“Getting A Clue: What Am I Worth?”
The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard told a story of thieves who broke into a jewelry store but didn't steal anything; they simply rearranged the price tags. The next morning, the expensive jewelry was sold as junk, and the junk jewelry was sold as expensive. His point is obvious. We live in a world where someone has rearranged the price tags. As pastor Mike Glen wrote, "Nowhere is this switching of price tags more evident than in the area of self-esteem. In our culture, people are valued for how they look, what they can do or even what they have, but rarely for who they are. In our world, you have to be beautiful by mathematical standards, entertaining), and if you are not, the world has no place for you. If you can't make the Top 100 in the world on some list, you are nothing. This pressure on self-esteem has devastating consequences in the lives our young adults. Young men commit heinous acts just to prove to someone they are a man. Young women get involved in destructive relationships because they are told they are nothing if they do not follow the culture's standards.” (1)
Additionally the advance of secularism and the onslaught of co-called sexual freedom has taken a horrific toll how people feel about themselves. One writer described it as tsunami that has knocked down and carried away most all the markers of our identity(2) : marriage and family, objective right and wrong, respect for people and for human life. Life has been cheapened and devalued. It’s no wonder lack of healthy self-worth has reached epidemic proportions. That’s why an answer to today’s question is so critically important.
We get our clues from Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus, the first chapter. Before saying anything about behavior and action, Paul spends three chapters reminding us of our worth. There are at least five truths Paul wants us to know. First, know that A PRIZE HAS BEEN AWARDED TO YOU. Verse 4: “For he chose us…” …” The choosing is God’s effort, not ours. Jesus said (Jn. 6:44) “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” We believe in Jesus Christ not so we can be chosen but because we already chosen.
Paul continued, “For he chose us in him…” Did you hear the good news? He chose us in Christ – period! You are CHOSEN BY GOD BY GRACE. You didn’t have to earn it, beat out others to get to it, or build an acceptable resume – He chose you because…He chose you. Growing up I was the youngest boy in the neighborhood. That guaranteed that when teams were chose for anything, I was usually last – and then sometimes chosen only if the teams were uneven. Perhaps that’s why I appreciate that God makes the choice and that He makes it by grace. OUR WORTH IS NOT A REASON FOR GOD TO ACCEPT US – IT IS THE RESULT OF GOD ACCEPTING US. As Charles Spurgeon once put it, “I’m glad God chose me before I was born; he certainly wouldn’t have chosen me after.”
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world…” Think about it – we were, wrote Paul, chosen before the creation of the world!
It’s not that God created a world and then created people to dwell in it and then chose his favorites – no He chose us first and then created a world for us! What a thought! Someone has put it this way: BEFORE THERE WAS A PLACE FOR THE UNIVERSE IN GOD’S HAND THERE WAS A PLACE FOR ME IN GOD’S HEART!
Furthermore, Paul said, (4): “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” WE ARE CHOSEN TO BE HOLY. God is making us whole and holy by his love. Our holiness, or wholeness, or wholesomeness, is not something we need to attain. A young man once studied violin under a world-renowned master. The time arrived for the student’s first recital. Following each selection, despite the cheers of the crowd, the performer seemed dissatisfied. Even after the last number, with the shouts louder than ever, the talented violinist stood watching an old man in the balcony. Finally the elderly one smiled and nodded in approval. Immediately the young man relaxed and beamed with happiness. You see, the old man in the balcony was his teacher; thus the applause of the crowd meant nothing until he had first won the approval of his master. The applause – or lack of applause – from the crowd around us means nothing. WE HAVE THE APPROVAL OF THE MASTER – and we didn’t have to play perfectly to gain it! Embrace your prize – claim your status. You are chosen by God and are holy in his sight.
Second, Paul assures you that A POSITION HAS BEEN SECURED FOR YOU. (5) “In love he predestined …” You are PREDESTINED. In that pre-creation eternity God did something. He formed a purpose in His mind. This purpose concerned both Christ and us. He chose us in him. God put us and Christ together in his mind. He determined to make us (who did not yet exist) his own children through the redeeming work of Christ (which had not yet taken place). (3) God marked you out ahead of time; He had already decided, in advance of your birth – He destined you by His loving choice.
