A week and a half ago, I took some of my youth group to ConventionX in Richmond, VA. The conference was good, there were great bands, and the kids had fun, but I really enjoyed the speaker, Jim Johnson. That guy was all about telling the truth. He wasn't concerned with just making everyone feel good. He knew that the kids needed the truth, so that is what he gave them.
He spoke a few times, but the thing that really stood out to me was his discussion on our biggest problem. He asked if our biggest problem was sin, and then told us that it wasn't. If our biggest problem is sin, then we will spend out lives trying to be good. Our faith turns into nothing more than striving to be better people. Too many of us think our redemption is, "I'm going to stop being a liar," or, "I'm going to stop being a thief," or, "I'm going to stop lusting," or, "I'm going to stop being bitter and hateful," or fill in blank. It's this belief system that leaves people feeling like they need to clean themselves up before they can attend church or give their lives to Christ. This isn't Christianity. This is moralism. This is legalism. It is not freedom. It is not salvation.
Our biggest problem, is that we cannot fix our problem. We all have sin, and there's nothing we can do to fix that. Our salvation is based entirely on what Christ has done for us. His death and resurrection are the Gospel. We don't earn that. We can't earn that. We can only receive it and thank God for his love and grace. When we give our lives to God and submit to Him, the Holy Spirit takes residence inside of us and God transforms us. We don't transform us. No amount of willpower will rid us of sin. If it would, we wouldn't need rescued.
Isaiah 64:6 says that all of our righteousness is like filthy rags. (Dive into that passage sometime. Filthy rags...ew.) Our best attempts at righteousness are still totally disgusting. Only Christ makes us righteous. Only God brings good out of us.
This is something I have to learn over and over again. I'm always tempted to think I can make myself better for God, instead of submitting to Him and trusting in Christ's sacrifice. I was glad to be reminded yet again (and glad for my kids to hear) that our salvation was entirely accomplished by Christ. If we rely on ourselves to save us, we're out of luck. Thank God, He didn't leave us alone in our sin. Thank God for His Son.