...do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
What a great honor and privilege it is to be a "servant of Christ," obeying His commands, carrying on His work, representing the Lord of the universe wherever we go and whatever we say or do, making Him known and exalting and honoring Him in a world that has rejected and even hates Him. How rewarding it is to play even the smallest part in carrying out our Lord's purposes here on earth. What joy and deep satisfaction it brings to know that our lives are pleasing our Savior and glorifying His Father in heaven (Jn:15:8), and to know that the results and rewards "fadeth not away" (1 Pt 1:4;5:4) but are "eternal in the heavens" (2 Cor:5:1). Surely this "high calling" (Philippians:3:14) is the greatest and most fulfilling "vocation" (Eph:4:1) and "profession" (Heb:3:1) possible! No greater goal could inspire our ambitions, absorb our energies or captivate our hearts!
Of course, Satan, our wily enemy, has devised pitfalls and hindrances to block our path or turn us aside from following Christ. Our "adversary's" (1 Pt 5:8) tireless genius creates temptations to seduce our hearts, and false doctrines to confuse our minds. Satan would rob our Lord of the glory He deserves, deprive us of the joy and reward that comes from obeying God, and prevent us from rescuing those who are "taken captive by him [Satan] at his will" (2 Tim:2:26). However, "we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Cor:2:11). Satan's only hope is to capitalize upon three innate human weaknesses: "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 Jn:2:16).
We find all three in Eve's temptation. She saw that the forbidden fruit "was good for food [the lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [the lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [the pride of life]" (Gen:3:6). Driven by these lusts, Eve chose self over God.
Satan tried the same tactics on Christ (Mat:4:1-11; Lk 4:1-13). He had fasted forty days and was faint with hunger when Satan tempted Him to "command this stone that it be made bread" [the lust of the flesh], showed Him "all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them" [the lust of the eyes], and suggested that He jump from the pinnacle of the temple so that the Jews, seeing the angels "bear [Him] up in their hands" (Ps:91:12), would fall in worship at His feet [the pride of life].
Satan's approach with both Eve and Christ reveals his entire repertoire. Thus we easily recognize his assaults and, admitting our natural lusts which in themselves lead us astray (James:1:14), defeat him not in our own strength (which is impossible) but by the power of Christ within us. Christ overcame Satan by standing upon the Word of God ("it is written") in obedience to His Father—"not my will, but thine, be done" (Lk 22:42). We must do the same.
Satan's ultimate weapon is the threat of physical death. That threat, which Christ faced and overcame, confronts us with all three temptations at once. Our most basic instinct (dating back to the Garden of Eden) is self-preservation. We cling tenaciously to this world because it deceitfully offers to satisfy our "lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life." These three, said John, are "all that is in the world" (1 Jn:2:16).
The "fear of death" holds men "all their lifetime...[in] bondage" (Heb:2:15). Christ warned that "whosoever will save his life shall lose it." He also promised, "whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Mat:16:25). In other words, if we clutch our lives selfishly to ourselves and are afraid or un-willing to give up all for Christ, we will lose the true life God has for us. However, if for Christ's sake we obediently and lovingly abandon the life which self would have lived, He will live through us the true life for which He created and redeemed us, a life of great joy (despite trials and suffering) which glorifies God and never ends.
Just before the Cross, Christ warned His eleven disciples (and all those through the centuries who would believe in Him, including us) that the time would come when following Him would cost them their earthly lives. That prophecy came true. Literally millions of Christians have been maligned, tortured and murdered by Christ-rejecters throughout history. Such tactics, however, failed to accomplish Satan's purposes. As Tertullian said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." If the truth were known, perhaps more souls came to Christ and more lives were surrendered to Him through the deaths of the five young missionaries killed by Aucas in Ecuador in 1956 than had they lived. Three were dear friends of mine, and I remember weeping and agonizing in prayer, until at last, in anguish, I yielded to the fact that God knows best.
Christ's warning included a further and seemingly unbelievable scenario: that some of those killing His followers would think they were "do[ing] God service" (Jn:16:2). That kind of persecution or martyrdom has always been the hardest to bear. It is one thing to be hated and tortured and killed by those who openly admit their opposition to Christ. It is something else entirely when persecution comes in His name from those who profess to love Him and who believe they are thereby serving God. In A Woman Rides the Beast we document many examples of this incredible travesty perpetrated by Roman Catholic popes who slaughtered true Christians by the millions, as well as by zealous priests who, in Christ's name, mercilessly tortured and murdered their victims during the Inquisitions.
While Satan has not entirely abandoned violence (Christians are still being tortured and killed in strong Catholic and Islamic areas), his tactics today are more subtle and thus far more effective. Those whose bodies were imprisoned for the sake of Christ remained unfettered in soul and spirit. Theirs was the "glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom:8:21)! Today, however, bodies remain free to enjoy popularity and pleasure, while souls and spirits are bound in chains of fear—the fear of the adverse opinions of others and loss of their good will and esteem and the financial gain which popularity brings.
Solomon warned, "The fear of man bringeth a snare" (Prov:29:25). This great snare includes fear of offending, fear of being criticized, fear of losing friendship, fear of being isolated, left out, looked down upon, passed by for a raise in salary or promotion. All such debilitating and compromising fears are summarized in Paul's statement in Galatians:1:10: "...for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." The natural desire to please others (especially those in positions of influence and power) in order to be well thought of by them is Satan's most effective snare in holding Christians captive so they cannot serve God. And his most persuasive instruments in ensnaring Christians are Christians themselves.
