Which Life Perspective: I Deserve or I don’t Deserve: Part I
Viewing Life and Responding to Life (God’s Providence)
Introduction: The two-part series: Which Life Perspective: I Deserve or I Don’t Deserve focuses on God’s truth as the believer answers the question for himself and others. It is based on a standard that the person holds dear. Often times that perspective takes the form of I deserve and or I don’t deserve. These become a driving forces in the person’s life and may disagree with God’s providence. Only biblical truth applied by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the believer who is in union with Christ can determine the proper perspective of and in life.
Many people, believers included, function in their daily life from the perspective of I deserve and its counterpart: I don’t deserve. In fact, the person uses an I deserve- I don’t deserve motif to dictate his thoughts, desires and actions. Victory seems to be defined in personal terms or the concept of victory may be foreign to a person. How will you help this person gain victory? If you are that person, what wisdom do you offer to yourself and what have been the results? The question facing you: Which Life perspective: I I Deserve or I don’t Deserve.
According to Webster’s dictionary, the word deserve can mean entitled to, earned or merited, worthy of, or have a right to. In effect the word is relational. It refers to what a person, who I have termed the deserve-ee, believes he is entitled to or should have from another person including God. Its basic component is entitlement. Often, it is linked with a strong intensity to get. It may be lumped with self-esteem and worth (See the blogs addressing these subjects).
In the United State, we are taught that we have certain inalienable rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). These have been a cornerstone of life in the United States until recently. Now what I deserve is my right and no one – not the government, another person or God – can tell me differently.
Correctly and biblically our churches should be teaching (some are) that believers are adopted children of God. As such, we are received into God’s family and have a right to all the privileges of His family. Yet we are to teach that all believers are to submit one to another (Ephesians 5:21). In Romans 14:1-15:6, Paul espouses the truth of Christian liberty but that its exercise must be held in check based on the presence of the weaker brother. In our homes, we should teach that certain people have certain rights – entitlements that others don’t have. How do we put the above into a proper perspective?
It depends on one’s point, one’s standard for truth. For the believer, defining truth is relatively easy. We begin with the Bible because it is God’s personal, powerful, purposeful self-revelation. In it by the Holy Spirit, He gives believers a piece of His mind (Isaiah 8:20). The believer begins with God the Creator and Controller of His world and Lover of His people (Genesis 1:1-2; Psalm 102:25-27; 104:1-5, 27-30). Those statements are non-negotiable, truth statements. God is truth and His word is true.
Some may find this approach to truth, life’s problems, and solutions archaic, irrelevant, and ignorant and arrogant. Yet the Triune God, the Lord of lords and King of kings, has spoken. It is to His glory and our benefit that we heed His words.
When we begin with the Bible, we find the term worthy used frequently. Its root has the meaning of to weigh to give an estimate or value of something or someone I order to determine its worth. Paul wrote that the sufferings (experiences and hard times) are not worthy to be compared with eternal, future glory (Romans 8:18). Paul did not deny the presence of misery and trouble in the world (Romans 5:12-14). Rather, he was focusing what has true worth.
Jesus taught that the worker is worthy of his hire and that some invitees who did not come don’t deserve to enter the banquet (Matthew 10:10-11, 13; 22:8). Jesus also lays claim to full allegiance in Matthew 10:37-38. Jesus set standards to determine who was worthy of Him and His fellowship. In Hebrews 11, the author speaks of the world not being worthy of the saints who named and unnamed as given in the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews, the so-called heroes of faith chapter (11:38).
From the above it is important to notice that position, status, rights, and privileges may be granted, inherited, or gained in various venues. In the first two cases cited above, the grantor takes center-stage; he gives and the grantee receives. In the third case, the person did something to warrant the exercise of a right.
Given the information above, people do deserve such and such. Getting what a being deserves has a standard. It begins somewhere. The believer starts with the eternal God. It is the only logical starting point. The Triune God deserves all of man offered to Him out of awe, out of a sense of majesty, and out of a sense of joyful gratitude because the believer knows that God is Creator and Lord. If that truth takes rot in the heart of man, the issue of I deserve is resolved. However, post-fall man has been competing with God. Therefore, unbelievers, all the time, and believers some of the time and too often, live with the mentality of I deserve. When they do they are competing with God. The question: Which Life Perspective: I Deserve or I Don’t Deserve is ever before the person.
Once biblical truth is in place within the heart of the believer (Psalm 119:9-11), he will begin to live as John the Baptist did (John 3:30): He must become greater – He must increase; I must become less – I must decrease. John’s point is well taken. He was the preparer, the table setter for Jesus. His message of repentance was not new. John was not living by I deserves. He was excited about the One who did deserve all praise, honor, and glory. John did not get the whole story but he had no problem pointing to the One who did.
