I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches. As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless.
John 15:5 (TPT)
I need to tell you something that may come as a shock.
You actually don’t have what it takes.
You are not strong enough.
You are not brave enough.
You are not wise enough.
Even though the shirts at Target may tell you otherwise, you, in and of yourself, are not enough.
And that’s the best news I could give you.
Many of us grew up believing the lie that we could never be good enough. And we ate that lie like we ate our Saturday morning pancakes. The lie that we had to somehow earn our way into God’s love. We thought we had to measure up, and because we knew we couldn't, our shame pinned us to the ground.
We're still being lied to.
Before we believed the lie that we weren’t good enough and we were lucky if we could be loved by God. But what I see now is the lie that we are already good enough without God and he is lucky to be loved by us. It’s harsh, but isn’t it true? Deep down do we think God owes us something, and if he doesn’t deliver, we somehow think he isn’t deserving of our praise, our time, and our hearts? We're told we have what it takes. We're told to believe in ourselves. We're told that anything or anyone that doesn't serve our self-empowering purposes is to be discarded and forgotten. We're told that everything we need to face anything that comes our way is found within ourselves.
It's a lot of pressure to have what it takes, isn't it? It's a lot of pressure to be strong enough to face whatever life throws our way. Down there in the trenches of parenting. Down there in the trials of marriage. Down there in pit of addiction. In the sorrow, the pain, the disappointment, the betrayals, and the chaos. It's a lot of pressure to be brave enough to face the giants looming over us. That diagnosis. That unexpected expense. It's a lot of pressure to have enough wisdom to know what to do in the situations we face. With that wayward child. In that broken relationship. Through that crisis you wish hadn’t knocked on your door.
You see, our self-empowerment is actually self-entrapment. In an effort to convince ourselves that we are enough, we ensnare ourselves in an endless cycle of disappointing ourselves. I don't know about you, but if it's up to me to be strong enough, brave enough, and wise enough for everything I'm facing, I might as well throw in the towel. I know I'm not. And even if I am for a little while, what happens when I get tired? Which, by the way, happens quite frequently. Having what it takes is exhausting.
We thought we were believing a lie when we told ourselves we weren't enough. But it's just as much of a lie to believe we are enough. Because we aren't. Maybe sometimes. Maybe for a little while. But all we have to do is look in the mirror and we know we're fooling no one. Or maybe look at the pile of wet towels on the kids' bathroom floor for the tenth time this week. That's a sure-fire way to remember I don't have the ability to be who I want to be. Sorry, kids. But it's really not that hard to hang up your towels, sweet angels. I can dig down deep to try and find some strength, but seriously, I can't even make it through a day without disappointing myself. My resolve is sketchy at best. Ask my kids where their Halloween candy went, and you'll know just how bad it is.
But we're feeding this lie to our children. You have what it takes! You can do it! You are strong, brave, enough! Just believe in yourself! And instead of empowering them, it's only adding more pressure on them to find within themselves something that doesn't exist.
My kids can't even get their pee to go in the toilet. And I'm telling them they have what it takes? The irony is uncanny.
Trying to find light within ourselves is like trying to find a light switch in a casket.
We thought we were too broken and messed up to get to God. Now we think we can fix ourselves and don’t need God. In effect, we’re telling ourselves that we are God. Our self-care can easily turn into self-idolatry. And before long, when we realize that God isn't here to serve our self-empowering purposes, how many of us will discard and forget him? How crafty of the enemy! How sly. To feed us lies wrapped in a shiny disguise that looks a lot like truth, but without any of the power that awaits us in the truth.
We aren't enough. We don’t have what it takes. And that's good news.
Why? Because there is someone who is.
This is the truth of the gospel. You and me -- we don't have what it takes. We're not strong enough, brave enough, or wise enough.
Are we loved? Relentlessly. Undeniably. Irrevocably.
Are we enough? Not even close.
With Jesus. Well now, that's an entirely different story. The same God who wrapped himself in human skin, wraps himself in our skin. His identity becomes our identity. A new nature. A new life. A new story. Not because we earned it or deserve it. But because he knows we’re helplessly lost without him!
This is the miracle of the exchanged life. We give our weary, ratty, dirty hearts, and Jesus gives us himself – his life, his holiness, and his identity.
Our darkness for his light.
Our sin for his righteousness.
Our shame for his freedom.
Our fear for his courage.
Our weakness for his strength.
This is the power of the gospel. A gospel where a bunch of rag-tag misfits get scooped up and transformed into resurrected children of God.
But not ever, not for a second, not in our wildest dreams, not with our best efforts or best wishes, is this possible outside of the redeeming power of Jesus.
And if the gospel we’re preaching can be bought on a clothes rack at Target, then the gospel we’re preaching isn’t the true gospel.
Beloved. You are loved by a God who went to the greatest lengths to win you back to him. You don’t have to struggle, strive, or prove your way to him. But you cannot find your true self without him. It's okay to not be enough. It's okay to not have what it takes. It's okay to lay helplessly weak at his feet. He can't do much with people who don't need him. But for those who know the desperation of emptiness -- they are the ones who get filled. Filled to the brim with the saving, resurrecting, rearranging, knee-dropping, new-heart-making power of Jesus.
We are desperate for him. And it's our desperation for him that leads to the audacity to believe that we are enough in him.
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
2 Corinthians 5:17