The following conversation was spawned by a statement my friend Dave made about working out. This all stems from a previous statement about whether or not the self can be improved.

Rich: Why do workouts and improve yourself when you can pray for your messiah to make good on his being murdered due to politics?

Dave: I do not understand this question. I do not pray to ask for anything. That’s not how following Christ works.

Rich: Working out is a form of self-help, self-development. if you can’t take it on yourself to be a better person, why take it on yourself to be a physically better person? I do not understand the difference here.

Dave: My belief in Christ and his teachings shows that I cannot be whole in God’s plan for me, I cannot make myself clean and perfect for him without Christ. This flesh that I live in is separate from that spirit in which I seek to give to him. This body is for this world my spirit is for his… did that help

Rich: Sort of. It keeps the question of why seek to make yourself more tolerant, more understanding, more charitable, less addictive or impulsive…if all you’ve gotta do is pray and make it so.

Dave: To become all those things, I had to die to self and be reborn (baptized in Christ), I do not attempt to be anything more than one with Christ. My prayers are prayers of understanding and thanks, once I gave myself to Christ I no longer needed to ask for anything. My working out is because he gave me a body of health and I have wasted that through years of bad decisions and self abuse. I work now to correct those things physically, because I used to run, ride bikes and be more active. Now I have to push to find time for those things due to being a parent and working all the darn time.

Rich: See, you’re doing the work. You’re making the strides and changes. I could understand if someone waved a magic wand or gave you an immunization. I can understand giving praise and thanks to their work and knowledge. There’s a dude that delivered a wonderful message but was killed two thousand years ago. I can understand giving him thanks and praise for the message that has transcended time and changes. What I cannot understand is saying that this mortal dude can still tangibly change the world.

Louie: Jesus wasn’t murdered He freely gave His life for us. He said, “No one has taken it (Jesus’ life) away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father” (John 10:18).

Rich: The emperor wanted him dead because he was a threat to the empire’s authority. Pontius Pilate did want to let him go, but the political pressure from above left him little choice. I remember that the governor spoke to Jesus, and that quote you cited above was the response given to the governor, knowing the situation.

Louie: It was actually Jesus talking to the religious leaders who didn’t believe in Him. But you’re right, Pilate did tell Jesus he had the power to let him go or have him crucified. I love Jesus response though. He said, “You would have no power if it wasn’t given to you from above” (John 19:11). Jesus understood it was His Father’s plan that He die but He did agree with the Father’s plan to lay down His life. You see Jesus is Eternal Life, therefore no one could take it from Him. He had to lay it down voluntarily. The Good News though is He didn’t stay dead! That’s why we have the hope of Eternal life with Him. He conquered the grave and by faith we will too.

Rich: I think I understand the distinction from your perspective. I still do not agree, but that’s not the discussion at this time.

Louie: We all make our own choices in life. I was 30 yrs old before I finally came to really see my need of a Savior. After over 15 years of addiction I had to admit I couldn’t run my life anymore. It had ran over me. I cried out to God and told Him “You have to do this because I can’t!” My life radically changed forever that night. Since then I dove into the Bible to see for myself if it could be trusted and never looked back. I haven’t found anything that can compete with Jesus. We all have to come to our own conclusions. The one thing I would say to you is don’t stop seeking the truth till you find it and be willing to go wherever it may lead, even if it challenges your pre-conceived notions. That’s what I have done for the past 16 years and it has been quite the adventure!

Rich: Cool you’ve found a way to improve yourself using someone else’s name and teachings. Keep it in mind that there’re many paths to the cookie jar. I chose self-discipline, self-improvement, and spiritual well-being through a variety of disciplines. That’s why I cannot understand the person sitting there, doing nothing, praying for someone else to do something for them, and expecting it to happen.

Louie: The self cannot be improved. The real self is a “spirit” union. What you’re talking about is improving your education, health, income, etc. What I’m talking about is that our old “self” who was under the rulership of Satan was crucified with Christ so we could be joined to the Holy Spirit. Now we are “One” with Christ instead of our old boss the devil. That’s what the cross is really about. The only discipline for me is faith. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” So there is a sense where He’s doing it all but at the same time He’s doing it in me, through me and even as me. His Spirit is now joined to my human spirit in a union so it’s Him expressing Himself through me, and even as me. Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Now we can say, in the same way, if you’ve seen me you see the Son. The church is His body. We are the visible expression of the invisible God.

