12th September 2023
John Piper asks
Are You Worthy of Jesus?
In what sense are Christians worthy of God or of their calling? And in what sense are we unworthy?
Jesus and Paul both teach that we must be worthy of Jesus and his calling.
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me".
Similarly, John the Baptist had said, "Bear fruit worthy of repentance".
In all these passages, being worthy is expected and necessary in the Christian life.
But on the other hand, Jesus commended the Centurion's faith as unparalleled for humbly confessing his unworthiness.
"'Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.' Jesus said, 'Not even in Israel have I found such faith'"
And John the Baptist said of Jesus,
"He who comes after me, the strap of his sandal I am not worthy to untie".
How shall we understand our worthiness of Jesus in view of our sinfulness?
The key that unlocks this mystery is found in the phrase "Bear fruit worthy of repentance".
This cannot mean "Bear fruit that deserves repentance," because the repentance is already there.
It comes first:
"Repent and turn to God, performing deeds worthy of repentance".
Repentance is the turning to God from all else, and the valuing of God above all things. That is beautiful. That is what humans were made for. That is worthy.
This solves the riddle of Jesus's words,
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me".
When Jesus says we are not worthy of him if we treasure our parents or children or life more than him, he means that he has infinite worth (far above parents and children and life), and the only suitable (worthy!) response from us is to see that, and prefer him as our supreme treasure.
Thus, our preference for his worth is our worth. To be worthy of the infinite worth of Jesus is to see and savour him as infinitely worthy.
In fact, one aspect of his beauty that we cherish supremely is his grace toward sinners like us.
Being "worthy" of a gracious Saviour includes a sense of unworthiness similar to the confessions of the centurion and John the Baptist.
You become worthy of grace (a suitable beneficiary of grace) when you see your need for grace, and when you embrace the infinite value of the Gracious One.
In this sense, if you love mother or father or son or daughter or your own life more than Jesus, you are not worthy of him.
Your worthiness is your desperate preference for his gracious worthiness over all things.
This is confirmed in the story of the wedding feast. Jesus said,
"The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy".
"Whoever loves farm or business more than me is not worthy of me."
The principle is the same. Worthiness of the wedding feast is not earning or deserving or meriting it. Worthiness of the feast is preferring the feast over business and farm.
"Our worthiness is seeing and savouring the One of infinite worth."
In every case, what we find is that our worthiness is not our deserving or meriting or earning, but rather our seeing and savouring something of infinite worth. Our worthiness is our preferring that worth above all things.
We do not merit or deserve or earn the Lord and his calling and his kingdom.
But in our need, God grants us to see them as infinitely precious - infinitely worthy.
That is what it means to be "worthy of the Lord."
Un-edited version and Bible references avaiable, on request
John Piper (@JohnPiper)
is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Come, Lord Jesus.