It was Jesus who taught that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Lk. 6.45). It makes good sense then that we can get a good read on what is in our hearts by what comes out of our mouths. Particularly as Christians, we can learn a lot about what we believe about the gospel by listening to ourselves talk.
There is one phrase that is particularly indicting. It is a phrase that unwittingly slashes the gospel tires while making a personal excuse. In other words, this phrase deflates the gospel of its power while inflating us with an excuse. As a result, I think we should dump it from our vocabulary. The phrase is: “I can’t.”
With this phrase I am not speaking with reference to personal limitations (i.e. “I can’t pick up a Volkswagon.” or, “I can’t eat all of my steak.”). Instead, I am speaking with reference to the power needed to change.
There have been a number of times that I have heard believers talk, either in casual conversation or more formally in counseling, with an attitude of defeat and victimization. When confronted with the moral imperatives of Scripture (what we should think or do) people say, “I can’t do that.” Why not? Where is the limitation? Is it a matter of ethics? Is God calling them to do something that is immoral? Of course not. Is it a matter of power? Is God calling them to do something that they do not have sufficient power in and through the Holy Spirit? Absolutely not.
What is it then? It is a matter of the will. When we say, “I can’t do that.” what we really mean is, “I won’t do that.” This is a matter of the will. It is a choice. This is not to say that it is not an excuse. It is; it is just a really poor excuse. Furthermore, it is a gospel-denying, Holy Spirit eclipsing, humanistic excuse (Rom. 6.5-8, 6.12-14, 6.17-19; 1 John 3.6-10).
We would be much better served to be honest. Say, “I really don’t want to do that. That would be hard. I’m having a difficult time with what God has called me to do and be.” This provides the other person the opportunity to come alongside of you with prayer and biblical encouragement.
The gospel is seen to be so much more powerfully life-transforming when we realize that we are not victims but sinners. And as sinners, we are now adopted sons who are ruled by God’s Word and in-dwelt by God the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8.12-17). Part of the transformation that comes through sanctification is the work upon our hearts, by way of our minds, and shows itself in our speech.
Therefore, don’t allow yourself or your friends to slash the gospel’s tires. Be honest. Be weak. Be biblical. Instead of hiding behind bad excuses this will actually bring the change we desire.