Independence, a strength or weakness?
In the minds of Americans, independence is usually associated with the honor and dignity of the birth of our nation. Yet independence carries another connotation with it that is absolutely detrimental. At is most basic understanding independence is to be completely self sufficient, free from outside control or not depending on another’s authority.
While this may seem desirable and perhaps even needful, there is a real danger in living in such a way that people see themselves as both the means as well as the end of their lives. We can be neither, and yet we naturally clamor for both. When independence pervades in the human heart, great and terrible evils come to be normal, commonplace and deemed as natural. The attitude of self is what is at the very heart of what captured Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, and what holds men captive today. The act of taking the forbidden fruit represents the defiant and independent heart of man to trust in himself over God. It is to rebelliously tell God “I don’t need you!”
When we trace the concept of independence back to its roots, we find them deeply imbedded in the soil of pride. Pride feeds, grows, develops and maintains this self-sufficient mindset. James 4:6 states that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” It is compulsory for the Christian to combat the sinful mind by replacing it with one that capitulates to the mind of Jesus.
This has two practical applications to how the Christian must submit their thoughts to Jesus.
#1 We Need God.
There is no hope to live honorably and rightly without God’s direct intervening help. It is “…Christ in you, the hope of glory” as Colossians 1:27 states it. Jesus’ life in you is the hope that you have to live Godly in this present evil age. Jesus also identified the Holy Spirit as the Helper in John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7. As He correlates these ideas, Jesus clearly states that it is the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, identified in our lives as the Helper, who will make Godliness possible.
Galatians 5:22-25 identifies the virtues of Christianity as directly related to the fruit, or byproduct, of the Holy Spirit within the believer. Without God’s indwelling presence, it is quite impossible for any person to produce holiness, righteousness and Godly living. Also, there is no struggle identified in this production of this fruit. Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are as natural to the Christian filled with the Holy Spirit as grapes are to vines and apples are to trees.
God goes so far in helping us to understand this reality as to tell us exactly what our very best efforts produce. In Isaiah 64:6 it says “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;” showing very clearly that our efforts toward living a good life apart from His power and presence is futile and like trash that you discard.
#2 We Need God’s People.
God has clearly shown throughout Scripture that He is a relational being. In Genesis 1:26 it says “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image,” God is the integral component to Adam and Eve’s relationship in Genesis 2:18-25. When Adam and Eve sin in chapter 3 it is God who pursues the relationship with his fallen creation. God chooses Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, King David, and on and on, speaking with them and directing them, which is all based upon relationship.
God is so passionate about this relationship that He actually chooses to condescend to the level of a human, all the while retaining His nature as God. Jesus, who is simultaneously fully God and fully man, sacrifices Himself on behalf of humanity…why? Relationship. Relationship is valued above everything else. Even at the expense of His very life, Jesus is willing to restore the relationship between God and man broken by sin.
God refers to His people as a body in Romans 12:3-5, 1 Corinthians 12:12, Ephesians 1:22-23, Ephesians 4:12-16, Colossians 1:18, Colossians 2:19 and Colossians 3:15. In each of these verses the metaphor of God’s people being like a body is employed so that we can understand the important relationship that we have with one another. The idea is that we are not complete in and of ourselves and therefore have need for one another; that we are not independent but interdependent. In the very same way that the parts of a body only find their proper function, purpose, and meaning when they operate together as a part of the whole so too is the individual Christian. A hand is not a body by itself, but in connection to other members it becomes a body.
Christianity has been specifically designed by God to be exercised within the context of community. God counts the relationship of His people to one another as so necessary that He commands His people to gather together and to make it a priority. Hebrews 10:24-25 says “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” The New Testament is also filled with “one another” statements, which require proximity to other followers of Jesus, not just physically but also in matter of personal relationship.
Take care to not fall victim to an independent spirit and rebellion against Jesus.