Please God, not man!

In today’s world, cancel culture is alive and well, which makes it is easy, and even necessary at times, to slip into a people pleasing mindset. If you get on someone’s bad side or go against a cause they are championing, you might find yourself the victim of repeated attacks that are meant to ruin your life and career. I don’t know anyone who wants their life and career ruined. We generally want our life to improve not spiral out of control. We are creatures who desire comfort, peace, and security, not the opposite. So many tow the line even if they disagree in an effort to please those around them.

For all the talk of being genuine, people pleasing is about as far from it as you can get. We might make it seem like we are championing a cause because we care so much about it but all we are really doing is looking out for our own self-interest. At our core, we are selfish people who want to travel the smoothest road through life.

The broad, smooth road, however, can easily turn into a bumpy, pothole filled road that will destroy our comfortable ride in a matter of moments. We can’t please everyone no matter how hard we try. Even if we are successful for a time, trying to please one group at one cultural moment, might result in us offending another in a future cultural moment. This is why so many who want to stay in the good gracies of the culture “evolve” every so often.

But the apostle Paul makes it clear in today’s passage that if we are going to be a servant of Christ, we must purpose to please Him and only Him.

Look at Galatians 1:10

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.”

Paul draws a hard line in the sand. His life’s focus is to please one person and one person only. His life is focused on pleasing Jesus Christ, who is the only person that matters. Culture changes, people change, opinions of what is right and wrong change (sometimes daily), but Jesus and what He stands for never changes. What pleased God thousands of years ago will still please Him thousands of years from now.

As our Creator and Savior, pleasing Jesus is the only thing that matters. His opinion of us is the only one that holds any weight. A relationship with Him is the only one that will provide that for which we are looking — peace, comfort, and security.

Stop toiling to please the world. Unhinge yourself from the heavy burden you are carrying. Turn to Christ! His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Please God, not man!

The Glorious Gospel Brings Us Together

Ephesians, at least the first several chapters, highlights the glories of the gospel.

The Glorious Gospel

Paul desires the Ephesians and, in turn, God desires we see the greatness of the gospel as well. Indeed the good news that we are saved by God Himself through Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf is amazing. It is unfathomable. God experiences a condemnation He doesn’t deserve so that we might escape the condemnation we do deserve.

The gospel didn’t just happen. It wasn’t an afterthought. We are told it was God’s plan from before time began (Eph 1:3-14). How amazing it is thatGod thought of us before the world even began and purposed to provide us with salvation!

Breaks Down Hostility Bringing us Together

While the gospel redeems us from God’s wrath, which is no light activity, it does more, much more. It redeems all of life, including our relationships with one another. In Ephesians 2 beginning in verse 14 we read,

[14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility [15] by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, [16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Ephesians 2:14-16

In these verses, Paul is referring to the Jew / Gentile relationship. He reveals that Jesus makes peace between the two people’s. He does what nothing else in the world could, he breaks down walls of hostility that spans millennia.

Not only does Christ break down walls of hostility, but He brings the two together so that they no longer exist as two separate people but as one. In Christ, their is no longer a Jew / Gentile divide. In Christ, there is one new man. A singular people of God who are able to live together with one another in love and care.

The gospel does what no political message or law could. The gospel breaks down hostility between people of different races and nationalities. It is the gospel that creates unity. It is the gospel that brings us all together.

Several points of application:

(1) The gospel is what will heal our country, which means we need to preach Christ to our communities.

(2) The gospel is what will heal our churches, which means we need to focus on preaching the gospel to one another in the body of Christ.

(3) The gospel is what brings us together in community with one another.

Not that affinities aren’t important. They are important. But it is ultimately the saving grace of God and our desire to understand, apply, and share it that brings us together as a people. Yes, we want all want to be a part of community with which we connect. But are affinity connects the end all be all?

While we might not have everything in common with those in the local church to which we belong, we do have the one thing in common that matters and that brings us together — we have the gospel in common. We have the hope of Christ in common. We should have the desire to understand and apply God’s Word in common. The gospel is what brings us together.

When you are looking for a church with which to join, find one that preaches the gospel, that seeks to apply the gospel, and share the gospel with the community. Find one that is faithful to God’s Word and wants to see you grow in the understanding and application of God’s grace. Don’t look for the one that can meet all your needs or checks all your affinity boxes.

Jesus is the Plan

With the grand sweep of biblical history stretching from before the beginning of world all the way to recreation, it is easy to miss the overarching plan of God. The Bible is thousands of pages and covers thousands of years. A lot happens between creation and the coming of Jesus. It is easy to mistake Jesus’ coming as a second try, a do-over of sorts. But is that the case? Is Jesus’ ministry, His sacrifice, His resurrection, the salvation He provides a do-over? Is it plan b?

