When I was growing up, whenever I would adamantly claim that I was unable to do something (riding my bike, rigging my fishing pole, fixing a problem) my dad would reply with a saying his father used to say to him: “Can’t never did anything.” It’s one of those sayings that, while true, honestly just makes a person more frustrated in the moment due to its “matter of fact” tone. Concluding that we simply can’t do something makes us feel better about our inability to do something. This is justifiable in many cases. There are things that each of us are better off leaving others to do—fixing cars, filing taxes, cooking food, cracking jokes, playing instruments, etc. Though, there are situations in which we harm ourselves to believe such a conclusion. Such is the case for holiness.
Christ said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48, NIV). The Father said, “Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2, NIV). The Apostle John said, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on in sinning, because they have been born of God” (1 John 3:9, NIV). Aggghhhh!!!! Doesn’t God know what He is asking?
It’s true—we can’t do it. We get it right when we conclude that Jesus came to fulfill the Law on our behalf (Matt. 5:17-18; Rom. 8:3-4). Though, we get it wrong if we think that Christ simply came to be sinless so that we could continue in sinfulness and still gain the reward of heaven. We can’t do it—on our own. Christ came to live a sinless life in order that we might be enabled to follow in His footsteps. “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:1-4).
Christ walked the path of holiness and left His Spirit behind in order that “we can’t do it” could be transformed into “we can do it…with God.” Unfortunately, there is a toxic teaching present in Christianity that communicates that we must learn to accept our sinful shortcomings in this life. It’s true that we won’t be free from temptation or become invincible to sin in this life—that’s reserved for the life that is to come. The untrue conclusion of many people is that when we are saved our relationship with God is only about gaining access to forgiveness for our sinful lives so we don’t have to worry about sin’s consequences. Yes, in coming to the throne of God and surrendering our lives to Christ we gain access to forgiving grace. However, we also gain access to transforming grace. God actually wants to help us live in a way that no longer necessitates being forgiven; He wants to help us live how we were always meant to live—as Christ lived. He forgives us…and then helps us to no longer walk in the sin that we needed forgiveness from.
Perhaps we have heard a Christian say, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace!” There’s nothing wrong with this statement. When we hear this statement, however, which sticks out in our minds more: “Sinner” or “saved by grace”? Which is the Lord asking us to focus on more? Being comfortable in our sinfulness or being caught up in the grace that both forgives our sin and heals our hearts’ desire to sin?
What sins have we so often concluded can’t be overcome that we have failed to see that with God’s help they can be overcome? Gossip? Pornography? Lying? Sex outside marriage? Pride? Gluttony?
Remember, we can’t do it…without God. Just as can’t never did anything, can’t never walked in newness of life, and can’t never leaned into the fullness of what Christ came to do for us. “Can’t” has been abolished, but do we walk deeper in our Christian walks truly believing it? With Christ—we can.