Unworthy Or Worthless?
by Lois E. Gibson
Eph 1:15-19 (NASB) For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.
Often in unhealthy churches, members develop an erroneous view of themselves and how God sees them. If they already had a negative self-image from childhood, it will be exacerbated in the unhealthy church. This writing isn't about the world's view of self-esteem, but rather how the Bible teaches believers are seen by God.
Many of us learned to beat ourselves over the head in our performance driven churches. We couldn't measure up, though we tried very hard. Somehow we were never doing enough, even though we spent much of our time with church related activities. We'd also try to follow all the rules and do everything that was expected, but we'd periodically fall short or fail to do something. I have heard person after person through the years relate how it felt like they beat themselves over the head with a baseball bat due to their perceived lack in the performance area. They came to see themselves as unworthy, worthless creatures. "Please pray for me that I'll somehow make it in" became part of some people's testimony or prayer request.
We often took these thoughts and felt that God looked at us this way, too. Many envision God looking down on them; as if He is anxiously waiting for them to somehow do something wrong so He can beat them Himself with that baseball bat. Or cast them away. Or sound the trumpet for the rapture so they'd be left behind. God became a harsh taskmaster in their eyes, never quite pleased with them no matter what they did. Sure, there was the occasional relief in a church service or prayer time, but that nagging feeling of not measuring up would soon return to torment. We sometimes wondered if we were even saved.
It would be heard in services how unworthy we sinners were. Few were going to make it to heaven. Some pastors proclaimed that there were only some in the congregation that would be saved. Sometimes the people would be berated and blamed for the church not growing or some other thing. We heard about the eye that was watching everything we did in a song we would sing. We could feel the glare every time we failed. There were other ways these feelings were reinforced in the church. Some simply gave up and dove head first into a sinful life because of believing they could never measure up, so what was the use in trying anymore? They were lost and rejected by God, so why not "live it up" if their fate couldn't be altered?
In a performance driven church, these things will be found. We can never do enough no matter how sincere we are or how determined we are or how hard we try. We can give up more and more things and do more and more yet we will always, without fail, fall short somehow because we are (often unconsciously) trying to make ourselves worthy and righteous, acceptable in God's sight. According to Scripture, this can never be done.
A believer will find themselves in one of two camps on this issue. Either they will trust and accept that God sees us as righteous based upon the finished work of Jesus on the cross and through no effort of our own or they will try and try to do things they think will cause them to be acceptable to God. In other words, they are trying to earn His favor by attempting to make themselves righteous by their works even though they may not realize it at the time.
Does this brief description sound familiar? Do you see yourself in any of it? If so, please know you need not remain in this condition.
Do these things line up with what the Scriptures teach? Think about it. Yes, I know how you are seeing yourself and how you feel God sees you. The question remains, is this true? Is this view biblical? Your feelings and emotions should never interpret Scripture. It doesn't matter how you feel or what you think when the Bible clearly teaches something different. There is a big difference between knowing we are unworthy and thinking we are worthless, low-down, no-good Christians who can never measure up.
So how are we unworthy? We are unworthy in that we did nothing to earn or deserve what God did and does for us. We didn't merit or earn salvation; it wasn't given to us because of what we did or did not do. We didn't buy it. It was freely given. In this way we are unworthy and therefore cannot boast in the matter. Ephesians 2:8 makes the matter quite clear, salvation is a gift from God. And though we are unworthy in ourselves, Colossians 1:12 teaches us that God has qualified us.
I don't believe for one moment, however, that this thought was meant to belittle believers in causing them to feel worthless, low-down and no good. When God created everything, including man, He said it was good (Genesis 1:31). Obviously He saw then and yet sees something in us.
We mean something to Him, enough that Jesus died on the cross in our place. We are loved by God. He knew us before we were formed in the womb. He cared so for us that before the foundation of the world, He set in plan our salvation.
Let these words from the first chapter of Ephesians, verses 3 through 14, sink into your heart and take root:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory. (NASB)
The Scriptures declare that even the hairs on our head are numbered (Matthew 10:30, Luke 12:7). They teach that when we do sin, we can go to God and confess our sins and be forgiven (1 John 1:9). In His sight, we are holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4, Ephesians 5:27, Colossians 1:22). We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 61:10, Philipians 3:9).
He gave us the Comforter, who leads and guides us (John 16:13). The Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance in Christ; we are sealed (Ephesians 1:13-14). They teach that God corrects those He loves (Hebrews 12:6). They teach how He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). That we have many promises in Him (2 Corinthians 1:20, 2 Peter 1:4). They teach we are of God's household (Ephesians 2:19); His children (Romans 8:16); His bride (Revelation 19:7); His beloved (Jude 1:1).
So are we unworthy? Yes, in and of ourselves. However, we are not worthless or no good in the sight of God. There is a huge difference between the two thoughts. His love for us is not now, nor ever has been, based upon our performance. There are a great many passages that could be brought forward to show how God views His people. He doesn't hope we'll mess up. He's not waiting with a huge baseball bat ready to whack us when we fail. He doesn't withhold forgiveness to those who go to Him in godly sorrow. He doesn't view us as low-down good for nothing creatures. Jesus shed His blood for us. Why would He do this if He thought so little of us and was hoping he'd find some reason later to cast us away?
Think about these things..... There's so much more that could be shared in this area, but my hope is that this will inspire those who have developed this erroneous view of their position in Christ to further study of the Scriptures. See how God sees you. Stop trying to earn God's acceptance. Accept by faith what Jesus has done for you and where God has placed you in the body of Christ. If you do not, you will forever ride the frustrating and defeating endless roller coaster of ups and downs, viewing your status with God based upon your performance. And your performance never quite measures up, does it?
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."
You may write Lois at the email address displayed in the image. No correspondence that seeks to debate will be answered as I have no desire to debate. Understand that due to the volume of mail, not every email may be acknowledged.
Posted April 15, 2006
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