"Apart from Me, you can do nothing." - Jesus
I was reading recently about the top selling Christian books of the new millenium. Since we are a decade into it, it was interesting to review what the general populace in the Christian community has been consuming. It gives us a good idea of what we are thinking. Of the top 100 titles, over 50 of them were about family/marriage/parenting, with basically the rest being about the self (you know, how to be the best "you" you can be). Of the few remaining titles, there were 6 about the Bible and 4 about evangelism. But here is the one that stopped me cold - of the top 100 titles in Christian book sales for the new millenium, 3 were about Jesus. Three.
Seems maybe we have forgotten that Jesus said we can do nothing without Him. Nothing.
But it appears that we beg to differ. To be more ruthlessly honest, it appears that I beg to differ at times. It seems that we act as if we can do this "Christian" thing on our own - just work a little harder, have a bit more discipline than the next guy, etc. It's as if we think that Christianity is our effort to be like Jesus. It's not. That's the opposite of the gospel. Christianity is not our effort to be like Jesus, it is Jesus' effort to be Himself in us. You might want to read that last sentence again.
As Leonard Sweet pointed out, Jesus didn't even try to live His life on this earth by His own power. He said "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself...", and in another place Jesus said "I can of Myself do nothing" (see John 5:19, 30). So, since Jesus could do nothing of Himself, what did He do? He said it this way, "Whatever the Father does the Son also does", and again, "I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me." And finally, "Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work" (see John 5:19, 8:28, 14:10 respectively).
Jesus lived his life through the indwelling of the Father. So do you really think that Jesus is going to tell us to live our lives any differently? That somehow we should live our lives on our own, in our own strength, and just try to "copy" Jesus? Good luck - that is the recipe for abject failure. "Trying to be like Christ" is not only hard, it is impossible. Only Christ can be like Christ. And that's the point. He indwells us. He lives in us. And He wants to live His life out through us.
So we could take all the great information from all of the books in the bestseller list and put it into practice. We could have better parenting skills, better communication in marriage, and all other kinds of ways to get some "self-help." But, in the end, apart from Jesus we can really do nothing. When the life of Jesus is being lived out in us, we will be better spouses, parents, and people - because it manifestly becomes bigger than ourselves, it becomes about Jesus and His power.
We need to step out of our "youniverse" and into Jesus' universe. Everything, and I mean every thing, is for Him, through Him, in Him, and by Him. He must have the preeminence. If we don't allow that, the alternative is not good: we begin to drown in the pool of narcissism while thinking what great swimmers we are. The "youniverse" is nothing more than a black hole.