Self-valuation in Christ
Disarm the devil by being aware of his psychological traps.
Larry Kirkpatrick ++ Mentone Church of Seventh-day Adventists ++ 1 December 2001
Today we embark in a new direction, laying now a foundation so that we may advance in the battle of the Lord. In past messages we've dealt with some of the serious issues in our own denomination, and doubtless in the process of time we shall again. However, we now turn more specifically to other equally important practical points: basic Christian living, how to share our faith, and how to be God's people, His church, in the end-time. In general, these are the topics that will occupy us in the weeks and months directly before us.
Our topic today is foundational to what we are about to explore. Today we are going to think about our self-valuation in Christ. Let me explain that.
Not Addressing 'Self-Esteem'
What we are not attempting to address, not directly anyway, is the issue of "self-esteem." Self-esteem is an idea that has been brought to the table by modern psychology. It comes with very different presuppositions than do we. The fundamental starting point for secularist psychology is a denial of key biblical assertions, including the fall and its impact on our race. Pop-psych comes with a comfortable scenario not demanding divine salvation. Instead, they suggest that humankind's main problem is that we've been raised by "dysfunctional" parents who have programmed us with a variety of faulty ideas and behaviors. Fortunately, through counseling and/or medication we can attain to "balance." Our dysfunction is caused, more or less, by our having negative feelings about ourself. Such is what they propose.
Of course our parents must have made some mistakes. Doubtless they have added both good things and bad to our lives. But the problem-set runs more deeply than our being raised under the wrong ideas, or our having negative feelings about ourselves. Let's call to mind our noble beginnings. Turn to Genesis 1:27. The Bible says, "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them."
Adam and Eve had something originally that we do too: the image of God. But theirs was originally unmarred, and had a shining purity that was devastated at the fall. Therefore we acquire a fallen nature when we come into being, and then we act in harmony with that nature. We choose the evil rather than the good. We embark almost automatically on a centripetal orientation toward life -- center-seeking, or self-centered, rather than the centrifugal, outwardly directed pattern meant by heaven to be ours.
When God made Adam and Eve in His image, He gave them dominion. Their dominion was over the earth, the But He also gave to them the power of choice on a moral basis -- choice between good and evil. Their dominion as moral beings was to make choices on a moral basis. Their heritage, and ours, was as creations of a moral God loving good and hating evil. That is a high heritage indeed!
Self-Esteem and Ellen G. White
While we will not here embark on this study, I want to share a point with you. Over time words often change in meaning. For example, do a search for "self-esteem" in the Ellen G. White CDROM and you'll come up with over 300 statements that are negative toward it. In her day, self-esteem meant to be selfish, to put your interests first and above those of others. However, what is interesting is that if you do a search for "self respect" on the same CDROM, you'll find two hundred statements that are positive. For Ellen G. White writing under the influence of the Spirit of God, our self-valuation or self respect could not be separated from the fact of the price paid for us to restore us to the divine image by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Obviously no such religiously-tainted phrasing could be allowed to enter psychology, so secular psychology scrapped the use of the term "self respect" and embraced and widely promoted the use of the term "self-esteem" to describe how we should value ourselves. They wanted to disconnect our value from our Creator and Redeemer. So now everyone is taught that that fuzzier thing called "self-esteem" is all-important, and not a word is heard of the old-fashioned but more sharply defined and more religiously-loaded term, "self respect." So if you want to follow-up the sermon on your own and do more with what the Holy Spirit through Mrs. White has said, go home and look her statements up under "self respect."
Why This is Important
We should ask and we should answer the question of why all this is important. If we are unclear about what makes us valuable in God's sight, we become subject to hidden inward biases. Those hidden inward biases will lead us to cling tenaciously to ideas supplying us a facsimile of personal value by other means. We may link our personal value to a position or a physical fact or even another person. However, all such sources of personal valuation are open to adjustment from sources beyond our reach.
If I am a football player and I derive my fundamental personal value from the fact that I play for the Dallas Cowboys, and an injury places me in a wheel-chair for the rest of my life, then my value will be based upon what I once was. Likewise, an actress who stops getting work, a model who's looks become less marketable with age, a musician whom people stop buying the recordings of, a church officer who no longer holds that certain office, or a spouse who finds their own value in their spouse, then becomes separated or divorced -- all such sources of personal value are open to removal. That is not God's plan.
Our value as special creations of Christ is not open to any such removal save by ourselves.
