The Religion Of Self-Will

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.

When It’s Tough To Pray

Ever experienced a time when it was difficut to pray? I have.

Maybe you had so much on your heart and mind, that you weren’t sure where to start? Been there.

Or maybe you’ve found yourself struggling to block out all the noise and settle your mind to pray? I can relate. We live in a noisy time, don’t we?

Even when our minds aren’t settled, our hearts are heavy, or God doesn’t feel especially close… He is present. He is ready to hear. He is often ready to speak. 

Here are four tools I’ve learned help me when it’s difficult to pray. I hope one or some might help you.

1. Not sure where to start? Start with what Jesus taught.

Maybe lost in all the tradition and repetition of “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13) is the fact that this is how Jesus taught His followers how to pray.

It’s a prayer that is both simple and rich. Jesus is able to pack worship, mission, repentance, and requests for both physical and spiritual needs into this short prayer. #JesusIsAGenius

Suggestion: What if you tried praying this prayer in your own words?

2. A lot on your mind? Grab a pen and paper.

I’ve found that when I have a lot on my mind that it is helpful to begin writing my prayers down. Doing this helps me organize my thoughts as I pray. This practice also ends up provding a kind of prayer journal. Keep that journal so that you can look back and see how God answered your prayers.

Spoiler Alert: If you do this, you will experience awe as you look back how God worked in your life.

3. Ask someone to pray with and for you.

Yes — this means in person. As we become more connected technologically and less connected personally, this is becoming harder to do. But we’ve got to pray with and for eachother. I’m so thankul for friends who have been willing to pray with and for me, especially during times of dissapointment and difficulty.

Consider: Who is someone in your life that you could ask to pray with and for you?

4. Be quiet.

Sometimes (ok — a lot of the time) we talk too much when we pray. Prayer is not a one-way talking exercise. When God created the heavens and the earth, what did He do? He spoke. When Jesus proclaimed that His saving work on the cross was finished, He spoke. I would contend that there is nothing more powerful than when God speaks. So wouldn’t it make sense to be still, be quiet, and listen?

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10