"Without Me, ye can do nothing" (John 15:5).
"We are weak in Him" (II Corinthians 13:4).
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).
"I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily" (Colossians 1:29).
I cannot! I can, through Him! Both these spiritual sensibilities must fill our hearts and minds as we seek to trust and obey God. Indeed, His standards are so high that we could never begin to fulfill them in and of ourselves. Never, however, did our Lord expect or call us to fulfill such an impossibility. He rather fills us with the Spirit of His Son when we believe, leading and enabling us to godliness as we trust and submit ourselves to Him. Thus, we forever maintain within our hearts and minds the acknowledgement of "I can't." We do not stop there, however, but rather affirm our weakness as the vessel and branch of Christ's strength, or as the Lord declared to the Apostle Paul "My strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Corinthians 12:9). Thus, we confess, "I can, through Christ."
This understanding is vital. If we believe ourselves to be independently capable of even the slightest act of godliness, we will crash upon the rocks of futility. Conversely, if our "I can't" fails to serve as the basis of "I can, through Christ," we will fail to avail ourselves of the powerful work of enabling grace provided by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Christian life involves not Christ alone, or ourselves alone, but rather the Spirit of the Lord Jesus walking in us so that we might walk through Him.
"I will dwell in them and walk in them" (II Corinthians 6:16).
"Walk ye in Him" (Colossians 2:6).
I recall a discussion with a young lady who struggled with some of Scripture's lofty commands, as we all do at times. "I just can't do them!," she cried. I told her that I fully understood the challenge she faced, and that she was half right in her cry of futility. "It is true that apart from the Lord Jesus, you cannot obey God's commands." I let that thought sink in, and then continued. "However, the truth of the matter is that as a born again Christian, you are not apart from the Lord Jesus. No, He dwells in you by His Spirit to enable all faithfulness and godliness. He lives in you so that you may live and walk through Him. Therefore, let your true and proper "I can't" serve as the springboard of faith: "I can, through Christ!"
The New Testament epistles state this blessed duality of Truth throughout their pages, both directly and implicitly. We must affirm the same in heart and mind, humbly acknowledging our weakness even as we confidently affirm the power of God present and active in our hearts. The proud will sneer at this Scriptural light as it strikes at the heart of self-sufficiency. The passive will find it decidedly uncomfortable as it forbids excuses for unbelief and disobedience. "I can't." This is true, but it is not the full and final ray of light in so vital a matter as faithfulness to God. "I can, through Christ!" Such a gift of grace completes the understanding that must guide our lives in both time, even as it will in eternity. Thereby our Lord saves us from both pride and passivity, and thereby a far more consistent relationship with Him blesses our lives with the joy of faith and faithfulness.
"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him."
(I John 4:9)