1. Write out several answers:
a, Your definition of deserve.
b. What you think you deserve and why?
2. What does God deserve and why?
3. How do you pursue your “I deserves” and what is the result?
Which Life Perspective: I Deserve or I don’t Deserve: Part II
Viewing and Responding to Life (God’s Providence)
The Bible is our standard for telling us what anyone deserves. In a nutshell, post-fall (after Adam’s first sin and God’s judgment) all deserve and experience, misery in this life and death (Romans 5:12-14; 6:23). The centurion understood this fact as recorded in Matthew 8:8 when he replied: “Lord, I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof….. “ He had asked Jesus to heal his daughter but on Christ’s terms not his. Jesus acknowledged the centurion’s faithfulness in verse 10 (not simply faith but its expression). John the Baptist made the same type of declaration as recorded in Matthew 3:11: “…. whose sandals I am not fit to carry..”. Peter gives the same sentiment in Luke 5:8 in terms of his sinfulness. In each case the men knew their place. Worth and worthiness was to be judged by Christ and the Word as the gold standard. In each of the cases, the person understood himself in relation to Christ. Christ was the standard. They found themselves lacking. They had made an accurate self-inventory and self-assessment (Romans 12:3-8; 2 Corinthians 13:5).
The Bible teaches several truths. One, all mankind of ordinary generation, deserve misery in this life and hell in the next. Moreover, believers are removed from or immunized against the curse. Second, Christ suffered that misery and went to hell on the cross for His people. For believers, that is radical, supernatural great news. Jesus got what the now-believer should have gotten personally. This truly is the great exchange. Christ got what He did not deserve and the believer got what He did not deserve! Take time to reflect on these two truths that stand juxtaposed. Man’s greatest need was forgiveness. God had no need. But He took on flesh so He could secure forever, what was freely given. He became needy and He received I don’t deserve in order to fulfill the Triune God’s redemptive plan. The believer must take this stock of these truths or he will follow the course of the first Adam and the nation of Israel – getting vs. giving.
It is so easy for believers to think of themselves as deserving. Their refrain is: my thing, my way, in my world. Their mindset has its origin in the fall, God’s judgment, and membership in Satan’s family and kingdom. It affects their view of and response to God and His activity as Creator, Controller, Father, and Grower. It affects their view of self and others, and their response to others and God’s providential control. Pursuing the goal of I deserve is one aspect of self-pleasing which puts the self-pleaser in conflict with God. Functionally, living by I deserve is saying to God that you deserve better than what God gave Jesus.
As you begin any day or enter into any season of festivities that include but is not limited to birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, consider yourself as one saved by God in spite of yourself. As a believer, thank God that you have been rescued from I deserve mentality and lifestyle. Remember the antidotes or biblical put-ons such as trust, thankfulness, and contentment. All of these begin with a proper understanding of the bad news (what you were in sin, self, and Satan). But you move to the good news (what you are in Christ). You will then focus on who Jesus is and what He has done and the presence of the Holy Spirit in you and the Church. You will recall and then rejoice as David did (Psalm 8 and 144) that worth is not innate. Your worth to God is as a redeemed child of the King. You will measure by what you were in Satan and the redemptive work of salvation. You will remind yourself that you are a dependent creature by God’s design but a saved image bearer of God. You are set apart by that creational design. But the worth or heaviness of the Triune God in terms of His holiness takes you into His presence and you don’t die! Only the believer who is properly focusing on God and self has no problem saying with Peter, John the Baptist, and the centurion that he is unworthy in and of himself.
Every person acknowledges that God is and is Creator and Controller but the unbeliever attempts to hold down that truth (Romans 1:18-23). That knowledge requires the person to look at nature and acknowledge the reality of God and His majesty and power (Psalm 19). For the believer, who is a child of God, he is required and privileged to trust and obey a good God. That fact and expectation is not based on his worth. The believer does not claim any inherent worth. He appeals to God because as an unworthy sinner he has been saved (Romans 5:6-10). He grows in Christlikeness as he functions as the new creature in the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). As was Jesus, the believer is faced with the question daily: Whose Life Perspective: I Deserve or I Don’t Deserve. The question is answered in thought, desire, and action daily.
1. What is it that you live for in general and in particular, moment by moment?
2. How do the gospel and your union with Christ motivate you to have a proper self-image and assessment?
3. Keep track of the times that you were tempted to be guided by I deserve and the results.
4. Keep track of the number of times when you called to your thinking the crucified and resurrected Savior who took your place on the cross and the Holy Spirit who indwells you. Record the results in terms of thinking and wanting and the resultant actions.