Trust Your Savior, Not Your Efforts

By Jonathan Dodson, Gospel-Centered Discipleship
This is the last post in a three part series on fighting sin. Read about knowing your sin (part one) and fighting your sin (part two).

Discipleship isn't just a program.

This is the best part of discipleship. Trusting our Savior makes discipleship personal. Discipleship isn’t a program or a one-on-one meeting. It is fundamentally a trusting relationship with Jesus based on his gospel of grace. When we trust in his promises, we cut through religious performance and spiritual license, leading to soul-sweetening obedience.

When we trust Jesus, we displace rules from the center of our discipleship and replace it with his gospel. The fight against sin will fade once and for all, but we will trust our Savior forever. Why not begin closing the gap now? He is utterly trustworthy—the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). All God’s promises are “Yes” and “Amen” in him (2 Cor. 1:20). The trouble, of course, is that we are adept at displacing the gospel from our discipleship and replacing it with rules.

Have you replaced Jesus with your own efforts?

For many of us, discipleship is moral, not personal. We depersonalize the gospel by removing Jesus and replacing him with our own efforts. When the Spirit is a forgotten god, trusting Jesus becomes a fading proposition. He is present in name only. Jesus becomes an idea we believe, not a person we trust. Consequently, religious affection and the power of the Spirit leak out. Doubt and cynicism roll in. And our discipleship devolves into dutiful performance.

Instead of trusting Jesus’s finished work, we begin to rely on our own work to overcome sin. Eventually, frustration, despair, and anger set it. Before we know it, we will swing to the religious right or the rebellious left, trusting our own performance or the deceptive rush of spiritual license. Everyone trusts something or someone; the gospel reminds us that only one person is worthy of our trust.

Jonathan Dodson serves as a pastor of Austin City Life in Austin, Texas. He has written articles in numerous blogs and journals such as The Resurgence, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, and Boundless.

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