Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Infinite Worth of Christ: And your worth in Him

Have you ever ridden the Polar Express? One of the key attractions for the city of Owosso, Michigan is the North Pole express train, it’s a train known of across the country, even around the world, as the Christmas train. To ride the train brings back memories of a different time in our country. Trains often bring a sense of awe and mystery.

It brings to mind past memories I’m sure of earlier eras in American society. It brings to mind movies, and it brings to mind the spirit of Christmas.

Why is it so important? Why do people pay so much to ride the train? Because in their minds they’ve ascribed a high value to that experience.

They’ve decided in their mind and heart that it matters greatly to them, to do that.

Similarly, two of our bell ringers have been dressing up as the Grinch this year. And people also ascribe value to that as well, dozens of people have been very excited, wanting pictures with the Grinch around town, telling friends, and donating money just for the opportunity.

Again, why? They’ve ascribed in their mind value to that experience.

It’s very interesting to me, to observe as a pastor, a Christian, what people ascribe value to in society.

What I valued before I became a Christian was movies, videogames, parties, television, drinking, and I would get excited when I thought I might meet a pretty girl. I ascribed little to no value to things like faith, church, Jesus, the Bible, or Christmas.

But after becoming a Christian, what I value has completely flipped. Now I value Jesus and the Bible and attending church at the top of my list of what matters most in my life.

I changed what I ascribe value to in my life. And that will be our challenge for today I think, to begin to change what we value in life, to make sure it lines up with what God’s word says.

Recall our foundation scripture for God's entry into Earth: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.“ -John 1:14

That is what we want to ascribe value to in our minds and hearts, the fact that Jesus Christ came in human form, full of grace and truth.

We’re going to be exploring two broad concepts, worth and worship. So through the message we’re going to bounce between those two concepts, and what they mean for us as Christians.

What is your worth? Why do we struggle to value ourselves? And we’ll also see the danger of over-valuing ourselves.

Also, why do we struggle to ascribe proper value to Christ? A concluding theme is worship, and we’ll see how our view of the worth of Christ will be linked to our worship of Christ.

All of this I want to place on the backdrop of the visit of the magi to the new born Jesus, two thousand years ago.

What does it mean when we call something worthy? To answer this question I had to turn to a work by a man named Noah Webster, who felt God had called him to write a dictionary. When I question what a word means, I like to look at his original work, the 1828 Webster’s dictionary.

And for worthy we find this definition: WORTHY, adjective

1. Deserving; such as merits; having worth or excellence; equivalent; with of, before the thing deserved. She has married a man worthy of her.

2. Possessing worth or excellence of qualities; virtuous; estimable; as a worthy citizen; a worthy magistrate.

3. Suitable; having qualities suited to; either in a good or bad sense; equal in value; as flowers worthy of paradise.

4. Suitable to any thing bad.

5. Deserving of ill; as things worthy of stripes. Luke 12:48.

Point 1: Seeing your Worth
I need to allow myself to see my worth in Christ. That if I’ve put on Christ as Lord, as my savior, and I’ve been born again, I have great value in the sight of God. I have an identity rooted in Christ.

Can you see your own worth? For some of you that’s very easy. You see your worth. Many people see their worth and value. Sometimes too much. They think too highly of themselves. For you, keep that worth in check. Make sure it doesn’t become pride.

Some of you have a hard time seeing your own worth. You tend always view yourself as unworthy. Unworthy of God. Unworthy of love. Unworthy of even basic kindness from others. The world has taught you that you don’t have value. But the world lied to you.

And God speaks truth. Train yourself to read and reread the scriptures which speak of your value in Christ. Read those scriptures and embrace them saying yes, this is talking about me, I’m this in Christ.

A scripture which reveals this truth is found in 2nd Peter 2:7,9-11 which says:

"To you who believe and depend on Him, He is precious... But you are a chosen people, set aside to be a royal order of priests, a holy nation, God’s own; so that you may proclaim the wondrous acts of the One who called you out of inky darkness into shimmering light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received it.

Beloved, remember you don’t belong in this world. You are resident aliens living in exile, so resist those desires of the flesh that battle against the soul." -1 Peter 2:7,9-11 (VOICE)

The plain fact is this: If you have indeed received Jesus Christ as savior, you have entered a state in which you are entirely worthy of God’s love. That’s a scandalous statement for some. But it’s true. Christ has made you perfect with His blood. That’s not of ourselves, it’s of Him. But if he’s made you that, then you need to understand you are now adopted as a child, and thus entirely worthy of God’s love right now. If you will believe that, you’ll be able to receive that love freely.

Point 2: Seeing Christ’s Worth
Next, we consider something even more important than seeing your own worth. It’s seeing the all encompassing worthiness of Christ Jesus.

We can know this in our mind. We can know the theology. But can it go from head to heart? Do we know it, or do we really know it?

Often in the psalms we’re commanded to “ascribe to God…” this or that, to ascribe to God glory, honor, praise, goodness, faithfulness.

