Morally neutral terminology

Probably around 2000 or 2001, I came into contact with a message by C.J. Mahaney called The Idol Factory. In this message, Mahaney brings up the way we talk about ourselves.  He says that we tend to speak of ourselves using morally neutral terminology.

Listen, brothers and sisters — too often, too many of us seek to describe ourselves with morally neutral words and phrases.  That’s why we’re not convicted!  Examine your language — we talk about ourselves:
“I’m insecure”
“I’m oversensitive”…
“I’m a perfectionist.”
“I withdrew.”
Those are all morally neutral words, aren’t they?  You’re a perfectionist — what’s the biblical category for that?

There was a man who thought of himself as merely very  “talkative”, and Mahaney seeks to put that into biblical categories: arrogant (assume that your opinion is superior to everybody else’s), selfish (not serving anybody, don’t listen, don’t reach out, don’t draw anybody out, don’t ask questions)

The Purpose: Not Condemnation, but Hope and Help

Mahaney continues,

But I said, ‘Look — if you agree, there’s hope and help for you, because Jesus didn’t die for talkative people, but he did die for arrogant and selfish people, and in the cross there is forgiveness for arrogant and selfish people who acknowledge it, and from the cross there is power for arrogant and selfish people to instead become humble servants.’

Other Morally Neutral Terms We Use

…and potential biblical categories for them:

  • insecure -> craving the approval of others (an idolater!)
  • oversensitive -> self-righteous
  • perfectionist -> proud
  • “I withdrew” -> you were selfish


What this teaching does is it not only impresses upon you the seriousness of sin, but then you can specifically confess sin, so you’re not just saying, ‘Lord, please forgive me for…’ — you know, just vague — ‘Lord, please forgive me for lies from the devil that I believed and works of the flesh that I did.  And forgive me.  Amen.’  Very meaningful.  Most unhelpful!

Mahaney goes on to mention how the man he mentioned earlier can change when he starts naming his sins, confessing and repenting of them.

When we see our need of Christ and really start to realize the true depth of our sin, we begin to see what a beautiful Savior we have, and to treasure his amazing grace in a way we never did before.  Our hearts are humbled, yet filled with thankfulness and joy!

The Lord worked change in my thinking through this message, and I continue to benefit from it in these years since I first heard it.

The message is available on the New Attitude Five 45 MP3 CD, which I purchased from the Sovereign Grace store, and due to their generous duplication policy I am free to make copies.  Ask if you’re interested!

(You may also be interested in the outline to the three part sermon series by the same title — I think that outline is what Mahaney references in the one-part version.  I find the one-part version more vivid and helpful,  but some may prefer to listen to the three-part series since it’s downloadable directly from the Sovereign Grace website.)

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One Response to Morally neutral terminology

  1. Bruce Potter says:

    I would love to have a copy of this sermon if you will. I so agree with you adn it would help me see my sin clearer than I can living in this world where sin is replaced by other languages and illnesses.

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