by Mike Ratliff
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10 ESV)
I ended yesterday’s post, Rejoicing in Faith, by saying:
“I saw a comment today on Facebook that went something like this, “Being a Christian is something we are, not something we do.” I would like to add to that, that it is something we are that causes us to do right (Ephesians 2:10). Think about that as you meditate on these pastors and Christian leaders making light of God’s truth as they pick a choose what to believe as true based on their own sense of what is true instead of believing God.”
This post is the result of my own meditation and thinking on these things last night and today as I dealt with those who did not like it that some of us are drawing the circle of Christian Authenticity very small. I like to think of the gate that all true believers enter as being small, narrow, and hard to find (our Lord’s own words) and the way they go from there to their Lord from there as being straight and narrow and full of tests and trials. In any case, the more I mediated on these things, the more clear it became to me that those who are compromising like this who were formerly quite solid in their ministries like Dr. John Piper are doing so for the very same reason that any one else is deceived.
What causes deception? We like to believe that people lying to those they deceive causes deception. However, if we think critically about that (yes, I know that post-modernists have lost that ability, but humor me) deception is not the direct result of the lie, but is only takes effect when the one being deceived desires something from the deceiver such as a relationship or something else that is offered. The deceived believe the lie in order to receive something else that they want. What has this to do with compromise in ministry? When theologians, preachers, or Christian leaders who once were not compromised suddenly appear to make these strange decisions, if we take the effort to dig into what is going on, invariably we will find that they are doing what they are doing in order to please someone else. The motive is that of gaining the approval of man. Yes, there will be some with discernment who will notice and make an issue of it, but these people go ahead and do what they do because they see the gain they will receive as being higher than what they will have lost by not doing so. Of course, that gain is from man not God and the heat they will take from those with discernment, well, who listens to them anymore anyway?
In 1 Thessalonians 2, the Apostle Paul writes about his arrival to Thessalonica from Philippi after he and Silas had been released from jail after the miraculous earthquake that resulted in the salvation of the jailor and his family.
For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. (1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 ESV)
Notice that Paul focuses on his motive and the result in his ministry to the Thessalonians. He and Silas boldly proclaimed the gospel there in the midst of much conflict, but the motive was never to please any man, but only to please God. This accounts for their boldness. They did not preach according to the people’s felt needs. They did not preach what made people feel good about Paul’s ministry so they would be sure to come back and be part of the relationships there. No, Paul says that his appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive. Instead, they preached only the Word God gave them to preach and put the result in God’s hands. If they did it the way its done in the Seeker Sensitive way today it would not be that way I assure you. Paul says that he and Silas did not seek glory from people in any way. Watch the videos of these rock star Leadership Network dudes and listen to Rick Warren pat himself on the back and you will hear exactly the opposite. It is all about “look at me and my ministry and what we have done for this many people and what we can do for you!” Now what was it that Paul and Silas preached to them again?
For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 ESV)
Interesting isn’t it? The focus for Paul in his ministry was the gospel and making disciples. This is why we have all these epistles in the New Testament from Paul that are full of doctrine.
I listened to an episode of The White Horse Inn today from July 3rd in which the panel spoke with author Os Guinness about the push for cultural relevancy in the Church. One anecdote he used struck me like a hammer and I knew I had to share it you. He suggested that if you took a sermon by Puritan John Bunyan, who was educated at a grammar school level and learned his theology by studying the Bible and being discipled at his church, “moderned” up the language a bit then took a sermon on the same subject from a theologian at the seminary at Chapel Hill then asked people to compare them to determine which came from the more educated man that most would say that Bunyan’s sermon would be the far more theologically advanced. Why is this so and what does this say? It is so because in our time these theologians are plagued with the fatal disease of being man pleasers while John Bunyan had no such problem. Also, Bunyan knew his Bible far better than most theologians in our time who have very advanced degrees. He learned his theology by studying the Bible not by wasting time in anything else.
I waded through some of the spam comments from yesterday’s post and it was as expected. They all miss the point. I never once said that people are saved by believing the whole Bible or the creation story or whatever. Nope, never said that, not once. What I said, and what those I quoted said was that when one is truly regenerate that they are new creations and unbelief is part of the rebellious, fleshly past and is dealt with through the mortification of sins. These men in question have been theologians a long time and here they are revealing hearts that are not marked by faith, but by sight. That is what we are saying. This is unbelief. Ministering as a man pleaser is also the fruit of unbelief. It is not ministering by faith, but by sight. Pragmatism, therefore, is not ministering by faith, but by sight. Pragmatism and being a man-pleaser go hand-in-hand.
Soli Deo Gloria!