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Gospel of Self-Improvement


I have always like the song “Man in the Mirror.”  Michael says in the song: “The man in the mirror must make a change.  I think Michael took that literally and began to change himself over the years.  He probably never liked what he saw in the mirror.

In the same way many of us look in the mirror and don’t like what we see.  I like to call it the gospel of self-improvement. In the last year or two, it became obvious to me that religious folk behave just like Michael Jackson. We don’t like what we see, and we carry enormous amounts of guilt for things we did on Monday through Saturday.  We tell ourselves that if we read our bible enough, pray enough, go to church enough, God will love us and accept us and forgive us.  We work real hard at looking and sounding holy, while inside we feel dirty, lonely, and unforgiven.  We put in a lot of work so that in the end we would like what we see.   But we never do, and it becomes an endless, joyless cycle.  We tell ourselves we are beautiful.  We tell ourselves we are smart.  We want acceptance. We want to be right before God.

If Michael says, “The man in the mirror must make a change,” then Jesus says, “The man in the mirror must let ME change him.”  The gospel of self-improvement doesn’t work because you can never be right with God with the things that you do.  Romans 3:10. Our hearts are deceitfully wicked, and we need a Savior to save us from our sins. Jeremiah 17:9.    We are flawed and sinful in our being.  We sin not only in thought and deed, but our hearts are totally messed up.  We need God to provide us new hearts, that will live and love for him. (Jer. 31:31-34) However, unless we acknowledge that we are sinners with sinful hearts and we need a Savior, we can’t move anywhere.

As flawed sinners, God has provided away, that you can be right in the eyes of God, not by doing or working, but by trusting the work that Jesus did on the cross.  Jesus gave us his righteousness and then he took our sin, so that God would love us and declare us right. Romans 4:5-6.  On the other hand Jesus got punished by God the Father for what we did.  So that now, I don’t have to improve myself, in order to get God’s love, I repent from my sin and trust in what Jesus did on the cross, which gives me total and uninhibited access to God.  Romans 5:1.  We can now have an abundant life!  We can now enjoy a life in which Jesus is improving us daily!  Philippians 1:6.  Imagine that!  That’s good news!

  1. August 18, 2009 at 7:20 pm


    The Gospel of Jesus and the Gospel of Self-Improvement do not mix. It’s either all grace, or all works.

    As proclaimers of the Gospel we are to continue to tell folk of the liberation in Christ and we must continue to remind ourselves of the grace God provides through Jesus, and not put on the yoke of legalism we ourselves were once under.

    “We can now have an abundant life! We can now enjoy a life in which Jesus is improving us daily! Philippians 1:6. Imagine that! That’s good news!”

    We often call it humility, but working for salvation and refusing to trust the completed work of Jesus is pride. It is difficult to do, but the joy and peace in accepting Him is unparalleled

    Thank you for the post, love you brother!

    Much Love,

  2. August 26, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Along the way, we need to make sure that we learn new things. Through fellowship with God, we can achieve all things. We can opt to undergo self development training, humbling ourselves down and considering that GOd enables the experts to help us.

    • August 28, 2009 at 7:41 pm

      This is true. The point was not that we can’t and should not improve. But No. 1 — What is the goal? and No. 2 –How do I get there. I think the goal that God has set for every human being on this earth, whether they know it or not is to be like Jesus. No. 2 — Since there is no human being who has the ability to be like Jesus — i.e. perfect in all his ways– the only EXPERT is Jesus. To reach our goal of being like Jesus, you need Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith.

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