#12 What Self Worth?
In the beginning of chapter three of the book of Romans Paul spoke of the great majesty of God, His magnificent glory, and His unmatched perfection! He set before us the Person of God is indescribable in his glory. How blasphemous then is it to say that we can become as gods. Now I know that this is one of the chief lies of Mormonism but where did that lie originate? In the garden! It came from the lips of the father of lies.
Today we will contrast that with that of another lie, the so-called glory, the self worth of man. In reality, we are going to behold the irresplendent non-glory of man in all of his immense non-glory and pitch black unholiness.
Our objective this morning is to lay to rest this much lauded idea of self worth. Now where did this idea that we are something come from? I admit that we can point to a time in the past where we see mankind as the crowning work of creation. But then Adam fell and with that fall we lost our original state of righteousness. Though the image of God is still upon us it is terribly clouded over by sin. In fact, there is no area of our lives that has not been polluted by the ugliness of sin.
Remember the Tower of Babel! There wicked men decided that they would make a name for themselves. They too had decided that they were somebody! Listen to the dialog found in (Ge 11:3-4) “They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 4 They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
What do we see here? Let us make…let us build…let us make… And what was it they wanted to make? A name for themselves! They wanted to make themselves famous throughout the land. They wanted to show everyone that they were really great. And so they built. They built a tower that is now in ruins. But the ruins themselves according to archeological estimates are around 235 feet high.
This was quite a structure; quite a testament to the ingenuity and abilities of man. And yet what happened to those who were involved in the building of this tower? They were scattered to in all directions because God didn’t like what they were doing! This is key! Pr 8:13 “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate. The builders of the Tower of Babel were evil in heart and mind. They were full of pride and arrogance. Their ways were evil in God’s sight and He judged them there. The multitude of languages today is testament to the wrath of God!
But today we hear so much about self worth and self esteem and self whatever. We hear motivational speakers tell crowds of thousands to repeat “I am somebody. I am special. I am worthy!” Listen to advertisers on the radio or television as they tell you what you deserve and how much of it you need and you get the picture.
This lie has been bought and sold by people everywhere. Now what does the bible say about such a mindset as this? We need look no further than the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the parable of the Pharisee and the publican we are given a graphic illustration of two opposite mindsets.
Lets listen to our Lord’s description found in (Lu 18:10-13) “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”
There they are. The first man is basically saying “I am somebody!” I am worth something. I am deserving of consideration and respect and favor in the eyes of both God and man. That’s the mindset of the Pharisee. The Pharisee believes he has done many ‘good’ things and therefore believes himself to be righteous by virtue of his deeds.
The second man, the publican has been broken. He has been interfered with by God and by the power of the Holy Spirit he has something the first man lacks; insight. This publican or tax collector has been granted a new heart and a new spirit and for the first time he has eyes that can see. He has been granted the gift of spiritual sight much like the servant of Elisha.
Remember the scene from the Old Testament. The Syrian army has surrounded the town where Elisha is staying and their intent is murder. The servant awakes and goes outside and there sees this massive army. He immediately cries out to Elisha saying “Master what shall we do?” Elisha prays to God to grant this young man sight and in a moment the servant is able to see that the army surrounding Elisha is itself surrounded by chariots and horses of fire! This is spiritual sight; being able to see through the façade of worldliness to the spiritual side of things. It is being able to see, not as man sees but as God sees.
Through these new spiritual eyes the Publican looks at himself and understands that for all of his wealth and power he is nothing. He doesn’t like what he sees. Because for the first time he understands that he is a sinner, a breaker of God’s holy commands. As such he understands that he is worthy of death, that he is indeed condemned already because of his sins. But by grace he has been given further insight, that there is grace to be found at the mercy seat and like the king of Nineveh he prays to God with the hope that; “perhaps He will relent and turn from His fierce anger that I perish not!”
But I want you to notice his humility. That’s a dirty word nowadays. But remember that God resisteth the proud but gives grace to the humble. While the self-righteous Pharisee stands tall, the publican beats upon his chest in anguish of spirit. He is filled with remorse for his sins and pleads for mercy for he understands that no good thing dwells in him. He has seen the ugliness of his sinful nature and in self loathing he beats upon his breast. Unlike the self righteous man he sees the reality of the situation; that he is nobody!
