Is your obedience killing you? Or rather, is your hope in your obedience killing your faith? More specifically, is your solution to fighting sin trying harder, running faster, training better? Are you looking to defeat the hidden sin in your life by scaring yourself with the earthly consequences of your sin? Is all that it takes to defeat sin simply conditioning ourselves to obey?
Here’s what I mean: Have you stopped to recognize that something stronger than willpower (think obedience) is needed to fix our condition? We were “dead in sin” to use Paul’s words to the Ephesians. We do not merely need a strong resolve, we need an alien resolve. We need a foreign righteousness. We need a new power to be freed from sin. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said it like this, “As long as a man thinks that he can save himself he remains lost.” More importantly, Jesus said it this way to Peter, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me” (John 13:8).
I so easily fall into the temptation of thinking my righteousness is something I can produce. But the truth is, I need someone else to save me. I need someone else to pick me up from my wretched condition and carry me into eternal life. This is what our Savior does for us. He does not merely give us a pep talk. He does not leave us to fight in our own strength. He picks us up in our weakness. He pours out his love for those who are his enemies. He wants the filthiest of people. Don’t clean yourself up first. Run to him in your filth. Jesus loves the wretch.
I want to plead with you to take a few minutes to watch this ENTIRE video. I believe that if you watch the whole thing, you will see how easy it is for us to try to scare people, ourselves or others, into obedience. But fear does not have the power to produce obedience. No external structure can produce true faith in us. Only the good news that Christ has died for sinners can free us (Romans 10:17). Listen to Matt Chandler’s struggle through this issue when he encountered a false gospel in his earlier ministry years. Just a heads up. His illustration involves a Christian sex-talk he once attended. Nothing provocative, but might be awkward in mixed company. Nevertheless, listen to this critical distinction between works righteousness and gospel righteousness: