Do You View the Cross as a Reflection of Your Worthiness?
Some speakers would say, “Look at the cross. That’s how valuable you are!”
For many of us, we love God as long as He makes us central. We love Him because we think we are at the center of His affections. We love Him because He makes us feel good about ourselves. We believe that we are the apple of God’s eye.
And where does this belief come from? It flows from viewing the cross as a reflection of our worthiness, that Jesus endured the tremendous pain of crucifixion for us whom we believe are worthy, that on the cross He values us above all. A song puts it this way: “[Jesus] took the fall and thought of [us] above all.”
But isn’t this theology man-centered? Does it not exalt the human ego? And does it not displace God from His rightful place?
Here’s the truth: We are not the apple of God’s eye. And here’s another (hard) truth: We are unworthy! Or in another word, worthless. Romans 3:10-12 says:
10…None is righteous, no, not one; 11no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
So who, then, is the apple of God’s eye? Answer: God! God is the apple of God’s eye! God is at the center of God’s affections! He is of infinite worth and it is but right for Him to direct all His time, energy, and passion to Himself. Everything He does is for His glory, including dying on the cross (You’ll see this in the whole of Scripture. A sampling of verses includes Isaiah 43:6-7 [God’s glory in creation], Jeremiah 13:11 [in election of Israel], Psalm 106:7–8 [in salvation of Israel], Isaiah 48:9–11 [in restraining His anger], and 2 Thessalonians 1:9–10 [in sending His Son]. And in all of the redemptive history, from beginning to end, including the middle, God has one goal: The glory of His name. Consider passages Ephesians 1:4-6 [beginning/predestination], John 17:24 [end/consummation], and Romans 3:23-26 [middle/propitiation; John Piper says: “[God’s] righteousness is his commitment to upholding and displaying the infinite worth of his glory.”]). God, in the person of Jesus, took the fall and thought of Himself above all!
Sure, Jesus also thought of us and died for us. But this is penultimate. He really died for Himself, that is, He died to display His infinite worth and glory in saving unworthy sinners like us. And this is ultimate! And this is grace! And this is love!
The cross does not reflect our worthiness. Rather, it reflects our unworthiness and God’s infinite worthiness. So we must view it the right way.
Briefly, I want to suggest what happens when we view the cross as a reflection of our worthiness, and when we believe Jesus dies ultimately for us:
1. We haven’t really understood God’s grace. If we claim to be worthy or valuable, then we give God a reason to die for us. Our worthiness, then, becomes a basis of Jesus’ death on the cross. And grace would no longer be grace. Grace is only grace when an infinitely worthy Jesus dies for unworthy people like us.
2. We make God an idolater. If Jesus ultimately dies for us, then He is esteeming us more than Himself. And if God esteems us higher than Himself, then He is putting us in the place of God, in the place of Himself. God, therefore, becomes an idolater, since He is putting something else in the place of God or Himself. I don’t want to worship an idolater. So God can’t esteem us higher than Himself. And He shouldn’t.
3. We are not worshipping the one true God. If God on the cross esteems us above Himself, then He becomes an idolater. That’s not the God of the Bible. Therefore, we are not worshipping the one true God. And we are not worshipping Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).
John Piper deeply influenced my thinking on this, that is, the thinking that everything God does is for His glory. You might be interested reading his message for Passion Conference 2010 here.
Louie Giglio obviously shares this thinking. He once tweeted: