In our stubborn pride, most of us would rather get a root canal than be weak, broken, and impotent. Like the four-year old who insists I can do it, we insist on living for God in the power of the soul until the cross has worked within us, stripping, breaking, and crucifying us.
But once you taste of the beauty and glory of the exchanged life, where Christ lives rather than you, your perspective changes. You begin to view weakness differently.
“Most gladly,” wrote Paul, after Jesus invited him to rely on His grace, “I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Catch the last phrase: When I am weak, then I am strong.
Weakness, brokenness, and impotence—including the humble realization, acceptance, and embracing of these conditions—is the only way the power of Christ may dwell in you.
This is a life-changing paradox that confronts stubborn self-reliance face to face. If you are weak—and you realize, accept, and embrace it—then the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, His unmerited grace, will operate in your life.
When you are weak, then you are strong, for it’s only when you have come to the end of yourself that the Spirit’s power for ability operates within you.
Because of the fall, sin has made us inherently self-reliant, proud, and fiercely independent. As the enemy told Eve, the fruit from the tree of knowledge transformed us into our own gods (see Gen. 3:5 KJV). That means the last thing any of us want to do is rely on God.
After Paul received a revelation of grace operating in weakness, he boldly proclaimed, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).
Weakness is the optimum context for God’s grace—His inward power—to operate within you. Jesus said power is perfected in weakness.
When Paul cried out for deliverance, Jesus answered him, saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
God’s enabling grace is diametrically opposed to pride, for God resists the proud but He gives grace to the humble (see James 4:6). Humility is exchanging self-reliance and living by self-life in your soul for relational dependence upon Christ and living by His indwelling life in your spirit.
This type of humility positions you for what James called greater grace (see James 4:6). And you desperately need the fullest measure of grace to please the Lord, overcome sin, become who He wants you to be, and do what He wants you to do.
Apart from Christ You Can Do Nothing
When Jesus taught on the abiding life, He said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
This doesn’t mean you can’t live for God, work for God, and serve God in the power of the soul. This is what many in the church are presently doing, and it’s why the church is in such a mess. No, Jesus was referring to bearing true spiritual fruit—the fruit of union with His indwelling Spirit.
What I am about to say is both humbling and freeing: who God has called you to be, what God has called you to do, and the life God offers you to live in Christ is humanly impossible.
Just as you can’t save yourself, place yourself into Christ, raise yourself up with Christ, and seat yourself with Christ in heavenly places, living by the indwelling life of Christ is humanly impossible.
“Not by might nor by power,” said the Lord through the prophet Zechariah, “but by My Spirit” (Zech. 4:6).
If the Lord doesn’t do it by His Spirit, we are simply doomed. There is no hope for us, no solution for our depravity, and no remedy for our condition.
Paul realized this in his struggle with the flesh, proclaiming, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom. 7:18). He also told the Corinthians, “I am nothing” (2 Cor. 12:11 NKJV).
The sooner we realize that apart from Christ we are nothing, we can do nothing, and nothing good dwells in our flesh, the sooner we can rely upon God’s supernatural grace and live by Christ’s indwelling life.
In prayer, I like to say to the Lord I am nothing, I can do nothing, and in my flesh dwells no good thing. This reminds me afresh of my great need for God’s empowering grace. This helps me remember that it is not by might nor by power, but it is truly by His Spirit alone.
Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). The NLT puts it this way: “God blesses those who . . . realize their need for him.”
Poverty of spirit is knowing your absolute and utter need of God and His empowering grace. Poverty of spirit is becoming like a spiritual beggar, who truly realizes apart from God’s enabling grace you can never be transformed into a worthy bride for Jesus or an overcoming son for the Father.
Poverty of spirit is sheer reliance on God and His power to conform you into the image of His Son, so you can be the inheritance He desires.
The Laodicean church, whom Jesus severely rebuked, was the polar opposite of poverty of spirit. Their pride and self-satisfaction blinded them to their true condition. They simply could not see their utter need for God’s enabling, transforming grace.
Jesus explicitly told them, “You do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17, emphasis mine).
Their greatest problem was not being wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, for God’s grace is powerful enough to transform the rankest of sinners into a worthy bride for the Lamb.
The real issue was the Laodiceans were oblivious to their utter depravity. They were blinded to their desperate need for God’s enabling, transforming grace.
The Flesh Is Worthless to God
Though God loves you deeply, the flesh is worthless to God. Only Christ—Christ in you, Christ living in you, and Christ living through you to produce fruit from His indwelling life—has any value to God and is pleasing to Him.
God condemned the flesh once and for all on the cross. Those who still live in the flesh cannot please God.
Until you see the flesh as God sees it, both the evil side expressed by lawlessness, depravity, and defiling sins, and the good side expressed by self-righteousness and good works from the soul, the operation of grace will be limited within you.
But when you know your utter need of God’s grace, then His transforming power for ability can operate within you, enabling you to be who God has called you to be and to do what God has called you to do.
If you want to read more about God’s enabling grace, my book Indwelling Life has an entire chapter focused on God’s grace. You can also watch my two-part teaching about God’s grace, Enabling Grace – Part 1 and Enabling Grace – Part 2, to hear more about God’s amazing grace.