The gospel should affect everything we do, and we will never move beyond its direction and power. Yesterday I asked a simple question: Do you really think there is some strategy, medication, or counselor that could be more effective in dealing with your sin than the grace of God as told in the gospel?
This is an important question. I think that most of us would quickly answer, “No, of course not!” We know (in theory) that nothing could be more effective than God’s power in the gospel. But we don’t really believe it. Instead, we try all sorts of strategies to try to whip ourselves into shape. We try to make ourselves into the type of people God wants us to be, never realizing that this is impossible.
We can’t make ourselves into the type of people God wants us to be. We are sinful, broken, and weak. This is what it means to be human on this side of the fall. And the problem is only made worse by the fact that we think we are righteous, whole, and strong. You’re probably saying, “You’re wrong—I realize how broken and powerless I am.” But do you?
How do you deal with the sin in your life? Do you recognize your own inability and turn to God for help? Or do you try harder to be the kind of person God wants you to be? Most of us use the “try harder” strategy most of the time. And when trying harder fails, we try harder again. The fact that we think trying harder will eventually fix our struggle with sin reveals that we think we are good enough and strong enough to please God on our own.
We all need to be reminded all of the time that we cannot please God on our own. This is the essence of the gospel. It has never been about us being good enough so that God will love us in return. No, the gospel declares that while we were nothing more than dirty, powerless sinners, Jesus Christ died for us because He loved us—even in that pitiful state (see Romans 5:8).
You believed this when you first turned to Jesus and accepted the grace offered in the gospel. But do you still believe it? When you fall into sin, do you try to clean yourself up before you will pray to God again? Or do you immediately recognize that your struggle with sin means that you can’t clean yourself up? Do you wait until you can stand before God again or do you come crawling back to God, asking Him to forgive and restore you?
If we truly believe in the power of God’s grace as expressed in the gospel, we will stop trying harder. We will not wait until we feel clean before we approach God. We will run straight to God’s expression of love on the cross every time we encounter sin in our lives. The gospel is not about increased effort. It is about a constant acknowledgment of our own inadequacy and a constant acceptance of God’s grace.
No one ever pleased God by trying harder. Only one Man has ever truly pleased God. And we please God only through living in the grace He freely offers.