One word that the church has enormous problems with at the moment is ‘sin’. It’s a word you try and avoid using at all costs, especially when you’re talking to a non-Christian. We avoid it because often once you use that word you can immediately be lumped in with all the nutter fundamentalist ‘bullhorn’ Christians and people think you’re going to proclaim eternal judgment and damnation on them, so even though they might hear your words afterwards, they tend to switch off. It’s such a difficult word, because there’s hardly any substitute. We often substitute it with words ‘mistake’, which is actually inaccurate, because sin itself is never a mistake, it’s always deliberate. The other reason we don’t like using it is because we don’t want to make people feel useless, hopeless people who don’t deserve anything and have no value – something that many Christians have been guilty of over the years, in their effort to spread the gospel, and in fact it’s done much damage.
The reason people equate sin with value is because that’s what religion and culture does – that’s the nature of the world we live in. Our world equates value with what you’ve done, your achievements, your behaviour, your character and your talents – and your mistakes, bad decisions, you ‘sins’ as it were. We’re almost trained to do this from birth, and we do it almost instinctively by the time we’re adults.
For example, something in us values somebody who has achieved great success and status in their chosen field than someone who has attacked and murdered a family – in our hearts we value the first person far more than the other person, and that is how society works, and it’s accepted by a large majority of people.
The problem is that we apply this value to God. We can easily be led into thinking, especially if we’re not from a church background, on a very subconscious level, that God gives us value according to our actions, achievements and status, either within church or outside of it. We don’t want to face our own sin, because we think that somehow this will devalue us in God’s sight or we will lose God’s blessing or even our salvation as a result – as if God doesn’t know about our sin.
We brush our sin under the carpet and aren’t honest with ourselves often because we’re ashamed of what we’ve done and think somehow God will punish us forever if we admit it and face up to it.
But the reality is that our sin and our value are two separate things.
God doesn’t equate our sin with our value.
What we do has no bearing on our inherent value and worth.
It says in scripture that we have infinite value to God, that we were predestined before creation and chosen by Him before creation to be His adopted children.
Scripture also tells us that while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us.
Scripture also says we are God’s workmanship – we are created by God, and in 1 John it says that who we will become is ‘yet to be revealed’. But God has it all in hand, and we are often referred to as works of art, and there are constant references to God as a good, loving parent who cares infinitely for us and wants to come to Him in a child-like way, even with our flaws and failures.
I think a great metaphor for our relationship with God is shown through the life of Peter, and his relationship to Jesus. Jesus loved Peter, but He knew he was going to deny Him. He didn’t suddenly stop loving Peter because He denied Him, and His value to Jesus didn’t change suddenly – the relationship was damaged, but through the cross and resurrection, it was restored.
According to the world’s way of doing things, what Peter did would completely disqualify him from serving Jesus. He had denied Him three times, how could he be possibly trusted to publicly spread the word, yet alone lead his church?
This Peter, who publicly denied Jesus three times, with in all likelihood Jesus within earshot or view, ended up being one of the founders of the early church, preaching one of the greatest sermons in history, and being executed publicly for his faith in Jesus. God used him in incredible ways.
Jesus didn’t look at the sin. He recoginised it, He forgave it, and embraced Peter into His family. His value of Peter never changed at all, He knew him, loved him and blessed him richly. God didn’t make Peter suffer for denying Jesus, instead He blessed him richly, and used him greatly.
In many ways Peter’s story is our story. We all have to face up to our sin. I have spoken many times here recently about how honesty is the beginning of substantive change, and that is true. We need to be brutally honest about our own sin in order to begin to grow, and that can be painful and difficult.
But we must separate our value from our sin.
All the ways we have let God down, all the ways we have broken His trust in us, all the things we have said, thought, done or not done, have nothing to do with our value.
We have infinite value to God, we are of infinite worth to Him, and His love for us is unconditional. If we understand this, and put our trust and security in this, then the difficult task of facing up to our sin suddenly becomes a lot safer.
We need to grasp that God’s love and value for us has no relation to anything we do, have done or will do, or anything we achieve or any status we have.
It just is.
It means that we can be totally honest with both God and ourselves about who we are, about our sin. If our worth isn’t dependent on what we do, we can be totally honest, and as we are honest about ourselves we appreciate more the sheer grace of a God who values and loves us infinitely and unconditionally despite ourselves, and who sees everything.
If our security rests in how everyone sees us, then our security is in what we do and in what we’ve done in the past, including in our mistakes – when we look at ourselves and are brutally honest with ourselves then it can get us down and we might feel there’s no hope, or that we’ll never be good enough for God.
But when our security is in God and we trust Him, like a child implicitly and totally trust their parents, when we know His love & value for us is unconditional, then even in those moments we really dislike ourselves and feel most unworthy of God, or not good enough for Him, we can have peace and hope.
We have security in those moments, because our security rests on the unconditional love and grace of God, not on us, our achievements or status.
We have hope – the only real hope there is – because at that point we know God’s value on us, His love for us and grace toward us are infinite and unconditional.
We can trust that nothing we’ve done can stand in the way of His blessing on us or His plans for us and in our hearts we can truly understand and appreciate the scripture which proclaims that ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God’.
We feel safe despite ourselves, we feel protected, and we know that whatever happens, God is on our side – not a schoolteacher or headmaster, not a bad boss grading us on our performance, but a loving Father who wants us to know Him and want us to be known by Him, and is always with us, within us.
There is a journey we go on toward this place, and it is a process. It’s not something we can suddenly turn on.
It’s a decision we make at first, a choice, each day, to put our security and identity in Christ and what He has said about us, despite our circumstances and the words being spoken to us from outside. We keep choosing Jesus words about us instead of what the world says, and we choose to separate our value from our sin, and we then honestly and frankly examine ourselves, invite God in to transform us. We are honest with God and ourselves and our sin, and we do this from a position of strength, because we know the truth, that although we are sinners, we have infinite value and worth because God has said so, and we are free from sin because the cross has set us free from it – and in that moment, we finally feel true freedom and new life.
This is one of the cycles of life, it’s a process we need to be going through all the time. The life of faith is a relationship with a living God, and it’s an ongoing process of transformation we go through. There’s no ‘final point’ we get to, we just keep on going, trying every day to become a little more like Jesus than we were the day before.
We should never shy away from being honest about our sin – but we should also be honest about our value too – and our value is infinite, our worth unmeasured, and totally unconditional on anything we have or will ever do.
The truth is that nothing – nothing – can separate us from the love of God, and that love is unconditional, infinite and unchanging, and can deal with anything you throw at it.
And no matter what you throw at it, neither God’s love, nor your value or worth, won’t ever change. Not one bit.
Do you associate your value & worth with your achievements or status?
Do you feel that you have to earn your salvation or prove yourself to God?
What steps can you take today to begin separating your inherent, infinite worth & value from your achievements & status?