2-18-2017 WHOSE APPROVAL DO WE SEEK?
Everybody likes to be accepted by others. All of us like to be accepted and appreciated. We all (if we admit it) desire to ‘be a part of’ things. Part of the ‘in’ crowd, at least, included in the activities of those around us. People become loners because society (as a whole) has rejected them, or for whatever the reason just don’t want to associate with them.
What we need to come to realize is that society is a product of itself. What I mean is that it establishes its own requirements, qualities, characteristics, demeanors, and so forth. Think I’m just blowin’ smoke? When I was growing up the ‘Barbie’ doll and the ‘G.I. Joe’ became the prime role model toys for boys and girls. All the girls wanted to be pretty like Barbie and have that perfect figure. The guys, G.I. Joe was a ‘real man’, not afraid of anything, the type of guy you wanted to grow up to be, like Captain America and Superman, fighting for truth, justice and the American way. And Barbie became the desire of every ‘Joe’s’ heart (sorry Ken). Two toys became role models for an awful lot of kids and not many (if any) truly reached their ideals. This doesn’t count all the guys who wanted to be the next “Elvis”, James Dean or even an Olympic champion or the girls who dreamed of being the next Miss America or Miss Universe or Hollywood megastar. Not for lack of trying but reality does have a tendency to set in.
And you know, today the only thing that has changed are the names of our heroes, Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga and so on. We fall in love with an image that is projected by society. Of course, in the case of celebrities in all venues of the arts, those images are press releases and publicity stunts to get attention, but society gobbles it up and follows trying to emulate their ‘heroes’. However, businesses project a desired image so the public will buy their product. The public obliges. There’s a desire to know what’s going on with “the product” (we have a tendency to be nosy). So, I dare say, today (and for a long time) our heroes, those whom we desire to emulate, are merely products of someone else’s imagination.
But you say what about ‘real’ people? What are ‘real’ people? What we watch and listen to the news? TV, newspapers, magazines are all products of an industry that tells us what will ‘sell’ their product. TV and radio want ratings to prove that viewers and listeners are tuning in. Newspapers and magazines rate by sales. You may get some truth in a story, but it most likely that story will have a spin. That is it will relate what product the promoter wants you to see/hear thereby molding your tastes and opinions. So to get a clearer picture of what’s really going on, you need to check out multiple sources, compare the different spins, then make a judgment. Unfortunately, we learn to like or dislike according to what we see and hear in the media.
We are a product of our society.
So, in order to be accepted into society we are ready to adapt to its standards. Those who don’t adapt get left by the wayside. This goes for people in general, but also those in the ‘church’.
THE CHURCH?(!) Yes, even the church.
When we aren’t saved, we feel a tug on our heart so we start attending a local church, hoping to get either consolation or revelation. To feel good or get saved so we can fit in. Without revelation, consolation may or may not come but revelations comes when we hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and receive Him into our heart (get saved). We continue attending that church and start existing under the standards by which that church functions. This is not necessarily bad, but in today’s church it is not necessarily give us a complete picture, either. God’s desire that we have the fullest picture of issues so we can properly deal with life in this world. The hope, though, is that the church not only ‘preaches’ the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also ‘lives’ by it and teaches us to do the same. Why? So we can grow and learn how to live for and in Jesus for ourselves. The bible tells us to work out our own salvation (Phil. 2:12). So what does this really mean?
What it does not mean is “how do I see my accessing eternal heaven” or “what do I have to do to influence God to let me into heaven” or even “I’ve led a pretty good life, I’m good to go, right?” Our own concepts and standards don’t ‘cut the mustard’. We have to learn what God’s standards are, then meet them.
To begin with, the only way into heaven is through our faith in Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Holy One, the Anointed One.
Jesus IS the Word of God. God created all that exists by speaking His Word, then the Holy Ghost carried that Word into action thus creating everything that exists. So Jesus was with God in the beginning and was God (John 1:1).
