3 Reasons Why “How to” Does Not Work
Have you ever struggled with living the Christian life? Has it ever felt impossible to you?
You want to love God and people, but you find yourself failing.
You just had your quiet time. And now just a short time later, you regret the words you just spoke to your child, your spouse or a friend. Or you regret the tone and the attitude behind the words. Been there, done that!
As you go deeper into the Christian life, you realize sin is not just about outward behavior. Your heart attitudes, thought life and motives even for doing right can also be sinful.
For years I struggled with this question: How do I live the Christian life? What must I do? How can I experience freedom?
I was asking the wrong question. “How?” is asking for a “how to.” A method to follow.
I wanted something I could do to get victory over sin.
I discovered that the answer is not in coming up with a plan, a method or strategy to follow. At the core of the Christian life there is no “how to.”
Why? Look at the following 3 reasons:
1. The Christian life is not a sin management program.
No program or plan will help us overcome sin.
Dallas Willard in his book, The Divine Conspiracy, used the term “sin management” to describe a Christian lifestyle with sin as the focus. This is a miserable and frustrating way to live. Have you lived with a focus on the sin in your life?
A constant struggle with sin is not the life that Jesus died to give you.
What a miserable way of living! Focusing on sin leads to more sin. Trying to rid your heart of idols will lead to replacing the old idols with new. Struggling with an addiction? Get rid of one and another addiction will take its place.
So you can let the burden of sin roll off your shoulders. Relax! There is a greater purpose to your life! Victory over sin is a reality. (Keep reading!)
OK, then should we focus on the positive? Should I come up with a plan to become the person that God created me to be? Wouldn’t a strategy for becoming a better Christian help us here? No, this will fail also. Why?
2. The Christian life is not a self-improvement program.
None of these work:
- Following a method, a formula, steps or any do-it-yourself plan
- Striving in your strength to live by biblical principles
- Using spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible study to live up to your standard of behavior
- Trying and struggling and failing and trying again
- Focusing on yourself and trying to fix yourself
- Rededicating yourself to act like Jesus would
All of the above are an emphasis on what I do. I want to be in control of the process. I want a “how to” list to follow. If that’s what I’m looking for, I’m still depending on self to live the Christian life. If we are operating out of the flesh, we cannot please God (Romans 8:8). We will constantly fail here, too.
We can be doing good things and still be powered by our good “religious” flesh. The choice in the Christian life is not between good and evil. Moral living is not the point of the gospel.
Pastor Timothy Keller in a message about “The Prodigal Son,” called the story, “The Two Sons.” One chose the good and the other the bad. He said both sons needed to repent—one for the evil he did and the other for the good he did for the wrong reasons. The elder son obeyed the Father and worked hard for him, but his heart was far from the Father, too. He did not receive his father’s love and then obey and serve from a heart of love.
So relax, my friend. The Christian life is not a focus on how to overcome sin or how to become a better Christian. Even how to become more like Christ, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do), could lead you down the path to self-improvement. Don’t go there. There is a better way!
By asking “How?” I’m asking for a plan or steps to follow.
Paul asked the right question: “Who will deliver me?” (See Romans 7:24). Paul discovered that living the Christian life was impossible for him. Only Jesus living in Him could live the life.
The third reason why the Christian life is not a “how to”:
3. The Christian life is Christ living His life in and through you.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV)
My friend, this is the life Jesus died to give you—His very own life in you.
“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, ESV).
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4, ESV).
For years I studied the Bible, read books about Christian living and admired the Christians who understood and experienced the truths that I was seeking to understand. I tried so hard to figure out this life of union with Christ.
My search was complicated because woundedness was one my challenges or so I believed. Wasn’t trusting God or anyone for that matter more difficult for me? That may be so, but all of my life was part of the process of learning to trust and surrender my life to God. I had to “own” all of the challenges of my life.
As I studied and taught grace and all that we have received in Jesus, the more I began to understand and experience the truth. Jesus is my life. He lives in me. I am still learning and growing in these truths. I long to experience more of the life of Christ.
Are you struggling with sin or yourself? With pain or grief? Or struggling to believe and trust?
Jesus says, “Come to Me. I will give you rest.
I am the end of your struggle for righteousness. I became sin for you. You are now righteousness in Me.
Do you need love for others? Come to Me. I will lavish my love and grace on you. You will be filled with My love. Love by that overflow.
Depend on My resources–My love, power and wisdom–for all you need to live this life.
By My death and resurrection, you have everything you need. You have the Holy Spirit, My Spirit, living in you to comfort and encourage you.
Believe the truth and you will be free. When I set you free, you are really free.”
(See Matthew 11:28-20, Romans 10:3-13, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 3:14-21, 2 Peter 1:3-4 and John 8:32-36).
What resources are you relying upon to live this life? Yours or His?
Are you struggling or resting in Him?
Let me know how I can pray for you. Pray for me, too. Let’s keep our focus on Jesus, adore and worship Him.
Photo credit: Geralt via Pixabay