I wish I could have your screen explode with confetti to celebrate with you! We made it to week 8 of our Nettie’s Bookclub study of “The Gospel According to Satan” by Jared C. Wilson. This week’s lie – God helps those who help themselves – is a good culmination of many of the lies we’ve studied so far. As we’ve seen with each lie, Satan wants to make Jesus Christ small in our lives and exalt our own egos. He will stop at nothing to tempt us into believing that we can help ourselves to salvation and don’t really need Jesus to save us.
Jared Wilson quotes a statistic that apparently 82% of Americans believe that the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” can be found in the Bible (see page 159). Besides the fact that it illustrates gross Bible illiteracy, it also points to how true this lie sounds to professing Christians. It sounds true because we want it to be true. We want to believe that we can achieve our salvation.
“God helps those who help themselves” is the counterpoint to lie #6 “let go and let God. Where the lie that God helps those who help themselves advocates for working for the approval of God, lie #6 says we must sit back and do nothing. Both of these are not what the Bible teaches about salvation. When we believe this lie we also believe that God does not help those who refuse to help themselves which ties in with “your life is what you make it.” All of these lies elevate and centre on ourselves instead of on what Jesus did for us.
If Satan can’t get us to stop thinking about God, the next best thing is for him to think the wrong things about an unworthy God. He distracts us from salvation by introducing our own ego into his version of salvation. He wants to add to the salvation found in Christ so we can say we play a part in what has already been perfectly achieved by Jesus Christ.
We are tempted to believe that God cannot love us as imperfect sinners so we feel motivated to work for his love in order to achieve grace. But the truth is we can never measure up to God’s glory and we cannot achieve grace. The great news is that we don’t have to!
God’s grace is a lavish gift that he gives freely. This truth is not found in any other religion or philosophy. In all other beliefs, works are required to achieve the god(s)’ approval – but this is unnecessary when we believe in Jesus Christ.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:8-10
Our flesh wants to add our own works to our own credit for what has been done on our souls by Christ alone. Adding to grace is forbidden by God. Satan wants us to believe there is more to the process and strokes our pride so we can boast of earning salvation as a reward for what we’ve achieved.
When I read this chapter again to prepare for this week, this line stopped me in my tracks.
“[The devil] wants to steal my hope, kill my worship, and destroy my witness.“Page 158, The Gospel According to Satan, Jared C. Wilson
Everything he does and tempts us with is to discredit God. Satan will stop at nothing to destroy my faith in God. He wants me to believe that God cannot love me – a hopeless sinner and that I have to earn this love. But God does love us regardless of our sins and he wants to save us in spite of our pride.
This sermon by Tim Keller explains it beautifully.
To be working for salvation is to always be working
Jared Wilson uses the examples of Islam and Mormonism where believers hold to the faith that if they are good enough then grace will follow. This promotes the lie that God helps those who help themselves. I have also been trapped by this belief, and completely agree with Tim Keller that it is a constant battle to accept that God loves me already. I can never be good enough for God’s grace – but thankfully I don’t have to. He gives it freely to those who will accept it.
“We cannot work hard enough, climb high enough, or obey long enough to reach salvation by our efforts.”Page 166, The Gospel according to Satan, Jared C. Wilson
Fight the devil with the right armour
We have to actively resist the devil and his lies by setting our minds on God’s glory and all the things he really said.
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.James 4:7
We can only resist the devil with the armour of God that he gives us (see Ephesians 6:10-17) and not by our own devices.
He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.2 Timothy 1:9
God helps those who cannot help themselves. If I am my only hope then my situation is hopeless. Jesus will bless those who are poor in spirit and come to Him empty-handed and in humility. Anyone can qualify – regardless of how bad/good or lovable/unloveable they might seem – if they humble themselves and submit to Jesus Christ who is the only source of salvation.
The truth is God will save those who are utterly helpless.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of the books studied by Nettie’s Book Club. I am not profiting from the sale of these books. I will carefully select books that have had a significant impact on my faith. My goal is simply to share the wisdom in these books with others so we can assess and apply the wisdom of these authors to grow in understanding of our faith together.