others why they shouldn’t smoke, teaches them that you can still smoke and take a stand against smoking, which is not true.

To the extent that a preacher can study, understand a principle, see moral principles and people breaking these principles, explain the principle, and live the principle, those are the marks that indicate that he is a good effectual preacher or a hypocrite.

Application and Exhortation

When we turn to the student, the same is true. There is no moral change unless there is moral change. In other words, you have accomplished nothing for your students if they do not see your presentation of “a change in their moral practices”, if they continue their lives as they did before. They MUST CHANGE MORALLY.

The first failure here is changing while in sight of the teacher. In our example of a teacher teaching again smoking, all his students can get rid of their cigarettes before going around the teacher, and the teacher thinks that he has won some goal. He hasn’t. Besides hypocrisy, people pretend to have learned but just do the same, hiding their sinful actions. This is no gain for God.

Secondly, we see failure in that they do not appear to smoke, but they just change their vices. This is an every present problem with groups and thinking like Alcoholics Anonymous. While their group tries to see their people quit drinking (so much, so they give in to an occasional drink, but define quitting as not being drunk), but their meetings are when smoking is replacing drinking. The net gain is little if anything.

Morally speaking, we want our students to walk in the image of Christ in their lives. Switching one sin for another is not really any gain at all. An adulterer man who sleeps with other people’s wives is not doing anything better by giving up adultery for homosexuality. He stays in moral corruption.

But the point here is that the student MUST PRACTICE THE SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLE.

Practicing Right

What we need to understand here is a clarification of the human being. We need knowledge, because that is where everything begins with. But we need “good knowledge“, knowledge God gives us. So the Bible has to be the bread and butter of all moral change. If any teaching or exercise is not grounded and fully based on all of Scripture, then you have removed the true thing that changes people, God. The AA groups try to put God back in, saying believe in whatever God you want to so that your break from alcohol has God on your side. But that doesn’t mean they exclusively recommend the God of the Bible, just a general concept of God, like in any false religion out there. That doesn’t work.

But to this knowledge (stating Scripture) we add to it explanation of the spiritual principle. That must be logical, fully grounded in correct understanding of Scripture (hermeneutics). Hermeneutics is simply the way we understand language. Its foundations are in normal language communication. Words means certain things, and although there can be some “poetic liberty” with the meanings, all that is under certain rules.

But we must also understand that we are being with a mind and a heart. Beyond understanding a matter logically, we need to understand it emotionally, and the emotional is what pulls our heart towards something or away from something. A young woman can give a speech about preventing breast cancer, and she can logically give a very good speech. But if she is really smart, she will use perhaps a situation from her own life, where her mother died of breast cancer, and the last painful events before she died. Her appeal is “brought home” by emotion, an emotional appeal.

To speak clearly here, she emotionally presses her students to action using some “angle” which they will find hard to say no, or answer with indifference. In public speaking, this is called, a “call to action“. Among preachers, this is called “making an application.” The problem with about 80 to 90 percent of the sermons that I have heard or read is that there is no clear application, no call to action. If you just ask yourself after you finish hearing a sermon, what does the preacher think I should do if I accept his propositions? If that clearly jumps out to you because he stated it clearly in his conclusion, then he has done well.

But most sermons are just factual. They talk for a long time about this and that, and we see the brilliance of the speaker as a Bible student, but in the end, there is no thesis (clear statement of the principle), there can be no real explanation of that thesis if the thesis is not stated, and it needs to be stated various times, and there can be no call to action because it is a new thing in the sermon if the thesis is not stated and explained until the conclusion. The conclusion is cut off and separate from the rest of the sermon.

Sunday School “classes” are another problem, because “being a class”, that supposedly excuses the teacher from making any application.

Also another great problem is when the preacher gives a salvation invitation after every sermon. If the sermon was a presentation of the gospel, that is appropriate. But why would you give a discourse about not smoking and then in the conclusion exhort the hearers to write a birthday card to their mothers on her birthday? The one thing does not follow logically the other, even if we should write to our mothers on their birthday. It does not logically follow.

But this goes way far beyond the conclusion of a sermon. The sermon has to oriented towards moral change from its beginning. The kernel or message from God has to be directed toward changing the hearer morally from something to something, from some activity or moral character problem, into what is God’s will, what is the example of Jesus Christ.

