Understanding Our Need
I learn a lot about myself through my son. Recently, he has made me aware of my own tendency to reject the help of others. While I may not scream “No!” with my words, I am very quick to posture myself as not wanting or needing help. I don’t want help!
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph 2:12-13)
Harder than Hard Work
We are a self-reliant people in the United States and particularly in Oklahoma. That is an esteemed and honored character trait among most people in this part of the world. The songs of the culture talk about how “I’ve never taken a dime I didn’t earn” (similar to “I Got It Honest” by Aaron Tippin) and praise the hard-working person that by sheer force of will white-knuckles their way through every difficulty in life. And while we are by and large a Christian culture, do we recognize that this self-reliant, “pulled-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps” mentality that is so honored here is not only not the Good News about Jesus Christ, but actually undermines that very gospel?
I hope I still have my audience. That was not a small statement, and it questions the very fabric of the culture of this region of the world. To not equate “Christian” with “hard-working” does not make sense to many—and I’m not saying that the Bible does not commend and command hard work (Ephesians 4:28). But, the gospel—the very core of the Christian faith—is entirely different than white-knuckled self-reliance. What is much harder for most is to recognize their need for help and to accept it when it is given to them.
Better than My Work
This is where it is so important to recognize what Hebrews 10:1-18 teaches us. If you have a minute, pull this verse up and quickly read over at least part of it. In this passage, we see that the law is “only a shadow of the good things that are coming” and that sacrifice and piety cannot take away sin. While we praise and laud self-reliance in our culture, it is done entirely out of context with eternity and with little thought to God.
Certainly, hard work is commendable. However, do not accept or forget that hard work will not merit a right standing before God. While it may be “good” to always pay for your own meal, or your own movie ticket, or give gifts in proportion with one another, do not misunderstand the gospel. While we were yet sinning, Christ died for us, the godly for the ungodly. Accepting Christ’s righteousness means laying down your own (2 Cor 5:19). Our pride may at first not like that. But we must recognize our need for a Savior, a righteousness better than we can achieve. Do not finish your life rejecting that you have this need.
Justified by Christ’s Work
The Bible is a book that tells the story of God’s goodness and his love. Christ is at the center of that story, offering hope to a world broken by sin. The law is good but will not bring us near to God. Christ is better—he is the hope of salvation. Next time you see someone, likely even a professing Christian, with white knuckles, justifying their actions and their own righteousness—give them the Good News again. Remind them that Christ, not their right actions, is their justifier.