Do you ever find yourself trying to prove yourself…to Others, to Self, or to God? Here are a few ways we slide away from the approval of the Gospel to proving ourselves. The categories of proving yourself to Others/Self/God are adapted from Tim Chester’s forthcoming U.S. publication of You Can Change, an excellent book for Gospel Change. The explanations are largely mine, as well as the Gospel aphorisms. So, don’t expect all of this in You Can Change, but do expect some great material that thinks about change along similar lines. As you read, consider which one of these categories fits you and let us know how you’re finding the Gospel more reliable than yourself.
Proving Yourself To Others
When we try to prove ourselves to others, we set ourselves on impressing them—a spouse, a boss, a parent, a peer. We want so desperately to be cheered by them, that we’ll overwork or compromise our health or morals. The approval of others becomes the most important standard in our lives, so we sacrifice our beliefs, our convictions, our standards so that we will be accepted by others. When others are our standard, we will always fail to find the approval and acceptance we long for. Performance Fail. The Gospel reminds us that others cannot offer us lasting acceptance. That God not others are our standard. We will never sufficiently prove ourselves to others because we are flawed. God is our standard. We fail to meet it, but the gospel reminds us that Jesus has met God’s standard for us! Others aren’t nearly as forgiving as Jesus is. We need not prove ourselves because Jesus has proven our worth. We don’t’ have to seek approval from others because are approved by grace in Christ. That is Good News.
Proving Yourself To Self
When we try to prove ourselves to ourself, we set ourselves on improving upon our past. We try to perfect ourselves. “I used to look at porn but now I don’t.” “I used to not go to church, but now I do.” “I used to not be missional, but now I am.” This may work for a while, as long as we succeed, but as soon as we fail ourselves the bottom of our worth drops out. Our sense of worth and acceptance comes from moral or spiritual self-improvement, not from Jesus. Our standard is Self not God. Peformance Fail. Self isn’t nearly as forgiving as Jesus. The Gospel reminds us that we have not sinned against ourselves, but we have sinned against God. But the Gospel reminds us that we must look to God for the ultimate standard. God provides a righteous, not relative standard, and it can be met alone by faith in Christ, by resting in his acceptance. From our place of acceptance and rest in Jesus, we can live a life that reflects God’s holy standard, instead of striving against ourselves. We don’t have to perfect ourselves because imperfect people cling to a perfect Christ. This too is Good News.
Proving Yourself To God
When we try to prove ourselves to God, we set ourselves on impressing God. We try to perform for his acceptance and approval. “Look how devoted I’ve been to you.” “I’m involved in so much mission and church ministry, surely God is happy” We content ourselves with proving ourselves to God. We try to be good enough, missional enough, spiritual enough. We may even secretly believe that even though we’ve been forgiven in Christ, God’s favor is based on our performance after salvation. We think to ourselves: “If I practice enough spiritual disciplines, then I will gain the spiritual intimacy I long for.” We think that we can put God in our debt. Our standard is God, which is good, but the problem is that we can’t reach his standard. Performance Fail. The Gospel reminds us that we are still sinners, never good enough apart from Christ AND it calls us to stop trying to prove ourselves to Him. The Gospel calls us to rest in God’s approval of us in Christ. To receive his forgiveness for sinful performance and rely on Christ’s performance for us. We need not impress God, because Jesus has impressed God for us. This is Good News!
Gospel Approval (it’s so much better!)
Here are a few gospel aphorisms that might be helpful to memorize when you are tempted to prove yourself to others, yourself, or God.
- We don’t’ have to seek approval from [Others] because are approved by grace in Christ.
- We don’t have to perfect [Ourselves] because imperfect people cling to a perfect Christ.
- We don’t have to impress [God] because Jesus impressed him for us.