Self-improvement, self-analysis, self-help, etc. are not Biblical concepts. According to the scriptures, the “self” you are, is either in Adam/dead, or in Christ/alive. We were duped into partaking of the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” in Adam but the good news is Jesus invites us to partake of the “Tree of Life.”

We “were” dead in sin but God has raised us up and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus! He did this by co-crucifying us with Christ. We who place our faith in the work of the cross have been joined with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection and ascension. The old self has DIED! There is no way to improve a dead man! We really have been transformed into a brand new creature in Christ and that creature needs no improvement!

When Adam joined himself to the mind of the enemy by way of the forbidden tree, the whole of the human race became deceived into thinking we could make ourselves “like God” (Isaiah 14:13-14). This is the root of the lie of self-improvement. We falsely believe we can make ourselves “Better” when God knows the deceived, corrupted self has to be disposed of entirely. After all, if we could improve why did Jesus come? If we could try and try and eventually become “Better”, God would have just waited and let us eventually get to the place where we could “keep” His law. Of course we know that’s impossible, right?

Jesus “is” not “has” the life. Jesus “is” not “has” righteousness. Jesus “is” not “has” wisdom from God. Jesus “is” not “has” sanctification”, and “redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Besides, “If righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” (Galatians 2:21). If we could in any way possible improve, God would not have offered us His One Unique Son.

Think about it.




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.”



The other day while talking with a mechanic friend of mine he used the word “Ameliorate.” For you this may be an everyday word, but when he asked me if I knew what it meant I had to admit I didn’t. He said, “It means to make better.” This man is a Catholic and isn’t shy about letting you know about it; so we have had a few conversations in the past about God, the Bible, denominational differences and so on. In other words, it isn’t surprising if the conversation takes a theological turn once in a while. Today was no different except self-help was the topic.

As he defined “Amelioration” he equated it with self-improvement, and I couldn’t resist telling him I didn’t believe in self-improvement. His response was “You can improve yourself” so I said, “I think you can improve your economic status, your intelligence and you can get a “better” home or car but those things aren’t improving the self. He wasn’t going to just receive what I was saying without going a little further with his reasoning, so he brought up, of all things, Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin, he said, wasn’t a very nice guy when he was younger and several folks told him so. Eventually Ben decided to do something about this so he set out to improve himself. He apparently made a list of virtues that he would like to develop in his life and went to work. Of course when he looked at the length of the list he knew he couldn’t take on all of them at once; so his plan was to work on one at a time until he eventually had them all taken care of. Oddly enough as this man was telling me this I remembered my friend Brian Coatney had written a booklet entitled (click here for link)> “Ben Franklin and the Apostle Paul” in which he contrasted the two men and their differing approaches to “self-improvement” if you will. The Apostle Paul of course didn’t teach self-improvement he taught co-crucifixion with Christ as the only way. God understands fixing up the old man doesn’t work.

As this man shared ideas of improving the “self” with me I said to him “Isn’t the whole point that we all need Jesus Christ and he is the one that transforms us? I mean if we could change or fix ourselves we wouldn’t need him, right?” Then he said something that was so revealing to me. He said, “This is why Catholics have purgatory.” Wow! All of the sudden it made perfect sense to me. If we as humans are independent beings responsible for making ourselves perfect, or like Christ, purgatory is a must because that means when we die we will still be in need of yet even more improvement. On top of that who knows if any of us will ever make it? On the other hand if we are joined with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection we can walk in newness of life right now and forever. God’s Spirit joined to our human spirit is our only hope of perfection and that can only happen as a gift given to us from God himself.

I shared with him how I believe we are spirit beings and he said, “There is a teaching that we are spirits in human form, but that isn’t right because…” As he said this his phone rang, and I was actually glad because I thought this conversation had gone far enough at this point. It isn’t that I didn’t want to continue this talk, but I was afraid it may not end well. Sometimes a little bit of light and truth will go a long way, besides I’m sure this isn’t the end of our discussion it’s just going to be postponed for another day.

As I left his shop and drove away I had gained some unbelievably valuable insights into the difference between Law and grace, flesh and spirit and self-help and transformation. I was invigorated and couldn’t wait to tell Tracey about it. During my lunch break I shared the story with Tracey and picked up a copy of Brian’s booklet (click for link)> “Ben Franklin and the Apostle Paul” to give to him.

Let me end by saying I didn’t write this to indite Catholics or fuss about denominational differences but simply to tell you about this conversation. My hope is that we would all take a closer look at what the Bible is really trying to tell us. Does God really expect us to “Do better”? Or does he already know we have no hope without him? Isn’t this what the Gospel message is all about? Man disobeyed God and found himself in an impossible situation and only God can rescue him.

Jesus Christ didn’t come here to make bad people good he came here to make dead people live.