The Power for True Success
Dr. Jim Denison
A friend recently sent me a Peanuts cartoon, in which Snoopy is typing a letter. It says, “Dear IRS, I am writing to you to cancel my subscription. Please remove my name from your mailing list.” If only it were that easy.
April 15 is not America’s favorite day. We give over $750 billion to the Internal Revenue Service every year. Why do we do it? What are we afraid of? An IRS agent is just a person. He or she cannot really hurt us. But the agency which employs that agent is another matter. It is the power which uses the agent, which works through that person, that we respect. And appropriately so.
Last week we discovered God’s key to true success: we choose the Christ nature in us, as we stay surrendered and close to Jesus. Then Jesus reproduces his life, his purity, his character, his joy in us.
But we need help. If you sought to obey this teaching this week, as I hope you did, you discovered that you cannot do it in your own ability. The good news is, the help we need can be ours this morning. Let’s learn how.
Know the source of your worth (21-22, 27)
My first youth minister gave me the best single piece of advice I’ve ever received: “Know the source of your personal worth.” Know why you matter, why you are valuable, your identity and significance. Here is the source of your personal worth.
Verse 21 describes each of us “B.C.,” before Christ: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” We were completely separated from God, enemies of the Almighty. Our “evil behavior” showed that this was true. We sinned because we were sinners.
“But now”—two glorious words—”he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (v. 22).
We are “reconciled” to God—the word means to be made right and righteous with God. Jesus’ death, his blood shed on the cross, paid the penalty for our sins.
Now he “presents” us before God, as a defense attorney before the Judge. And how does he present us? “Holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” Now we are “holy,” sacred. We are “without blemish,” completely innocent. We are “free from accusation,” completely innocent of all charges, set free.
This is not how the world sees us, or how we see ourselves. But this is true “in his sight.” It is how God sees us.
When we asked Christ to save us, God identified us with Jesus on the cross. He included the person we were before Christ in Jesus’ death. Romans 6:6 teaches, “our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” Paul proclaimed it boldly: “I have been crucified with Christ … Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
Now Jesus lives his life through me. Now I can experience and give to others his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Now Paul’s testimony is mine: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
Christ in me is the source of my personal worth, my identity. No other source of worth delivers what it promises. I can testify personally that it’s so. I’ve tried performance, but there’s always more to do so I’m never at peace. I’ve tried perfectionism for much of my life, but I cannot achieve it and so am constantly frustrated. I’ve tried possessions, but there’s always more to own. I’ve tried popularity, but people are fickle and there’s always someone else to impress.
I’ve tried Christian performance and perfectionism, but I fail. Nothing satisfies my soul, for God made me with a Christ-shaped emptiness in my heart. Only Jesus can fill me. His nature alone gives me significance and satisfaction, value and joy.
We must know the source of our personal worth before it can be ours.
Choose the Spirit over the self (23-29)
Then we must choose this worth, this identity. We can have God’s power living through us, but we must choose for it to be so. It is as though there are two switches in our soul, side by side. One is labeled “Spirit,” and the other, “self.” And we alone can decide which power we will use. How do we choose the power of the Spirit?
First, “continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel” (v. 23). We must daily choose to believe that the “old self” has been crucified. We must daily choose to believe that Christ is now living in and through our lives. We must daily refuse to be “moved from the hope” that it is true.
Second, we submit ourselves every day to God’s purpose for our lives.
Submission is not a popular word these days. “Pull your own strings,” “Look out for number one,” the bestsellers advise us. We’re afraid of submitting to God—afraid of what he’ll do with our lives, afraid we’ll have to quit doing what we like and start doing what we don’t.
But Paul’s experience was just the opposite. Even though God’s purpose for his life led him into great suffering, he can say: “I rejoice in what was suffered for you” (v. 24). He found great joy in submission to God’s perfect plan for his life. So will we.
Third, we give our best to this purpose. Oswald Chambers said it well: “My utmost for his highest.”
Paul said it this way: “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ” (v. 28). God called him to this work, and he used his every gift and ability to its utmost to fulfill this purpose. But only to fulfill this purpose.