Tired Yet?

The Problem

Nearly every Wednesday for the past 3 years I've sat in the same booth, at the same restaurant, eating the same chicken wings, asking the same question, getting the same answer, but with a different person. I feel like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day," confused and bewildered. What could I possibly be talking about every single week?

The content is grace and the audience is a college student. As we look at Ephesians 2, one of the clearest statements in the bible is that we are saved by Grace alone-, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is of your own doing, it is the gift of God,"- the response is almost always some sort of- "I just need to try to get better". This better normally means something along the lines of drinking less, going to church more, reading their bible, stepping into a Christian leadership role-- the list goes on and on.

None of the things listed above are inherently bad. Rarely would someone say drinking less or going to church more are bad things to do. The problem is that when we try to ‘get better' for Jesus, we miss out on the saving grace he offers. At best, we functionally say to Jesus, "let me help you out a little," at worst we say, "I don't need your life, death, or resurrection-- I've got this."

You Can't Fix Yourself

This will never work. Scripture and human experience are both clear that we don't have what it takes to save ourselves. "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:4-5). Did you catch that? Our sin is not something we can fix- we are dead. We can't just better our way into a relationship with God. And for the Christian, we can't better our way to earn God's love more than he has already given us.

Another Way

Jesus offers us a different way. You may be trying to fix yourself, clean yourself off for Jesus right now, hear again the words of Ephesians 2, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God." Paul is trying to get his readers to see that salvation will not come from their "own doing" but only as the "Gift of God". We can freely accept the gift offered to us. We can finally get off the hamster wheel of good works and guilt.

This dilemma may be even more challenging for the Christian. Martin Luther said, "To be convinced in our hearts that we have forgiveness of sins and peace with God by grace alone is the hardest thing." I see this in my own life. Though intellectually I can read Ephesians 2 all day and agree with it- my heart still wants to try to work away anxiously, scared that God doesn't really love me.

Abundant Life

Our constant push for better leaves us tired, lonely and guilty. Jesus promises us in John 10 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." When we are broken free from the shackles of our own good works, we experience a life that Jesus calls ‘abundant'. One that is filled with joy, peace, and satisfaction that is unimaginable when we are stuck trying to get better.

So, if you are like me and the students I talk with every week, always tempted to enter the better trap, let's receive the words of Jesus in Matthew 11 together.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30

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