With all of the motivational gurus and self-help books you would think someone would have improved by now. According to the Bible we have a bigger problem than just needing a little improvement, we need life.
The Bible teaches us “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” and “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.” So, there you have it. From God’s perspective there’s no improvement plan only the reality of death for all sinners. While that may sound harsh, we are talking about a holy and perfect God. Jesus himself said, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”, “Be holy as your Father is holy.” If we even have a shred of honesty left in us we would have to admit we haven’t reached that standard and never will.
In the letter of James we discover “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” So if we are dealing with a perfect God, who demands perfection, what do you think we can do to achieve such a standard?
When folks talk of self-improvement I think they are talking about improving things other than their actual self. For instance someone could improve their education, income, living conditions, diet, exercise habits and so on but is that really improving self? Even if you do have improvement in these areas it doesn’t improve who you really are it only adds more money or education to the self you’re wanting to fix. In the end you would find that you were just a healthy, smarter sinner.
The good news is those of us who have been baptized into Christ have been crucified with him and our old man is dead. We no longer have to serve sin which means, in one sense, we no longer have to die. We are to “reckon ourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” In Ephesians we are instructed to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” And Colossians says, we “have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”
What I think sums it up the best is when Paul told us “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Rather than spend my time on an endless, fruitless quest for self-improvement, I think I’ll receive by faith what God says about this whole situation. He tells me I was born a sinner and had absolutely no hope for helping myself get better, but he had a plan. His plan was to join me to his perfect, sinless son on the cross in order to do away with my old sinful self and to raise me with him to walk in newness of life, no longer in need of improvement; because “He has perfected for all time by one sacrifice those that are sanctified.”