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Why Self-Reliance Ultimately Ends in Defeat

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Napoleon Bonaparte said, "If you want a thing done well, do it yourself." But is that really the best approach in every situation? What if the issue at hand involves your immortal soul? Was this famous military leader truly capable of meeting his spiritual needs here on earth, let alone beyond the grave?

It is natural for man to assume that self-reliance is the key to success in life. After all, we tend to have a fairly high opinion of our ability to handle things by ourself. But self-reliance can only take you so far. Now if you were God on the other hand, self-reliance would get the job done every time. You would be indestructible. But since you and I are not God, we are neither invincible nor unstoppable. We all have limitations. We all have shortcomings. We all have sin. And this is why self-reliance is not the be-all and end-all it purports to be.

Believe it or not, self-reliance ultimately ends in defeat because there are only two possible outcomes for self. You can either "deny yourself" (Matt. 16:24) as you hand over control of your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, or you can wait until you face Jesus on Judgment Day and discover that self did nothing to provide for your eternal well-being. Self makes a very poor savior because self is unable to forgive your sins or bring you into a relationship with your Creator. You need the cross of Christ and the blood of Jesus to wash away your sins, and you need the power of the Holy Spirit to convert your soul through repentance and faith. Apart from spiritual conversion, all you have to rely upon is self. And self won't "pay the bills" so to speak when it comes to having your sins forgiven and your name written in "the Lamb's book of life." (Revelation 21:27)

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The apostle Paul never claimed: "I can do all things by myself as I empower myself." But he did say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philipians 4:13) Paul's power to persevere during the tough times came through Jesus Christ living within him.

Bob Marley, on the other hand, promoted this humanistic philosophy: "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds." It sounds good in theory I suppose, but the Marley method is powerless to deliver the goods. It simply cannot pay the spiritual bills and the debt we owe our Creator.

Meanwhile, Christianity presents a realistic approach to mental and spiritual freedom. Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31,32) And Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth: "We have the mind of Christ." (1 Cor. 2:16) The only way this can happen is to receive Jesus as your Savior through faith, and then rely upon the Lord continually as the first priority of your life. Otherwise, all you have is your own limited understanding.

Self is not all-powerful or all-knowing. Self is not able to discern everything that requires discernment. No wonder Paul wrote, "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." (1 Cor. 1:25)

Self has only two possible outcomes. It either gets "crucified" through spiritual conversion, or sent away to hell on Judgment Day. Paul wrote, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20) This is what happens when a soul is converted. Self gets dethroned and Christ gets exalted. Self is replaced by Christ.

The only other option is to reject Jesus and remain the captain of your soul and designer of your destiny. This approach ends in defeat because you eventually find yourself in God's courtroom with no way to make up for the many times you have broken God's commandments. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." (2 Cor. 5:10) There is no recourse on that day for unbelievers, and no one to plead your case before your Creator. Self gets sentenced to hell because self is a sinner, whereas Jesus has the power and love to bring you to heaven. Will you will turn to Christ today and trust the Lord as your Savior from sin?

Thankfully, Jesus has never committed even a single sin. And this is one reason Christ's blood has the power to wash away the sins of anyone who receives Him as Savior. Christ is the sinless Son of God and He became the perfect sacrifice for our sin on the cross. But this fact won't help your soul one bit if self continues ruling your life and refuses to relinquish the throne of your heart to its rightful King.

Your only hope is to get out in front of self by surrendering to King Jesus. Simply admit you are a sinner and then receive the Lord's grace and forgiveness by faith. And as you repent and believe the good news, God will do a supernatural work in your soul as self gets replaced with Christ. The Lord will become not only your Savior, but also your Lord and your leader. You will no longer be responsible to map out your future. God will have your back because Christ will have your soul. Jesus died to bring you into an eternal relationship with your Creator and Redeemer.

And so you see, self-reliance ultimately ends in defeat. It either gets dethroned at conversion, (2 Cor. 5:17) or sent away to eternal punishment on Judgment Day. (Matt. 25:41) There is no third option. Self never wins in the end. And the sooner a person realizes this fact, the closer he or she gets to experiencing new life in Christ. What a joy it will be for every believer to live with God forever in Paradise! This is what Scripture means when it declares: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." (1 Cor. 15:54) Self-reliance is totally lame when it comes to defeating sin and death.

At the end of the day, can you really trust yourself to adequately care for the monumental needs of your soul? If truth be told, King Jesus is man's only hope because Christ alone is the Good Shepherd. (John 10:11) With this in mind, are you ready to bow down before the King in a spirit of humility, repentance and faith? Those who refuse Christ's invitation today may not even hear the Savior's call tomorrow. Such stubborn resistance to God is the natural result of man hardening his heart and relying upon self to provide for his soul. In other words, self hates surrendering control over to Jesus, period.

So how do you define "defeat," and how do you define "victory"?

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Wellspring Church in Papillion, Neb. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

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