I heard a great sermon this morning from Southeast Christian Church. The preacher was equating a person's attempt to meet God's standard of holiness by personal effort, with someone setting up a computer using a power-strip, and after plugging in the various components, then plugging the power-strip into itself. Mankind has developed hundreds of religions, each having step-by-step instructions on how to become and remain holy. Every single one of them teaches that the power to satisfy their god's requirement(s) is found within oneself. They all say that the secret to achieving oneness with their god is found in personal discipline. But what does the Bible say?
The power to become born again or to be saved is found in hearing and believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Gentile or non-Jew). Salvation is not possible without faith, and the Word of God says that even the faith to believe the Gospel is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Personal discipline does not work, even after being saved; Paul describes the struggle a Christian has living for Christ in Romans Seven. And while he admits being unable to live a Christlike life, he is not discouraged, because he knows the transformation necessary is also the work of God (Philippians 1:6; 2:13). Both salvation and sanctification (being set apart by and for God) are the work of God Himself. If there is any glory received due to one's changed life, it all belongs to God!
Some may think that the Gospel referred to above is the first four books of the New Testament, the four Gospels. It is found in them, for sure, but Paul has simplified, or better yet, summarized the Gospel for us in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. He reminds the Corinthian Church that the Gospel they have believed has three parts, all essential to produce salvation: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; Christ was buried (according to the Scriptures); and Christ rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. That's it in a nutshell. Romans 10:6-13 says that whether Jew or Gentile, whosoever calls upon the name of Christ, believing that He is their risen Lord, shall be saved. Paul said that the preaching of the cross was foolishness to unbelievers, but that it was the power of God resulting in salvation to those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:18).
The Christian life begins with God's power revealed by God and believed by man. The God Who created us, tolerated us, sacrificed Himself for us, and drew us to Himself, loves us! Jesus rose from the dead to show us that the payment for our sins was finished, and that His sacrifice satisfied His Father Who raised Him to life. He rose from the grave and ascended to His Father so He could send us the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that worked in Him (Luke 4:14; Romans 15:19) now dwells within every born again believer (John 14:17; Romans 8:9). By having the Holy Spirit within us, we are "plugged in" to the only true source of power: God. Only a fool would forget his source and "plug in" to his own power to live for Christ (Galatians 3:1-3). To Him be the power and glory forever. AMEN