Sometimes I go in search of “inspirational” quotations that I can use for a newsletter article. The December quotes were just super-did disappointing, until I found this one. “You will never find your worth in another person- you find it in yourself, and then you will attract those who are worthy of your energy. Stop waiting for others to tell you how important you are. Tell yourself right now!” – Michael Nulty. Mr. Nulty is a “Transformational Life Coach” and people are using his worldview to shape their own lives. Whether you’ve heard of him or not, you have most likely heard this idea that we really don’t know our value until we find it deep inside of us. To my utter sadness, I’m sure many of the “new beginnings” (resolutions) starting January 1st are going to be based on this introspective approach to self-worth.
It would seem foolproof. If I’m the judge of my own self-worth and give a value to how important I am, then who can argue? What could possibly go wrong? For the Christian, everything will go wrong. As the Christian examines his own life, he comes to the same realization as Saint Paul: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). As we search inside ourselves, we are confronted with our own sin and our own failings, whether it be what we did or said, or what we failed to do. How much we find really depends on our honesty with ourselves. I find it is much easier to lie to myself. If I say something over and over again to myself, eventually I will believe it’s true. Perhaps that will give someone confidence for a short period of time, but sooner or later it won’t be enough to stay off the demons who torment us. Then it won’t just be a disparaging of the self, but a despair of the soul and the questions of matters of salvation. “You will never find your worth in yourself- you will find it in another person, namely Jesus Christ, God’s own Son incarnate (in the flesh), and then you will be attracted to the gifts God freely gives in Word and Sacrament so that you will be renewed in body and soul. Stop waiting to find out how important you are, read the Bible and see what God has done for you.”
Of course, it’s quite cheesy to try to redo silly, inspirational quotes. We are not to be conformed to the World. These quotes should, however, make us consider this question, “Why do Christians focus so heavily on the love of God being undeserved?” You’d think this concept would make a bunch of folks jump off the cliff of despair. But it doesn’t. Yet, we’re still left thinking, “How could someone who loves us more than anyone, tell us that we are not worthy of His love?” Look at this passage from 1 John 1:8-10 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” God tells us the truth. His prophets and apostles spoke the truth. And His pastor, to this day, tells us the truth, that we are unworthy of His love because we are not faithful. However, God’s love isn’t dependent upon our faithfulness, but upon His.
This fact makes His love for us even better than what we could have expected even if we had deserved it. That’s why Christians don’t jump off the cliff of despair when coming to terms with their sins. We know we have One who overcame our sins in His body upon the cross, and defeated death and hell for us in the resurrection. That proves that we are worth more than our minds can truly comprehend. Christ is the source of our peace in heart, mind, body, and soul. Dear Michael Nulty, we will never find our worth by looking inward. That worth will only stay for as long as we can lie to ourselves. Honest people know that that’s where they find filthy thoughts, evil desires, and plenty of guilt. Now, you’re mostly right when you say that we will not find our worth in another person, but even that isn’t entirely true since our God took on flesh to save us. You see, we are sure of our worth because we were created in the image of God (and so were you). We also know and believe in this God who was born of the Virgin Mary. He is a person like us, but also not like us, because He came and lived without sin. He then took our sins and shed His blood for us on the cross. There is nothing more valuable to base my worth on than the precious blood of Christ and His innocent suffering and death. How important does that make me, to know that God left heaven, was born to humble beginnings, lived perfectly, shed His blood in a humiliating death, and rose again, all to save me from myself?
When someone bases his worth/importance/value on his own standards and views, it is ever-changing and may depend on the day. However, recognizing the worth of being created in God’s image, being His baptized child, and a sheep of the Good Shepherd’s flock is a constant. This year I want you to begin with arrogance (boldness, confidence) in Christ!
- But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43.1
- But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy…. Titus 3:4-8a
- Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…. 1 Peter 3: 21
- We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4
- My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. John 10:27-30
With these words of Christ, you can stand even against the devil and the demons. As Luther said, “So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and, where He is, there I shall be also!” Now, what greater confidence could you have all the days of your life?
Your new beginning doesn’t have to be January 1st, it can be right now, and it can be every morning you wake up in the blessed baptism that God gave you. Furthermore, each week you can be strengthened in this foundation of hope in the Divine Service of our God. He who raised you with Christ to walk in the newness of life will never fail you. He will surely carry you with the glorious hope and confidence that He who rescued you 2,000 years ago is still with you to this day and until the end of the age. So, throw away those cheesy and narcissistic inspirational quotes and be raised to newness of life with faith in Christ.