Meet Whitney 2.0
She’s the updated version of me that finally has it all together. She’s the one that never misses her devotional time. The one that actually prays for people every time she says she’s going to. The one that is hopelessly devoted to her husband and acts in humble submission 100% of the time. The one that always loves serving the church and discipling others. The one that never misses a workout and only craves fruit and vegetables. The one that would rather clean her house than sit on the couch and zone out. What a woman, huh?
If you’re a woman, you know who I’m referring to. It’s the better version of ourselves that forever seems to elude us. On our best days, it’s like we can almost touch her, almost become her. Then suddenly she slips right between our fingertips and we are back on the couch eating cookies and rehearsing our latest failures. So we decide to do what good Christian women do—we resolve to get our acts together tomorrow. We pray fervently for God to send his Spirit to empower us to be the women He wants us to be (aka-the women we want to be). Then we go to bed with the false hope of finally “arriving” the following day. And morning after morning we wake up and hit play on the “be better, try harder, work more” self talk track. Sadly, many of us live our entire lives with this audio streaming through our minds.
The gospel comes and shatters all of our pious endeavors to work our way into God’s good graces.
Let me be clear, there is nothing inherently evil with wanting to mature in areas of our lives. In fact, the Bible commands us to strive “for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Desiring to be women who grow in holiness by the power of the Spirit is a godly longing that should characterize women who profess the name of Christ. But as much as I want to wrap this idea of “Whitney 2.0” in a bunch of sanctification garb, we all know that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the lie so many of us believe that the better version of ourselves will finally make God happy. The lie that tells us when we eventually get our act together we will achieve acceptance before the throne and experience peace with God. Ultimately, we believe the lie that Whitney 2.0 or Sarah 2.0 or Deanna 2.0 will at last stand justified before God.
Now we may “know” that we are accepted in Christ despite our performance, but the belief system from which we live betrays our good theology. For example, take a moment to consider the stream of thoughts that run through your mind on a daily basis. “If I could just change my attitude or be a better mother or be a better wife or be more consistent on my diet or read my Bible more regularly or evangelize my neighbors, then God would be happy with me.” I call this the “if/then” syndrome. If I could just do this (fill in the blank), then I would earn God’s approval. The blanks may vary woman to woman but essentially we are all thinking the same thing—if I do the right thing then I will be more acceptable to God.
This is why I must daily preach the gospel to myself.
On our best day, there is no version of ourselves that could earn God’s acceptance.
The gospel comes and shatters all of our pious endeavors to work our way into God’s good graces. It totally demolishes the idea that there could ever be a version of me (or you) that might earn God’s approval. The gospel says we don’t simply do bad things or fail to live up to our own standard of righteousness. No, before Christ, we were actually dead in our sins (Eph. 2:1-2) and an enemy of God (Rom. 5:10). We were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds (Col. 1:21). By our very nature we were children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). We were under God’s just condemnation and there was nothing we could do to work our way out of this death sentence (Rom. 3:10-20).
We. Were. Dead.
Dead people cannot read their Bibles into God’s presence. Dead people cannot pray their way into God’s presence. Dead people cannot evangelize their way into God’s presence. Dead people cannot exercise their way into God’s presence. Dead people cannot parent their way into God’s presence. On our best day, there is no version of ourselves that could earn God’s acceptance.
Digest that and then prepare to hear one of the sweetest sentences in all of Scripture, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4-5). But God…but God did what you and I could have never done. He made us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:5) by putting Jesus forward as the propitiation for sin. Because of our union with Christ, “we have been justified by faith” and now “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Do you see that? We have peace with God. That justification that we so deeply desire, that we work so hard for, that always seems to allude us is actually ours in Christ! Through Jesus “we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:2). In Christ, we can truly be “at home” in the Father’s presence! We can approach God in confidence with full assurance of His unconditional love and total acceptance based on Jesus’ sacrifice.
So what about Whitney 2.0? The gospel reminds me that she will never be good enough or have it “together” enough to make God happy. But the good news is that God is eternally satisfied and “happy” with Jesus and His work. Our ability to approach the throne of grace depends on one thing and one thing only—our union with Christ and His perfect righteousness on our behalf.
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Image credit: sissilove31, Creative Commons