“You can be better. You can do better.”
We keep telling ourselves these things, but they rarely seem to make a difference. Why is it so difficult to improve ourselves? Why does it seem like it’s always one step forward, two steps back? You tell yourself every morning, “Today, I’m going to be focused.” And then you scroll Facebook for the next 47 minutes. At the end of a long day you promise not to yell at the kids tomorrow. But when they don’t obey, Angry Parent rears its ugly head.
Everyone wants to be a better version of themselves, but self-improvement doesn’t help you get there unless you’re writing a book about it. We all need external motivation – and external assistance. The truth is that we can’t improve ourselves by ourselves. Someone has to walk alongside us – someone who can make a difference in our lives.
In Colossians 2:20, Paul uses an odd phrase to describe what it’s like to become a Christian. He says, “you died with Christ.” Pay attention to that preposition. With. When you become a Christian, you die with Christ. That means that you are dead to the way you used to live. You have left that world and sinful way of life. This means that self-improvement isn’t about trying harder; it’s about living with the One with whom you also died.
Jesus died for the things that make you worse: sin, selfishness, immaturity, and all of the specific things that hold you back. When you put your faith in Christ, that part of you also died with him right up there on his cross. But the good news is that Jesus rose from the dead, and he gives us power to rise again, too. We rise again into the fullness of life that exists in him, a life characterized by faith, hope, and love. Our death and resurrection are a spiritual discipline symbolized by our baptism and that we have to walk out, with careful intentionality, every day.
And we are not alone. God has given us the Holy Spirit to walk alongside us. He fills us up with the power of God. He reminds us of the things that Jesus taught. He convicts us when we sin and restores us when we repent. He molds us into the image of Jesus.
You can be better. You can do better. But not by yourself. Only by living out the death and resurrection of Jesus as your own death and resurrection, and doing this in the power of the Spirit, can you truly become a better version of yourself.