Surrender vs Self-Improvement

author: Chris Hartenstein
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
John 1:12-13

We have a tendency to let worldly, wrong thinking determine how we come into a relationship with God. A very popular narrative is, “as I become a better person (being a dad, mom, work/life balance, moral goodness, charitable deeds, etc.) I will become a son or daughter of God.” In other words, as we self-improve, we earn our way into being sons and daughters; when that is not the narrative the Bible teaches.

God’s word teaches the necessity of putting ourselves and the writing of our stories down before entering into God’s greater story. In this, we see how entering into His story is not via self-improvement, but through surrender. John 1:12-13 makes it clear that we must believe and receive the provision of God through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Furthermore, Romans 10:9-11 explains how we must confess these truths. Each of these verses explains how we must surrender our work-based ways of getting to God, and receive the way He has provided for us to have renewed relationships with Him. When we choose to surrender, we are given the gift of being His sons and daughters; entering into our Dad’s greater story. We are also freed from the burden of writing our own story.

As a man in my early thirties, I strove to be a better dad, husband, and a better business owner. Thinking that it earned me a relationship with God. When in truth, those things cannot fix what is ultimately broken between God and I. The only thing that could fix our relationship was Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. As well as, my belief, receiving, and confession of His work on my behalf. When I chose to surrender to that truth, I received sonship and clarity on my part to play in my Dad’s greater story. Now I live from a place of sonship, not to earn sonship because there is no tipping point where my self-improvement could save me.

- Can you see an area in your life where you thought self-improvement would allow you to have a relationship with God?
- In what specific areas?

Additional Readings:
Ephesians 2:4-10
Romans 10:1-11

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