Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Helping Ourselves

We live in society saturated in the idea of self-help. We have self-help books to help us do everything from losing weight to being better communicators. There may occasionally be some wisdom in these programs. But this is not what Christianity is. Instead, it is about how to deal with the fact that, at the most basic level, we cannot help ourselves. Scripture says that when we were sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) and unable to help ourselves (John 15:5; Romans 7:14; 8:8), Christ came to rescue us (Romans 5:6-8; Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 1:21-23). Therefore, He offers us salvation through faith in Him (Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9; Acts 16:31). But there is a temptation, in the current atmosphere, to turn this into a self-help message. If we just follow the right procedures, we will be a better person.

The problem with self-help methods is that either they seem to work or they do not. If they do not, they can lead to discouragement and constantly looking from one self-help method to another, hoping to find one that really works. This can end up devouring large amounts of time and money and effort, often to end up feeling like a hopeless failure if nothing works. Or if we end up thinking the methods work, then we become proud and complacent. At least until something happens to spoil the illusion or another problem comes up, and then it is back to looking for a new self-help method. And given we are fallen people in a world under a curse, something usually does happen to spoil the illusion. But Scripture teaches us that in the most basic area, there is no way we can help ourselves, but we must trust in the work of another.

For I am convinced that it is only when we are forgiven by God (Romans 8:31:-39; John 3:16-18; Ephesians 1:1-14) and have become His child (Romans 8:14-17; John 1:12,13; 1 Peter 1:3-9), that we can begin to have an honest assessment of ourselves (Romans 12:3; Philippians 3:12-16; Proverbs 28:13).  It is only when we see ourselves as we really are that we can see what needs to be done to fix the things that need to be fixed. And it is only then that we can evaluate what things may be useful to fix them. Then we can look at our self-help culture and decide what parts, if any, might actually be useful. But if we start in self-help, we will be mired in frustration.   

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