What’s Wrong with “Just Do It” Theology?

When Nike Co. added this slogan to its famous swoosh, “Just do it” was on everyone’s lips. It became the quick pep talk for just about everyone, regarding just about everything. Nike, of course, is the mythic goddess of victory.

There are those in the church who have this sense of “Just do it” obedience. Usually, there is a recognition, that in some way, and to some degree, God is necessary to get you into the kingdom (justification). But what about sanctification?

When it comes to your new life in Christ, it is wrongly assumed that you have the capacity in your flesh to obey all that He has commanded. The flesh is the principle by which we live — body and soul. The flesh is our natural disposition, and it is altogether sinful. Sin is lawlessness (1 Thess 3:4). It is disobedience toward God.

The flesh is the operation mode of the old man, the natural man, and the flesh must be crucified. Who can do that?

Imagine a Christian saying to another, “Dude, just obey, just do it.” This will just invite guilt and grief in the Christian life. The reason is that we are still sinners in the flesh (Rom 3:23; 5:12; 7). This is why legalism is such a travesty (see Galatians). Paul’s epistles are filled with warnings against this false approach to the Christian walk.

Sanctification is saturated with grace from God (Jn 17:17; Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 4:3, 7; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). He knows our weaknesses, sins, and misappropriated affections. When the legalist picks up the stone because of your sin, he demonstrates he does not understand grace. He preaches the law and then points out your flaw; but without the Gospel of grace, he has no gospel at all.

An historical problem in the church is the preaching of moralism. The error of moralism is the mistaken belief that Christians can keep the Law. The Law is spiritual (Rom 7:14), therefore, the flesh is at war with the Law of God, as much as the flesh is at war with Holy Spirit (Rom 8:4–9). As long as a Christian has the flesh operational, he will be failing to obey something.

This is why you cannot legislate morality in society, nor in the church. The flesh will not comply.

So, if we cannot corral Christians into prayer meetings, or read-your-Bible-in-a-year regimens, or being obedient to the moral law, then what hope is there for the Christian?

Our only hope is Jesus Christ (Col 1:27). He was our only hope in justification, and He is our only hope in sanctification. Let us forsake the pharisaical Judaizing spirit in sanctification. This is almost always linked to external appearance.

Man looks at the outward appearance (1 Sam 16:7). It is the naïve Christian who cries out, “we need to walk the walk and talk the talk.” Nobody is doing that…nobody.

We preach a Gospel so far above us, it is incomprehensible to unbelievers (1 Cor 1:18; 2:14). We are not worthy of it. Unbelievers are ever charging Christians with being self-righteous hypocrites. Why? We are always saying one thing (truth that is in Jesus Christ) and walking like a disoriented drunkard through life (think Pilgrim’s Progress). They see the disconnect. Is your Christian walk a cheap façade of keeping up appearances?

How silly is the man who raves, “I am naming and claiming my blessings,” when compared to the grief of Paul’s admission to be the chief of sinners (1 Tim 1:15). C. H. Spurgeon once preached, “If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” There is the proper Christian testimony: self-deprecation. This is why Reformed folk are always going on and on about the total depravity of man (Gen 6:5; Is 64:6; Jer 17:9; Rom 1:18–32; 3:10–12; 8:7).

Are we pretending to be holy? May it never be. As long as we are attached to this flesh, we will suffer with the leprosy of sin. To yell out a victory slogan other than, “unclean, unclean!” is not fitting for a Christian.

Whatever progress is made in our Christian walk must be attributed to the Holy Spirit (Is 26:12; Phil 2:13), who gives grace to the humble, and the humble are those who give all credit to the Holy Spirit. Paul said, “There is no good thing in me…that is…in my flesh (Rom 7:18).” Praise God there was something good in Paul’s soul: the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, whose presence was the catalyst in every inch of spiritual progress in the former Pharisee.

“Just do it” theology is just another self-help philosophy from the pit of the Judaisers. Our flesh is neither willing, nor able to comply with its various legal requirements (Rom 7; 8:7).

If God gives you grace to pray, then pray. If God gives you grace to read your Bible, then read. If God gives you grace to obey all that He has commanded…then give thanks, for He is gracious to will and to do His good pleasure in you…and that is what He has promised to do.

He is always leading us in His triumph (2 Cor 7:14), so we can bear witness to “He does it” theology.

David Norczyk

Hillsboro, Oregon

February 13, 2022

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher