What Are You Worth?

 

I’m asking you right now.  What are you worth?

 

A glassy-eyed, slightly panicked stare is often the only response I get to that question. After several moments of stunned silence, many people answer with a variant of, “Not very much.” Others, especially those who have had some secular counseling, will answer, “I’m worth standing up for,” or “I’m worth my own happiness.” This latter group speaks angrily, as though they are opposing an unseen enemy who always argues against them.

 

No one ever gives me an amount. Granted, it’s a difficult thing to estimate. In the end something is only worth what someone else will pay for it. Today’s real estate market has taught many a lesson in that regard. Similarly, an appraisal of my grandmother’s engagement ring listed the value upwards of $10,000, but when I decided to sell it, no one would pay anything like that price. The ring was over-valued. It was never worth as much as I thought it was.

 

It’s also possible to undervalue a possession. American Pickers has made a cable splash, not to mention a lot of money, based on that fact. They know someone, somewhere will pay more for their finds than the price on the sticker. In fact, something considered a piece of junk can turn out to be worth quite a bit more than its owner suspects. It doesn’t matter what you think. It doesn’t matter what you feel. An asset is only worth what someone else will pay for it. No more, and no less.

 

So I ask you again, “What are you worth?” If you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then a ransom has been exchanged for you, body and soul. Your value is a known quantity. You are worth the very life of the only-begotten Son of the Lord of the Universe. It doesn’t matter what you think. It doesn’t matter what you feel. You are worth infinite riches, because that is the price which has already been paid for you. Sometimes just knowing that changes everything.

 


If this post sounds familiar, it might be because it was originally published here in 2012.

Becoming

You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations –these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit –immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
– C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

 

Photo by Matt H Wade

I live in Orlando, a city best known for its theme park kingdoms. Most of us who live here take little notice of them, considering them irrelevant (except for occasional matters of traffic) to the struggles of daily life. I’m afraid that’s how we sometimes view God’s Kingdom, too.

 

Everyone who rightly claims the name of “Christian” has been given a free ticket to a supernatural kingdom of epic adventures, but most of us are content to stop just inside the gate and camp permanently in the parking lot. After all, it is clean and safe here. Little effort is required to wander aimlessly in the immediate vicinity. From time to time snatches of captivating music tempt us to press on for points unknown, but daily struggles, unspoken fears or a lack of imagination keep us rooted to the pavement.

 

Christ bought the ticket we carry in our pocket, and it was His song which drew us through the outer gate. Far in the distance stands a blazing throne where God the Father reigns in unimaginable glory, and it is toward this throne that Christ’s footsteps lead us, that gratitude for His love compels us, that the promise of His grace draws us. Between the gate and throne lie diverse pathways lined with heaven’s riches which are ours to discover if we will. Some of you will be saying, “Riches? The route of my life has included far more disasters than miracles.” But I am not referring to the outward condition of life but to the inner process of becoming Christ-like. It is a process of goodness and glory which requires our attention and cooperation and invites our celebration. Having passed through the narrow gate which divides the dead from the living, it is time to leave the anteroom where life is habitual and the world’s songs drown out heaven’s music. Half-hearted devotion is satisfied with half-truths and temporary treasures, but we were not redeemed for such trinkets.

 

God has infinite gifts tailored to meet the particular needs of His children. To move toward God is to become a little better, a little wiser, a little fuller, and a little more beautiful than we were before. One small step in the right direction will bring us that much closer to the Savior who has gone before us. Yes, we may encounter difficulties – battles and wounds, even – but there is no limit to the grace and joy to be found by walking forward in faith. When we finish this earthly sojourn, we will have become something more than we are now, and when we finally arrive at the foot of the throne, “the souls of righteous men made perfect,” (Heb. 12:23) we will have become everything that God dreamed for us. Right now, right here, all of us who dare this quest are in the process of becoming that new and glorious creature.

