The Effect of Our Self-Sufficiency
You were hardwired to depend on God, so your dreams of self-reliance and self-sufficiency will prove to be more nightmares than dreams.
Why is it so hard for so many of us to ask for help? Why is it so difficult for us to admit that we don’t know things? Why do we attempt to do things that we’ve never done before without seeking instruction? Why is it so hard for us to admit that we can’t make it on our own? Why do we struggle to own our weakness and our ignorance? Why do children resist the instruction of their parent? Why do workers hate to be told what to do by their bosses? Why do we not like to ask for directions? Why do we work so hard to present ourselves as more ready, knowledgeable, and capable than we really are? Why do we often push people away when they are offering assistance? Why do we tell people that we’re okay when we’re not? Why do we act as if we can solve things that we don’t really understand? Why do we hesitate to get the advice of the doctor, the counselor, or the wise friend? Why do we allow independence to trouble our trouble? Why?
The answer seems too straightforward and simplistic, but it is the answer nonetheless. The answer to every one of the questions above is sin. Self-reliance and self-sufficiency are what sin does to the heart. Hosea 10:13 captures this very powerfully: “You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors.” Don’t miss the cause-and-effect structure of this passage. The prophet essentially asks: “Why have you experienced moral impurity? Why have you endured injustice? Why have you accepted what is not true?” There is only one possible answer to these questions, and it’s not the one we want to hear. All of these things happened, the prophet says, because you wanted and trusted your own way and relied upon your own strength.
It is hard to accept, but vital to humbly admit. Bad things happen when we attempt to live as we were not created to live. Sin causes us to deny our need for God and others. Sin causes us to assign to ourselves the wisdom, strength, and righteousness we do not have. Sin causes us to dethrone God and enthrone ourselves. Sin is shockingly proud and self-assured. Sin really does cause us all to fall into the delusion that we can be like God. And because sin does this to all of us, it is dark, deceitful, and dangerous.
Self-reliance and self-sufficiency as your fundamental approach to life will never lead to anything good. Sin always leads to death of some kind in some way. So we need to be rescued from our quest for independence and brought into relationship with the One who really does have everything we need. And that’s exactly what the grace of Jesus does for us!
The Mercy of God
They really are the two foundation stones of a God-honoring life. They must be held together; neither side can be forsaken. Every day you and I give empirical evidence to the existence of both. Here are these foundation-stone realities: you still have sin living inside you and God is abundant in mercy. You and I must stand on both these stones. Letting go of either casts us into danger. Because I am a sinner, I need mercy, and because God is merciful, I can face the reality of my sin.
The words in Nehemiah 9 describe us all: “They . . . did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules” (Neh. 9:29). Maybe it’s a thoughtless word, a selfish act, a prideful thought, a moment of envy, a flash of lust, a willing act of disobedience, an attitude of vengeance, or a minor moment of thievery; maybe it’s wanting your glory more than God’s, failing to give grace where grace is needed, bending the truth, giving in to an addiction, or working to make these kinds of things in your life look not as bad as they actually are. In some way, we all give daily proof to the truth that sin still lives inside us. None of us is yet sin-free. We all continue to fail in word, thought, desire, and action. It is humbling but important to admit, because it’s only when you admit how deep and comprehensive your problem is that you get excited about the rescue that only God’s mercy can supply.
Because I am a sinner, I need mercy, and because God is merciful, I can face the reality of my sin.
We aren’t just left in our sins. Nehemiah 9 continues, “Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God” (Neh. 9:31). You can be courageous in admitting your sin precisely because God is richly abundant in his mercy. He comes to you in mercy not because you are good but because you are a sinner, and he knows that because of this condition, you are unable to help yourself. Since sin means that you are a bigger danger to you than anything else in your life and since it is impossible for you to run from you, there is only one hope for you. It is that someone with power, wisdom, and mercy will invade your life, forgive your sins, and progressively deliver you from the hold that sin has had on you. That mercy comes to you in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his mercy is always fresh, uniquely fashioned for the sin struggles of this new day.
This article is adapted from New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp.
My friend, as you are united to Christ and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is applied to your life, you will experience the change that you long for.
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