20th October 2023

John Piper asks



Are You Worthy of Jesus?

In what sense are Christians worthy of God or of Christ or of their calling?

And in what sense are we unworthy?

On the one hand, Jesus and Paul both teach that we must be worthy of Jesus and his calling.
Jesus says

"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".

In this passage, 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?

"Fruit worthy of repentance" means that there is a suitable correspondence between the beauty of the repentance and the beauty of its fruit.
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.

Then, this inner treasuring of God above all things bears fruit in deeds.
And these deeds reflect the supreme worth of God.

So being worthy of repentance does not mean "being deserving of repentance," as if we earned it or merited it.

This solves the riddle of Jesus's words,
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me".

Nothing we do puts him in a position of owing us anything good.

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.
This is not earning or meriting or deserving him.

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, "A king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast".
But they would not come.

"The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy".

Here Jesus is saying, "Whoever loves farm or business more than me is not worthy of me."

I invite you to apply this principle to other passages, like the command to be worthy of our calling

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.

And we embrace them with desperate desire.
We prefer over all. We treasure. We receive. We trust.
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 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.

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