The meaning of that, is the psalmist is telling you to write it on your heart, to believe it in your heart, and set that standard in your soul, that Christ is… worthy. Christ has high value. Set that in your soul and believe it.

The wise men understood this idea that Christ was and is of great value. That’s why they left the east on a mission to discover the birth of a messiah.

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” -Matthew 2:1-2

The magi set out, not even knowing for sure what was happening, but they went, seeking after God. They weren’t Jews. But they knew God was calling them to something special. They valued God’s messiah so incredibly greatly. That's special. That's rare.

Some of you don’t value Christ like you should. You’ve set the value in your mind as low, or medium, and I need you to turn that thermostat up to high. I need you take the value in your mind from 10 to 10,000.

Over our lifetimes, I think, if we’re doing it right, it will be like a ladder, or staircase, going upward. As we learn more and more about Jesus, and as we pray, and read his word more and more, we will ascribe to Christ higher and higher values.

We will reverence Christ as holy. We will think of God as perfect. We will be amazed at the love of Christ. We will value Christ more than gold. We will value Christ more than our 401k, more than our politics, more than nice cars or music or social media, or marriage or family. 

Slowly over time we'll learn to esteem Jesus Christ more and more highly in our hearts. And as we do that, over the years, and decades, we’ll be seeing Christ more and more as he truly is. It’s a stairway leading upward, to seeing Christ as King of the universe. 

That is our future, our destiny. We've been predestined for adoption to sonship. But not everyone will want to worship Christ. Many will resist him. And even try to stop his coming. Many in our world desire that Jesus would never return. They want power. They want to control the world. But their kingdoms will all submit to Christ one day. It was the same when Jesus came the first time. We see that with King Herod, when he heard the news of the magi coming to Jerusalem. Herod is greatly troubled. 

It says in Matthew 2:3-6: “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod meets secretly with the Magi. It says next... 

"Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” -Matthew 2:7-8

King Herod tries to set up the Magi, to find the messiah, and then report it back to him, so he could cause trouble. The magi are honest seekers. They simply want the truth. But Herod is not an honest broker. He has an agenda he brings to the whole situation.

Similarly in our day and age we find false teachers in the world today, they bring their own agenda to the Bible, they bring their own agenda to the body of Christ, and they teach false doctrines. They teach that Christ encourages sin. They teach that we can’t really trust certain parts of God’s word, like the parts about biblical marriage, or parts about what sin is, and they twist the word of God, to claim that Christ would encourage sinful lifestyles if he were alive today. They don’t reverence Christ in their hearts. They reverence their own opinions, their ideologies and they want to be liked by the masses. They want to be liked by the cameras and the media.

We must always resist a view of Jesus that whitewashes all the scriptures about sin, and heaven and hell, and turns Jesus into something different. That’s a different Jesus. A Jesus who teaches niceness, not truth. A Jesus who teaches inclusion of sin not biblical repentance, a Jesus who teaches popularity, not taking a stand for difficult truths. Our Jesus, the real Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible, is the only Jesus I will ever worship, I will not worship the mass marketed jesus of the culture who is no Jesus at all, but an idol of popular culture and modern outrage politics.

Point 3: Worth turns to Worship
As we value Jesus more and more, we find ourselves increasingly in a place of being set apart for special use. We find ourselves in a “silent night” of sorts. We find ourselves in a place of reverence for God. That’s when purity takes over. The purity of Christ overwhelms us. His presence, his holy love takes over, and the whole environment changes. That perfect purity of Christ, I strive to walk in step with that. To really live that. 

We have that now. We have to remember, and yet we also strive toward it. Justification and sanctification. We have it now, perfect in Christ, yet he’s conforming us in his likeness. Sometimes we backslide, sometimes we draw nearer, sometimes we sin and repent, yet we keep walking in the faith, in it now ,yet seeking Him still. That’s the lifestyle of the true Christian I think, a lifestyle of worship…

We walk in faith, having the promise, yet we strive for more of Christ, and to leave behind more of sin and the world each day, repenting anew, turning again, believing by faith, and at the same time living out our faith by works of goodness, faith without works being dead, bouncing between resting faith in Christ, and dutifully serving Him in our works.

In all that, the value we have for Christ, turns into worship. And it was the same for the wise men…

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” -Matthew 2:9-12

The wise men believed by faith and walked by faith following the star.

We too believe in Jesus by faith, and walk by faith in Christ

The star we follow now is the leading of the Holy Spirit within us. That start of the Holy Spirit leads us forward each day where he wants us next.

And in all that like the wise men we find Jesus more and more and we worship Him. We worship Him by faith.

Yet we live out our faith by our works, by bringing our gifts to God, like the wise men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh. We bring our gifts to God, evangelism, discipleship, meeting needs, feeding people, giving people rides, visiting those in sorrow, and so on and so forth.

It all fits together just right.

Challenge: Do you know your worth in Christ? Do you know Christ’s great worth? Does your heart overflow with worship?

1. Your value is great – valued by God
2. Christ’s value is greater – infinitely great
3. Seeing Christ and ourselves in Christ, worth turns to worship of Christ – worship is our destiny