One of the Mistakes Leaders Make is to shift from pleasing God to people “mere” people. This temptation is always there. There are budgets to be met, goals to achieve, etc. And all those require people.
One of my professors used to tell us that if you make your living from your faith you risk losing either your living or your faith. It was then that he’d say “Two car garage, two car garage.” Essentially we are tempted to fear man instead of fearing God.
“In ministry we will always have those who try to push, manipulate, and even bribe the leader into doing what keeps various people happy. … But the temptation to keep people happy is always nipping at our heels.”
It is there when people pressure you about how long you preach (I don’t have that problem anymore, aside from CavWife floundering if I’ve gone on a rabbit trail). It is there when budget time arises. It is there when people come to tell you how they think we should be worshiping (what song or style or …). It is there when people make special contributions. It is there!
10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I tryingto please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1
Paul felt it. He was under pressure from the church in Galatia on the issue of circumcision. Sometimes the pressure is about something of lesser importance. Sometimes, like in Galatia, it is a gospel issue. Either way, we are to remember that we are servants of Christ and therefore are supposed to do His bidding.
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Ed Welch has a new book out that looks much like an old book, When People are Big and God is Small, for a younger audience. God is Small. But that would be a superficial assessment. Ed Welch continued to think about the fear of man, and the fear of God. He thought about the topics with respect to teens and young adults. The result was What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?. I’m glad he kept thinking about all this.
The book does have a different vibe due to the intended audience. It looks less formal (including the questions for thought & discussion) and more “trendy”. He encourages the reader to write liberally throughout the book. The sentences are less complex, reflecting a lower reading level. He continues to provide a lot of instruction from Scripture on the topic. He walks us through the texts so we understand what they mean and how they apply.
He breaks it down into 3 big questions: Who is God, who am I and who are they? He begins with talking about how it starts in the heart. And that we all have this problem (fearing people). We all give the opinions of people far too much weight in our lives. Toward the end of the book he talks about how with family we are not (very) self-conscious. But once we go out the door, most of us care far more about how we look and act. While this is good in one sense, so we don’t all end up on People of Walmart, it can run our lives. We give other people far too much power to control us.
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The Fear of God is one of those topics that is greatly neglected, much to our own hurt. My sermon text this week includes God’s great test of Abraham to see if he feared God. Though we hate to think of such a thing, I suppose God tests us often to see if we fear/revere Him or if we’ve given ourselves to an idol of some sort.
“There flows from this fear of God a readiness and willingness, at God’s call, to give up our best enjoyments to His disposal.” John Bunyan
20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Exodus 20
They were afraid that God was going to stomp on them. After all, they were sinners. But Moses tells them not to fear, but to fear God. Sounds strange doesn’t it. We rob God of glory when we fear anyone or anything instead of Him (like when we love anyone or anything instead of or beside Him). The fear, or reverence, of God is what was to keep them (and us from sinning).
“Moses draws a contrast between being afraid of God and fearing God. … Simply being afraid of God will lead to distrust and disobedience of Him. But fearing God will keep us from sinning.” Jerry Bridges
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In the next 2 chapters of his book, Gospel-Powered Parenting, William Farley covers the tools of discipline. No, it isn’t about spanking spatulas, switches and the like. Discipline is one of the tools parents use to instruct and guide their children. The gospel does not eliminate discipline, but provides a foundation for loving, gracious discipline.
His starting place is Ephesians 6:4- “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The 2 tools of parenting here are discipline and instruction. To neglect either is to provoke your children. We forget that discipline, from a biblical perspective, is an expression of love (Hebrews 12 which quotes Proverbs 3). With our Father in heaven as our example, we see that love motivates discipline. This is because the parent wants what is best for the child and seeks to protect the child from danger- including self-destruction. We fail our children when we kid-proof our lives. They must learn proper boundaries, and that there are consequences to crossing boundaries.
He gives a list of reasons why the gospel is the proper foundation for discipline:
- It convinces us that indwelling sin is the real problem.
- It convinces us that authority is a crucial issue in parenting.
- It convinces us that the heart is the issue and we must seek heart change.
- It convinces us that discipline can preach the gospel to our children.
- It motivates us to fear God.
- It helps us to grow in humility and sincerity.
When I worked for Ligonier I used to have a sign on my cubicle that read: It all leads back to depravity. All of the customer service problems (and employee problems) were rooted in that. The same is true for parenting issues. Children do not need to be taught to do wrong- it apparently happens ‘naturally’. We do have to work hard to teach them to do that which is good. It leads back to depravity. When we think our kids are basically good, we think all they need is a little info instead of a new heart that longs to obey, which is only promised in the gospel.
Discipline, or the lack thereof, also preaches. We communicate whether or not disobedience is taken seriously, which can have disastrous results as adults (they can become irresponsible and unable to maintain relationships and jobs). We also forget that if we don’t discipline them, God will. By the time he does, they are far more entrenched in their sin and rebellion. It will be that much more painful. We are wise to discipline them while they are young. We show a lack of love if we refuse to discipline our kids.
Farley brings the discussion back to the fear of God (the fear of a son, not a slave). If we do not fear God, we will inevitably fear our children. We will live for their approval and love in return. We will not do the important but difficult things necessary to correct them and show them the right way. The gospel shows us how deadly sin is, as well as God’s gracious work of adoption, which work to develop respect for our heavenly Father.
Farley does not delve into details. He’s looking at the heart. These are helpful chapters.
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Posted in Books, Christian Living, Counseling, Evangelism, Ministry, tagged boldness, Counseling, fear of God, fear of man, gospel, Ministry, Prayer on January 22, 2009 |
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In Galatians 1-2 one of the dominant themes is the fear of man. Paul, in lovingly yet boldly confronting the Galatians, and exposing the false teachers was living in the fear of God rather than the fear of man. He was not accomodating the gospel to please anyone, recognizing the divine origin of that gospel.
On the other hand you have the account of Peter in Antioch. He, again, succombs to the fear of man (his besetting sin, and lest you’re too hard on him- you’ve got some too!). He shrunk back from fellowship with Gentile Christians and hypocritically followed the dietary laws out of fear, not conviction. And Barnabas joined him. Two important Christian leaders fell victim to this sin- and Paul displayed gospel boldness by confronting Peter publicly.
While not referring to these events, Milton Vincent talks about gospel boldness in A Gospel Primer for Christians.
“Boldness is critical. Without boldness, my life story will be one of great deeds left undone, victories left unwon, petitions left unprayed, and timely words unsaid. If I wish to live only a pathetically small portion of the life God has prepared for me, then I need no boldness. But if I want my life to bloom full and loom large for the glory of God, then I must have boldness- and nothing so nourishes boldness in me like the gospel!
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Posted in Books, Christian Living, Humor, Monty Python, Preaching, tagged Ed Welch, fear of God, fear of man, Monty Python, Nehemiah on October 1, 2008 |
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Nehemiah’s enemies sought to promote fear. Oddly, they feared him because they saw that he was getting the job done. They knew they had to cripple or remove him somehow. They sought to inspire fear in him & the people (the Hebrew word for fear is found in 6:9, 13,14 & 19). Rather than fear man, Nehemiah feared God. The tables are turned because after the wall is completed the surrounding nations were afraid.
One resource in exploring and addressing the fear of man is Ed Welch’s excellent book When People are Big and God is Small. I can’t recommend it enough.
In doing some research for illustrations, I realized I wish I could play this Monty Python clip for them.
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