You see it on t-shirts and instagram. You hear it on podcasts. And you definitely read it in a lot of popular books. It’s the religion of self-will. It’s proponents would never call it a religion but, make no mistake, it’s a set of beliefs by which people orient their lives.
This religion is often preached by a cluster of tweetable quotes propped up by the same basic premise: “If I just believe in myself and my efforts enough then I will find the life, peace, and rest I’ve been searching for.”
However, when measured up against the Gospel, I’ve found this premise with its coffee-mug-imprinted-sizzle seems to, well… fizzle.
Here are three examples of how the Gospel debunks the religion of self-will…
1. The religion of self-will says: “You are enough”
The Gospel says: “No — I’m not enough by my own merit and because of my sin I can’t earn the approval I’m looking for. If I was, and if I could… then Jesus wouldn’t have had to die. But he did, for me, because I’m that valuable to him. I have God’s approval because of who He is and what He has done for me.” cf. Romans 5:1-11
2. The religion of self-will says: “Just work hard enough and you’ll have the life you want”
The Gospel says: “I can’t manipulate my future and I don’t have to. Jesus holds my future, both here and in eternity. Until then, I can set aside personal idols that fade for Kingdom treasures that will last forever.” cf. Matthew 6:25-34
3. The religion of self-will says: “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps”
The Gospel says: “Even youths grow tired and weary. But my living Savior’s feet (and hands) have holes that tell me he was plenty strong enough to carry my burden of sin to the grave and he’s plenty strong enough to carry me to glory. When I’m tired, discouraged, or without all the answers I am never without hope or security, because my hope and security are found in Christ.” cf. I Peter 1:3-9
In conclusion: The religion of self-will tells me to exhaust myself by trying harder to be better. The Gospel tells me I’m free to place my confidence in who Jesus is and what He’s accomplished on my behalf.
I choose the Gospel.