Paul Tripp

President of Paul Tripp Ministries

You Have Limits, You Really Do! Pt. 3

You Have Limited Power
Suzy comes home from her second grade class one afternoon and says, “Mommy, I have to wear a party dress to school tomorrow.” Mom asks, “Is it someone’s birthday?” “No,” Suzy answers, “We were on the playground and my friend Anna told all the girls that we have to wear party dresses tomorrow.” Just two months into second grade, and a girl named Anna is already acting out of a delusion of self-sovereignty. Little Anna has set herself up as Queen of the second-grade playground, basking in her place at the center of her own little universe.

Yes, we all tend to like to be in control. But accepting that there’s actually very little in life that we do control is a very important spiritual step. If you buy into the delusion of your own self-sovereignty, if you live committed to some grand plan of your own making, with the belief that you have the independent ability to pull it off, two things will happen. You will not submit your life to the plan of Another, and you won’t seek the rest that can only be found in the assurance that God rules over all things for your sake (Ephesians 1:22–23).

Think of the factors that have shaped your life that you had nothing to do with. Think of the location of your birth and how profound an effect it has had. Think of how different things would be had you been born in the jungles of New Guinea, or in the desert of Saudi Arabia, or on some tiny South Sea island. Think of the influence your family has wielded over who you are and how your life has unfolded. You
didn’t choose your mom, your dad, or your siblings, yet each has had a huge effect on you. Think of how profoundly your community and the economy shape your life, when neither operates under your control. Think of how you’ve never had any actual control over the people in your life. Yes, you can influence them for good or ill, but you can’t make them do what you want. Think of how little control you’ve had over your own spiritual life. Yes, there was a moment when you had to exercise faith in the sacrifice of Christ, and you’ve chosen to live as his follower. But you couldn’t have written yourself into the circumstances that exposed you to the things of God, nor could you have opened your own heart to the truth of the gospel.

James calls us to accept the limits of our power with these direct and pastoral words:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you don't even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You're a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
—James 4:13–17

My security isn’t to be sought in the degree to which I’m able to control the people and situations in my life. No, I can accept the smallness of my power because I’m the son or daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He’s in control, I’m not, and that’s exactly as it should be. There’s one more important limit to recognize.

You Have Limited Righteousness
Does that statement bother you? Actually, it needs to be strengthened. You and I have no independent righteousness at all! All our righteousness has been given to us by Christ. He is our righteousness.

It’s important to accept the fact that there’s never a day in your life that isn’t somehow stained by sin. Sin rears its ugly head in what you desire, choose, think, say, and do, again and again and again. Nothing that emerges from you is perfectly righteous. You simply aren’t pure in the true sense of the word. Yet we’re all tempted to buy into the delusion of our own righteousness. Even when our conscience plagues us because we’ve done something wrong, we try to take ourselves off the hook. We’ll tell ourselves that the news about someone that we just “shared” with a friend wasn’t gossip, but a prayer request. We’ll tell ourselves that that jealous thought wasn’t as envious as it seemed, but was simply a desire for God’s blessing. We’ll tell ourselves that a selfish play for personal power was really just an expression of our commitment to use our God-given leadership gifts.

If you don’t accept your ongoing struggle with sin, if you entertain the thought that your greatest problem in life exists outside of you and not inside, if you try to convince yourself that you’re more righteous than you really are, you won’t seek the forgiveness and righteousness that can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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About Paul Tripp

Paul Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is "Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life." Tripp is also professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. Tripp has written many books on Christian living that are read and distributed internationally. He has been married for many years to Luella, and they have four grown children. For more information, visit http://www.paultrippministries.org/store

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