What a mouthful Paul spoke when he asked the question "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?" How do we know if our motives are God-centered or man-centered? Knowing the difference can make a huge impact on our everyday life and the ultimate fulfillment of our purpose.
For am I now seeking the favor 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 bond-servant of Christ.
One of the main concepts of this verse, other than who we are seeking approval from, is the idea of the term "bond-servant". This has more of the concept of a person who is "indebted" or "obliged" to someone else, and not so much as "ownership" by someone else. In Bible times people might have a debt of property that needed to be paid off and so they would contract themselves to another for a period of time to pay off that debt. In today's ideas many of us would be bond-servants of the mortgage company, Sears, and Macy's. (Just a little humor here!) But in those days, not only were you indebted, but it was a personal relationship and often one with gratitude and affinity attached.
So do we stop and examine our motive in situations and relationships?. Are we God-Pleasers or Man-Pleasers? How often do we take something on because we have a need for approval of other people? I know I've been guilty of this, as most of us have been at one time or another. I really care about other people's opinion of me, sometimes more than I should. As I've matured and gotten older I've learned the value of balancing this need. If we are always doing things for the approval of others we can soon find ourselves hurt and disappointed... and exhausted.
Taking things to God in prayer has really helped me sort out a lot of this. Knowing what God's will is and His plan can save us a lot of confusion. I've mentioned this before, but it's a key in my life. Don't do things on a whim; ask for God's approval and direction.
In Paul's case, before his conversion to Christianity on the road to Damascus to kill and imprison believers, he truly felt he was doing "God's will". Unfortunately he was wrong. What may appear as the right thing to do, our sincerity, and enthusiasm, aren't always good indicators of the will of God. Neither are they an indicator of God's approval. As a Jew, and a Pharisee, highly educated and wealthy, Paul was gung-ho on putting an end to all these traitors to the Jewish faith. It was his personal mission to get rid of and/or persecute as many of these "Christians" as he possibly could. Paul was gaining the approval of the Jewish councils and higher-ups. He was a young man on the rise and making a pretty big name for himself. You want to get rid of some pesky Christians? Who ya gonna call? Paul, known at that time, as Saul. He was at the stoning of Stephen and and in full approval of that dreadful decision. Acts 7:54-8:3
When God first called me, He had me "out-there" in the founding of a church start. It wasn't particularly easy being a woman in the landscape of ministry in the denomination I was in. Let's face it, it was like walking on eggshells of ego, the buddy system, and the "traditions of men". The dominant word here being "men". There was a phrase jokingly put, that coming to the alter to pray or confess, was the closest any woman would ever get to the pulpit. Sad but true.
They all liked what God was saying through me as long as it wasn't rocking their boat. I could keep my spot in the semi inner circle of this small church start, as long as I agreed with everything they said and did. In the natural I wanted to be accepted because I knew God was moving mightily in the midst of our congregation and He had some powerful things to do there. What initially had started out completely Spirit-led soon disintegrated into the man-made rule book way of doing things.
Well, I guess you can catch my drift. No matter how much I wanted to stay in good standing with the "group" there, God was asking me to stay true to Him; not any one person or denominational "handbook". I didn't last long there as I couldn't go along with it, so my husband and I excused ourselves.
2 Corinthians 5:9-10
9. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.(God) 10. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.
God has a way of asking us to do things at times that goes against the grain of "mainstream" religion. He's not particularly worried about what others might think of us. I'm not talking about rudeness, or craziness, or "show-offy-ness". (my own word here). I'm talking about following the Holy Spirit in our words and actions. Being true to what God is asking and saying, and not bowing down to pressure...not following the crowd to gain the approval of others. Ultimately, on Judgement Day, we will have to give an account of what we have done here on Earth; good or bad, lasting or inconsequential, God directed or man directed.
God once showed me a little mental picture (a small vision, if you will) of the "reserved seating" pews that we find in many church sanctuaries. It's usually up close to the front, to one side, for visiting speakers or clergy. He said to me, "This is where they want me to sit." They didn't want Him to be front and center; in charge of the service, but just to take His place to sit and not say anything until called upon. Just visiting.
I don't know about you, but I don't want Jesus to be in the "just visiting section" in my life. I want Him fully in charge, directing my life, and in control. And to get that I need to be a bond-servant. Grateful and indebted to Jesus for my salvation AND my life.
Seeking God's approval over man's. You'll never be able to please everyone, so better to just try and please God. He'll let you know if you just ask.
love, in Jesus,