Repenting from Self-Effort

I think for some people the biggest obstacle to faith in Jesus is that they must repent — they must turn away — from their modus operandi in life.  Perhaps this is especially true here in the United States where self-determination, epitomized in the self-made, rags to riches man, is pervasive.  Of course, the humanist is no less guilty of self-madeness, but it looks different.  Theirs isn’t a rags to riches accomplishment, but an “I’m a good person” achievement.  Both are wrong-headed.  No one on the face of the earth can ensure this very day is not their last.  It is common grace that allows us to wake up tomorrow, whether that’s acknowledged by the masses or not.  No one can honestly claim to be self-made.

And the self-assessment of the humanist that he or she is “good,” ignores the standard which is perfection.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23  Being around people who have a hard time admitting they have any faults is trying, to say the least.  They blame others for their failures and try that utterly pitiful game that they aren’t as bad as some.  How silly is that?  Who cares that you didn’t physically commit murder?  Jesus says hating someone is murder too (Matthew 5:21-22).   The idea that you could ever be confident of being on the winning side of some undefined goodness continuum takes an enormous, enormous amount of blind faith.  It reminds me of the scene from Finding Nemo that portrays the sharks’ twelve step program.  The sharks yell out, “DENIAL!”  People need to quit kidding themselves: no one is ever good enough.  The standard is unattainable.  In fact, in part, that’s what the Old Testament is about, thirty-nine books illustrating the futility of self-effort.

But it’s hard to truly admit: “No matter how loving I am, no matter how good of a neighbor, no matter how generous and philanthropic, no matter how great of a parent, no matter how patient I am with the person I find most annoying, no matter how self-sacrificing I am, I can never ever earn my way to heaven.”

As Franny Channy says, “Part of our repentance is to turn from believing that there’s anything we can do to save ourselves — for everything was accomplished by Jesus Christ” (emphasis mine).

It’s moving from pride and self-determination to reliance on Jesus in ALL things.  And it’s the best move we can make today and every day.

Lord Jesus, may I rely on You and You alone not just for my salvation but for living out Your plan for my life every moment of every day.

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