“In love he predestined us for adoption…” YOU ARE ADOPTED. Paul wrote his words in the context of a Roman world in which the wealthy adopted only those children who were “well-suited” for the inheritance of the particular family. But he points to God who knew us as rebellious sinners – who knew everything there was to know about us – and still chose to adopt us. There is nothing we can say or do which will surprise God. Under God’s eyes we have no skeletons in our closet which could cause Him to ignore us. We are totally covered by His love. It is, says Paul, God’s great pleasure to do so.
“In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” Pastor Tim Keller
points out that some people are put off by Paul's language of adoption because it's gender insensitive. They argue, "Wouldn't it be better to say that we become sons and daughters of God?" It would, but that misses the whole point. Some time ago, a woman helped him understand this. She was raised in a non-Western family from a very traditional culture. There was only one son in the family, and it was understood in her culture that he would receive most of the family's provisions and honor. In essence, they said, "He's the son; you're just a girl." That's just the way it was. One day she was studying a passage on adoption in Paul's writings. She suddenly realized that the apostle was making a revolutionary claim. Paul lived in a traditional culture just like she did. He was living in a place where daughters were second-class citizens. When Paul said—out of his own traditional culture—that we are all sons in Christ, he was saying that there are no second-class citizens in God's family. When you give your life to Christ and become a Christian, you receive all the benefits a son enjoys in a traditional culture. Our adoption means we are loved like Christ is loved. We are honored like he is honored—every one of us—no matter what. Your circumstances cannot hinder or threaten that promise. In fact, your bad circumstances will only help you understand and even claim the beauty of that promise. The more you live out who you are in Christ, the more you become like him in actuality. Paul is not promising you better life circumstances; he is promising you a far better life. He's promising you a life of greatness. He is promising you a life of joy. He's promising you a life of humility. He's promising you a life of nobility. He's promising you a life that goes on forever.(4) As The Message puts it: “Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.”
Embrace your position – claim your status. You are a true child, a full son of God, a brother or sister of Jesus. You are a full heir.
Paul gives a third clue to our worth: A PRICE HAS BEEN PAID FOR YOU. (7): “In (Christ) we have redemption ...” To redeem means to buy back, to buy something captive to free it. It often meant the setting free of a thing or person that had come to belong to another and was powerless to free itself. For example, in the Roman world, after a battle the victors would round up all the defeated enemy soldiers and make slaves of them. They would only be freed if someone paid a set price for them – would redeem them. Otherwise they remained a slave, powerless to be free. Similarly, as Paul wrote in chapter 2, we had been taken captive from God and placed in the concentration camp of Satan. We were powerless to save ourselves. So Jesus paid the price to buy us back for God! You are adopted because GOD HAS REDEEMED YOU.
And the price paid for your redemption was a heavy one. “In (Christ) we have redemption through his blood...” It cost God His Son; it cost Jesus His life. You are saved THROUGH JESUS’ BLOOD. Jesus died for you! (1 Pt. 18-19 TLB) “God paid a ransom to save you from the impossible road to heaven which your fathers tried to take, and the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver as you very well know. But he paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.”
You belong to Jesus. As our beloved Heidelberg Catechism (Q & A1) states: “I am not my own, but belong - body and soul, in life and in death - to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has also set me free from the tyranny of the devil.” I can buy a baseball at Dunhams. It’s worth whatever I pay for it. But if Derek Jeter signs the ball, its value increases exponentially. God has placed the signature of Jesus on you. Embrace your price – claim your status. A high price was paid for you. You have great value! You belong to Christ!
