Being worthy

Being worthy

Jul 18
Being worthy

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, what does it mean when so many Christians do not imitate Christ?

There is a lot of opposition and hostility toward Christians and the Church.  I understand where a lot of this is coming from.  Sadly, I agree with the sentiments to a large extent.  There are far too many Christians who present themselves as being superior to the rest of the world for one reason or another.  Typically, this superiority seems to stem from living morally “superior” lives.

This is a direct contradiction of everything Jesus taught and everything He died for.

Essentially, Christians fall into one of two general belief systems when it comes to their relationship with God:

  1. I live in obedience to God’s will, therefore He accepts me.
  2. God accepts me, therefore I live in obedience to His will.

Both try to live their lives according to what they believe is the will of God.  One does so because he or she believes it is required in order to be accepted by God.  They essentially live in fear of Him, either because of a fear of Hell or because they are insecure in their salvation.  The other lives a life of obedience out of gratitude for being loved and accepted by God.

The first lives in fear of rejection.  The second knows the love of God.

Suppose that I am a Christian who is trying to “win” or “earn” my salvation.  I might claim otherwise, but everything I do is motivated by a fear that it can be lost.  I focus on doing everything according to the letter of the law.  I emphasize the correct form of “accepting” Christ and the proper ways in which He is to be worshiped.  When someone asks how I know I’m saved, I’ll say things like “because I was baptized” or “because I obey God’s commands.”  Everything in my life is focused on what *I* do as I try to prove that I’m worthy.

If I’m this kind of Christian, then I attempt to follow a standard of behavior based on what I believe God wants.  If I am able to live up to this standard, then I will start to see myself as superior to others around me.  I will look down on them because I live according to a higher moral code.  It won’t matter if I’m “conservative” or “liberal.”  I will consider myself to either be superior to those of lesser morals and devotion or superior to those who are narrow-minded and unenlightened.  If I am unable to live up to this standard of behavior, I will see myself as a failure and will constantly be filled with guilt and insecurity before God.

Feelings of superiority are a sign that a Christian is living in a way contrary to Christ.  They will either be confident and lacking humility or humble and lacking in confidence.  Their identity is rooted in being right far more than it is rooted in Christ.  These Christians will compare themselves to other people.  They will talk about what they are doing right and what others are doing wrong, or they will talk about what a failure they are and how much they need to repent.  They see Heaven as being only for those who have lived exemplary lives for God.  They will continually wonder if they have done enough.

The other kind of Christian is one who realizes that they are worthy simply because Christ died for them.  They realize that nothing they ever do can be good enough or “earn” their salvation, but they try their best to live exemplary lives for God simply out of gratitude.  They know they cannot look down on anyone because they aren’t any better than anyone else.  Rather than treat the Church as a club for saints, they view it as a hospital for sinners.  They want everyone to know the riches of God’s grace and don’t try to exclude anyone based on behavior or doctrinal positions.

One type of Christian feels guilt that Jesus had to suffer and die for them.

The other realizes that Jesus sacrificed Himself gladly and is waiting in eager anticipation to bring them Home.

I believe that one type of Christian is vastly more pleasing to God and does a better job exemplifying the life of Jesus.

Jesus did not talk about how well He kept God’s commandments.  In fact, He frequently broke the Sabbath.

Jesus ate with sinners and those despised by the “super religious” of the time.

The only people Jesus spoke poorly of were those who were proud of how “obedient” they were.

When Jesus spoke of our identity, He called us things like “light of the world” and “salt of the earth.”  He didn’t talk about us as if we were unworthy or horrible sinners.

Jesus forgave.  He forgave a woman caught in adultery.  He forgave a thief who died by His side.  He forgave the very people who murdered Him.  He died to save them.  He died to save us.

There’s nothing left to prove.  Nothing can make you MORE worthy than the death of the Son of God.  He died for you.  You specifically.  You most of all.  There is nothing you need to do, nothing you need to prove, nothing to earn.  It’s done.  It’s finished.  Jesus said so with His last breath.

I am not saved by any doctrine or behavior.  I am not saved because I practice the right form of worship or because I adhere to the correct doctrines regarding baptism.  I am not saved because I live a better life than anyone else.  I am not saved because of the church I go to.  I am not saved because I said a special prayer or because I was immersed in water.

