Whose Approval are We Seeking?
When evil can’t destroy righteousness, it seeks the next best thing: to tame it. While a faithful servant of God is dangerous to wicked men, the empty religious carry no such threat. Powerless religion is like a circus animal. It is kept in a cage most of the time by its master and is only trotted out to perform on command for its masters. A Christianity that is afraid to tell the truth of God to the world resigns itself to this fate. Jesus is the Truth, after all, avoiding truth in the name of fear always results in distancing Him. It causes a Christianity without the power of God. The Bible talks about a church that has the appearance of Godliness but denies the power thereof.
In the Old Testament when the kings of Israel turned away from God, they never completely abandoned religion. They always had men around them who claimed to be speaking on behalf of God. The Kings may have chased false idols who promised to give them what they wanted. They may have done terrible things in the name of foreign gods and their own wealth. But they always had “men of the God of Israel” around them to rubber stamp their actions. They were not actually prophets and priests who followed God. They were just their servants who had once worked for God. The Kings took these men as their own. They used fear, corruption, and power to make them change their allegiance and serve them. If we fear and cater to someone, they essentially become our master.
In the days of the bad kings, if the kings asked their religious men for an answer and did not like the message received, they would kill the messenger. If they liked the message, they rewarded the messenger. Predictably, the priests and prophets of God began to water down the messages to please the listener. It is very tempting to try to avoid a King’s wrath when you just saw your predecessor die a horrible death. The scared choose to tell the evil kings what they wanted to hear for fear of the consequences. The wicked did it to gain personal rewards. When pressure was brought to bear, they picked lies over the truth. It is a very human reaction.
The men and women of God today are in the same position as the King’s advisors thousands of years ago. We have been given the truth of God in His Word. We are the only salt and the only light in this very dark and flavorless world. The church has held to this Word for 2000 years. Yet, now, many parts of Jesus’ teachings have been deemed offensive by the World. We are left with a choice. If we speak the truth, we may be accused of being hateful, bigoted and backward. Since society has seriously lost its way, there may be serious cultural blowback on offering the simple truth. The alternative though is telling the people what they want to hear. This may avoid short-term pain, but it takes us away from the Truth – Jesus. The ones we fear and cater to are the ones we serve after all.
God Works through a Faithful Remnant
Even under the worst kings in the Old Testament days, there were also faithful prophets of God. Men like Elijah and Isaiah who did not shy away from speaking God’s Word even when it made the kings mad. They served God not some guy. Elijah knew that his message would make Ahab furious. He passed on the message anyway. Why? He only sought God’s approval. He only spoke God’s message, the truth. If the evil kings hated the man of God for the message it would be for God to handle. His way of handling the issue would be better than anything the messenger could come up with. He was just the servant, not the master.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
The men of God faithfully served Him and spoke His truth, the kings just did not want to hear it because their ways were evil.
Very little has changed since the time of Elijah and the prophets. The world still does not want to hear the truth of the Bible proclaimed when it involves conviction of sin. We are allowed to say the things that the world wants to hear with flowery words and slick presentations. Culture loves this sort of religion. People will approve of an inoffensive religion that applauds their behavior. But this religion will always be subject to the culture. The decisions of man will dictate what their god believes about things.
If we stay true to God’s word and seek God’s approval it is guaranteed to make some people angry. People still don’t like hearing about their sin. The world doesn’t like the bad news that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. As Spurgeon said, the church the world approves of is the church that God abhors.
The bad news is absolutely necessary to hear to get to the Good News. We need to comprehend our need for a perfect Savior to understand the coming of our perfect Savior, Jesus.
So, whose approval are we seeking? Are we willing to have people not like us for preaching the message of God leading to salvation? Are we men and women of God regardless of how the world receives us?
Who is our master?