“God helps those who help themselves.”
Have you ever heard this statement before? Many people believe it is scriptural, but it is not. You won’t find it anywhere in the Bible. It does, however, support out societies emphasis on individualism and self-help theology. We buy into the notion that we can save ourselves. We can fix our own problems. We can pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. In other words, we need to clean up our own mess, and then God will honor and bless our effort.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Gospel is good news because it teaches us that we don’t need to save ourselves. In fact, it teaches us that we cannot save ourselves. That is why, I believe, the message of Jesus is so offensive to certain people and so hard for them to believe. Our thinking has been so ingrained with the idea that we must save ourselves. We believe that what we do (good, bad, or otherwise) contributes to our salvation. We can influence whether or not God will love and accept us based on our actions.
This commonly plays out in our lives in three ways:
- We believe that we are a good/moral person, and therefore God must accept us. This person may not be perfect, but he or she is better than most people. God grades on a curve, so they will pass the test as long as they are better than others. they believe that if they do enough good deeds, they will tip the scales in our favor.
- We believe that we have done such bad things, God will never accept us. The person who believes this also bases their salvation on works, but they acknowledge that they have failed. There is no hope left for them. They have made such a mess out of their life, that there is no way they can turn things around. God couldn’t possible love someone who has made so many mistakes.
- We believe that we must clean up our act before God will love us. This kind of thinking is similar to the first two scenarios, with one major difference. This person believes that good works will save them, but they acknowledge they need to change in order for God to accept them. They acknowledge that they fall short of God’s standard. Unfortunately, they think that they must fix themselves to earn God’s love.
But the message of the Gospel is the exact opposite. We don’t save ourselves. Jesus saves us. We have done nothing to deserve it. In fact, there is not enough good deeds in the world that can repay God for the sin in our lives. Yet he loves us and accepts us anyways. The Bible calls this grace. God gives us what we don’t deserve. He removes our sin and gives us the righteousness of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 describes it like this:
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Grace is hard to wrap our minds around because it goes against our natural inclination to save ourselves. It goes against our desire to fix our own problems. To rely on our own strength to see us through.
Grace gives us what we don’t deserve. We no longer have to earn God’s love, therefore, and accept what Jesus did for us on the cross. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus earned our salvation for us. He paid the price on our behalf. This frees us from the guilt of sin and the notion that we must do something to earn our place in God’s family.
So quit trying to save yourself. Put your trust and faith in Jesus, who paid for your sins on the cross and gives us the hope of eternal life through his resurrection.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
– Titus 3:4-7