[In a previous post I offered a passionate plea for us to restore our devotion to God’s word. Last month I suggested one reason we choose other paths is to “make a name for ourselves” like the people of Babel. In today’s post I explore another reason why our affection for God’s word grows cold: Our longing for acceptance! Last month we dealt with the problem of arrogance—“I want people to know me.” This post deals with the problem of inferiority—“I want people to like me.” These attitudes live on different sides of the same coin of selfishness, and they erect a sound-proof barrier between us and God’s good word.] Now on to the article….
I was leaving home for the first time to go to college. The car was all packed and I was sitting on the hood of my 1983 Chevy Monte Carlo. Dad stood before me like a tower of wisdom and strength to pass on a final insight. He said, “Son, don’t be intimidated by what others think of you. You just have the courage to live like a Christian should.” Dad said those words because he knew my weakness. He understood that a life lived for the applause of people would end in frustration and compromise.
That’s what happened on the streets of Jerusalem. They were filled with believers who saw Jesus’ miracles and heard His words, yet they remained silent and still as He was crucified because they “loved the praises of men more than the praises of God” (John 12:43). Their desire for acceptance led to their betrayal of the man they knew to be from God.
Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with fitting in with godly friends or making a faithful mentor proud of you (Prov. 13:20; 23:25), and it’s admirable to sacrifice your rights for the salvation or edification someone else (1 Cor. 10:32-33; Rom. 15:1-3).
However, the desire for approval becomes sinister when it turns selfish. “What will they think of me” becomes the fuel that propels our destructive and compromising behavior. This desire to be “mainstream” and “fit in” with our culture and our religious friends is one of the main reasons why we compromise our singular commitment the Word of God.
Yet, think for a moment about where this hunger for approval will lead you.
Seeking approval will silence your confession of Christ. Jesus encountered some believers made mute by their love for the praises of men. They were convinced about who Jesus was, yet “because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42).
If the people we work with, go to school with, and live around do not know what we believe and Who we serve above all else, then our desire for approval has probably silenced our confession. Pleasing people extinguishes our ability to shine like lights in this world.
Seeking approval will lead us to compromise the truth. We live in a time when the truth of the gospel is dimmed to the level of cultural tolerances. Preachers modify their content, and churches change their worship and work in order to fit in with what the popular churches are doing.
And yet, we cannot compromise the eternal truth of God to fit in with a world that is destined for destruction. Paul provides a good example when he wrote, “we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. … We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else” (1 Thess. 2:4,6). When we speak of God our primary thought must be, “Is this pleasing to God and accurate to His word?” Because, if our thought is, “Will they like it?” We will compromise His truth for their acceptance.
Seeking approval will cause you to sin. It’s inevitable. When you want the applause of people, and people are sinful, you will at some point have to sin in order to please them!
In fact, the most monstrous sin ever committed was the result of wanting to please people. Pilate knew Jesus was innocent (Mark 15:10). So, why did Pilate participate in blatant murder? Mark 15:15 says, “Pilate wanted to please the crowd. So he set Barabbas free. Then he ordered his soldiers to beat Jesus with a whip and nail him to a cross.” The murder of Jesus was triggered by the desire to please people! We are led into sin for the very same reason today!
Seeking approval will steal away your eternal reward. Jesus spoke of people who did things “to be seen by men” (Matt. 6:1,2,5,16). And it worked! They accepted their award and stood behind the podium and said, “You love me, you really love me!” But then Jesus said, “That’s all the reward they’ll get! For they will have no reward from the Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:1,2,5,16). Heaven is too good and eternal life too precious to throw it away for the acceptance of some person, whoever they are.
What then can we do about this strong yearning to fit in? Two things…
Be A Fool For Christ. Don’t make an idol out of your position. Paul was glad to be considered a “fool for the sake of Christ” (1 Cor. 4:10). When others think it’s strange that you don’t know the movies and TV shows they watch be happy that you don’t fit in. When people think the things you believe and the priorities you have seem foolish, then you know you are on the right track, because the “gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor. 1:18).
Find Your Acceptance in Christ. Your desire for acceptance is given to you by God in order to draw you to Himself. Because finding acceptance from people is frustratingly infrequent and insufficient. However, freedom comes from knowing how much God loves you and enjoys you (Jer. 31:3; Rom. 8:32). Until you accept God’s love and forgiveness you will always be prone to the hurts of rejection. However, when you understand that, in Christ, God accepts you—sins, weakness, warts and all—you don’t need acceptance from anyone else. The King of Heaven is your Father. His acceptance is all that matters.
“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
A Song: I Believe In Jesus (Favorite Hymns Quartet)
I Believe In Jesus
If we believe what this song teaches us about Jesus we will find a rich source of acceptance! Used with permission. You can find more great worship songs like this at: http://www.rjstevensmusic.com/
A Sermon: The Disease To Please (2 Parts)
The Disease To Please (Part 1) The problems of living for the acceptance of others.
The Disease To Please (Part 2) The solutions to living for the acceptance of others.
An Extra Thought About Acceptance
The Problem With Pleasing People
You can’t please everyone. It has been said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
People are selfish. Even if someone accepts you it is often just to use you for their own purposes.
People are limited. Even if someone does have your best interest at heart what they think is goo, right, and wise is limited, and very often wrong.
People are not good forgivers. When you do something to displease them, and you will, finding joy in their acceptance again will be difficult.
Pleasing people is temporary. When we stand before the Judge it will not matter how many people thought we were great. The only thing that will matter is, “Have I pleased the Lord.”
By the way, we can please God: He is not selfish, is not limited, is a great forgiver, and His opinion of us will stand for eternity! Why not seek His pleasure above all others?