Louie: What you’re calling “self-discipline”, the Bible calls self-control and says is a fruit of the Holy Spirit–Galatians 5:23

Rich: Please keep calm here. This is where I normally lose the devout or zealous. If you promise to remain mature and rational, I’ll continue.

Louie: How am I not calm? Go on.

Rich: I’m saying if you remain calm through my next comment, I’ll continue. Thank you for your reassurance. You’ve been calm as yet; I’m not saying you haven’t been.

Rich: Here I go, this’ll probably be lengthy.

Rich: The self is explained as the spirit, the essence, of a person. Can I not be wicked then actually and fundamentally change my character, my personality, my very self, without your messiah? Because I walk a different path than you, does that mean I’m evil and incapable of being a good person? is it impossible for me to have a warm, loving, rewarding marriage with a good woman that also walks a different path than either you or I? Can I not raise wonderful, happy, healthy, intelligent, smart, caring beautiful kids? Why is it that I cannot realize the negative and work to eradicate it and still take credit for my efforts and development?

Louie: God’s grace is poured out on all mankind whether believer or unbeliever. The Bible says, “it rains on the just and the unjust.” What you’re describing is the goodness of God in your life even though you’re not necessarily crediting Him for it. I think it’s called prevenient grace. The Bible tells us “In Him we live and move and have our being.” In other words, we all get to enjoy a share of His Goodness even when in unbelief. The ultimate question is how can you love your wife? How can you have a “rewarding” marriage or raise a wonderful family? It’s because God is love. Without Him love is non-existent. The Good News is, “God so love the world that He gave His only unique Son so that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have “Everlasting Life” (John 3:16). You see what you’re enjoying right now will turn out to be only temporary without the Eternal One, Jesus Christ, living in you. No one wants to see that happen.

Rich: But those are the very same lessons of the paganism variant that I adhere to. My structure is really complicated and lengthy to describe. It all boils down to my code of honor:
Harm no innocent.
Allow no innocent harm.
Do not lie.
Do not cheat.
Steal only when unavoidable.
Defend this with violent zeal,
for a man without honor is no man at all
and thus
deserves not life.

Another way of describing it is by your Golden Rule or the Rede from the Wiccans.

Louie: Hmm? The way I see it is there is none righteous. None of us seek God or do “good.” God is perfect. He demands perfection from His creatures (us). Jesus is the only perfect One so the only way I, or you, or anyone, can live up to the perfect standard is if we are joined to the Perfect One, Jesus Christ. God Himself does this by way of the cross. He crucifies us with Christ and raises us to walk in newness of life in His Spirit. Now any sins or wrong doings have been dealt with through His blood shed, death and resurrection. He lives forever now and we with Him by way of our being joined to Him. Apart from Him I can do nothing. I have no trust in myself at all. Left to myself I would commit any and all sin but with Jesus Christ in me, as my keeper, by faith He keeps me.

Rich: From what I’m hearing you say is that I can be a good person, but I’m still unclean, unworthy, without your messiah and god. I can raise good kids and have a good marriage, but it’s for naught without your salvation. Is that about accurate?

Louie: I’m saying “good” really isn’t the point. Jesus didn’t come here to make “bad” people “good” He came to make dead people live. You see without Christ we are “dead in sin.” This is why it took the death, burial and resurrection to remedy the problem. Being dead in sin means separated from God. The cross brings us back into relationship with Him through Christ. Once we are born-again…enlivened, He is our goodness within us. Jesus Himself even said, “Why do you call me good? There’s none good but God” (Luke 18:19). We don’t need to be made good we need Eternal Life and that’s Jesus!

Rich: Ah…. I understand a little better. You didn’t change my mind or proselytize me, but I do understand your semantics. Thank you.

Louie: You’re welcome. I enjoyed the conversation and great questions too.



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.”