The ONLY reason I am saved is because of God’s unconditional acceptance of me.

What does it say about how I feel about what Jesus has done if I measure my salvation or my worth based on what *I* have done?

8 comments

  1. Todd

    “There is a lot of opposition and hostility toward Christians and the Church.”

    I’m not sure I agree with this in a general sense in the U.S. which is overwhelmingly Christian (wasn’t there a study done not too long ago that showed Americans mistrusted atheists more than rapists?)

    I do find it interesting to consider what causes the most discord between Christians and other Christians or between Christians and non-Christians. If you think about it, none of it ever originates from the teachings of Jesus himself…Paul on the other hand…

    The Jefferson Bible is a good read and an excellent way of isolating the direct teachings of Jesus. Anyone struggling with the “institutions” of Christianity would find it a refreshing way to zero back into the simple teachings of Jesus.

    You are a true seeker, Dr. Taylor.

  2. Melinda

    ‎1,000 amens, brother! Having once lived under the first category of christianity you talk about in the blog I can testify that everything you say about living in fear and insecurity is true. It was the power of His grace that transformed me into wanting to obey because I am accepted by Jesus rather than obeying to gain acceptance. Jesus exchanged that fear and insecurity for faith and peace. Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Thank you for sharing your blog, God bless you!

  3. Stephen Currier

    It is really difficult to not talk about yourself when speaking about yourself. Yeah, i know, it doesn’t make any sense. But what if we did talk about ourselves without really talking about ourselves. I never really considered myself a selfish person until I really thought about what a Christ centered life should be like. It was always “my sin” or “my shame” or “I did this”. But when I really think about it, when God is the focal point, what chance is there for anything but greatness?!
    God reminded me of Gideon today. I went out to my car for lunch and it appeared sunny if only slightly cloudy. maybe an hour later, the smell of rain was present. I thought, “No way, it can’t really be raining can it?”. By the time I made it out to my car, it looked like some one had taken a water hose to the front seats and the dash. And it was still sunny and still raining! So I rolled my windows up and headed back inside puzzled at how this could happen and a little discouraged about the usually enjoyable ride home I would be taking later. Once going home time did come, I returned outside to find it darker and cloudy, but the pavement and even the ground outside was almost completely dry. I thought, “Well, at least I don’t have to walk through the mud.” But when I got to my car I was surprised to find it completely dry, inside and out!
    God has taught me today that not only does he love me (always), but that if I think about my life from his perspective the story is much different and always better. Case in point; today’s story could actually be summed up with:
    God continues to keep the Ozarks cooling down, AND not only did he was the outside of Stephen’s car (which Stephen is too lazy to do) but He washed (and dried) all the accumulated oil from Stephen’s work off of the stearing wheel and interior door panel too!

  4. Stephen Currier

    Hah! Sorry, by my car i meant the one He is letting me use and by my work i mean the job he gave me.

  5. I have to say that I think the folks in “category 2” occasionally misinterpret/mischaracterize the folks in “category 1.” Scriptures clearly teach that salvation is a gift, but they also clearly teach that we play a part in determining whether we receive that gift. This should not create a sense of superiority in us, but we should realize that we CAN lose our salvation (unless the Scriptures are wrong when they say so) and work out our salvation with fear and trembling (unless the Scriptures are wrong on that). To be abundantly clear, we do not “earn” our salvation, but Scriptures teach that we have to do certain things to receive the gift of salvation, and that we can lose that gift.

    • If I may, perhaps we should say that we can “reject” salvation rather than we can “lose” salvation. I hope that doesn’t sound like splitting hairs, but I think the distinction is important.

      • I agree, there is a distinction, but the point is that just as our choices can help lead to our salvation (not because we are worthy but because God is gracious to those who are willing to accept His grace in the way He has determined), our choices can also lead to that salvation no longer being in our future. Call it “losing,” “rejecting,” whatever, as long as the point is understood. God made a choice to offer salvation to all and all have a choice of whether to accept that gift or reject that gift, and we can continue to make that choice every day.

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