God (Father) made His Word flesh (John 1:14), walking in our world as one of us so He could cleanse us from our sin (nature) and sins (acts) thereby bringing us back into God’s righteousness and fellowship (1 John 1:7). So, Jesus became the final sacrificial lamb shedding His blood for our redemption (John 1:29, Ephesians 1:7), for without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin (Hebrews 9:22). The only thing we can do is accept this and believe it with all our heart and then to accept and believe that Jesus rose from the grave and the dead on the third day, walked with His disciples (alive and well) for forty days then ascended back into heaven from whence He came and is seated at the right hand of the Father until He returns for us (John 20:31, Matt. 28:6, Acts 1:9-11, Colossians 3:1). This is the salvation message for all man, and understand that we all have fallen short of God’s expectations for us (sinned) (Romans 3:23) and need an intercessor to bring us back into fellowship (salvation) with God, the Father (Romans 8:34) so we can come back into alignment with His will, as demonstrated by living (yielding our lives) to Him, the rest of our days, here in this world (Romans 6:13). And, of course, Jesus is that intercessor. In so doing, Jesus (as His Father did in the Old Testament) promises us health, prosperity and protection (Prov. 3:1-2) (He will never leave us nor forsake us Hebrews 13:5). All until He returns to bring us into eternal existence with Him. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ (in a nutshell). All the rest is learning HOW to abide in His will as we await fulfillment of His promises for this world and the next. So, in the meantime, we watch and wait (Matt.24:42). Watching means always being ready and ready means living for Him, moment by moment.
Man wants to be accepted. And whether he admits it or not, that’s in this world as well as the next. Without acceptance, or at least the hope thereof, man faces despair and despair leads to death, spiritual and or natural.
So man continues to look for ways to be accepted, even in the church. It may mean building his own world where only he exists. When man can’t believe his life has some worth or value (acceptance by others), his rationale for existence diminishes.
The orphan spirit builds private, little worlds, for an individual so a man can, at least, accept himself, but, in truth, he needs more than that. His own little world is usually devoid of God and God made us communal creatures, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18), but this just doesn’t apply to the wife God would create for Adam. As we read in Genesis, man has collected, and worked together, from the beginning. Consider the tower of Babel where man collected and worked together to achieve his own ‘selfish’ desire (Gen. 11:1-9) and had to face God’s judgment. Also, in today’s church God tells us not to forsake fellowshipping together (Hebrews 10:25) so we can encourage each other. We find support and encouragement in community. Or at least, we should.
Finding acceptance means garnering the approval of those around us so we can be a ‘part of the crowd’ and that has been true today as well as throughout history.
We look forward to family outings, especially where members of the extended family attend. We like to be a part of the family.
We get involved in social activities to meet people. We like to connect with others.
We get involved in sports to be a part of a team or an organization. We get that sense of belonging.
We join clubs to fellowship with other people. Nobody really likes being alone.
We go to church because we hear God turns no one away and hopefully we can ‘fit in’ in a church.
Too often when nothing else works we turn to the church so we can be a part of being around other people. Sometimes, even that doesn’t work.
We all want to be accepted so we seek to discover what it takes to be approved by others so we can be accepted by them, whether it be in the world or the church.
Unfortunately, acceptance today, is gauged too much by world standards, though they may originally have been biblically based, those standards have morphed, or should I say warped into what man wants to be able to do. Man changes things so he can do what he wants to rather than what he should do so as to relieve himself of any responsibility. Fellowship with no commitment (relationships take commitment). So acceptance by the ‘world’ standards draws us away from God. God’s standards promote a ‘holy’ (apart from the world’s wickedness) life and promises acceptance by our heavenly Father into eternal existence. We receive worldly acceptance because it usually is a quick fix and meets our desires NOW. Fewer, or no, responsibility. Church should bring us into a responsible lifestyle, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Too many church members soon forget where they came from and quickly distance themselves from ‘sinners’ who try to come into their holy circle or church members may fall back into old habits and excuse their slide from God’s grace as still being under God’s grace. Paul warns us about using God’s grace to sin (Romans 6:1-9)
So, far too many people seek the world’s acceptance, or approval because God’s people have forgotten His basic commandment “to love”. The world will accept people where they are, at least for a while, but then later, they may cast them aside. Too late for the individual. Unfortunately, because people are ‘tainted’ they may not really be accepted by the church either, especially if they cannot bring come sort of glory or benefit to the church. Even when accepted, if a soul doesn’t fit into the church ‘culture’, and they may find themselves in a similar position as with the world, the church may eventually cast those souls aside.