It is far easier to stand true to Christ in the face of jeers and opposition from atheists than to resist the seemingly sincere persuasions of fellow Christians who urge one to "be positive" and to avoid offending others in order to be "more effective for Christ." There is little difficulty rejecting an obviously false gospel. It is not so easy, however, to "earnestly contend for the faith" (Jude 3) against errors which are clothed in teaching that contains much that is biblical—and especially when it is supported by highly esteemed Christian leaders whose lives have evidenced much good fruit. Who can resist the praise of men and the temptation to be well liked and even to become a part of leadership in one's denomination!
How often have I agonized before the Lord in attempting to understand why so many Christians, even leaders among them, will compromise God's Word, water down the gospel and join in ecumenical partnerships which suppress the truth! Surely the desire to "please men" plays a large role. Could that explain why leading evangelicals signed that infamous document, "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millenium" (ECT)? Having dealt with that already, let's consider a similarly devastating example of growing apostasy.
The Catholic Herald of June 2, 1993, reported that Rabbi Howard Hirsch of Temple Shalom in Colorado Springs, and Richard Hanifen, that city's Roman Catholic bishop, were outraged that "Jewish and Catholic youth were being evangelized at school." They met with Christian leaders in Colorado Springs who agreed that such evangelization was improper. Christian students were rebuked for seeking to rescue their school friends from a lost eternity in obedience to Christ's command to "preach the gospel to every creature" (Mk 16:15).
A "Covenant of Mutual Respect" was drawn up in which the parties, in "a commitment to justice, mercy, righteousness and peace for all," agreed to respect one another's diverse beliefs and to avoid "polarization." Try to imagine Peter, James and John, when forbidden by the Sanhedrin to preach the gospel, signing an agreement to cease such activities out of respect for diverse beliefs among Roman citizens! Or Elijah signing such an agreement with the prophets of Baal, or Paul with the Judaizers in Jerusalem or the pagan priests in Ephesus! Jesus would never have been crucified had He joined with the rabbis in such a deal.
The Covenant was published in the local paper as "A Message to the People of Colorado Springs." It was signed by such notables (in addition to Hirsch and Hanifen) as the president of Focus on the Family, the president of International Students, Inc., the Young Life director of Institute of Youth Ministries, The Navigators director of U.S. Ministries, and various local pastors, some evangelical, some not. Commending this amazing compromise, Lauren Libby, vice president of The Navigators, said, "It's good to see the Body of Christ unified in Colorado Springs." Yes, it would be, if they were unified in truth.
Everywhere we see the powerful influence of the fear of man and the deceitful fruit of the seemingly legitimate desire to please man. It plagues every family. The hardest people to witness to are those of one's own household. To faithfully share the gospel often cuts one off from family and friends. The same pressure not to offend is found in every club, whether it be the Lions or Rotary or some other. Christians are kept from being the servants of Christ for fear of offending fellow members with the truth. Unfortunately, the same fear operates in Christian groups as well.
The fear of man holds sway in Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition where evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, humanists and others work together for conservative political and social goals. An uncompromising witness for Christ must be avoided because it would offend some members and break up the coalition. In many such groups Christians must remain silent about that which is eternal in order to devote themselves to good causes which are only temporal.
The fear of man created the term "politically correct." Whether one is a Democrat or Republican, the party line must be adhered to for the sake of one's career. We call this invisible yet powerful source of intimidation "the establishment." We see it in the academic world, where many a scientist knows that evolution is a fraud but is afraid to admit it for fear of losing his position. The Christian world is caught in the same snare. There are Christian leaders who agree with me when we speak in private, but who distance themselves from or even criticize me in public for fear of offending others in power.
This great snare haunts the world of Christian media. To be a guest on CBN or TBN or even Moody Radio, etc. one must avoid offending listeners and supporters, which often prevents one from speaking the truth in love from Scripture. The "Christian psychology" establishment exerts tremendous pressure in this regard. I am banned from most Christian radio and TV because what I say undermines confidence in the huge and profitable "Christian psychology" industry, which happens to provide Christian radio's largest advertising revenue and therefore must not be challenged with truth.
"Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Mat:7:1) is offered to justify failure to oppose false teachings. Yet Jesus also says, "Beware of false prophets....by their fruits ye shall know them" (vv 15-20). So we are to recognize false teachers and beware of them, which surely would include warning others. In fact, Christ rebuked the rabbis for not judging "what is right" (Lk 12:57). Jesus said, "Judge...righteous judgment" (Jn:7:24). Thus, we must judge. How else can we "rebuke before all" those who sin (1 Tim:5:20)? Paul rebuked the Corinthians for failing to judge those within the church (1 Cor:5:12-6:5). He also made it clear that listeners are to "judge" and correct if necessary what is taught in the church (14:29-31).
Tragically, there is a growing tendency to present Christ in a way that appeals to "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." Those who "receive Christ" on that basis have believed "another gospel" about "another Jesus" (2 Cor:11:4). There is an "offence of the cross" (Gal:5:11). A gospel designed to offend no one is a fraud that damns instead of saves. We must adhere to the truth of God's Word out of love for our Lord and for the souls for whom He died. May God deliver us from the great snare of "lov[ing] the praise of men more than the praise of God" (Jn:12:43)! We "cannot serve God and mammon" (Mat:6:24). Let us take care to make the right choice. TBC