He believes the scriptures that tells us that sinful man is nothing and less than nothing: a worm and no man.
Now I put it to you; which of the two has the right, the proper view of himself? Which has a proper understanding of the nature of man? You don’t have to answer right now for our friend Paul is going to tell us all about ourselves today in Romans (3:9-18) and trust me when I say that what we are about to see is not pretty at all! In fact it is ugly beyond compare. And we will see how each of these items stated by Paul build upon one another.
So let’s jump right out of the frying pan and into the fire. Paul speaks of our true nature when he says…(10) as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; Isaiah the prophet tells us in (Isa 64:6) that “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. (Literally menstruous cloths) Matthew Poole says that ‘we are all as one polluted mass, nothing of good left in us, by reason of a universal degeneracy.’ “We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
Every belief that we have about ourselves as worthy men and women ends here. There is none righteous. This is an absolute negative in the Greek. It speaks of impossibility. It is impossible for any man to be righteous. The word righteous comes from the Greek word dikaiov and it speaks of observing divine laws. In a wide sense it speaks of those who are upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of God.
It goes further to speak of those who seem to themselves to be righteous, who pride themselves with the thought that they are righteous, who are filled with pride because of their supposed virtues, real or imagined. The word dikaiov goes even further to speak of those who think themselves to be innocent or faultless or guiltless…read into this the idea of being sinless: of achieving sinless perfection in this life!
And lastly it speaks of those who are approved of or acceptable to God! Now outside of the saving, regenerating work of Jesus Christ, where do you suppose such people can be found? I tell you nowhere! The scriptures declare emphatically that there is NONE RIGHTEOUS. It is an absolute impossibility for anyone to be righteous “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. (Ro 7:14) And remember again, all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags in His sight!
So we have established the fact that we are not righteous, indeed not even capable of becoming righteous. Then Paul says that 11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
Paul is declaring the ignorance of mankind. Spiritually speaking we are stupid. We are blind. We are deaf. We are dead!
Now we know that men are wise in the ways of the world. Men have built incredible engines of warfare and of research. Medical science has solved many of the day’s illnesses. Historical science has revealed man of the mysteries of the past. Now who ultimately is the source of this knowledge? It is God. He has granted mankind the ability to think and to reason and to create.
He has lifted many veils so that men have been able to do great things. Do they give Him the glory? Some do but most do not. They are like Nebuchadnezzar; strutting around in their laboratorial palaces and saying “Is this not my creation, my invention, my discovery which I have made by virtue of my own might, power, reason!” They don’t understand.
But Paul is speaking of a deeper issue than mere inventiveness or creativity. Paul is speaking of spiritual insight. He is speaking of understanding the meaning of our existence which is to know God. We saw in one of our lessons in the Truth Project series, that there is a God shaped void so to speak, within the heart of men. We read of this in (Ec 3:11) “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.
But men are blind. They don’t understand. They don’t know the truth. They have the information but not the capability of processing that information. Why? Look with me at a familiar passage. 1Co 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. The NLT states it this way; “But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.
How does one become spiritual? By being interfered with by Jesus Christ who saves us, gives us new hearts and new spirits and the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth.
Lost men and women don’t have the Holy Spirit so when they encounter a spiritual problem; they shrug their shoulders, claim ignorance, sink into despair or explain the problem away with human understanding.
Furthermore, men are not only blind but they are dead. For that we turn again to (Eph 2:1) where we are told in no uncertain terms. “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins” This passages speaks of our utter inability to become righteous on our own, to understand what righteousness is or where it comes from. Dead people have no thought processes. So while we are physically alive and able to think and move in the physical sphere of existence there is another sphere of existence that we cannot comprehend and that is the spiritual sphere.
Now as I said at the outset of this lesson, each point that Paul makes builds upon the last. We saw that there are no righteous persons because they haven’t tapped into the source of righteousness. They reason they haven’t tapped into the Source is because they have no understanding of WHO the source is! They are blind to it. They are dead and unable to comprehend it. And this is why Paul says…THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; They don’t seek because they can’t seek. They don’t seek because they don’t understand what to seek for. And since they don’t understand the true God they make for themselves idols of everything and anything in order to fill the void in their lives. They don’t seek after the true God and so they deny His existence.