 

The Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesians that they might “know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,” and “be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19). Can you imagine what that might mean, to be filled up to all the fullness of God? For one thing, it means that no matter how much you know of Him now, how much you are filled with His love, how much you understand His goodness, His sufficiency, His power in your life – there is more! There’s more right now, and there is always more. That is the marvel of God’s kingdom. You can always press a little closer to the throne. The wonderful promise for us is that when we draw near to God, He will also draw near to us (James 4:8).

 

Discuss it: What would it mean for you to step a little deeper into the Kingdom of God? What keeps you from taking that step?

* Would it mean clarifying a belief you have struggled with?

* Taking on a greater challenge in the area of service?

* Might it mean facing that sin you’ve brushed aside?

* Could it mean forgiving the nearly-unforgivable?

* Perhaps making prayer a more constant source of strength?

* Memorizing your favorite passage?

Let me know what is calling you deeper in.

 


 

I am having a happy summer break with the Littles, so this post is a repeat from several years ago.

Who Am I?


Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a haunting poem called “Who Am I?” from his jail cell in war-time Nazi Germany.  In it he considers the difference between others’ observations of him, as brave and confident throughout his imprisonment, and the way he felt inside, like “a contemptible woebegone weakling.”  His confusion is familiar to me in this season of Lent when we are encouraged to remember our abiding sinfulness and to repent of all its unseemliness before our Most Holy God.  In the process of doing that good work of repentance, I can sometimes get lost in my own shame, scrabbling like a squirrel in a box to find the way back to courage and confidence.  Who am I?  A worthless sinner who even in her best moments can never escape her own failures?  Or the beloved daughter of the King of Everything, a courageous and powerful extension of her Father’s purpose in the world? 

 

Scripture tells me that I am a sinner before I sin, that my humanness is confined by my fallenness, that I will never in this life do anything which is pure or worthy of the great attention which God pours upon me by His grace alone.  When I clothe myself in my most shining achievement, it is, in comparison to God’s beauty, as though I had covered my nakedness with excrement (Is. 64:6, Zec. 3:3). There is a deep and enduring truth here which is dangerous to ignore – I cannot forget my sin nature or the way it works itself out in practical, cunning and consistent corruption.  If I do forget that, it will overtake me.  Even worse, when I devalue my own sinfulness, I devalue the price which was paid to free me. 

 

However, alongside my very real need for repentance and the truth of my depravity, there is also a danger in claiming the name, “Worthless.”  I count myself among those who have taken that name early in life, and we spend much of our emotional capital repeating it to ourselves (Stupid!  Failure!  Worthless!).  We also spend much of our time and energy trying to climb out of that pit, to earn our own freedom, to change our own name, to fill the hole in our hearts with affirmation or accomplishments that we have garnered for ourselves.  I carry a psychic tennis racquet to bat away the compliments I cannot accept, and yet I will work harder and longer the next time around to make sure someone keeps lobbing them my way.  When I live out of my Worthless identity, I am trying to fix my own problem by myself. Real repentance doesn’t try to take its own punishment or repair its own brokenness.  Real repentance throws us passionately, even joyfully, back into the arms of God where we belong.

 

While we take needed time during Lent to recognize and repent of the sinfulness which infects our cells like a virus, it is another part of worship to rejoice in the fact that have already swallowed the cure.  In fact, God sees us clothed in the righteousness of Christ and seated with Him in heaven (Eph. 2:6) because that’s our truest nature.  It has been accomplished FOR us.  It is still being accomplished IN us.  Our sin nature is falling away, being conquered in slow motion.  Let us not define ourselves by the part of us which is dying.  Let us answer the question, “Who am I?” the way God answers it for us.  It doesn’t matter how much you or I feel that we are putrid pond scum.  God says that we are His bride, His friend, His child, His “Beloved.”  That is who we are and who we are becoming.  At the same time, Beloved could not be our identity or our destiny if Christ had not come to save us from ourselves.  That immense and glorious salvation is what we celebrate with the heartfelt offering of our repentance.