Sunday, May 5, 2013

Do You Feel Unworthy?

Do you feel, deep inside, that nothing good will ever happen to you? That you are somehow excluded from the best of God's blessings? Do you feel unworthy, broken, ashamed, second-rate? Do you feel that even though your sins have been forgiven by God, you don't deserve joy, happiness, or a close, loving relationship with God? I know I do a lot of the time. Come along with me and meet a man who might have felt the same way: the prodigal son in Jesus' parable in Luke 15.

He says, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men." Luke 15:18-19

If you're familiar with this story, you know the father (who portrays God) didn't listen to his son's declaration of unworthiness; he went right ahead and welcomed him back with great affection and joy. The boy was fully reconciled to his father and even closer to him than before. This is a wonderful picture of how God receives us back from our own wanderings in sin.

But what if the son had resisted his father's shower of love and acceptance? Let's rewrite the story a little and see what happens.

The son leaves the pigpen and returns home to his father. While he is still a long way off, his father sees him, and feeling compassion for him, he runs to embrace and kiss him. But the son backs away, saying, "Father, I have sinned and I am not worthy to be called your son. Let me be as one of your hired men." 

Without waiting for a response, he runs for the machinery shed, where he hides in the corner. He didn't look into his father's face back there on the road, didn't hear his exclamation of joy at his return, didn't wait for his embrace and kiss -- he just blurted out his pitiful confession and ran to the shed.

The father pleads with the son to come out of the shed; to come up to the feast at the house; to let him clothe him in the best robe and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet and reinstate him as his beloved son, but the son will have none of it. He feels too ashamed, too unworthy. He's content just to have a roof over his head and a plate of cold scraps to eat. It's all he deserves. He says, "Father, I know you forgive me. I'm so happy you forgive me and you're not going to judge me, and I'm happy to work for you in the fields. But I'm such a big sinner. I'm not worthy to be your son. I'll just stay out here and live like a hired man."

The son has not received his father's full forgiveness. He has not been fully reconciled. And the father's heart aches. His son has returned, yet he has not. They have no relationship. The son remains distant and afraid, endlessly trying to pay for the wrongs the father has already forgiven. He cannot bring himself to receive something he doesn't deserve, and his deep inner need for love remains unmet. And he won't reach out for love and deeper forgiveness, because he feels too unworthy.

Are you hiding in the shed in some area of your life? Believe the words of God about the completeness of Jesus' sacrifice and His forgiveness toward you, and dare to step forth and start receiving the wonderful gifts your Father desperately wants to give you. Dare to glance into the face of your Father and see the expression of love there. Let yourself imagine a life in which you have nothing to be ashamed of, in which you are worthy and can freely receive every blessing God has for you. 

It's really true. If you've put your trust in Jesus to save you from your sins, you ARE worthy. Your sins are GONE. As it says in I John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

If you're forgiven, you have nothing to be ashamed of. God has placed within you something holy, something worthy, something worth loving and respecting and listening to. You have true value, because when God forgave your sins, He also took away the old, bad person you were, the sinner that wasn't worthy of anything but judgment, and He replaced him with a new, holy person, one that has His nature, one that is worthy and capable of receiving His blessings. 

"Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God." 2 Cor. 5:17-18a

Let's come out of the shed; the Father has waited long enough.