We are made in God's image. No other heritage could be so noble. Hear now some insightful statements from the pen of Ellen G. White on this point:
"God estimates man not by the circumstances of his birth, not by his position or wealth, not by his advantages in educational lines, but by the price paid for his redemption. Man is of value with God in proportion as he permits the divine image to be retraced upon his soul. However misshapen has been his character, although he may have been counted as an outcast among men, the man who permits the grace of Christ to enter his soul will be reformed in character and will be raised up from his condition of guilt, degradation, and wretchedness. God has made every provision in order that the lost one may become His child. The frailest human being may be elevated, ennobled, refined, and sanctified by the grace of God. This is the reason God values men; and those who are workers together with God, who are filled with divine compassion, will see and estimate men in the same way that God sees and estimates them. Whatever may be the nationality or color, whatever may be the social condition, the missionary for God will look upon all men as the purchase of the blood of Christ, and will understand that there is no caste with God. No one is to be looked upon with indifference or to be regarded as unimportant, for every soul has been purchased with an infinite price." (RH, December 3, 1895).
What a wealth of insight and what little there is to say in explanation. Our circumstances of birth: race, gender, appearance, or marked physical characteristics -- our position of wealth, from God or man, attainment, degrees acquired -- these bear no decisive relation to our real value. But we are estimated by the price paid for our redemption. God estimates man's value, initially in his potential, and progressively as the divine image is retraced in him.
Objective Value in Christ does not Remove Character Growth
Someone might think that placing our value in our purchase by Christ would lead us to careless living. But nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, such a high price has been paid for me by heaven in order that I might become what heaven would have me become, that I am going to fight sin and embrace God's righteousness. Far from peace there will be warfare.
By no means am I here saying, "peace and safety." (By God's grace I don't think you'll ever hear that cry from me.) But I am saying that for those who know God there is a peace difficult to describe. Remember, the Bible even says, "great peace have they that love Thy law" (Psalm 119:165).
We realized a few weeks ago, a real process of conversion, of God's grace truly at work within us means, "It is the grace that Christ implants in the soul which creates in man enmity against Satan. Without this converting grace and renewing power, man would continue the captive of Satan, a servant ever ready to do his bidding. But the new principle in the soul creates conflict where hitherto had been peace. The power which Christ imparts enables man to resist the tyrant and usurper. Whoever is seen to abhor sin instead of loving it, whoever resists and conquers those passions that have held sway within, displays the operation of a principle wholly from above" (Great Controversy, p. 506).
This power is the gift -- not of a divine tyrant -- but of the One who is unselfish Love. His call that we are to be holy for He is holy is not a harsh and random demand, but the plea of loving Father to wayward children to come apart from that which destroys, and rest awhile with the One who heals. He calls for those made in the image of God to rise to their true nobility, to be His sons and daughters.
I wonder -- all the interest that is focused on "assurance of salvation" these days -- if we understood that our self-valuation rests in Christ's love for us, I can't help but wonder whether we might as a people be less prone to hyperventilate about how "saved" we are, and be better equipped to simply realize that our God loves us. He is thoroughly desirous of saving us, with all that salvation means, not just the tip of the iceberg. And it is His good pleasure to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32).
Self Respect and the Scriptures
The Bible is filled with Scriptures of interest on the point of our study today. Let's consider some of these, starting with Matthew 6:19-21: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." That is, don't set your interests and affections on things that are pleasing to your natural heart, but lift up your eyes and let righteousness and heaven have first place in your affections. Where our treasure is -- what we choose to center on as foremost of value to us, is where our heart will be. If I choose to worship a corn-dog or a burrito, I will become like unto it; if I choose to worship the God of heaven, He will have my heart, and by His grace I shall become like Him.
You know that just across the page in Matthew 6:33 we learn that we are to seek first "the kingdom of God, and His righteousness." That is very important that it has both points there. Some of us would be glad to seek His kingdom on our terms, but His terms are that we also seek His righteousness. God's bounties can never be disconnected from His morality and the conditions and boundaries He has set. If we want to spend eternity with Him, then we'll evidence that right now by wanting to spend this life with Him as well, and that will mean seeking His righteousness here and now. It is not an add-on pack for later.
Again in Matthew 6:25-30 we read more of these fundamental statements concerning the value of humankind.
"Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"
Our life is more than what we eat or attain in material wealth. Remember, "Man is of value with God in proportion as he permits the divine image to be retraced upon his soul." O brothers and sisters, "Shall he not much more clothe you" with what you need to grow and go forward spiritually? As Ellen G. White puts it in Steps to Christ, p. 123, "If God, the divine Artist, gives to the simple flowers that perish in a day their delicate and varied colors, how much greater care will He have for those who are created in His own image?"
