Do-It-Yourself Christianity

by Tim Sohn

I love to do things myself. I enjoy building my own computer, cooking my own food, eating my own food, and hopefully someday fixing my own car. Why give others the enjoyment of the activity, when I can do it cheaper and faster while having fun? Although a “do-it-yourself” mentality is great for saving costs and having fun, this type of mentality can be disastrous and detrimental when we apply it to our Christian lives. In the church today, do-it-yourself Christianity has become the common way we approach our new lives in Christ. When we talk about the Gospel, we tend to view the good news as only the means by which we enter into the kingdom of God. We think that once we are saved by the Gospel it becomes a memory that we look back to, and the way we live out our Christian life is by doing it ourselves through hard work and obedience. But hard work and obedience that is not grounded in the Gospel will not sanctify you – it will strangle you.

A frequent phrase among Christians is “I need to be a better/more devout Christian”. This phrase comes up in many forms, but all of them are related to “trying hard”. An even more subtle way that this type of thinking enters our minds is “I need to try to be more like Jesus.” While we absolutely want to be like Jesus, when we try to do it ourselves our efforts spiral us downwardas our hard work strangles us. In essence, we are crushed by the weight of Jesus’ perfect example because we see Him solely as one we should imitate, divorced from the fact that He is first our Savior. The key to becoming more like Jesus through the sanctification process is not do-it-yourself Christianity; it’s to “use” the Gospel in every area of our lives and allow it to go deeper into our hearts. Gospelcentered sanctification will not strangle you – it will free you.

Tim Keller writes, “The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of truths, rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s of Christianity, but it is the A to Z of Christianity. We are not justified by the gospel and then sanctified by obedience, but the gospel is the way we grow (Gal. 3:1-3) and are renewed (Col 1:6). It is the solution to each problem, the key to each closed door, the power through every barrier (Rom 1:16-17).” Our problems often stem from a lack of understanding of the Gospel. The solution to the problems we face isn’t to try harder – it’s to reorient ourselves to the truth of the Gospel.

Several weeks ago I found out that a co-worker had advanced farther than me in his professional pursuits. He was experiencing success, while I had recently been experiencing some failures. Inside I felt jealous and dismayed, but outside I showed signs of excitement for my co-workers success. I told myself, “I’ve done better in the past, so I have no need to be jealous”, “You shouldn’t be jealous. Just stop it.” “People like you, it’s okay.” While this may have addressed the sin problem at hand (jealousy) in a do-it-yourself manner, it ignored the deeper problem. My deeper problem was that I had two idols: my self-image and my own success. These were the things I saw as being my real savior instead of Jesus. As long as I had a longer list of successes I would be “better”. If others liked me, I would be accepted. My problem was bigger than simply having a jealous heart – I did not have a proper orientation of the Gospel. The Gospel-oriented response would have been to repent of my idols that were at the root of my problem, and use the Gospel on them. Instead of my past success or my self-image before others being what I turned to, I should have seen that I am unbelievablyloved and accepted by Jesus. In essence, I needed to use the Gospel to take over the space that the idols had in my heart. If I had simply followed my thinking to try and sanctify myself, I would have been deceived into reinforcing the idols, which would later manifest themselves through other types of sin. However, by not trying to do it myself and by using the Gospel to crush my idols, it provided a freeing path for grace to stream in. This is not a process that will happen once or twice; it must occur daily with every problem that we face.

Do-it-yourself Christianity sounds great, but is the beginning of a long, hard road to nowhere. The only way to avoid it is to identify areas in our lives where we need to use the Gospel. Ask God to reveal them to you, and to lead you to repentance. Look at the ways you address your sin, and think if it’s about hard work and obedience without the Gospel. Always remember that you are deeply flawed, but because of Jesus you are incredibly loved.

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The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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