All Articles

August 12, 2019

Moving from Self-Reliance to Grace-Reliance

Your life is the illustration of your theology. What does your life show that you believe?  

In his book Reset, David Murray writes, “Lots of people call God Creator but live like evolutionists. It’s as if life is about the survival of the fittest rather than about living like a dependent creature—trusting our Creator rather than ourselves—and according to our Maker’s instructions” (Murray 39).   

What does your life show that you believe and trust the most?  

I recently graduated from high school, and this season caused me to look back on those four years. During my freshman year, from early in the morning into the late evening, I prioritized constant self-improvement through school studies and basketball workouts.   

This habit began in middle school. Throughout my childhood, I struggled with being accepted by my peers in school. Through self-improvement, I attempted to “atone” for my lack of desirability. Through distracting myself in the grind, I attempted to hide my scars and drown my sadness.  

Eventually, never giving myself time to rest took its toll. I ran into a brick wall of lethargy and stupor. 

What was I saying about my belief then? Not only did I live as if God was unimportant, but I also turned school and basketball into my sources of value and significance—into idols.  

A Matter of Identity

Hence, I poured my identity into what I accomplished, not what God accomplished for me as His child adopted in Christ.  

Contrary to our shallow and cheap idols, Jesus offers living water to quench our spiritual thirst. In fact, his water becomes within us “a spring of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14). That spring overflows with joy and peace as boundless, endless, and ceaseless as the love and delight shared between the Father and the Son.  

Through faith, we are united to Jesus. When the Father looks at us, He sees Jesus, His eternally-begotten and beloved Son. He pours His delight, namely the Holy Spirit, into us. United to Jesus, we are intimately one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. 

That fellowship empowers us to joyfully and peacefully endure the rejection of man. That fellowship empowers us to direct our relationships and work to God’s glory and provision of grace for us to serve our neighbor through our work.  

God redeems us in Christ from sin to enjoy and glorify Him. Contrary to God’s accomplished and applied redemption within us, we give ourselves back over to sin. We rejected God for idols, namely, acceptance and work apart from His presence and design. In other words, we return to our vomit.  

Consider the dishonor we give to God. When we think and live contrary to our identity in Christ, we reject “the fountain of living waters” for “broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). God illumines our eyes to clearly and truly see Him and thus see everything else. We reject His work of illumination for our own way of seeing reality. 

Do you live as if you do not need God? Here are two quick things to remind yourself of that will move you back toward a reliance on God. 

1.) Man is Weak  

For while we were still weak… (Romans 5:6) 

Let’s face it: none of us are independent of God.   

As created beings, we are limited in strength and are dependent upon Him. We are not infinite like God. And we are certainly not self-sufficient like God. One of the greatest deceptions of our age is that we need only ourselves–to need God is the exception, not the rule. Our need for physical rest points to our need for spiritual rest (Psalm 4:8). And our need for physical food points to our need for spiritual food (John 6:51). 

In dependence upon God for spiritual and physical life, we should submit ourselves to Him. We should vulnerably make our needs known to Him through prayer and trust Him to provide according to His steadfast love and complete wisdom. We should praise God for His faithfulness to provide for our daily needs. 

From a heart of worship, we should commit ourselves to serve our neighbor in response to His faithful provision. Matter of fact, God designed us to project His character and radiance to one another through work from a grateful heart. Gratitude moves our minds, affections, and wills to naturally serve our neighbor and tend to creation. Such gratitude comes from a humble and self-forgetful heart. 

As fallen beings, we are born with corrupted hearts and minds which incline us to sin against God (Romans 3:23). In this state, we ignore the reality that we are dependent creatures. We refrain from gratitude which God rightly deserves. Convinced of our competence and self-reliance, we no longer worship and serve God. Instead, our relationships and work serve us. We expect our acceptance and success to inflate our ego and move us to self-adoration. 

And we are vulnerable to God’s wrath. Left to ourselves, God’s wrath would have hovered over our heads waiting to crush us. But God provided us a perfect mediator to reconcile us to Himself. 

2.) Jesus Made Himself Weak to Save Us 

…at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6) 

Our faithful Savior Jesus Christ was foreknown by His Father before the foundations of the world were made (1 Peter 1:20). The Scriptures illustrate the Father’s foreknowledge of the Son as perfect love and delight. Such was the power behind the Father’s love and delight that it is a person, the Holy Spirit.

Such was the infinite depth, eternal length, and constant persistence of the Father’s love and delight that the Father and the Son are bound in intimate union. The Father and the Son each gave of their greatest, highest, and most beloved possession, or relationship with the Holy Spirit. Such was the equity and harmony in the Trinity’s internal love and delight. 

For our sake, He took on my humanity and all its defiled baggage – including my sorrow and disappointment in response to rejection. In His humanity, Jesus righteously endured the rejection of man while in perfect fellowship with God. And Jesus fully ransomed us from our futile ways on the cross. There God slaughtered Him with His wrath and shed His previous blood as the Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:18-19).   

But on the third day, He rose from His grave in glory and exaltation (1 Peter 1:21). At last, Jesus completed His work as the last Adam. Whereas Adam introduced death into the world through His sinful rebellion, Jesus reintroduced life into the world through His perfect obedience.

Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the proclamation of the Word, we are born again (John 3:5-6). The same Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead dwells within us and gives us everlasting life (Romans 8:11). Then, He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus’s second coming (Philippians 1:6).   

So Jesus Christ, the Son of God, made Himself vulnerable to the point of death to save us from our vulnerability to God’s wrath!  

Also, how astounding is it that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, Jesus, was dependent upon the Father. Jesus himself said, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30).  

In His humility, Jesus sets an example for us to imitate when we recognize our own weakness, to subject ourselves to the will of God and the Lordship of Christ.   

Don’t Be Self-Reliant, Be Grace-Reliant

Christ has released us from the chains of self-reliance which kept us bound (Revelations 1:18). Jesus has slain sin once and for all through the cross, making a grace-reliant spirit real, present, and possible.

Christ holds the keys to our freedom from the temptation and sinful pattern of self-reliance which are rooted in the idolatry of and belief in ourselves.

By faith, we can put off the old self, corrupted by the spirit of self-reliance, and put on the new self, transformed by the Spirit of grace in the “likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). 

So while our culture tells us that our value is found in our performance, God proclaims something different: Due the perfect obedience and sacrifice of Jesus, our value is derived from His love and his image. 

The world’s yoke is hard, and its burden is heavy because it demands that we become what we are not: God. Jesus meets us where we are in our burnout culture and paid the highest cost, His own life, so we could find rest in Him. 

Do not be afraid to be countercultural. Be intentional about using your time to serve the Lord, and not just for self-improvement. Rest in him who calls, pleading: 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)  

Your resting will be an apologetic to a restless world. 

Photo Credit: Unsplash 

Kyle Golden

Kyle Golden is a freshman at UAB studying Kinesiology with early acceptance into their physical therapy doctorate program.
Kyle Golden is a freshman at UAB studying Kinesiology with early acceptance into their physical therapy doctorate program.