GOD IS LOVE (1 John 4:8)! And Jesus commands us to love, as He has loved us. No greater love has a man than to lay his life down for his friends (John 15:13). Jesus died on the cross for you and me (us) (1 Peter 2:24), but by the grace and to the glory of God, He rose on the third day giving us that promise of eternal life, as we believe and accept Him (Jesus). Laying our lives down for our friends is considering their needs before our own, seeking and doing what edifies them rather than demanding ‘my way or the highway’. Do we deny our own needs? Of course not! But God calls us to consider others before ourselves (John 15:13, Phil. 2:3, 1 Corinth. 14:26).
Our acceptance into eternity is living our lives for and in Jesus Christ, for we can do nothing without Him (John 15:5) but we can do all things in Him (Phil. 4:13). Glory to God. Living our lives for Jesus brings on the approval of our Father in heaven (Col. 1:10), which brings on the promise of eternal life because we have yielded ourselves to Him (Father through the Son) (Romans 6:13).
The world’s approval is temporary, at best, because that acceptance doesn’t normally last long (it sure doesn’t lead to the type of eternity we would like). Think, how many entertainers can you name, who have been at the top for more than just a few years and have then faded away – many into oblivion. Yes, there are some who hang around for a life time but people’s likes and dislikes change, the world changes and those most of whom the world had approved of cease to exist at an noteworthy level, anymore. Such is the world’s approval. When their value is gone, they are cast aside. And they ride off into the sunset.
Yes, God does give us some criteria, that is to live our lives for Him, but as we ‘stay the course’ (23 Tim. 2:10) we find ourselves “APPROVED” right into eternity with the Father through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Eternal acceptance, never turned away for once we are in God’s hand, nothing can take us out and God won’t throw us out (John 10:29). Only we can jump off on our own accord (Hebrews 10:23-31) and then the question rises “Once having known the true love of God and His goodness, how can we turn away?” (Heb. 5:4-6) Why would we turn away?
So whose approval do we seek? The world’s? or God’s? Which, do you suppose, will last longer?
The church is not perfect, so we turn our eyes upon Jesus. We read the bible so we can learn His standards then use those standards as our guide and abide in them and try to find a church, in which to fellowship which approximates those biblical standards. For where God’s love dwells, we can find acceptance and approval.
Yet with our heavenly Father, our approval truly comes from our relationship with Him (1 John 3:24) and not man, even in the church. Any successful relationship begins with our knowledge of God (Proverbs 1:7). Our relationship with Father reflects in our relationship with those around us and God takes how we treat those around us personally, especially those in the body of Christ (Matt. 25:40, 45)
When we have a relationship with those around us, our acceptance (approval) is determined by that relationship. We have a distant relationship with people whom we ‘casually’ know. We acknowledge each other, speak with them on occasion but there is no real depth in the relationship. It is superficial. We know them, but we really don’t know them. We just now about them.
Family and friends bring on a closer relationship, greater communication and a closer bond. Because we ‘grow up’ with our immediate family, that bond and relationship grows even closer and stronger (he’s my brother, you mess with him, you mess with me). We know family member’s strength and weaknesses. We don’t just know things about family members, but we also know many of the ‘whys’ or the ’hows’.
God tires of long distance relationships and desires that close, family, bond with each one of us and that’s when we start to truly realize our acceptance with/in Him. Again, John 3:24 says “He who keeps HIS commandments, dwells in Him and He in him. This is how we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us.” God wants to dwell in us, to be such a part of our lives, that we become like Jesus, a true reflection of the Father (John 15:9-10)
We are accepted (approved) of God because we live in His love (doing it) and walk with Him (abiding in His will) – daily. If living in us isn’t approval, then I ask what is?