Sunday, February 24, 2008

Why we shouldn't work for the world's applause

Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.

But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. (Acts. 14: 8-19)

As human beings, all of us want to be loved and appreciated for who we are and the things we have done. And this can sometime cause us to be swayed by the opinion of others. Christians are not immune to such peer pressure, and the pressure to conform is always around us. In fact, a form of peer pressure occurs during church discipline, as church discipline and excommunication utilizes it in conjuction with prayer to hopefully lead a person to repentance (Mt. 18:15-17, 1 Cor.. 5:2, 2 Cor. 2:6-7).

That said, nowhere is the pressure to conform most apparent in the interaction of the Church and the World. The world is always attempting to force the Church to conform to its depraved standards, and sadly many within the Visible Church have some time or another allow the standards of the world into the Church. The pressure to be seen as nice and non-threatening so that we can share the Gospel with others is something that is present also, and stems from an Arminian or Pelgian/Semi-Pelagian view of evangelism and salvation. Even then, all Christians would need to face it as they do evangelism even if they believe in the biblical Calvinist beliefs regarding these two issues.

Closer within the Visible Church is the concept of discerning ministries, or just discernment, to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:4), especially among those whom Paul called fierce, ravenous woles out to destroy the flock if possible (Acts. 20: 29), as this could incur the wrath of even professing orthodox Christians. And the recent Purpose Driven paradigm have taken this peer pressure concept to a new low, as those who resist what is clearly unbiblical are subjected to peer pressure, ostracism and even demonization in order to attempt to silence their objection.

Face with all this pressure, it is not wonder that some occasionally succumb, including me. But yet the Scripture tell us not to work for the world's approval, but to work for an audience of one. And this narrative in Acts illustrates for us why.

As it can be seen, Paul and Barnabas healed a crippled man in Lystra as part of their custom in the places where they would have visited. Immediately, the people proclaimed them as manifestations of their Greek gods (Zeus and Hermes) and attempted to worship them and offer them sacrifices. Surely Paul and Barnabas have the world's approval in this city of Lystra. Yet as we read further down the text, what happened? Jews from Pisidian Antioch and Iconium who actively persecuted Paul and Barnabas when they were there came to Lystra and persuade the crowds to stone Paul and Barnabas. Did you notice that? Just minutes ago, they were trying to worship Paul and Barnabas, yet within a short period of time, they wanted to kill them. What fickle-mindedness on their part! And such is the case of men (and women). Man in general are fickle-minded and thus it is useless to attempt to work for their approval, for it is near impossible to attain them all, and definitely impossible to keep it. If Jesus who is sinless and the very epitome of love could engender such hatred while on earth, what makes you think you can do any better?

Since such is the case, let us continue to speak and witness boldly for our Lord with less regard to adverse or even positive reactions from people, yet humbly submitting to His Word. It is most definitely a struggle, but one we all should work towards — working and serving for an audience of One, and even to hear the applause of One if necessary. May God help us in this endaevor. Amen.


Anonymous said...

Great post, as usual, Daniel. Thank you for the reminder. As human beings, we usually want to please and be accepted.

As you said, Christians are no exception when it comes to this temptation.


Daniel C said...