Most of Christianity today is lived out of self-effort. Growing up in America, I’ve heard from a young age the concepts that
- we can do anything we want
- we need to pick ourselves up by the boot straps
- we can be a self-made success
While it all sounds great, it’s not Biblical. I’m not suggesting we throw out work ethic and diligence (those are both important and Biblical), but we have taken the concept of I’m going to do it all and brought it into Christianity.
Christianity isn’t about what I can do for God, it’s about what He wants to do through me. And there is a radical difference.
When a church is growing, we often point to the ability of the worship team or the communication skills of the pastor. When we start gaining ground over sin, we assume it is our willpower and determination that is making us strong.
The focus is inward, on ourselves.
But that is not Christianity.
The focus of Christianity is not upon myself but upon Christ. It’s not what I can pull off, perform, or proclaim. It’s all about Jesus. It’s not that I disappear or become a robot, rather, out of intimacy with Jesus, we live the Christian life together.
I don’t sit on the couch eating bonbons waiting for Jesus to yank me up and force me to do something. Instead, there is an interaction between the two of us as I live surrendered and dependent upon Him.
I don’t go out and attempt to live Christianity. First off, Christianity was intended to be impossible – I can’t live it out properly. Second, even my best efforts are no better than filthy rags to God (see Isaiah 64.6).
And yet, when I live a life of absolute surrender, continual abiding, and constant dependence upon God, the impossible life (Christianity) becomes possible to live – not out of my own resource and strength, but because Jesus, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in my life, is bringing it about. It’s all about a change of source.
Paul writes in Galatians 2.20: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Paul is physically alive but he says he no longer lives – it is Christ Himself (through the Spirit) who is living and sourcing the life of Paul. It is a life of faith upon Jesus.
Faith isn’t some mystical concept that I say I have, faith is expressed in the action of belief. Faith is a realization that the life that God is calling me to is impossible to live rightly. I can’t love the way I’m called to, I can’t live above the power of sin, I can’t treat people the way Jesus would, I can’t always have a guard upon my mouth, I can’t …
And though I can’t in-and-of-myself live how God’s Word commands me, He makes a way.
He fills me with His Spirit and tells me to believe (which is why we are called “believers” – the ones who believe). I am to live in surrender and dependence upon Him. I can’t, but He can. Faith is turning to Him in realization of my inability and asking for His involvement, activity, and resource in my daily living.
I can’t live the way I am suppose to, but He wants to live His life through me. I’m not a bystander, but a participant in the life of Jesus expressed and demonstrated in my life. I become a stage upon which He acts, I am the glove which He puts upon His hand, I am the clothing He wears to showcase Himself to a lost and dying world.
Christianity isn’t about what I can do for Christ, the Christian life is about surrendering myself to a God who wants to produce His life in me. I don’t become God, I become the vehicle, the vessel, through which He uses.
As Charles Trumbull once said, “Jesus Christ does not want to be our helper; He wants to be our life. He does not want us to work for Him; He wants us to let Him do His work through us, using us as we use a pencil to write with – better still, using us as one of the fingers on His hand.”
Does that mean I should be lazy? No. In fact, the moment you quit trying and allow the God of the universe to have control, you will likely find yourself more active than before – but the emphasis is a change of source.
I don’t source my own life. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, becomes the source, resource, strength, power, etc in my life.
Ian Thomas once said it well when he wrote:
The Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you – your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or your anything – than although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it! … It has got to become obvious to others that the kind of life you are living is … beyond all human explanation!
I’ve decided to quit living my life. Not that I plan on dying anytime soon, but I want to declare with Paul: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ.” I want to quit striving, struggling, attempting to pull off the Christian life and instead allow Jesus to produce the impossible life I am called to live in me.
As Ian Thomas said, if YOU are living the Christian life, if your life can be explained in terms of you, you are not actually living the life of a Christian. Our lives must be unexplainable to the world around us. May the only explanation of our lives be Jesus and His work in and through us.
I refuse to live my own life under my own strength, resource, and power. I need Jesus! And I think you should join me.