Deliver Us From Do-It-Yourself Religion
I was brought up in a family that never asked for help. I was taught to help others and to expect nothing in return. But, for whatever reason, I was raised to believe that asking someone for help was the "unpardonable sin".
Maybe you were raised in such a family. Perhaps you are regarded as one of those generous persons who is always available to offer a helping hand. If you are one of these people, let me ask you this morning: Are you as eager to receive help, as you are to give help?
If you were raised in a home like mine, I'm guessing that your answer is "No". Receiving help does not come easily to us. I suspect we have a do-it-yourself attitude to most things in life.
I am not the least bit surprised by the enormous success of a store like Home Depot. Home Depot caters to people who want to do things themselves. There is no need to call upon a painter, a plumber, an electrician, or a carpenter because Home Depot's success hinges on convincing us that we can do this on our own.
I don't know if this is my upbringing speaking, but I would maintain that the do-it-yourself mentality can be a good thing. What I worry about, however, is when we begin to apply our do-it-yourself mentality to our Christianity.
The Bible is very clear on this. Christianity is not a do-it-yourself religion. Christianity is not about working to earn God's approval. God approves us only if Christ has worked on our behalf. The humbling truth of Scripture is that we contribute nothing to our salvation. Or, as I once heard it put, "The only thing we contribute to our salvation is our sin".
Where in Scripture do we find this? The apostle Paul, writing to the Romans, says in chapter 5, verse 6, "while we were still helpless . . . Christ died for the ungodly." To the Ephesians in chapter 2, verse 8, Paul writes; "by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God".
Jesus' reply to the Pharisees for why He dined with sinners was "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick . . . for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners"(Mt. 9:12, 13). Elsewhere, Jesus says to His disciples, "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many"(Mk. 10:45).
These, and many other Scriptures, demonstrate that God must do the work if we are to be saved. The Bible makes no allowance for those who would treat Christianity as a do-it-yourself religion.
The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 3, that before he knew Christ, he believed the myth that he could be saved by self-generated righteousness. Paul thought that he could count on his ethnicity, his circumcision, his education, his morality, his zeal, and that the accumulation of all these things would earn him favour in the eyes of God.
But then Paul met Jesus. And when Paul met Jesus he soon realized that all of his credentials were like dung in the eyes of God (Phil. 3:2-8). Paul soon understood that Christ did not come to save "good people", but that He "died for the ungodly".
Paul had a do-it-yourself mentality to his religion, but that all changed when he realized that "(Jesus) came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many"(Mk. 10:45).
"Now that is very fine," some of you might say, "we contribute nothing to our salvation, but what about after that? Once Christ saves us, is it not up to us to do the work of following Him?"
It is true, the person who has been united with Christ is charged with the task of following Christ. However, Scripture warns us, following Christ is not a do-it-yourself endeavour. The tendency here is to believe that since Christ has done so much for me, it is now my turn to do much for Him.
The humbling truth of Scripture is, however, that Christ needs nothing from us. Paul reminds us in Acts 17:25 that "God is not served by human hands as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life and breath and all things".
The truth of Scripture is that Christ serves us when we receive salvation and after we receive salvation. There is more to Amazing Grace than saving wretches like us. The grace that has saved us, the grace that has brought us safe thus far, is the same grace that will carry us home.
Following Christ, serving Christ, is not a solo effort. The apostle Peter commands us, "whoever serves, let him do so with the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ"(1Pet.4:11).
What makes do-it-yourself Christianity is so terrible is that it robs God of the glory that is due Him. If we do the work, we get the credit. If God does the work, then He gets the credit. For this reason we are told that when we serve, we must do so with “the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ”. For this reason, when Paul says that he labours for the gospel, he also says, “yet not I, but the grace of God with me”(1Cor. 15:10).
If Christian service is to be honouring to God, it must be powered by God. Do-it-yourself religion does not honour God because it is powered by us.
We also learn from Scripture that if Christian service is to be successful, it must be powered by God.
We learn this in John 15, where Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing"(Jn.15:5) . . . Apart from Christ you can do nothing. Apart from Christ it is impossible to succeed in advancing the kingdom.
The word "nothing" is quite definitive, don't you think? Jesus could have said, 'Apart from Me, success will be more difficult. Apart from Me, your accomplishments will be limited. Apart from Me, you can only do so much.' But Jesus does not say any of these things. Jesus says, "If I do not (serve) you, you have no part with Me"(Jn.13:8). He says, "apart from Me you can do nothing"(Jn.15:5).
Martin Luther’s great hymn, A Mighty Fortress, teaches us much the same when it states, “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God's own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He . . . and He must win the battle.”
I fear that there are many here today who have forgotten that our “striving” is “losing” unless Christ helps us. O, we might very well complete the task without Christ. Our own abilities may allow us to do a great many things for the church. But unless Christ aids us, I assure you, we have not furthered the kingdom of God one inch. Unless Christ be our strength, we cannot please Him with our service.
Friends, this is a sobering reminder that it is possible to serve Christ wrongly. If we serve Christ with a do-it-yourself mentality, if we serve Christ apart from our relationship with Christ, we have served Him wrongly.
We see this in Revelation, chapter 2, where Jesus gives a message to the church at Ephesus. Notice how Jesus begins with some very complimentary remarks, "I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance", He says.
Jesus knows about all the terrific programs going on at 1st Church of Ephesus. He knows about their commitment to Sunday school. He knows about their commitment to care for the poor. He knows about their plans for evangelism and church growth. He knows all about their work at church dinners.
Jesus also commends them for "putting to test those who call themselves apostles, and are not". That is to say that Jesus commends them for being a discerning church. This church held to sound doctrine--they probably had many small group Bible-studies. The church at Ephesus studied the Scriptures and they knew an imposter when they saw one.
If we were shopping for a church, I suspect that many of us would choose a church much like the one in Ephesus. This was an action-packed church. The people there were busy like spiritual bumblebees doing the work of ministry.
But after commending them for all their good work, Jesus points out something that is fundamentally wrong with the church at Ephesus. After complimenting them for their deeds, Jesus says, "I have this against you, that you have left your first love".
The people in Ephesus got so busy with their religion that they forgot about their relationship. They were so consumed by their programs that they forgot about their passion. They forgot that all Christian effort must flow out of a love for Jesus Christ.
This warning is not simply for the church in Ephesus; this warning is for the church in Beeton and Tottenham. The temptation to leave Christ out of church ministry is as strong a temptation today as it has ever been.
I have seen the do-it-yourself mentality surface in these two churches. And I have seen the do-it-yourself mentality surface in my own approach to ministry.
Our response must be the same—Jesus calls to the church at Ephesus, and He calls us to “repent”(Rev.2:5). He calls us to “remember” that everything we do must flow from a loving dependence on Him.
I pray that the Lord would deliver us from this do-it-yourself religion that we have invented.
Lord, teach us again to serve You out of love. Teach us again to serve You with the strength You supply so that in all of our service You might be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.