What the Bible says about
Worthlessness, Feelings of
(From Forerunner Commentary)
2 Corinthians 7:9-11
There is nothing difficult to understand about what repent means. It simply means "to change one's mind." In biblical usage, it implies changing one's mind in relation to God and His way of life. Repentance, though, is invariably preceded by something else, usually a deeply felt sense of concern, arising from guilt that one has done wrong. It can also be fear for one's life or reputation, or it may be sorrow over the horrible mess one has created.
We must understand that concern, unease, guilt, fear, or sorrow is not repentance. However, these feelings can lead to repentance, the change of mind that contains the resolve never to repeat whatever made us feel uncomfortable about our relationship with God.
Paul had, in effect, chewed them out in a previous letter, and it set off a chain of reactions: It produced the sorrow that leads to repentance, the change of mind in relation to God. That, in turn, produced a change of conduct because they set their wills never to allow their unrighteousness to be the cause of breaking their relationship with Him again. If a person changes his mind in relation to God rather than merely because of the pain that his conduct caused himself and others, it opens the door to making real change in attitude and conduct.
A number of factors always work to keep us from admitting responsibility for the destructive conditions surrounding us. First, sometimes we simply do not "get" it! It sometimes takes a while to understand that, by our own conduct, we are shooting ourselves in the foot and hurting our loved ones besides. In human nature, the tendency always exists to blame others before ourselves.
Second, sometimes we are so unfeeling, so unconcerned, and so self-centered that we just do not care! This attitude is dangerously destructive—in fact, biblically suicidal. This attitude is similar to what occurs to people in the grip of a drug, whether it is alcohol, a chemical like heroin, cocaine, or the nicotine in a cigarette.
The third reason is more subtle and difficult to grasp, and it resides at the foundation of a great deal of our failure to repent and change. Because of our tendency to think we are nothing, we cannot seem to get it through our minds that what we do matters! Are we not only one of billions of people on earth? Or, are we not only an insignificant member of community, family, club, or church?
It is a careless but nonetheless strong inclination to believe that nothing we do has any effect whatever on the improvement of life for anybody else. Do we realize that almost everybody else also carelessly feels the same way? Thus, the whole family or nation continues its violent, heartbreaking, pell-mell rush into the pit and on to oblivion!
The same beliefs confronted Amos as he preached to the people of Israel more than seven hundred years before Christ was born. They also confronted Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and all the other prophets, as well as Jesus and the apostles! Isaiah lamented with all his heart, "Lord, who has believed our report?" (Isaiah 53:1). They are the ministry's challenge to this very day.
It is also where our relationship with God becomes so vital to the quality of our lives. We cannot afford to let ourselves be lulled into thinking that our attitudes and our conduct do not matter—that they do not contribute to the disaster that is this world.
The drought that the Charlotte area endured in the past provides an interesting illustration in this regard. In 2001, voluntary water-use restrictions were imposed, producing a 23 percent water savings. in 2007, in the second-worst drought in Charlotte history, mandatory restrictions produced 30 percent savings, a modest seven-point increase. Why was a higher percentage of water not saved during a far more serious drought?
Measurements reveal that 50 percent of the water drawn from Charlotte's reservoirs goes to home consumption. The reason for the modest increase, then, largely comes down to the attitude in each individual's human nature that says, "What I do doesn't matter."
But to the Christian, it does matter! Why? Because watching our response to governments and circumstances that God has established is, in an overall sense, what He is judging most closely. In each of His regenerated children, He wants to see whether we really do perceive Him to be sovereign over His creation and will submit to Him by faith. He wants to see whether we will look to Him beyond the human government He ultimately installed; beyond what everybody else is doing; beyond our cynicism, distrust, and skepticism; and beyond our feelings of being of no consequence.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity and Personal Responsibility
2 Corinthians 13:5
We generally take one of two approaches to self-examination. The first is something on the order of, "I'm no good. I've never lived up to my expectations. I'm just worthless."
Some of us hail from some pretty painful backgrounds. A handful have been molested and feel worthless because of it. Others have been told they were useless from childhood and have a very low opinion of themselves. Many have just had terrible experiences that have left scars, making accurate self-examination very difficult.
We may not like ourselves, and we wonder how anyone else could like us—especially God. We may look at ourselves, at the plethora of mistakes that dot our past, and judge ourselves harshly. In some cases, we feel we are unworthy to take the Passover.
The second approach to self-examination is just the opposite. Here we give ourselves a quick once-over and go on our way. Like the man in James 1 who looks in the mirror, sees what he is, but immediately forgets, some of us fail to give our lives a thorough evaluation.
We may think, "Well, in Romans 7 it shows that Paul sinned. He didn't want to, but the sin in him caused him to. Man will never be perfect until the return of Christ. If Paul couldn't overcome sin, then I guess that God knows that we really can't get out all the sin. I'll try, but if it's too hard, I'm sure that God will understand." A person who uses this approach may feel he is taking the Passover seriously, but in fact has not done a proper self-examination.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Time for Self-Evaluation
1 John 3:20
This is vitally important to us because we of all people are subject to intense feelings of self-condemnation and guilt from knowing that we are not living up to God's standard. We truly care about what God thinks of us because we know more than most about Him.