Satan wants us to doubt God's love for us. God wants to call to our mind His love for us, for us to be confident in Him and His Fatherly affection toward us. I know that the devil throws the temptation, "yes but that might apply to someone else, someone who has nolt gone so far away and so far down into the pit of sin. I have gone too far and really while I know God can restore me I don't believe that He loves me enough to restore me, because I am not good enough." And to such who are tempted I would share this from Ellen G. White's Temperance, p. 133:
"The lost coin, in the Saviour's parable, though lying in the dirt and rubbish, was a piece of silver still. Its owner sought it because it was of value. So every soul, however degraded by sin, is in God's sight accounted precious. As the coin bore the image and superscription of the reigning power, so man at his creation bore the image and superscription of God. Though now marred and dim through the influence of sin, the traces of this inscription remain upon every soul. God desires to recover that soul, and to retrace upon it His own image in righteousness and holiness."
Again, I would share these few lines from her Steps to Christ, p. 13-14:
"This great sacrifice was not made in order to create in the Father's heart a love for man, not to make Him willing to save. No, no! 'God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.' John 3:16. The Father loves us, not because of the great propitiation, but He provided the propitiation because He loves us. Christ was the medium through which He could pour out His infinite love upon a fallen world. 'God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.' 2 Corinthians 5:19. God suffered with His Son. In the agony of Gethsemane, the death of Calvary, the heart of Infinite Love paid the price of our redemption."
God loves us. He loves us. So He sent Jesus to redeem us. Do not doubt it, or doubt that in His divine heart He so values you that He permitted Jesus to die for you!
Is someone else better than you? Did Jesus die to save someone else and you are just being thrown-in to the group being saved as a bonus just because He feels like being nice? Don't entertain that thought. Do you recall the rich young ruler? Jesus asked him to demonstrate where his values really lay, in his self-interest, or in the actual primacy of the goals of God's kingdom being first in his life. He asked him to separate from his fealty to his wealth.
"But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?" (Matthew 19:22-25).
The Jews thought that riches equaled God's blessing upon those who were good. When they heard Jesus' saying, they were shocked, or as the Bible says, "exceeding amazed." And so immediately they asked Him, "Who then can be saved?" God plays no favorites. He has not picked out certain ones for good and certain ones for evil. He is not willing that any should perish! Believe God's love for you! For you.
A Call to be Willing to Be Loved in the End-Time
I want you to notice something here about the end-time. "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." (2 Timothy 3:13). Notice that as we near the end, there is an increasing degree of self-deception. Not only do those who deceive become more and more adept at it, but they themselves become increasingly susceptible to deception, and, by obvious extension, to self-deception. That is, if we do not cooperate with our Father in heaven and let Him do his work of removing sin from us, we will become more and more bound in the cords of those sins which we refuse to give up.
Maybe we know someone who seems spiritual and yet there are persistent problems in their life. Some of these could be connected to how they see their own value. We need to be clear on this point before we advance to self-examination. And we do need to go on to self-examination, because "Even one wrong trait of character, one sinful desire cherished, will eventually neutralize all the power of the gospel." (Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 53).
Let us accept our high and holy calling. Our God is merciful. He loves us. Really.
Christianity is, yes, a battle and a march. But unchristianity is to float downstream in a sewar filled with sharp glass and sorrows to the incinerator. The choice is ours. Listen to this description of the experience we may have as Christians!:
"We have a feast of fat things, and when we see souls grasping the light we are rejoiced, looking unto Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith. Christ is the great pattern; His character must be our character. All excellence is in Him. Turning from man and every other model, with open face we behold Jesus in all His glory. And their minds are filled with the grand and overpowering ideas of His excellency; every other object sinks into insignificance, and every part of moral discipline is lost which does not promote their likeness to His image. I see heights and depths that we may reach, accepting every ray of light and going forward to a greater light. The end is near, and God forbid that we shall be asleep at this time." (Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 362).
"The Lord did not make man to be redeemed, but to bear His image. . . . Because of the ransom paid for him, man, by his own choice, by obedience, may accomplish the design of God, and through the grace given of God bear the image that was first impressed upon him, and afterwards lost through the fall. . . ." (Selected Messages, bk. 3, p. 135).
Brethren and sisters: we were not made to be redeemed. But through Jesus Christ we are redeemed. We were made to bear His image. We were made to be holy and to love. Our adversary wants to intercept this plan. He wants us to damage ourselves, to select a course of action that will make it more difficult to save us. Thus he leads us into subtle schemes to cause our selfishness to be increased. He leads us, if he can, to put ourselves above others, and/or to hate ourselves, put ourselves below others. But let every tear be dried and every species of this confusion quelled. Let us turn our eyes upon Jesus in whom we find our right self-valuation. We may bear God's image.
Before we examine ourselves, let us renew our appreciation of the fact that God loves us, and that we are valued in light of the blood of Jesus shed for us. God grant us clearer vision, and a journey to the cross of Christ apart from confusion about whether God truly loves us or not.
