Discovering true value - Self worth that cannot be diminished or added to
"You are as valuable as Christ is". That statement probably made you a tid bit uncomfortable. I felt the same way the first time I heard a colleague make that statement.
Kevin and I were working together in a four weeks evangelistic outreach, where we were preparing the community through prayer and Bible studies. His first study with each contact was always about the Nature of God's Love for Us, in which he skillfully helps his students discover their true value and worth. As I listened to Kevin teaching the Word of God I could hear God speaking to me personally, and that had a significant impact on my perception of self, and others.
The main passage for this study is one you're likely familiar with. John 3:16 is undoubtedly the most well known verse in the Bible. You've heard it quoted, taught, preached, time and again; and it has possibly never had a notable impact on your life. You can never be the same however, once you fully understand the significance of this verse.
By the end of this study you'll realize how God's love transforms our lives and impact our thoughts, and opinions. As a result you will no longer be defined by how others perceive you but by the value that God has placed on you. It will also affect the way you view others."For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Let's take bite size chunks from this verse, chew on it, and gain all the nourishment it contains
We'll start with the participants:
God: The Creator and Ruler of the universe. Not only is He all powerful, all knowing, all encompassing, but He is also self sufficient, needing nothing outside of Himself.
The World: His creatures here on earth. As creatures of God we are all dear to Him. His heart yearns after each one of us just as a mother loves the wayward child that has broken her heart. By Adam's and our own choice we became slaves to Satan and rebels against God.
God's Only Begotten Son: The only one of His kind, being the fullness of the Godhead bodily. God Himself becoming a part of the world, and experiencing the punishment due to the rebels
Whosoever: Any person. That includes you, friend; no matter what your situation is.
There is one other thing that we need to define at this time: the word "love".1 John 4:8 says: "He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love",
which is to say, he that loves (as God loves), knows God, for true love comes only from him. The way to have that divine attribute of God is to know God
There is a certain love that dominates the conversation and pursuit of people of all persuasion, regardless of religious or ideological beliefs.
As you are probably aware there are four different words used for love in ancient eastern languages:
Philia: "brotherly love", Is the caring affection we have for family, and community. It requires virtue, equality, and familiarity. also used for a desire or enjoyment of an activity.
Storge: "love, affection" especially of parents and children
Éros: "sexual passion." It's from this that we get the English word erotic
Agápe: "charity; the love of God for man and of man for God." It's the love that seeks the good of others, even to our own hurt.
The first three are grounded not in the benefit of others but more so a desire for personal pleasure, satisfaction, and fulfillment.
In a painting by Karl Friedrich Lessing, a German painter, we see the picture of a Father tenderly holding his arm around his son. The caption of the painting is "The Robber and His Child". Even robbers (who come to kill and steal) love their own. In fact, that's exactly the point which Christ makes in John 15: 18,19
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own
For sure, the world possess philia and storge, the deep affection for near kin and and those they rely on for support and success, but not the love that comes from God.
In most modern societies eros dominates the culture. Modern entertainment (and the ads that accompany them) exalts this type of love. Most times than not, rather than being something that builds others and adds value, worldly love degrades and reduce people to objects of pleasure, and self gratification. The story related in John 8 is a good example of how worldly love degrades and ruins. Worldly love is all about taking: your time, your purity, your self-worth.
The love the world gives leave the recipient dry and empty; searching for a sense of hope, worth, meaning, and purpose. God's love restores all that. God's love adds value as seen at the end of the story referenced above.
Putting our passage back together we see a God who is all powerful and self sufficient, that loves those who do not deserve it, or have anything to offer in return.
As a demonstration of that love God does something that completely throws off the storyline. He gives the most valuable thing he possessed, to buy us back to Himself; He gave His Son. In so doing he gave all of heaven. Take a moment to consider a few lines from this poem:... my heart sinks as I hear him pray
“Lord let this cup pass from me”
The price that has been set is high indeed,
for a sinful soul what a price to meet.
But the deal is set, the price remains,
the Creator of all, His life to give.
“Not my will” I hear Him say.
“Your will be done, the price I’ll pay”.
But why, oh why? Dear Son of God,
not make your way to your throne above?
Why suffer such humiliation and pain
for a sinful soul who has caused you shame?
It was a high price that God had to pay to redeem us to himself, but He felt we were worth it. Isaiah 53:11 points out that Christ "shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied". He will look at those who have made it and say "you were worth it".
That brings us to where we began, "you are as valuable as Christ". An item is as valuable as any person is willing to pay for it. God carefully considered the cost to Himself, and determined that you are worth as much to Him as Christ does. That is hard to comprehend.
Christ says that "Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I might take it up again" (John 10:17). It wasn't the act of laying down his life that pleased God, it was what he accomplished by doing so.
In Isaiah 13:12 God says "I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir." We live in a world of broken people - some more than others; but when God made the above statement he did not add a qualifier. A person, regardless of financial, physical, or even moral condition, is more valuable to God than the most valuable material possession available.
We need to be mindful of how much emphasis we place on acquiring material possessions, and how we treat others that have less. It 's also important to note that the homeless person who is drugged out on the street today may live in the mansion next to yours in heaven.
If you are a Christian reading this I hope it affects the way you look on the broken people you meet on the street as you do evangelism. They might not seem to have much to offer the church, but in God's eyes there is no difference between His children in the pit vs those in the palace. In heaven no one will know the difference.
You were valued at the price of God's son, and God decided that you were worth it. There is nothing that you can do to make yourself more valuable.
What an insult to God when we try to evaluate our value based on things like jewels, nice clothes, expensive cars, houses, material or non-material capital, education, influence, personality. Those are means that people who have no greater sense of value use to measure themselves and others. When you know where your true value lies those things are absolutely irrelevant to how you feel about yourself, and don't determine the value you place on each soul.
Nothing can be more valuable than Christ, so there is nothing that you can do to add value to yourself, or that anyone can do to devalue you when you receive the value that God has placed on you through the gift of His son. Many will do and say things that will cause you to doubt your value, but remember, you were bought with a price.
Hope this study has the same transforming impact on your life as it did in mine.
And here is another beautiful thing about how God's love transforms us, 1 John 4:7-21:Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
As God is, "so are we in this world". How can this be? God's love transforms us, and we become God's love to the world.
The world degrades and diminishes our worth, often under the guise of love. The love that comes from God restores and adds value. Is your self worth grounded in that love? Do you love others in a way that reflects the value that God has placed on them?