I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. – Romans 12:3 (The Message)
I don’t usually read out of The Message translation of the Bible, in fact it’s probably been three years since I have. For some reason though, I pulled up Romans in The Message online and started reading chapter 12. A common practice I always did “back in the day” was to open up my Bible with no plan or direction and just begin reading whatever it was I opened up to. Sometimes by God’s grace the Holy Spirit would lead me to something that would reveal Christ in a new way to me. Then of course there were times where I would end up reading something completely irrelevant and quite disturbing, yes, I’m talking about various parts of Leviticus. You know, the verses you use to look up with your friends to get a good laugh. Anyway, back to my original thought, I opened up and began reading with no plan or direction this morning and found the above passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans. To my surprise I really enjoyed reading chapter 12 of Romans in The Message. Verse 3 in particular really seemed to speak something to me though, something that I always seem to be relearning and understanding a little more.
Our view of ourselves and the truth of who we are in Christ are in my mind of the most important understandings we can have as members of Christ’s body. In today’s culture we seem to measure everything by our accomplishments and what we’ve gained. There are different levels of accomplishment and different ideas of success, but they all have one common aspect which is it all being something we’ve done as individuals. Something we have accomplished by relying on our natural or learned skills. It appears that the Church simply changes this practice of accomplishing things for ourselves to accomplishing them for God. We still measure our success by what we’re doing doing for God, as if anything we do in ourselves is worthy of Him. Therefore we can only understand ourselves by looking at God, by what He’s done and who He is, not by what we’ve done.
I love the way Watchman Nee states in his book The Normal Christian Life that “I cannot please God, therefore I will stop trying”. Some may reply by saying this statement is ridiculous and he’s being too hard on himself, but that’s not true. If we are going to please God then we have to stop trying. Anything that we do in ourselves is reliant on the soul and our dependence has to be on Christ alone. If we are in Christ then He is alive through us, He is living and we are dead. We can only measure our worth by what Christ has done and any good thing, any worthy thing that comes out from us is from Christ, not us.
To better understand ourselves we need only to better understand Christ. He is the source that our life comes from. We may screw up and rely on ourselves from time to time but our true nature is Christ, not the dead person that we use to be. Sometimes we need to only sit in Christ with little to no action and recognize our place in Him. Other times we need to walk things out in Christ, therefore taking more action. No matter what season that God has us in, it must be lived out in Christ who is our only life source.