Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Are You Someone Worth Dying For?

There is a song by Mikeschair entitled, "Someone Worth Dying For" that I think encapsulates the way that modern evangelicals (and emergings/liberals) think about the gospel. Listen to the end chorus:

You're worth it, you can't earn it
Yeah the Cross has proven
That you're sacred and blameless
Your life has purpose

You are more than flesh and bone
Can't you see you're something beautiful
Yeah you gotta believe, you gotta believe
He wants you to see, He wants you to see
That you're not just some wandering soul
That can't be seen and can't be known
Yeah you gotta believe, you gotta believe that you
Are someone worth dying for

You're someone worth dying for
You're someone worth dying for

Now, if you have daily pity parties for yourself because you really believe, down deep, that you are better than the worth others ascribe to you (why feel sorry for yourself if you think you're truly unworthy to be pitied for not achieving something better of yourself?), you may really like this song. If you've ever actually opened the Bible, however, you'd know that this song is evil to the core. Why do I say that? Here's why.

Let's first contrast this song with this scene from the Gospel of Mark:

Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And He was saying to her, "Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." But she answered and ^said to Him, "Yes, Lord, [but] even the  dogs  under the table feed on the children's crumbs." And He said to her, "Because of this answer go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter." And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having departed. (7:26-30)

Notice the pattern here: the woman approaches Christ for something. He tells her that she is unworthy to receive it (in fact, he calls her a dog, which is much worse than calling someone a dog in our culture). She responds in agreement with Him that she is unworthy and a dog. He says that because of this answer, He grants her request as His daughter, i.e., as one of His children, even though she originally was not. Hence, it is in the acknowledgment of unworthiness that Christ gives us worth. We are not worthy already.

I posted awhile back about an encounter I had with Allison's grandfather, where he was telling me that God could never forgive him. He was truly feeling unworthy to receive any salvation that God might offer him. I argued there that the only right thing to tell him in that situation was to tell him that he was right. But this song also reminded me of another time I was sitting in my favorite sushi restaurant in MD and overheard a youth pastor comforting a girl who didn't think she was worthy to be saved. The young (misguided) youth pastor was telling her how much she was worth and how valuable she was as a human being. "God doesn't make trash," as they say. I would agree, but people do make trash of themselves after God has made them. 

The call of the gospel is a call of repentance from who we are to trust in Christ and what He has done for us, not a call to lift ourselves up as worthy to be saved. What we are essentially doing when we believe that we are worthy is that God saved us because of our own worth. In other words, God saved us because He should have saved us. Who would throw away gold? Gold is worthy to be saved. And we are gold (at least within this modern theology that has been heavily influenced by pop-psychology).

You see the trend in our culture to make everything about self-esteem has caused us to seek out pop-psychology as the answer to any feeling of unworthiness. The answer of pop-psychology is to counter the feeling of unworthiness with the affirmations of worthiness. In other words, the answer isn't to confirm the feeling as evidence of something true, but to deny its truthfulness and attribute it to one's own upbringing or present situation, but not to the individual himself.

But what does the Bible say? What is the truth that underlies the gospel, the good news about Christ? Well, first the Bible tells us that we are not worthy to be saved. Only the Son is worthy (both explicitly and implicitly asserting that no one else is). Revelation 5 records the scene where an angel calls out, "Who is worthy to open the book [of life, i.e., of salvation/to be saved] and to break its seals?" John begins to weep because no one is worthy, but just then the angel tells him to stop weeping, because Christ is found worthy to open the book because of His work to secure salvation through His death and resurrection (v. 10-11). He is thus ascribed all of the benefits of salvation (v. 12). In other words, Christ alone is worthy to be saved. No one else is. But why is no one else worthy?
Look at Ephesians 2:17-19, where Paul discusses what we are in and of ourselves:

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

"Gentiles," or "nations," refer to those who are not in Christ. Note that they are excluded from the life of God because they are ignorant (unworthy in knowledge), hardhearted (unworthy in willingness), callous (unworthy in feeling), and have given themselves over to their senses to practice every kind of evil (unworthy in their practice). What exactly is worthy to save about us?

The truth of the matter is that, according to Ephesians 2:1-3:

You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Again, we are not even worthy in our following, as we follow the devil and the spirit of disobedience, and thus, are worthy only of his punishment. In fact, the text tells us that we were by nature (i.e., in accordance to who we are, not just what we have done) children of wrath. 

