“The greatest enemy of the spiritual life is self-rejection BECAUSE it contradicts the Voice that calls you Beloved.” –Henri Nouwin
As I read the resurrection narrative recently, I was hit by Christ’s words to Mary in John 20.
17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”
I have always been challenged by the idea of being a co-heir with Jesus Christ.
Romans 8 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
If the Bible didn’t say it so clearly itself, I’d think it blasphemous to claim it for myself. Yet, Scripture is clear – I am a co-heir with Jesus Christ. CO-heir.
But I must keep all my verses in the Bible, right? I can’t choose between seemingly conflicting passages. Instead, I must use opposing statements in Scripture together to inform and interpret each other. Scripture is the best commentary on itself. And Scripture also says that I am a sinner, incapable of saving myself.
Ephesians 2 1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins … and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved …
Holding the two together is a necessity. I sometimes hear a phrase, worm theology, that refers to how Christians view themselves. Here’s a blurb from wikipedia.
Worm Theology is a term used for the conviction in Christian culture that in light of God’s holiness and power an appropriate emotion is a low view of self. … The name may be attributed to a line in the Isaac Watts hymn Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed (Pub 1707) , which says “Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?”
A low view of self. I seriously, strongly reject that. I can’t say strong enough how unhealthy I think that is for a believer. Like Nouwin’s quote at the beginning of this article, that view tempts me to downplay what GOD HIMSELF says about me. Pastor John Piper, who has greatly influenced me, wrote this recently. I appreciated his clarification of what he means when he uses the worm analogy. Yet, I still resist the terminology. God doesn’t have a low view of me. He created me in His image and names me a co-heir with Jesus. He calls me His beloved and affirms His lavish grace poured over me from before time began. As I sit with Jesus as a co-heir (God’s term, not mine), I can’t imagine that the term worm will describe any part of that relationship whatsoever.
I’m concerned that the use of the term worm in today’s evangelicalism is more a result of a hymn than Scripture. Did you know that the phrase “for such a worm as I” is not in the Bible? In my own study, I found 3 references in Scripture where humans are referred to as worms (Job 25:6 , Psalm 22:6, and Isa 41:14). Are these the foundational verses on how we are to view ourselves? Do these 3 verses inform all the others on God’s view of His children? Scripture is the best commentary on itself. In light of that, it’s valuable for us to go back to what Scripture itself says about the value and worth (or lack thereof) of humans. And there is no better place to do that than the origins of man in Genesis 1.
26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
If we use these verses to interpret each other, it gives us parameters for how to think of ourselves. God made us not worms but like Him to rule the worm. I get annoyed at facebook statuses among Christians that seem to compete on how lowly they can talk of themselves. We don’t have to put on a false humility. I personally can easily fall into self-deprecation and self-condemnation. But my version of worm theology becomes as self-centered as any manifestation of pride from which I’m trying to protect myself. Perhaps that’s why I resonate with Tim Keller’s quote on the gospel which I keep at the top of my blog.
“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”
Tim Keller, The Reason for God
I love this. I understand the problem with swaggering. But I don’t have to counteract it by sniveling. I am flawed, but I am loved. And it is this deep confidence in what God has said over us that frees me to REAL humility, not a false one clothed in self-deprecating terminology.