My Worth Is Determined by My Performance

Pastor Jon Brohn

Philippians 3:4–11 (NIV) 4 If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

My dear friends in Christ,

We have been looking at different lies that we believe. The first lie was, “I must be perfect.” We saw how impossible that was. We also found the truth from God’s Word to fight against that lie. We are perfect in Jesus!

Lie #2 was, “I must have everyone’s love and approval.” We learned that just can’t happen. We will never make everyone around us love and approve of us. God’s Word provided this truth: Jesus loves us. Jesus approves of us. That’s all we need!

Lie #3: “It is easier to avoid problems than to face them.” Pastor Jake reminded us of all the excuses we give to avoid dealing with sin, especially when it comes to attending church. The answer from God’s Word? We can face all of our problems because Jesus promises to be right there with us, guiding and guarding us.

Last week we looked at Lie #4: “You can have it all.” We learned from Solomon that no matter how hard we try, we can’t have it all, and all that we have is meaningless without Jesus. The truth from God’s Word that combats this lie? Through faith in Jesus, we have it all and we always will.

Today we focus on Lie #5: “My worth is determined by my performance.” What determines how much something is worth?

I really enjoy Antiques Roadshow on PBS. People bring their discoveries to have them appraised and determine how much they’re worth. Last year, a lady from Green Bay, WI, brought in an etching by Rembrandt. She bought it for $1000 in 1974.

The name of the piece is “Christ Before Pilate.” As the appraiser talked about the etching, he noted its age. It had the correct markings—Rembrandt’s name and the date, 1636, were also both etched at the bottom. The paper possessed a watermark that proved it was produced in the 1600’s. Then he came to the high point for each of the pieces on Antiques Roadshow. He said, “I'm happy to tell you that if this came up at auction today, it would be estimated in the neighborhood of $60,000 to $90,000. And impressions like this have sold upwards of $100,000.”

What do we use to determine what we’re worth? We can’t go to Antiques Roadshow and have an appraiser tell us how much we’re worth. When Paul wrote these words to his friends in Philippi, he warned them about following people who pointed to what they did as evidence of how good they were. They were busy keeping the law of Moses, especially the covenant of circumcision, to prove their worth. Paul pointed out that if that was the way to determine worth, he had done it better than any of them. Paul wrote, “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 1) circumcised on the eighth day, 2) of the people of Israel, 3) of the tribe of Benjamin, 4) a Hebrew of Hebrews; 5) in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6) as for zeal, persecuting the church; 7) as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” (Philippians 3:4–6 NIV). If Paul’s worth was based on his performance he could have said, “Look people, all seven boxes checked. Can any of you say that? I am good!”

It is so easy to believe the lie! We tell ourselves that we are only as good as the number of games we win; the good grades I get on my report card; the quotas I fill at work; the amount of money we have in the bank; how many times I play or sing the solo in a concert; the number of friends we have at school or on social media; or having the right kind of job—being a doctor or a lawyer is much better than working as a water treatment facility supervisor or a teacher. This lie makes allows us to appraise ourselves. We can say, “Look, I’ve checked all the boxes! That’s what makes me a success. That tells me how much I’m worth!”

Whether we want to or not, we’ve all to some degree or another have believed this lie, “My worth is determined by my performance.” Here’s the key question—Who am I apart from what I do? If the things I do are great and impressive, the temptation is to swell with pride and put ourselves up on a pedestal. “Look at me!” If I make my worth equal to the things I do, what happens when I don’t do as well as I should? When I don’t make the shot, or play the right note, or get the good grade, or don’t make as much money? If I don’t live up to my expectations, I have to appraise myself as worthless and maybe even hopeless.

Paul knew that he could not measure his worth by what he did or possessed. In a letter to his friend Timothy he called himself “the worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:16 NIV). Rembrandt, whose works are priceless today, recognized his worth had nothing to do with his talents. Go back to his etching for a moment. Can you see the individual with the plumed hat in the background participating in Jesus’ sentencing? Rembrandt drew himself. He had no worth except to call himself a sinner. That’s you and me—sinners, the worst of sinners. We have to confess along with the humble tax collector, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13 NIV).

Let’s ask the question one more time: “Who am I apart from what I do? Do I have to ‘do’ to have worth? Or, have we figured out that we ‘are’ a person of innate worth because of whose image we bear?” Maybe an illustration will help us answer the question. Which of these two things are worth more? I made this cross out of nails about 16 years ago with my teens at Camp Shiloh in Pittsburgh, TX. I love it. It’s one of my treasures. How much would you say it’s worth? At auction, not much, if anything. Remember how much the etching was worth? $60,000-90,000! What makes it worth so much? The artist who drew it—Rembrandt!

What artist drew you? Remember what we heard in Psalm 139? “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:13–14 NIV). Here is the first truth that answers the lie. God made you. His love planned what color hair and eyes you would have. His love decided how tall you would be, how big your feet would be and what shape your ears would take. His love covered you while you were inside your mother’s womb and gave you life. His love decided which talents and how many you would possess. God appraises us and says, “You are my unique creation. There is no one else exactly like you in the universe. If anyone dared to auction you off, you would be priceless!”

The artist who made us adds one more item to the appraisal. Not only are we his unique creatures—he bought us by paying the ultimate price. He sent Jesus to rescue us. Knowing Jesus and trusting him adds to the value of our appraisal. Anything and everything else that we try to find our worth in, Paul says, is “garbage.” Paul looked at his Savior and said, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:8–9 NIV).

When Paul looked at everything Jesus had done for him, he could answer the question, “Who am I apart from what I do?” “I am righteous. I am perfect. I am priceless through faith in my Savior, Jesus Christ!”

How can we be sure that God’s appraisal of us is truly authentic? The same way Rembrandt’s picture was authenticated. The appraiser took a flashlight and shone it behind the etching. The light highlighted a special watermark. He said, “The letters are ‘IHS.’ It's the ‘name of Christ’ watermark, and that's a 17th-century watermark. It's a 17th-century paper, which tells us that this was printed in Rembrandt's lifetime.” God doesn’t authenticate our worth with a watermark on a piece of paper, but with the IHS—the name of Christ watermark from our baptism. God has guaranteed that we are priceless by putting his name on us. He made sure we can say, “I am righteous. I am perfect. I am priceless!”

When we find our worth in the one who made us and saved us, it gives us a different perspective on the way we treat everyone around us. Think about it—if someone is a different color, or from a different culture, or wears a different style of clothes, or speaks a different language, it doesn’t make them worth more or less than us. If someone spends their money differently or takes a different kind of vacation than we do, it doesn’t make them worth more or less than us. The appraisal value remains the same—we are all our Creator’s masterpieces. We all need to know and trust that our worth comes from knowing Jesus and trusting that he is their Savior and ours. Then, no matter what our performance is like—win or lose—in Jesus we always win!

Here’s the lie one more time: “My worth is determined by my performance.” Who am I apart from what I do? Here’s the truth that smashes the lie: I am God’s unique, deeply loved creation. I am righteous. I am perfect. I am priceless through faith in Jesus Christ. Amen!