All who desire to change the world must work from within their on-going process of growth. The strong desire to reform and restore is clearly from God, but addressing the shortcomings of others rather than oneself is not a leading of the Spirit. In fact, instead of rectifying our own inner failings and then turning to what is amiss in others, whatever help we genuinely give comes from inside our own struggles. We help others from our experience of woundedness and healing. When we humbly focus on ourselves, and are honest about what God is doing in us, we are able to assist others. Anything we attempt to offer to others that we have not personally labored through is presumptive and speculative.
Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. Hebrews 5:8
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15
The teaching of Jesus comes from his own personal struggle with the temptations and weaknesses which are common to us all. We should not think that his sinlessness somehow means he does not know and understand what we face, which would be to dismiss what these scriptures are actually saying. Jesus helps us out of his own inner spiritual work. Being sinless does not imply he had no struggle or process of growth to undergo! The wilderness temptations of Jesus, to prioritize the needs of the body, to worship someone or thing other than God, and to gain the world at the cost of one’s soul, are representative of the challenges we all face.
Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19
Not only does Jesus teach us from his own wrestling with evil’s temptations but also from knowing firsthand what is needed to maintain and sustain a life of abiding with God. All that Jesus offers comes from within his own “growing in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). His example ought to show us the way to delve into our inner depths and let others benefit from that journey. Apart from our own experience of transformation we should say nothing.
This is not true only for each of us individually but for us together as the church. Collectively, we speak of the salvation we have received and witness to what transformation has been granted us. Only a repentant and confessional church, disclosing its own struggles as a testimony to God’s grace and faithfulness, may proclaim a message of healing to the world.
Jude warns of those who are like clouds without rain (Jude 1:12). We can easily be all talk without any real substance. The inner source which Jesus describes as a well of living water within a person (John 4:14) is when the work of God within flows outward. That inner spring is not just the Spirit itself, but the renewal that the Spirit has created within. We become the fruit of the Spirit’s work and we help others with the authenticity of our own spiritual labors. Because of his experience and struggle, Jesus is able to offer us true guidance rather than trite and empty platitudes.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5