In Mark 5 we read the story of the "bleeding" woman. Verse 26 reflects my own attempts at self-atonement: "[this woman] had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse". My "physicians" are not actual doctors but rather the numerous disciplines I place in my life to heal the disease of sin. Yet, these (at least when divorced from the Cross) cause me to be worse instead of better. In fact every time that I set up a discipline to "become more holy" it ends up either causing me despair or self-righteousness. The woman spent everything that she had trying to cure this disease but only became worse--I feel her plight.
Our only hope for curing the disease of sin is not spending all we have on expert physicians but rather "touching the hem of His garment". Our only hope is Christ--the Great Physician.