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Why do I fail in my Christian life?

The calling to live a life that we could never live

6 min

I want to share with you a truth that God has been and is teaching me that has revolutionized my walk with Him and totally changed the way that I view the Christian life. For so many years I tried to live the Christian life, but I found myself failing miserably. I knew that we were supposed to try to be like Jesus, but I found that, even on my best day, I could not be like Jesus perfectly. Not only were my actions wrong, but I also knew that oftentimes when I did do “good,” I was motivated by selfish ambition for the recognition of men. When we look to ourselves to live the Christian life, we find ourselves utterly incapable of doing it. The pat answer “Just try harder!” doesn’t cut it. 

As we look in Scripture, we cannot help but be staggered with the reality that God is calling us to live a life that we could never live. I have seen that striving to be like Christ in my own strength simply leads to more failure. So what is the answer? If this Christian life is maintained just by our giving it our best shot, then we should just give up now because we cannot do it. Where is hope then?

I believe that God allows us to come to the point of despairing of ourselves because, until we utterly despair of our own ability, we will continue to strive in the flesh. So what is the answer? How is this Christian life we are indeed called to live even possible? I believe we find the glorious answer in Colossians 1:26–27: “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” What a wondrous reality that the secret of the Christian life is Christ in us, living the Christian life through us! Now there is hope, because the Christian life no longer depends on my striving but rather on yielding to the life of Jesus Christ that dwells in me. 

What a wondrous reality that the secret of the Christian life is Christ in us, living the Christian life through us!

In II Peter 1:4 we read: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” We have been made partakers of the divine nature in Christ Jesus—not simply observers or copiers of the divine nature but partakers of the divine nature! As believers in Jesus Christ, we are made to partake of His very nature!

God does not call us to strive in our flesh to be like Him, nor does He simply give us power and then we must take that power and overcome the sin in our lives. No! He actually gives us the life of His Son Jesus Christ, and Christ, as the power of God, lives His overcoming, resurrection life through us! Without the reality of “Christ in you,” this Christian life does not even make sense! 

I have seen from Scripture and also from my own experience that the key is not about my trying but rather about my dying and Jesus Christ living His life through me. The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” If you have trusted in Christ as your Savior, spiritually speaking you have died in Christ, and so have I. 

We have to realize that our problem was profoundly greater than just the sinful things that we had done. The problem was fundamentally who we were: we were sinners. Our very nature was to sin. Therefore, the cross had to deal with more than just the sinful things I had done; it also had to deal with my arrogant self that thought I could do so much for God in my own strength. On the cross not only did Jesus conquer death, hell, and the grave—and He certainly did conquer those things—but He also conquered me. Praise God!

In Christ we died, but His work in us does not stop there. In Christ we have been resurrected to new life, so no longer do we live, but Christ lives in us. If I were to sum up the Gospel in just five words, they would be these: “Yet not I, but Christ.” Christ lives in us! Understanding this truth is the only way in which we can begin to live this “impossible” Christian life. I have seen my best efforts at self-improvement lead to disaster, because that kind of improvement was not what God was looking for. God wants a total overhaul. God is not looking to improve me or make me a better person, but rather He is wanting me to receive the reality of my death with Him. Only then can He bring forth the glorious resurrection life of His Son in and through me.

Now my hope is not in my best efforts to be a good Christian, but rather my hope is set on my all-powerful, resurrected Lord Who lives inside me. Having died in Christ means good news, because someone who is dead is freed from sin. “For he that is dead is freed from sin” (Romans 6:7). Therefore, because we died in Christ, we have been set free from sin, and we have also been raised with Him to newness of life. In John Chapter 15, we see that our relationship to the Lord is like that of a branch in a vine. The branch does not bear fruit by striving or trying but rather by simply resting in the vine and having the life of the vine flow through it. The life of the branch is one in which the branch continually receives life from the vine, and our life as believers is found by continually abiding in Christ Who is our life. Living the life God has for us is not found by striving or trying but rather by abiding in the Vine. Remember: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God is the One that works in you to will and to do His good pleasure.

A special word from the Bible and its definition have changed my life. The word is found in John 14:15: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” The question then is how do we keep God’s commandments? The word I want to share with you is that little word keep. The word in this verse that is translated “keep” (tēreō) means “to guard, or to watch.” The idea is that you are keeping the commandments before your face, you are thinking about them, and you are meditating upon them. As we keep the commandments through meditating upon them, obedience flows out as a natural outcome or fruit. 

However, if we just strive to obey the commandments in the power of the flesh, we will end up in hopeless despair. As we keep God’s Word before us, His Word, like water, washes us and cleanses us and renews our mind. There have been areas of my life that I was helpless to change, issues that I knew were wrong and yet could not muster up enough strength in myself to change them. By focusing on my efforts to change these areas, instead of getting free from them in God’s way, I was probably getting further wrapped up in them. But when I turned my attention from my sin to my Savior, then I started to be changed . . . from the inside out. When, instead of focusing on all the things in my life that were wrong, I began to simply keep God’s Word by meditating upon it, God was able to work the miraculous in my life. 

Jesus Christ is the living Word, and as we meditate on the written Word, we are communing and fellowshipping with the living Word, Jesus Christ. You may ask, “What does it mean to meditate on God’s Word?” Biblical meditation is filling your mind and heart with the Word of God. The following are just a few practices that can help us to meditate on Scripture:

  • Memorize the verse or passage.
  • Dwell on the meanings of keywords.
  • Write out the verse.
  • Repeat the verse several times, emphasizing different words of the verse.
  • In your mind, picture the verse.
  • Turn the verse into a prayer back to God. 

As we meditate on the Word, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes and heart to see and understand the different aspects and applications. But most importantly, the living, life-giving Word comes into our lives and transforms us, changing us from the inside out! Change happens in my life—but not by my striving to change myself! Rather, change occurs as I realize my total inability to do anything in my own strength and see the need to cast myself in total dependence on Jesus Christ Who is my life. By His strength, as I meditate on His Word, His Word brings change in my life.

Change occurs as I realize my total inability to do anything in my own strength and see the need to cast myself in total dependence on Jesus Christ Who is my life.

Let me close with this verse that has been a huge encouragement to me. In I Thessalonians Chapter 5, after a list of important commands such as “Pray without ceasing,” “In every thing give thanks,” and “Quench not the Spirit,” we find this verse: “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (verse 24). Praise God that He does not just give us these commands, but He also does them in and through us! The only way we are faithful is because the Ever-Faithful One lives in us. I believe these truths are some of the most important we can ever consider. I encourage all who read this article to meditate on these truths. May God open each one’s eyes to the glorious reality that we no longer live, but Christ is the One Who lives in us!

  • Gabe Cleator, Host

    Gabe Cleator loves Jesus and desires to help others cultivate an intimate relationship with Christ as the All-Sufficient One. Gabe holds a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Ministries, is author of the book Always and in Everything, and currently serves as the director of the Home Discipleship Network under the ministry of IBLP. His passion is to see God’s people turn back to a vibrant, living Christianity that has Christ at the center and the Word as the foundation. Gabe and his wife, Sara, live in East Texas where they enjoy serving the Lord together and spending time in the great outdoors, taking fishing trips or visiting National Parks.

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