They do so however, in the face of overwhelming evidence for: The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Ps 19. And we read in (Romans 1:18-23) this indictment…“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”
Men profess to have great wisdom. Stephen Hawking is supposed to be the smartest man in the world. And he knows a great many things. What have we learned in the Truth Project? We learned that men understand the particulars but not the universals. They understand some of the things that make up the world but they don’t know Him who made all things. Therefore they come at any problem with a deficiency. They come with a worldly mindset that cannot understand the big picture. This is the case with Hawking. He has a great deal of knowledge about the particulars but has no understanding of the One who created them…nor does he have any interest in such knowledge. And so we see that he professes wisdom but in reality he is a fool for he has said in his heart “There is no God!
And he is just an example of millions upon millions of people who have done the same thing. In fact Paul tells us that 12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, Not only are men not seeking for God but they have all turned aside. They are all going the other way! This is a horrible truth.
But didn’t Jesus speak of the broad and narrow roads? Didn’t He warn us in (Mt 7:13) saying “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. Those who enter the narrow gate have narrow minds. They have tunnel vision for they have in their focus, Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. They are spiritually minded which is life and peace. But what about those on the broad road? They are worldly minded which is death! Because they have such a mindset, they are able to walk on the broad way that leads to destruction without a care in the world so to speak. They don’t see any danger.
Paul says that TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; this is a strange sounding verse. But let me try to clarify it. What Paul is saying is that collectively the whole human race as it were, has turned aside to futility. Their lives are useless and are lived to no worthwhile end. They are purposeless entities with no hope for they are without God in this empty futile world of sin. Even their supposed good deeds are done from selfish motives. Do you think these movie stars really want to start families with all of the refugees from Africa? NO! They are merely looking for photo ops.
They are trying to gain publicity for themselves as benevolent lovers of mankind who only want to ‘save humanity’ but in reality they are looking to boost their own egos and their own self image for they have bought the lie. They believe themselves to be somebody.
You say; wait a minute! Some of these people may really care. And therefore they are doing good deeds. Again I give you the Apostle Paul who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says, THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.” So much for good deeds! There are none. And there aren’t any good deed doers either. Mankind is completely selfish and does everything from purely selfish motives. Beneath their ‘beautiful’ exterior beats a heart that is completely selfish. The underlying question that pervades their every move is “WHATS IN IT FOR ME?”
Do you want to know what’s really in the heart of man? Do you want to know what is going on in the minds of lost men and women? How about this…13 “THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, this means they speak words of death which is seen in the next line…WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,” “THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”; 14 “WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”; 15 “THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, 16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, 17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.” Because they have no concept of righteousness, because they don’t understand or seek for God, because they have turned aside and become useless for anything good…as is seen in the outworking of evil: Because they are sold under sin, therefore 18 “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”
They have no sense, no ability to understand. They have no true wisdom for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And because of all of this, they are condemned already. They are under the condemnation of God, they have already been judged guilty by the Righteous Judge of all the Universe. Did I not tell you this would be an ugly picture?
But don’t start getting full of yourselves. For “Such were some of you; This is a picture of what is inside of us. We too were dead in trespasses and sin. We too walked according to the course of this world, according the prince of the power of the air. We too were sons of disobedience. But God! But God had mercy upon us and in a great manifestation of grace and mercy and love He saved us. Paul says… but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 1Co 6:11 We stand today as living testaments of the love of God. as his children.
Again I warn you; don’t let this puff you up with pride. Don’t strut around saying “I’m a child of the King!” I fell into that trap while in College. There was a group of people who had gotten full of themselves, full of pride and they stood up and said, “I’m a child of the King.”
Now while it is true that we are adopted sons and daughters of God there is no place for boasting. We were merely grafted into the true Vine, Christ, by God Himself. It is by His doing that you are in Christ Jesus. When the disciples began to get full of themselves and began to be filled with pride because demons were subject to them, Jesus jerked them up short. He told them in (Lu 10:20) “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
That is the one, the most important thing we must occupy our minds with. God has had mercy on us. But for the grace of God we would still be wallowing in our sins. We have been saved by God Himself. And we are being kept by God Himself. It is His work and He gets all the glory for it. We are nobody and nothing. We are worms and no men. It is only by grace that we stand! Keep this in mind the next time you start getting full of yourself. The Truth will set you free!