People Pleasing Destroys Your Peace in Jesus
You have to throw off the expectations of men to truly rest in Christ.
People are all too eager to play the Holy Spirit in your life. They will happily examine your life to tell you how should live. They are then happy to share their findings and place requirements, rules, and obligations on you in the name of God. They often then follow this up by judging your every step to determine whether you meet their expectations.
Honestly, how many lists of “you should’s“, “you have to’s“, and “you must’s” have you encountered as a Christian?
Christians are really good at checklists and rules – both making them and following. They appeal to you by seeming to provide concrete ways to get to be a better disciple. They also appeal to your flesh in that they make you feel accomplished and secure with Jesus. These to do list may be from your pastor, church tradition, peers, or favorite Christian author. They also may stem from your own judgment shaped by your culture, past, or temptations. They range from well intentioned to abusive and controlling. Regardless of the details, they all share simple characteristics:
They do not define you as a “good or bad Christian”…that is Jesus’ job.
They are often incredibly burdensome…Jesus’s burden is not.
Unless they are from the Lord, they are you don’t have to do them…you belong to Jesus not any man or organization.
You get no credit for completing them if they are not from the Lord.
Living to serve the expectations of others means you are not serving Jesus.
They have no power, unless you give it to them…you are secure in Jesus’ approval.
Live for God’s Approval to Reclaim Rest
Am I now seeking the approval of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Do you want to rest and rejoice in Jesus?
The first step on your journey there is to throw off man’s expectations, regulations, and judgments and rest in Jesus. He saved you from a life of toil and struggle for approval through the Cross. There is no need to go back to one.
I know a young man who had been going to church since he was a baby. He read his Bible and honestly tried to follow Jesus. He memorized many Scripture passages and had significant theological information. He served at his church, put on a happy face there, and proclaimed that everything was great in his walk. He was at church just about every day of the week and threw himself into every church activity. He was the face of many of the church ministries. Yet, he also admitted privately to being exhausted and bitter. He constantly questioned his salvation and felt like a lesser Christian secretly. He feared what would happen if people really knew what was in his heart. He could not remember the last time he felt joy and peace in the things of church. He was close to walking away from the faith.
Further discussion revealed the root of the issue. He had lost track of Jesus in his desire to be a good Christian. His true motivation for all of his efforts was to satisfy the demands of people rather than serving Jesus, a common pitfall for us all. It was a more heretical in his case, though.
His church taught the age old heresy addressed by Paul in Galatians. It was not exactly salvation by works, but more like advancement by them. They accepted that redemption was through Jesus, but added self serving caveats that turned it into just one step on the church corporate ladder. They claimed that true approval before God could only be certain through gaining and maintaining membership in that church. Real spiritual maturity could also only be reached through living in ways they set out. It was a sort of elitism that declared “regular” Christians were fine and good, but if you wanted to excel you had to follow that special church and their rules. They tracked everyone and set expectations for dress, speech, giving, and service. They insulted, shamed, and shunned those that had the audacity to fall short or defy their rules. They did this all in the name of Jesus and claiming His authority – despite the Lord having nothing to do with it. This replacement of the Holy Spirit’s role in your life was and is an extremely effective control tactic. The congregation worked desperately to gain their approval and to avoid displeasing them. You can see how the young man became tired and bitter in this environment. It was a grinding, fearful, miserable, and life stealing existence.
How could anyone rest in such a structure? Why would you not work yourself to death to please people if God’s approval was in their hands? How could you serve Jesus in peace when you needed to keep these men happy with you?
Yet, do you see how these same temptations and tactics are employed against you every day? This is certainly a more extreme example, but you can fall for the same traps wherever you are involved groups of people. They are there waiting to ensnare you in your family, home, workplace, and church. They eagerly seek to divert your attention from Jesus to man, including yourself. You have a natural desire to try to fit in. You have been trained since you were little to try to excel among all groups you are part of. You want to make the people you love happy and it can seem like Jesus wants you to do everything you can to do so. People also want you to look like them, sound like them, and act like them, for good reasons and bad. Some want you to serve their will, while others have good intentions but bad methods. The result of all these desires is thousands of opportunities to try to live as a Christian in a way that pleases other people. This is a road that leads to destruction and loss.
God wants you to follow Him alone. He calls you to be conformed to the image of His son alone, Jesus. He wants you to live to do His will. When you live to make anyone else happy, you are not living for Christ.
Fixing Your Eyes on Jesus.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrew 12:1-2
The Bible never contemplates a disciple flying solo so this is not a call to monastic living. You are made to live in community with other believers. You also learn from other believers and are called to submit to one another and to the leadership of your church community, so it is not inciting rebellion against proper authority. Rather, it is an exhortation to turn back to Jesus if you are in slavery to anything else. Submission to improper authority necessarily means you are not submitting to Jesus. You were not saved to make yourself into another person in order to please Jesus. Paul wrote of this:
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.. 1 Corinthians 11:1
The word translated imitate is the same one from which you get the word “mimic”. Paul exhorted the Corinthians to mimic him, act like him, the same way he mimicked Jesus. There is a bright line limitation implied in this verse. Paul makes clear that his authority as a teacher, apostle, and example came from Jesus. The Lord made all of the rules and set all of the standards. Therefore, if Paul did not follow Christ, then the Corinthians should not follow him. It is like a the child’s game “Simon Says”, except this version is “Jesus says”. If Jesus said something, then you do it – “Jesus said pray” so you pray. You also seek out those who are more mature in doing it to learn how to do so better. But if Jesus did not say something, then you are not required to do it either. You also are not required to imitate anyone who is or answer to people who claim it is required.
Instead, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, not in order to please men but God, who examines our hearts. 1 Thessalonians 2:4
Jesus as your Lord and Master means no one else has the authority to make mandatory rules for you. No man (or woman) has the right to demand you conform to their opinion. No person can force you to live up or down to their expectations. You don’t need any person’s approval to be approved of God.
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
The Holy Spirit also does not ask anyone to help judging your walk. He did not appoint anyone to craft rules on how to be a “good Christian” on His behalf. You need not worry about anyone’s evaluation of your relationship with Him.
You likely know this, abstractly, but what does this mean, practically?
Is someone demanding you do something as a Christian that is not in Scripture or threatening you will face judgment and shame?
There is no need to listen to them.
Is your pastor, church, or organization placing expectations on you to live up to that are not in Scripture?
You don’t work for them, either. You can respect them and their decisions. You can also choose to take part voluntarily, if it is an area of freedom. But if the demand it is not from the Lord then there is need to comply.
Are people objecting to how you spend your time or money?
You don’t work for them.
Are you dealing with any person’s requirement to act or think a certain way and follow their programs, expectations, or goals?
You are free to tell that person to take it up with your boss, Jesus. You answer to Him.
Serving Christ alone may seem challenging since you deal with people all the time. It may go against what you are used to and make people unhappy with you. Yet, it is the doorway to wonderful rest and peace. God loves you. He saved you so that you can experience rest, revival, and joy in Him, not to be a tool exploited by others. Jesus satisfied all of the demands against you on the Cross.
You are free to rest in Jesus leadership and authority. You can trust Him. Don’t let anyone’s opinions and schemes steal it from you.