Our culture can tend to talk about the cross in a way that magnifies our worth to God rather than our sin against Him. I’ve seen or heard worship songs whose main point seems to be that God sent Jesus to die for us because He couldn’t bear to live without us. While God’s children are precious in his sight, our value should never be the end of our worship nor the source of our joy.
Of course, every human being has an intrinsic worth. We have been made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Like no other living creature, men and women have the distinct role of representing God to the rest of creation, administrating His rule and care. However, that image is now distorted, corrupted, and fallen through our rebellion against God. We have been tragically separated from the God who deserves our complete and utter devotion, obedience, and allegiance.
The cross is God’s answer to the problem of our sin and separation. It surely demonstrates God’s love toward us in an incomprehensibly profound way that should move us to tears. But God’s love for us flows from the fact that He is love, not that we are lovable. He said the same to Israel:
It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt (Deut. 7:7-8).
One of the prayers in the Valley of Vision says it like this (I’ve modernized the language):
Blessed Lord Jesus,
Before your cross I kneel and see the heinousness of my sin,
My iniquity that caused you to be ‘made a curse,’
The evil that excites the severity of divine wrath.
Show me the enormity of my guilt by
The crown of thorns,
The pierced hands and feet,
The bruised body,
The dying cries.
Your blood is the blood of incarnate God,
Its worth infinite, its value beyond all thought.
Infinite must be the evil and guilt that demands such a price.
When I think that my sins alone required the death of God’s own Son to enable me to have a relationship with God, it produces the right responses of grief, wonder, amazement, conviction, humility, gratefulness, holiness, and commitment to God’s Kingdom. So, the prayer ends:
Yet your compassions yearn over me,
Your heart hastens to my rescue,
Your love endured my curse,
Your mercy bore my deserved stripes.
Let me walk humbly in the lowest depths of humiliation,
Bathed in your blood,
Tender of conscience,
Triumphing gloriously as an heir of salvation.
May you triumph gloriously today, knowing that the precious blood of Jesus Christ has paid for your sins – every one of them.
By the way, one of the songs on our upcoming project, Valley of Vision, is based on this prayer. You can download if for free here until August 9.
I’ve been reading your blog for a couple months now and really enjoying it. Thanks so much for this devotional and the song. It is absolutely beautiful, and more importantly, it is doctrinally thought provoking. I can’t wait to hear the whole CD!!
Good points, Bob. I would (from my own experience) balance that by saying that we ought to delight in the value that God places on us. I don’t think is contradictory to your statement, but rather an expansion, as the emphasis is on God.
While I recognize that much of our Christian culture is headed in the direction of what is little more than man-worship (for that, truly, is the error against which you caution), there is still the element that under-emphasizes, de-emphasizes, or flat out denies the value that God ascribes to us, even after salvation. That, I believe, is just as aggregious an error.
I know that you are not advocating swinging the pendulum that far. Just yelling a caution from the formerly hyper-fundy side of the road. ;-)
Excellent point. God loves me, and that is an unfathomably comforting thought. “He loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20. Amazing grace.
Hey bob, new to your blog.
Having grown up in a traditional sect of evangelicalism, I too was taught that our sin had somehow distorted or skewed the image that God created us in. In recent months, however, I feel the Spirit speaking something different within me.
That said, I’d be curious to hear where you feel such a teaching and/or understanding comes from.