Our faith is not to be blind and unthinking but based on truth. Our application of faith in light of this verse necessitates a fascinating balance between two extremes that arise from our more precise knowledge of God's way. Both extremes are wrong. The first extreme is that we live life in constant guilt and fear that God's hammer will fall and smash us to smithereens at any moment due to our imperfections.
The second is a laissez-faire, God-is-very-merciful-and-tolerant, He-understands-my-weaknesses attitude. In this extreme, sins are accepted as part of the normal course of life, and no determined effort is made to overcome them. Some have given in to a particular sin, exclaiming, "God understands my needs." God also understands rebellion.
But whatever happened to Jesus' strong admonition, "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out," or "If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off" (Matthew 5:29-30)? Certainly, He does not mean this literally, but it illustrates the serious determination, vigor, and strength we are to employ in overcoming sin. Those who minimize sin come close to trampling the Son of God underfoot and putting His sacrifice to an open shame (see Hebrews 6:6; 10:29).
How good is the sacrifice of such a person's life? He is guilty of practicing sin. John writes, "Whoever is born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God" (I John 3:9). Later, in Revelation 22:15, he adds, "But outside [the New Jerusalem] are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie." Such people will not be in God's Kingdom.
Their consciences have adjusted in a similar way to the situation in Malachi 1. Sin, a defiled life, is acceptable, and their attitude seems to be that God will just have to be satisfied with children who will not strive to overcome. This is dangerous business indeed because God says only those who overcome will inherit all things (Revelation 21:7). Is God satisfied with such a situation? Does He not desire a better offering from His children for their welfare and His glory? If He is not content, the fellowship is either already broken or is breaking down.
Our concern, however, is for those who are striving to overcome but still failing from time to time—those who know they are not living up to the standard and struggle with a guilty conscience and feel their fellowship with God is cut off because of occasional sin. The majority of us probably fall into this category.
When we commit the occasional sin, are we no longer acceptable to God? Is our fellowship truly cut off? While it is true that sin separates us from Him, do we remain unsatisfied because we feel there is no communion? Once again, God's grace rescues us from what would otherwise be an impossible situation.
The answer to this confounding situation lies in a change of our natures arising from repentance, receipt of God's Holy Spirit, and—perhaps above all—access to God through Jesus Christ. Through these come fellowship and experience with Them throughout the remainder of life and access to God's merciful grace when we fall short. There can be no doubt we are saved by grace through faith. Our depression and extreme self-condemnation reveals a lack of faith in God's willingness to forgive upon repentance. Though works are required of us, we cannot earn our way into the Kingdom through them because they will forever fall short in providing payment for sin.
There is a tension between the two extremes of excessive guilt and feelings of worthlessness in contrast to the casual, careless, irresponsible, "God will just have to take me as I am" disregard of our responsibility to glorify God in all we think, say, and do.
This is why John says, "God is greater than our heart." He is ever willing to accept us as Christ—even though we personally bring Him blemished offerings in our life's experiences—as long as our attitude has not turned to trampling the sacrifice of His Son underfoot and treating it as a common thing.
We will never enter into God's acceptance and fellowship based on any work of offering we sacrifice to Him. The only thing He will accept is the unblemished offering of Christ's life, and because it accompanies or precedes us into His presence, we are accepted, have communion with Him, and are fed.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Four): The Peace Offering
Why does the apostle “[weep] much”? Was he emotionally overwrought because his desire to see the scroll's contents was denied, or is there more to it? His weeping signifies something momentous taking place. John, probably in his 90s at this point, had already seen and experienced extraordinary things. Given the amount of time God had worked with him, he must have attained a level of spiritual maturity of the highest order. Yet, this faithful servant—not given to whimsy—sobbed over what was at stake. Something shook him to the core—something far beyond mere disappointment over not having a prophecy opened.
In Revelation 5:4, John gives the primary reason for his weeping, and the issue is one of worthiness. Isaiah describes a similar circumstance where the prophet also has a vision of the Lord sitting on His throne (Isaiah 6:1). Seraphim are praising God, and at the sight of all this, Isaiah becomes unglued (verses 2-5), painfully aware of his uncleanness. He knows that in his state he is not worthy to look upon the Lord of Hosts.
However, a seraph touches Isaiah's mouth with a coal, removing his iniquity and purging his sin (verses 6-7). Then the prophet hears the Eternal asking, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Isaiah eagerly answers the call and receives his commission (verse 8). With cleansing, he was fit—worthy—for God to use him to take a message to Judah.
However, in John's vision, something like a call goes out, but nobody answers it. Even with the cleansing that God is willing to do for His people—as He did for Isaiah—nobody can be found who is worthy. John, looking forward in vision to the Day of the Lord, sees that no angel in heaven, no servant of God on earth, and no spirit under the earth can open the scroll.
The matter of worthiness, then, must go beyond the matter of sin, because heaven is filled with angels who have not sinned, yet they still are unworthy to take the scroll. Likewise, as with Isaiah, God can purge the sin of His servants, but something even above sinlessness is needed to be worthy to open the scroll of Revelation.
What, exactly, makes this scroll's worth so great? John's reaction to it indicates that he was not ignorant of what it was; instead, he felt the full weight of its significance and expressed great distress over the absolute need for it to be opened. The apostle greatly desired the scroll to be opened, suggesting he knew that it contained something of tremendous worth, in addition to including judgments like the other prophetic scrolls.
David C. Grabbe
Worthy to Take the Scroll
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