If We're Not Worth Saving…

…then why does God save anyone?

That’s been the question my review of Max Lucado’s latest book has been raising over at Amazon.

One commenter wrote,

I disagree with the view that “There isn’t anything in us particularly worth saving.” There is something in us worth saving. That is why he saves us. He sees his image. That is what he saw in Peter. That is what he saw in the adulterous woman. That is what he saw in John and the thief on the cross. We need Jesus because we have destroyed that image. He loves us greatly. He does see something in us.

And another

How sad for you that you don’t believe Jesus sees anything in you worth saving. If we are so completely worthless, why does He bother? For kicks? Just to show off His power? Of course not. He does it because He loves us and because we are ALL worth saving.

These two commenters—like all who would hold to that position—are obviously very sincere in their belief that Jesus saves because we’re worth it somehow. Maybe God sees Himself in us, so He feels He has to intervene, or we’ve got something good in us…

Now here’s the thing. I appreciate the sincerity of their belief; I also get why it irks them so much—it’s an incredibly offensive thing to say that none of us are worth saving in God’s eyes.

However, as sincerely held as this belief might be, it’s also sincerely wrong.

Nowhere in the entirety of Scripture are we told that God saves us because we’re worth saving. We’re actually told the opposite.

In Genesis 6:5, we’re told that “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And then He killed everyone except Noah and his family.

At the end of Judges, the writer laments, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The context makes it clear that everyone doing “what was right in his own eyes” is a very, very bad thing indeed.

Jumping along, with incredulity and awe, the psalmist writes, “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)

In Proverbs 20:19, it is declared, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin’?” (The answer being, of course, no one can.)

On and on the Old Testament goes. And in the New Testament, this message gets even more intense.

Jesus declares that we are evil (Matt 7:11, Luke 11:13) and he did not entrust Himself to people because “He knew all people” (John 2:24). We love darkness and hate the light and are condemned because our works are evil (cf. John 3:16-21).

Paul spends the first three chapters of Romans explaining this very truth, which he ends by saying, “For there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Rom. 3:22-23). And most succinctly, he writes in Ephesians 2:1-3,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Can we chew on that for a second?

What worth does God see in people who hate Him, disobey Him, rebel against Him?

If your answer is none, you’d be correct.

So why does He save us? Why did Jesus come to earth and die in our place, for our sins?

You can actually see part of the answer, stated rather irreverently above:

“To show off his power.”

The way the Bible describes it is that God acts for the sake of His name.

In Ezekiel 20:44, speaking to rebellious Israel, God says, “And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God.”

“For my name’s sake I defer my anger,” wrote Isaiah (48:19).

“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake,” wrote the psalmist (Psalm 23:3).

“It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came,” wrote Ezekiel again in ch. 36:22.

Paul says in Ephesians 2:4-5, immediately after writing the scathing words of condemnation seen above, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…”

Jesus Christ took on our punishment on the cross not because we were lovely, not because we deserved it, not because we were worth it… but because He is so magnificent.

“By grace you have been saved…”

Made alive together with Christ—despite the reality that we can do nothing to deserve it. That we can’t merit it.

That’s why grace is so amazing.

That’s the gospel.

Why, oh, why, would you want to settle for anything less?

  • http://www.aholyexperience.com Ann Voskamp@Holy Experience

    I found this needful — and profound. Thank you.
    The High Calling Community appreciates your writing — I will think about this long.
    Because I ache for the gospel and it lived out in me…

    All’s grace,
    Ann Voskamp

  • http://stevepye.me Steve Pye

    Amen.

    I always find it awkward when I hear responses of anyone saying, “no, that’s not how God thinks” or “that’s not what God wants” or “I disagree… because of this reason and that reason” and yet, their answer is not scripturally accurate. It always concerns me when someone starts with “I disagree” or “you’re wrong” but can’t quote a single scripture to back it up. Think what you wish, feel what you wish, but if your beliefs aren’t scripturally accurate, then they are fundamentally called to question, and potentially fundamentally wrong. As Proverbs says, those are the words of a “fool.”

    It might feel good to state a belief, it might even feel right. But right by our standards is not right by God’s standards, whether we like it, agree with it, or accept it in our lives or not. Scripture is the only accurate truth and anything contrary to it is a lie. Plain and simple. And yet also so hard to have to swallow. But truth always is. It flies in the face of everything we like and want to believe. Hence why, we’re not worth saving. But by God’s grace, he chooses to save us. For His name.

  • Tony Reynolds

    Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
    That saved a wretch like me.

    Wrench: worthy of contempt; vile; miserable

    I dishonored God by hating His Son…scorned Him…mocked Him…invented new ways to sin almost daily…-absolutely- nothing in me worth saving.
    By God’s mercy I was granted repentance and faith …He removed my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His wonderful grace…not because I am worthy, but because Jesus is amazing!

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      Amen, brother!

  • http://stevepye.me Steve Pye

    I can imagine the resounding argument that your example of Noah would indicate that there really are people “worth saving,” so I’ll interject on that one, if you don’t mind, before the comment arises…

    Noah wasn’t worth saving either. Everyone was evil. Everyone still is. Noah simply “found favor” with God. The Hebrew word for “favor” in Genesis is “chen” which means “grace.” God extended grace to Noah, he did not find him “worth saving.”

    It’s the same grace as everywhere else in scripture, including the grace by which we are saved through faith. God’s grace brings salvation because of Christ, through our knowledge, understanding, and acceptance of it (faith). It’s not us, it’s Him. With Noah, it wasn’t Noah’s righteousness, although he was a righteous man–but he wasn’t perfect, and was a sinner, and therefore not “wroth saving,” but it was that God extended grace to Noah, and nothing else. What’s truly sad, is that even when the gospel is staring us in the face speaking truth to us, too many of us are still “doing” what’s right in our own eyes. Or saying. Or believing. Or heaven forbid, preaching.

    It would be a fair challenge to ask those who disagree to find the scripture that proves it. Not opinion, or interpretation. Not with non-scriptural cliches like “God helps those who help themselves.” Not by looking at the idea of “Noah finding favor” and assuming that it means Noah is worth saving, because it isn’t what scripture says… but by finding proof in scripture that the beliefs we hold are accurate to God’s Word. If they aren’t, then it’s time to suck it up and accept that we’re guilty of the same things you quoted in Judges, that we’re merely doing what’s right in our own eyes.