It is misguided and a dangerous misconception to base God’s acceptance of you on your worthiness, or attempt to comfort others with the concept that, “underneath it all, you are actually beautiful in character, and therefore truly deserving of God’s love.”
1. You aren’t, and the Bible makes that very clear.
Though all people are created in the image of God, all of us are sinful, abusing our status, both by nature and behavior and are therefore deserving of judgment rather than acceptance by God.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17)
“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2)
2. Presuming you are acceptable to God on your own is perhaps the main barrier to becoming a true Christian.
Notice this encounter of Christ with the religious Pharisees who thought God accepted them based on their perceived righteousness, which was really self-righteousness:
“And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5)
3. And, even more seriously, this sincere but wrongheaded thinking turns the purpose of the cross on its head, which is to pardon unrighteous people and give them right standing with him solely on the merits of the Christ’s death in their place, even though they have and will still sin.
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God . . .” (1 Peter 3)
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5)
Upon receiving this gift of life, God indwells us by his Spirit, changing our behavior and outlook for the eternal future.
The starting place for acceptance with God is a true understanding of grace, that is, that salvation is a gift that is entirely undeserved and is provided only because God is merciful. Acceptance before the Father is provided in Christ alone rather than any supposed worthiness.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2)
Because Christians are forgiven people, not worthy people, there is hope for people like you and me.
Copyright Jim Elliff May, 2018; reposted July 6, 2021