***originally published on Whole Magazine January 15, 2015***
2015. Brand new year, brand new start.
Right now, my social media feeds are flooded with inspirational quotes encouraging women, sparking them to believe in themselves and their ability to change this year, as well as their ability to stick to the things that they have set their minds on to accomplish.
Be it losing weight, saving money, finishing school, writing a book…honestly, I am not sure it even matters what the goal is – it is all about you, girl.
Well, maybe not.
Just for clarity’s sake, let me stop for a second to elaborate on what I mean when I speak of the self-esteem, “believe in yourself” message. Self-esteem is defined as “
confidence in one’s own worth or abilities
.” In the secular world, it plays a really big role in motivation, which is why memes are popping up all over Facebook and Instagram right around this time of year with sayings like, ‘
Be your own motivation
’ and ‘
Repeat after me: You Can Do This!
Now, some people might say these messages are not a bad thing. After all, so much of this modern culture is trying to beat women down with photoshopped images of unrealistic women promoting unattainable perfection. They advertise so many products to improve ourselves – hair dyes, waxes, weight loss pills, wrinkle cream, etcetera, etcetera – that I cannot even count. Women could use someone reminding them that they are beautiful, I agree. But the fault in this kind of “
You can do it!
” message is perfectly summed up in this quote from Alistair Begg:
To believe in Jesus means to quit believing in myself…to quit relying on anything that I believe would make me acceptable before God.
I used to be all about this, but the Lord has brought me to a new place where I simply cannot not get behind the “
Believe in yourself
” mantra and promote dependency on Christ at the same time. They completely contradict each other. The scriptures are very clear in this:
He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.
(John 3:30 NLT)
Ladies, I have to be real with you:
You cannot do this. Do not believe in yourself.
It is a direct lie from the enemy trying to get you to take your eyes off of Jesus and cause you to fail. Because the more you fail, the more you will begin to doubt the power of God. There is no fruit to be born or harvested in trusting in our own abilities, and it is time we come to grips with this truth.
Put not your confidence in yourself, but rather put your confidence in God’s ability to work through you.
Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT)
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for our sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when He held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for He was looking ahead and including them in what He would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for He Himself is fair and just, and He declares sinners to be right in His sight when they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith.” (Romans 3:22-27 NLT)
I am not telling you this to discourage you, but rather to encourage you. There is a hope and a promise that, even though we will continuously fail to attain perfection, perfection itself has already been attained for us so that we do not have to.
“‘Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord God Almighty,”
(Zechariah 4:6 ASV).
And I paraphrase…
So if the priesthood of Levi, on which the law was based, could have achieved the perfection God intended, why did God need to establish a different priesthood, with a priest in the order of Melchizedek instead of the order of Levi and Aaron?…Yes the old requirement about the priesthood was set aside because it was weak and useless. For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God… Jesus is the one who guarantees this better covenant with God…because Jesus lives forever, His priesthood lasts forever. Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. He is the kind of High Priest we need because He is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven. Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins.
The law appointed high priests who were limited by human weakness. But after the law was given, God appointed his Son with an oath, and his Son has been made the perfect High Priest forever.
(Hebrews 7:11-28 NLT)
I believe with my whole heart that it is time we really start to check our hearts. Are the messages that say we can do it all, that we are strong and able, that we should believe in our abilities to do whatever we set our hearts on and anything else we can lump into those seemingly encouraging statements, the the kinds of messages we were warned about in 2 Timothy 4:3-4?
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will teach them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT)
It feels good to think we can, I will admit it. I am with you; it feels good to hear that we are able and we are strong and we
. But without Jesus, we can do nothing. Jesus told us so:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,” (John 15:5 NIV).
Saying, believing, and preaching otherwise would be to put ourselves in a lofty place that we do not belong, and though it sounds harsh to say, it makes us our own idols. And there is nothing good or Godly for us on the other side of that.
For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12 NIV)
Something interesting to note about this particular scripture is though we are not able to do anything without Jesus, to ‘humble ourselves’ implies that it is by our choice or by our doing to do this. But because of our own sinful nature, we even need Jesus to do this, because it is our flesh that cries out in greed for control of our own lives. Submission is our choice, but we need Him to help us with that, too. He is so good to us that way. And even though we are warned that when we exalt ourselves that God will surely humble us, Jesus offers us this amazing promise that if we humble ourselves before Him, He will exalt us. Our glory is in heaven, it is not here. Our ability is there, it is not here. We are not able to do this –
. He is God alone and there is none like Him (1 Samuel 2:2, Jeremiah 10:6,
1 Chronicles 17:20
, John 1:1-4, and 1 Timothy 1:17).
You are worthy because He said you are.
You are able because He is doing through you.
And you are justified because of His grace.
But it is all about Him.