Does this Mean I Sit Back and Do Nothing?
. . . He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior . . . Titus 3:5-6
Step one of the twelve steps says that, We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable. I’ve heard others criticize this admission of powerlessness. The argument is that, if we’re truly powerless, then we can do nothing about our addiction. Our only hope is that something or someone will come along and save us from ourselves. In this mindset, we can do nothing to change, and so, the only thing to do is keep drinking.
That’s not the meaning of step one of course. Step one’s intention is that we admit the problem – that we’re lost on our own. Step two says that we must admit our only hope is in God and step three says that we must turn our lives over to him. Yes, we’re powerless to fix our own lives, but we do have a responsibility to turn to the one who can.
Today’s passage presents a similar quandary for Christians. In it, Paul taught that we’re not saved by anything we do. We’re saved only because of God’s mercy through Jesus Christ. One could make the same argument here. If I can’t save myself, if God saves me independently of what I do, then it doesn’t matter what I do. I can just do whatever I want and blame God for the outcome. He’ll save me and change me when he wants. I can’t do anything to save or change myself. It is profoundly important that we understand we don’t save ourselves. We must continually acknowledge our dependence on God. It would be a colossal mistake though, to decide that we don’t need to do anything.
If my kids are thirsty and I have a pitcher of water, I can pour it out over their glass. They do however, have the responsibility to hold it upright if they want a drink. Do they fill their own glass in this analogy? No. I’m doing it, but they have a responsibility to respond to my doing.
I am helpless on my own. I can’t save myself or make myself sober. God must first reach out to me, extending his mercy and grace towards me. I do have some responsibility however, to respond to him. Daily, I must recognize my need and dependence on God. Then, I must live accordingly, doing whatever it takes to follow him. I don’t just sit back and do nothing. He saves me, but I must follow.