The thesis of a sermon has to be sharp on a principle that can easily proven from Scripture, and EVERYTHING IN THE SERMON HAS TO CONVINCE THE HEARER OF THAT MORAL POINT. What causes many preachers to fail in their preaching is that they never have a clue about this point of moral change. They just talk. People enough being entertained, and so sermons boil down to joke time, telling stories and jokes, and getting people entertained instead of moral change.

The Problem of Moral Change

There is a problem with moral change. It is very, very slow. It takes a lot of time, and real spirituality doesn’t happen overnight. The person has to be constantly bombarded by this confrontation of what is wrong with his life and what is right according to God. If a preacher forces a point because he sees it but he cannot back it up with Bible verses, then he has become suspect in the minds of his hearers, and they will want to see every little detail of what he presents with a bunch of Bible verses. Carefully limiting his words TO WHAT HE CAN EASILY PROVE FROM SCRIPTURE is essential.

Isaiah 28:10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

But for a long view of things, people morally change when there is a preponderance of points, principles, understanding, and personal practice that builds up in their lives. This take time, and a lot of patience on the part of everybody.

Why Do some people not Change Morally?

This is a difficult thing to understand. First of all, we need to clarify. Jesus said, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). While I understood at an early point in my ministry that we must persuade people to morally change, I have had a very difficult time not trying to be the push behind them to change morally. I (the pastor, the preacher, the Bible teacher) cannot change anybody by my own self, and even that is not as successful always as I would like it to be.

But the “push” for moral change in them HAS TO BE CERTAIN THINGS/PEOPLE.

God’s Word Changes People

As a presenter of Scripture trying to get people to change morally, there is no other force for me except Scripture. God’s Word is what changes people, and it does that change permanently and without a whole lot of other stuff. Programs, rewards, punishments, etc. do not change people. Only God’s Word changes people.

Jesus Christ

In John 1, we see that Jesus is considered to be “the Word of God“. The Word of God, both physical words and the person of Jesus as the Word, are the motivators behind real spiritual change. Jesus is the living example of the Will of God. Humans are highly eye and emotional based. In other words, while logic should reign supreme, what we see others do, and what sets our emotions on fire are really what moves us to change.

This dovetails with the above words about the teacher/preacher has to not be hypocritical, but he must be a living example of the moral principles he seeks to impart to his students.

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit takes up residence within the temple of our bodies the moment we are saved. If the Holy Spirit is there, then He activates our consciences, and moves up, animates us, or gives us “spiritual life.” A spirit is what animates and gives life.

While you can study motivation speeches, and you can probably learn a lot from them, you cannot replace these three elements. We could add the influence of God the Father here also. The Father is always associated with the Will of God, and that should enter in with all of these. It is expressed in Scripture, it is illustrated personally in the life of Jesus, and this is where the Holy Spirit presses the conscience of an individual that something is obligatory or prohibited because it is commanded under God’s will or prohibited in God’s will.

How do we cause moral change in others

The key to all of this, in my opinion, is to understand that we are “pawns” in God’s plans. We are not “calling the shots” but God is. Our key to being a part of this instead of ruining what God is doing is to understand what God wants. We do our part to make it happen. We are God’s instruments or agents on earth for the effecting of God’s will.

I think that one important point here is that we do not teach 90% principles, and look for some 10% events in that we “can show our students how we are living what we preach”. Out of 1000% of studying and understanding God’s principles, we give our hearers 10% of the cream of what we have learned and are practicing. Any show of our compliance is not because we “arrange it”, but is instead because our lives are saturated with these principles, and the principles are showing often and causally. Nothing is rehearsed or put on as an exhibition. We live by what we teach.

Habakkuk 2:4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

The point is that pride and arrogance is wrapped around a teacher’s life if he says one thing, and then lives his life using a different thing as guide. What doctrine you believe is what is used by you as the moral guide of your life. From a true Christian’s life, others are watching, and morally speaking some will follow your example. They will believe what you believe, because they like where your life is taking you (morally).

Hebrews 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

Within these principles, people change morally. This is how God has set things to work. You can do a lot, but without following God’s principles here in this, you will fail.

Causing Moral Change in Others