And it gets better! According to Paul clue number 4 is that A PARDON HAS BEEN GRANTED YOU. (7) “In (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us ...” YOU ARE FORGIVEN. You need not worry about your shortcomings; you need not fear being cut off from God’s love; you need not try to hide your guilt; you are forgiven. Jesus’ death paid for all your sins, not just those already committed but those yet to be committed. As William Hogan said, “As Christ hung on the cross, God looked down the corridor of time and saw every sin you and I would ever commit, and He accepted the death of Christ as payment in full for all of them.” (5)
You belong to God; you are secure in Christ. Paul wrote (2 Cor. 5:21 TLB) “For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us!” JESUS TOOK YOUR HELL SO YOU COULD SHARE HIS HEAVEN! Alice had been through this so many times before. Her hopes had been raised, only to be dashed. She would be called to leave the dorm room to wait outside the office of the Superintendent of the orphanage. She would overhear words like “slow” and “difficult,” Then there would be the inch by inch scrutiny that made her feel like a specimen - or a piece of meat in a butcher shop. These were bad memories. One lady wouldn’t even look at her because her dress fit her so poorly. Another wanted nothing to do with her because she stuttered. Still another woman was sure Alice’s clubfoot would make her too clumsy to be a good servant. Tears welled up in her eyes when she recalled the time she was slapped because she tripped and brushed a lady’s fur coat with her hands. So it’s no wonder Alice once again felt self-conscious as she stood in front of yet another young couple. The pretty young lady stood erect in front of Alice, as Alice tried to hide her misshapen foot. Slowly, the tall young man circled repeatedly around Alice. At times, he would stop, glance towards his wife or raise an eyebrow. Finally he went to his wife and they silently and intently looked into each other’s eyes for what seemed like an eternity. Then the man turned to the Superintendent and said. “Yes, she’s the one. We would like to have her.” Even the superintendent shook his head in disbelief. Alice was stunned. “Y-y-you m-m-mean y-y-you want me t-t-to b-b-be y-y-your s-s-serving girl?” she asked? “No Alice,” replied the lady, “We want you to be our daughter.” Alice had never dared dream of this! She wanted to hear it again, so she queried, “You really want me to be your daughter...to live with you in your house?” Alice wasn’t even aware she was no longer stammering. “Yes,” said the man. “We’ve never had any children. My wife and I have so much love to give, and we want to give that love to you. We want you to be happy.” “But why me?” asked Alice. At that the pretty young lady stood up and smiled. Slowly she reached down and lifted her floor length skirt and revealed her own malformed foot. “Today,” she said, “we want you to be our child. Please, Alice, let us love you.” God looks down at us, disfigured by our sin, and points to Jesus, pierced for and also disfigured by our sin – and says, “I have adopted you. Let me love you.” (6) We have firm standing with God! As Embrace your pardon – claim your status. You are forgiven!
Paul’s fifth clue is that A PROMISE HAS BEEN DELIVERED TO YOU. Verses 13-14: “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” YOU ARE SEALED. The imagery comes from life in Ephesus. Paper documents were sealed with melted wax into which the owners pressed their rings with the image of their family crest. When the wax dried it made a seal. For livestock they branded the image with hot irons. Slaves were often tattooed with the family seal of the estate they were serving. The seal was a mark of ownership.
So, said Paul, God has sealed you with His HOLY SPIRIT to remind and assure you that you are His. Isn’t that really all the reminder you need? Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. We end where we started – your worth is not in anything you do or say – your worth comes from God in Jesus Christ, who has pledged Himself to you. And, if God is for you, who can be against you? What others think about you really isn’t that important. You’re not here to please others, to meet the world’s standards; you’re part of a grander plan. God wants to receive glory through you. It’s not your ability He’s concerned about; it’s your availability! John Bunyan’s allegorical man with the muck rake speaks to us this morning. There he is, stooped in body, and dwarfed in spirit and soul. He has spent a lifetime raking through the muck and mire at his feet, looking for some morsel to sustain life or a trinket to brighten it. All the time, unknown to him, a glittering, golden crown hangs suspended just above his head. It is within his reach, but he never sees it; he’s too busy groveling in the muck. Jesus Christ has died, risen, and ascended – for you. He is seated at the Father’s right hand. Look up, grab the crown, embrace your security and your worth - and be all you are created to be!
(1) Mike Glen, preaching.com
(2) Cardinal Donald Wuerl, We Are Not Bystanders, in Plough – Summer 2014, p. 23
(3) Stott, J. R. W. (1979). God’s new society: the message of Ephesians (pp. 36–37). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
(4) Tim Keller, in his sermon "The Christian's Happiness," PreachingToday.com
(5) William Hogan, ‘Redeemed’, “Church of the Savior Pulpit”,
(6) From Story Sermon, by James Henderschedt