Other Ellen G. White quotations of interest in relation to this topic:
"God's purpose for His institutions today may also be read in the purpose which He sought to accomplish through the Jewish nation. Through Israel it was His design to impart rich blessings to all peoples. Through them the way was to be prepared for the diffusion of His light to the whole world. The nations of the world, through following corrupt practices, had lost a knowledge of God. Yet in His mercy God did not blot them out of existence. He purposed to give them opportunity for becoming acquainted with Him through His church. He designed that the principles revealed through His people should be the means of restoring in man the moral image of God." (Testimonies, vol. 6, 221).
"Christ became a man that He might mediate between man and God. He clothed His divinity with humanity, He associated with the human race, that with His human arm He might encircle humanity, and with His divine arm grasp the throne of Divinity. And this humiliation on His part was that He might restore to man the original mind, the image of God, which he lost in Eden through Satan's alluring temptations, that man might realize that it is for his present and eternal good to obey the requirements of God. Disobedience is not in accordance with the nature which God gave to man in Eden." (ST, October 14, 1897).
"It was a wonderful thing for God to create man, to make mind. The glory of God is to be revealed in the creation of man in God's image, and in his redemption. One soul is of more value than a world. God created man that every faculty might be the faculty of the divine mind. The Lord Jesus Christ is the author of our being, and He is also the author of our redemption, and everyone who will enter the kingdom of God will develop a character that is the counterpart of the character of God. None can dwell with God in the holy heaven but those who bear his likeness. Those who are to be redeemed are to be overcomers; they are to be elevated, pure, one with Christ." (1888 Materials, p. 1430).
"In the estimation of Heaven, what is it that constitutes greatness? Not that which the world accounts greatness; not wealth, or rank, or noble descent, or intellectual gifts, in themselves considered. . . . It is moral worth that God values." (Desire of Ages, p. 220).
"The grace of Christ changes the whole man . . . Humanity becomes a partaker of divinity. Christ is honored by perfection of character." (RH, August 20, 1959).
"True conversion is a change from selfishness to sanctified affection for God and for one another." (Selected Messages, bk. 1, 114-115)
"Man's destiny will be determined by his obedience to the whole law. Supreme love to God and impartial love to man are the principles to be wrought out in the life." (Desire of Ages, p. 498).
"No misfortune is so great as to become the worshiper of a false god. No man is in such miserable darkness as he who has lost his way to heaven. It seems that an infatuation is upon him, for he has a false god. To turn this worship of the human, fallen, corrupt beings of earth to the only true object of worship seems a hopeless task. There are in our time continual repetitions of Belshazzar's feast and Belshazzar's worship; and Belshazzar's sin is repeated when the heart, which God requires to be given to Him in pure and holy devotion, is turned away from Him to worship a human being, and the lips are made to utter words of praise and adoration which belong alone to the Lord God of heaven. When the affections God claims to cluster about Him are made to center upon earthly objects -- a woman, a man, or any earthly things --God is superseded by the object which enchains the senses and affections, and the powers which were solemnly dedicated to God are bestowed upon a human being who is defiled with sin. Men and women who once bore the image of God, but are lost by disobedience and sin, He means to restore again through their becoming partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust. . . . When engaged in man-and-woman worship, remember that there is the same witness present as at the feast of Belshazzar." (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 435).
"Implacable hatred against God fills Satan's mind. Persistently he has used his influence to efface from the human family God's image, and in its place to stamp his own satanic image. His effort to deceive our first parents was successful. Made in the image of God, the human family lost their innocence, became transgressors, and as disloyal subjects began their downward career. Satan gained control of man's power of action. Through the senses he influenced the mind." (Upward Look, p. 41).
"In all your labor let it appear that you know Jesus. Present His purity and saving grace, so that those for whom you labor may, by beholding, be changed into the divine image. The chain that is let down from the throne of God is long enough to reach to the lowest depths of sin. Hold up a sin-pardoning Saviour before the lost and lonely, for Jesus has made divine intercession in their behalf. He is able to lift them from the pit of sin, that they may be acknowledged as the children of God, heirs with Christ to an immortal inheritance. They may have the life that measures with the life of God." (Review and Herald, April 11, 1912).
"The most unfortunate may bear the image of God, and they are of value to God." (Southern Work, p. 40).
"Christ began His work of conversion as soon as man transgressed, that through obedience to the law of God and faith in Christ they might regain the lost image of God." (Mind, Character, and Personality, p. 29).
"He who has a care for the sparrow and clothes the grass of the field, will not pass by those who have been formed in His own image, purchased with His own blood, and pay no heed to their cries." (Ministry of Healing, p. 341).
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