Peter clears this up for us in one of his first speeches in the book Acts. During Pentecost, the Spirit of God was poured out on Jesus’ disciples (Acts 2:1-13). Some were amazed that they could hear what the disciples were saying in their native language, while others chalked it up to them being drunk. Peter responds with a message that links back to the book of Joel, explaining that the event was a fulfillment of prophecy and everyone should take note. He also issues a warning about the coming day of the Lord (Acts 2:19-20). The warning is followed up by an offer of salvation. All people’s everywhere who call on the name of Jesus will be saved. Salvation is not just for the Jews, it is for all people’s everywhere (Acts 2:21).

How does salvation come to all people’s? Peter reveals it is through Jesus. His crucifixion at the hands of lawless men provide salvation, as well as His resurrection (Acts 2:22-24). It is in this section that our question is answered.

Peter writes in Acts 2:22-24

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

Do you see it? In verse 23, we are told Jesus was delivered over to wicked men who would kill Him as part of God’s definite plan. It wasn’t a plan concocted on the spot, instead it was foreknown by the Lord. He knew it would happen. He planned for it to happen all so that you and I could experience salvation in Jesus?

How amazing is our God? He gives Himself for us not by accident but according to plan.

Praise and worship God today! He is a promise keeping, grace extending, good and loving God who desires we experience salvation so that we might bring Him glory and enjoy Him forever!

Christian, Take Up Your Cross

Following Jesus is a daily decision to pursue Him in the direction of the cross. Jesus tells the crowds this much in Mark 8 beginning in verse 34 when he says:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34–38)

The Christian life is a daily pursuit in the direction of the cross. In other words, it is a daily dying to self and living for Christ, pursuing Him with all we have.

In order to run after Jesus in this way, we must see Jesus as more valuable than anything the world has to offer. Jesus makes that clear when He asks: “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” The world has a lot to offer — riches, fame, acceptance, comfort, pleasure, etc. The world can offer these things, but they don’t last. They are here today and gone tomorrow.

Take your house for instance. Many want and chase after a home that is full of the comforts of the day. You sacrifice for it. You spend time working on it. You might even become consumed by it. While it is not wrong to have a nice home and nice things, if God so chooses to bless you in that way, there is not a command against it. But we must not make our home our idol. Something we believe will give us more satisfaction and joy than the Lord. Something we believe will provide us with meaning and hope. Something we put before and in place of the Lord. A home won’t, it can’t, provide us with what the Lord can and does. A home will let us down, whereas the Lord will not.

It is terrifying to imagine but fires happen all the time. In many instances, everything in the home is ruined. All that you placed your hope in gone in a matter of a couple of hours. Taken by the flames. In that moment, if your hope is in your home, your life is over. But if it is in the Lord, it might be sad, but your life is not ruined, your hope is not dashed, your world has not gone up in flames.

The things of this world are here today and gone tomorrow. We must not put our hope in them. Instead, we must exclusively put our hope in Jesus.

How can we get to a place where we see Jesus as more valuable than anything world can offer?

We must realize the world will let us down. That it can’t save our soul. It can’t restore our relationship with the Father. Once we see the world for what it is, we can enjoy it, but not live for it.

Have you taken up your cross today? Are you pursuing Christ with all you have? Are you allowing God to direct and control your life?

Be Confident in Your Evangelism

Mark’s gospel begins quickly and doesn’t slow down until passion week. He moves from Jesus’ baptism right into His ministry, showing His power to heal, cast out demons, control the weather, and teach with authority.

Jesus’ teaching is both straightforward and in parables. In one parable, the parable of the seed growing, He says,

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”” (Mk 4:26–29)

What is the point of this short story? It is to show us that we cannot manufacture disciples. In fact, it is not our purpose to manufacture disciples. God is the One who produces the harvest just like the earth produces a harvest of food for us.

Our job, like the farmer, is to collect the harvest. How do we collect the harvest? We must talk about and ask others if they believe the good news about Jesus. As we have conversations with others, we will see a harvest being brought into our churches. Jesus’ parable implies then that we must be about the business of evangelizing others.

We can be confident in our evangelism because God is the One producing the harvest.

God’s Speech is purposeful and brings results

““For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Is 55:10–11)

Talking is not a bad thing, but when you talk just to hear yourself talk, what’s the point. I am sure you know people like that – they love the sound of their own voice. Instead of talking with you in conversation, they talk at you.

God is not one to talk at us. He doesn’t just talk to talk. His speech is purposeful. It brings about results.

In Isaiah 52-55, God speaks in regard to salvation. He promises redemption through a suffering Servant. We know that servant to be Jesus. The One who was led to the slaughter like a lamb. The One who gave Himself on our behalf. The One who is our Redeemer.

The redemption Jesus provides didn’t just happen. Nothing took place in regard to Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf by happenstance. Rather, Jesus’ death on the cross, His giving His life on our behalf was purposeful and a part of God’s plan. He died in accordance with the Scriptures, as well as He resurrected in accordance with the Scriptures. His death on our behalf actually accomplished something. It accomplished exactly what the Father had purposed – redemption and vindication for His people.

God does not talk to hear the sound of His voice. His speech is purposeful and accomplishes that which He purposes. Praise God for His purposeful speech. Praise God He has the power and will to bring about that which He proclaims.