So let me ask you, Is a creature unworthy in knowledge (believing what is false), unworthy in willingness, unworthy in feelings, unworthy in practice, and unworthy in his allegiances, and is by nature someone that incurs the wrath of God a worthy creature to save? According to Scripture, No. Look at the way the Scripture describes us (all of us):

There is none who understands,  There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless;  There is none who does good,  There is not even one." "Their throat is an open grave,  With their tongues they keep deceiving,"  "The poison of asps is under their lips"; "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness"; "Their feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their paths, And the path of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Rom 3:11-18)

The Book of Job tells us that God is so infinitely perfect and holy that the finite heavens and angels are even unclean in His eyes, how much more filthy is man "who laps up evil like water." Did you hear that? Even the holy angels and the very created dwelling of God within our universe isn't worthy of Him, how much less is man worthy who actually is and does evil? No, you're not worthy, Dude! To thine own self be true.

Now, you may say that God looks over all of that and looks to some small spark of intrinsic worth preserved deep within us, but look at what God says about the matter in the Flood Narrative:

that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only  evil  continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. And the Lord said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them." (Gen 6:5-7)

Notice that God's response toward who we became and what we have done is to see no value in keeping us any longer (i.e., no value in saving us). In other words, we aren't worthy to be saved. There is no intrinsic spark.

Some argue that we are all made as the image of God, but I have argued time and again that the image is a role we were to play, not something intrinsic about us. We choose to take upon ourselves that role or not. We are certainly given the ability and opportunity to do so, but the Scripture is clear that we all have shunned that role and have decided to follow the serpent's lie instead.

So what are we worthy of? Death, annihilation, exclusion from life, hell. So what is the answer to the feeling of unworthiness? I would argue that it is confirmation that this feeling is the Holy Spirit through various means conveying a truth to you. This should make you sad that you have nothing to offer God, and sorry for what you have become and what you have done. This is the fertile ground to plant the seed of the gospel.

And that's the thing. There is a sorrow that leads to death and one that leads to repentance and life. He who receives the good news and repents accepts a value and worth from Christ that is not of his own. He who does not remains in unworthiness and futility. The latter can go on to deceive himself to make himself feel better by false religion and pop-psychology (as many do) or he will go further into depression and hopelessness like Saul or Judas. But the difference between the sorrow that leads to death or life is in believing or disbelieving the good news. That good news is about Christ and His worth.

In other words, Christ is worthy, and has gained the worth to be saved for us. We become worthy only because His worth is placed upon us. This worth is not of our own. We, in ourselves, are not worthy to have received salvation, and hence, it is described as a gift that is not of yourselves . . . that no one should boast (Eph 2:8-9). It is Christ who has obtained salvation by His worth. It is Christ who moves God to save us. God sees us as He sees Christ and therefore ascribes His infinite worth to us. The good, no, great news is that those who receive the gospel are given not just the worth of an imperfect human being, but the worth and value of the glorious Son of God, will have His salvation lavished upon them, and will inherit the kingdom that He inherited. 

In other words, our emphasis of worth is on Christ, not on ourselves. When we hear someone talking about their unworthiness, we need to lift Christ high up and say, Yes, you are, but do you think that Christ is worthy to be saved? Do you think that Christ is worth anything to God? The answer is, Of course He is. He's worth everything to God. And the good news, my friend, is that you who are not worthy to be saved have been given infinite worth to God in Christ because He is worthy to be saved. Hence, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. Believe in yourself and perish. 

So Christ didn't die for you because you were worth dying for. He died for you because of His great love that caused Him to give salvation to those who did not deserve it, to those who were not worthy to receive it. Emphasize Christ's love. Emphasize Christ's worth. But do not exalt yourself, lest you stand before the Judge on that day in your own ragged clothes, attempting to impress Him with foul offerings. 

So you don't need to believe that you are worth saving. In fact, you need to believe the opposite in order to understand what it is exactly that you are receiving in Christ and what the good news really is. We are worthless until His worth is gifted to us, and He offers it to us in love and mercy through acknowledging who we really are without Him in repentance and turning to Him to receive the salvation that only He could have ever been worthy to obtain. In any case, if someone wipes away the bad news of our worthlessness with false promises of our worth, let him know that he wipes away the good news with it.

No comments:

Post a Comment