Summary: If you want to be a better person, don't depend on a list; depend on the Lord.
A couple of years ago (2014), Lowe's produced a commercial that shows a proud do-it-yourselfer installing a new ceiling fan in his family's living room. Take a look (show Lowe’s Commercial, Ceiling Fan, 2014)
After he proudly gives the fan one last little turn, climbs off the aluminum ladder, and steps aside to turn on the switch. After he turns it on, he stands with his hands on his hips, satisfied with his brilliant, money-saving work. Within a second of the first rotation of the blades, the central motor sparks and the entire fan crashes to the floor, crushing a small table on its way down. The scene cuts away to the outside of the house, looking at the clear bay window of the room where the man stands. It's quiet and bright outside. Suddenly, the ceiling fan comes flying through the picture window and lands in the yard, disrupting the peaceful moment. The words flash on the screen: "Need help?” LOWE’s Never stop improving.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2EO59tfLbI)
Doing-it-yourself in home improvement doesn’t always work so well. So it is when you try to do-it-yourself in personal improvement. All of us are in desperate need of help when it comes to overcoming those sinful habits and attitudes that keep us in bondage. And to try to continue doing it yourself only leads to further frustration and disaster.
Galatians 2:11-12 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. (ESV)
I.e., he feared those who belonged to the group of Jewish believers in Jesus. You see, in the first century you had Jewish believers in Jesus – “the circumcision party” – and Gentile believers in Jesus – those who were not circumcised.
Well, Cephas (or Peter) had gone to visit the church in Antioch, the first church planted with Gentile believers. And when Peter got there, he disregarded his own Jewish dietary laws and ate with the new Gentile believers. He enjoyed pork and ham and perhaps some shrimp cocktail with his new friends in Christ. But when James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, sent some of his Jewish buddies to Antioch, Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles. He withdrew from his new friends, because he was afraid of what his old friends would think. Their standards were stricter when it came to diet, and Peter didn’t want his old friends to think he was slipping.
But what do you think that did to his new Gentile friends? It hurt them deeply! And that’s what do-it-yourself spirituality does. When you try to make yourself look good by following someone else’s standards, then you divide yourself from other believers. You separate yourself to exclude those who don’t measure up. You consider yourself better than other believers, and that is just plain wrong, vs.11 says.
Chuck Swindoll once put it this way:
Believe as I believe – no more, no less;
That I am right (and no one else) confess.
Feel as I feel, think only as I think;
Eat what I eat, and drink but what I drink.
Look as I look, do always as I do;
And then – and only then – I’ll fellowship with you. (Chuck Swindoll, Seasons of Life¸ p.286)
Sad to say, that’s the attitude of some in our world today. Unless you measure up to my standards, then I’m not going to have anything to do with you.
Earl Palmer, an author and former pastor, talks about those who put down people in the church for being less than perfect, even hypocritical. He says, “When California's Milpitas High School orchestra attempts Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the result is appalling. I wouldn't be surprised if the performance made old Ludwig roll over in his grave despite his deafness.
“You might ask: ‘Why bother? Why inflict on those poor kids the terrible burden of trying to render what the immortal Beethoven had in mind? Not even the great Chicago Symphony Orchestra can attain that perfection.’”
Palmer says, “My answer is this: The Milpitas High School orchestra will give some people in that audience… their only encounter with Beethoven's great Ninth Symphony. Far from perfection, it is nevertheless the only way they will hear Beethoven's message.”
Then Palmer makes this point: “The only way a starving, thirsty, deluded, and suffering world will ever hear the music of the gospel is through the body of Christ, arguably the worst ‘high school orchestra’ ever to appear on a bandstand. If performance standards are really the most important measure, then the church is in trouble.” (Rick Lawrence, Skin in the Game, Kregel Publishers, 2015, pp. 135-136; www.PreachingToday.com)