Our identity is found in Jesus. Our ability is found in Jesus. Our wisdom is found in Jesus. Our power is found in Jesus. Our beginnings are found in Jesus.
Did you know our “can” kills our “able,” just like Cain who killed Abel? Abel knew his righteousness was from God through faith:
Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. (ESV)
Cain, the jealous one, was working from the flesh. He was obsessed with his effort in his strength and his “can do” attitude. He wanted the recognition because of his self-perceived superiority, because of his hard work. We still have the same issue today. Jesus is our ability. He is our righteousness. We only need to accept it. Instead our flesh thinking wants to rule by self-effort and self-righteousness. Relying on our “can do spirit” is the same as picking up a rock and striking Able.
Sometimes when I am reading my Bible I find different Greek words translated as the same English word. I guess that is just how it goes in translations but I think we miss a deeper meaning. Praise God for His Holy Spirit to reveal to us these inconsistencies. I love it when I am reading and come across a word or a verse that I think to myself “that doesn’t mean what I think it means” and sure enough, I find one of those singular translations of multiple meanings. Here is an example that led me to this idea of can and able :
There are two Greek words (and likely more) that are translated “can” or “able.” One Greek word points to a given ability from God. It comes from the same root word that is used to describe “miraculous power” and I wrote about it in a post about water and spirit. The second Greek word is about our natural human or flesh power. It is our ability based our power in our effort. In the following verses I have inserted the words “natural ability” next to this “can” word in question.
Matt 9:10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well (natural ability) have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (ESV)
Jesus came to set us free from ourselves. He didn’t come for those who have it all figured out and don’t need His help. We need His mercy since our “sacrifice” never makes us right with God. We get to have His ability instead of offering up our sacrifice of self-effort and works.
[Mat 26:40 ESV] 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could (natural ability) you not watch with me one hour?
Remember the disciples fell asleep while Jesus was praying in the garden? In another verse He says the flesh is weak and the spirit is strong.
[Mar 9:18 ESV] 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able (natural ability).”
Our self-effort based on our strength has no power. The disciples had failed in their effort. Later Jesus tells them that the key is to believe in His strength.
[Luk 8:43 ESV] 43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not (natural ability) be healed by anyone.
The doctors had no power to heal. This woman needed a miracle from Jesus.
[Luk 13:24 ESV] 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able (natural ability).
Our ability, our effort, our works will not get us through the door. Jesus is the door. Jesus is the gate. Jesus is the way.
Now check out this passage that has both the divinely given supernatural ability (able) and the natural ability (can) words:
Luke 14:25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot (supernatural ability) be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot (supernatural ability) be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able (natural ability) to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able (natural ability) to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able (supernatural ability) with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has (his natural roots, identity, beginnings) cannot (supernatural ability) be my disciple. (ESV)
This is an awesome passage that really confused me before I saw these “can” and “able” words jump out at me. Jesus says to have His ability and follow Him we have to be free from our natural roots and natural ability. We have to put our Father in heaven first over our natural family. We have to be willing to be ridiculed and rejected like He was on the cross. We have to be ready to make mistakes and be mocked when we work out of our own effort. We have to know when to fight and when to seek peace. All of that wisdom is from God. Check out the very next verse. The word for “lost its taste” is “foolishness.”
Luke 14:34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste (foolishness), how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (ESV)
And here is the same reference in Matthew. Check out how “foolishness” and “natural ability” are tied together.
[Mat 5:13 ESV] 13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste (becomes foolish), how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good (natural ability) for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
We have been on a journey of “flesh and spirit” over the last few posts. Our flesh is foolish. It is easily deceived. If we let it be in charge it will kill the “able” of God. Notice I am not talking about sin or behavior or any of those other religious hammers. Even the best moral intentions are killers outside of our ability in Jesus. It is time we just receive His Spirit instead of our “can do spirit.” It is time we surrender to His ability instead of ours. Tell Can to put down the rock before he kills Able. God’s plan is way better than ours. God is for us. I say we just believe it. Even the least “able” “can” do that.