We knew we had a strong-willed child on our hands when our daughter uttered her first words, “Do it self!” But to be fair, it’s not just our daughter. We are all predisposed and inclined to want to “do it self.” Sure, determination and an iron will can be a good thing with the right focus. But all too often, our self-will gets us in trouble.
When we first come to Christ, we are confronted with our profound neediness. Perhaps for the first time, we feel the full weight of our sinfulness and our inability to do anything about it. We recognize that we cannot save ourselves, so we put our faith in Jesus, who bore the weight of our sin on the cross. And by faith in Him, He forgives us from all our sin and reconciles us to the Father.
But now knowing Christ, we sometimes forget just how needy we still are. For we must continue to see ourselves as very needy for the rest of our lives. We are needy for God’s grace, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, strength and righteousness.
In Romans 1:17, Paul reminds us, “In the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”
The fact that following Jesus is by faith from the very beginning to the very end reminds us just how needy we are. We seem to readily accept this fact when it comes to our salvation. But often, we begin to falter when it comes to our sanctification—or the process of becoming more and more like Christ.
The Galatians had forgotten their neediness before God and were trying to further their spiritual progress by means of the flesh. Paul comes down on them pretty hard, “Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3)
Paul explains that even their noble attempts to follow God’s Law were doomed—not because of any inadequacy of God’s Law—but because of the weakness of their flesh. In other words, we are still desperately needy.
From the standpoint of righteousness, we recognize it’s only by faith in Christ that we can stand righteous before God. This is His righteousness applied to us. (Romans 3:21-22) And now that we know Christ, His indwelling Spirit within us convicts us of sin—for we still sin. We sin in two ways: we do what’s wrong, and we fail to do what’s right.
But we forget our neediness—our inability to master sin on our own—and we attempt to “beat” the works of the flesh (sin) in our lives, in the strength of our flesh! But we can’t beat the flesh in the flesh. That’s like trying to lift a chair while standing on it. It’s not possible. In this regard, we are still very needy.
But Christ didn’t just save us to leave us stranded in our neediness! He sent His Holy Spirit to live within us. Relying on Christ’s Spirit to do His work within us is something we can only do by faith. In Galatians 5, Paul uses various terms to express our reliance on the Spirit:
- “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)
- Be “led by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:18)
- “We live by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)
- “Let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)
And when we live in the Spirit like this, we don’t produce the acts of the flesh (see Galatians 5:19-21), but the Spirit of God produces His fruit in us: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Another way to view our faith-walk in the Spirit is what Jesus expressed in John 15. There, Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:3-4)
We are still very needy before Christ. We desperately need to rely on Him every day, for without Him, we can do nothing. Our walk with Christ is by faith from beginning to end.
This is extremely freeing! There’s no worse frustration than attempting some great feat knowing that our efforts are useless and we’re doomed to defeat. Christ has redeemed all that, for in Him and by faith in Him, He can and will accomplish great things through us. For in Him, “You will bear much fruit.”
So, if you’re feeling determined and have an iron will, apply that energy to diligently following Jesus moment by moment, day by day, and watch Him work in and through you. Rejoice in your neediness and in Christ’s sufficiency!