A Study of Galatians – Pleasing Man or Pleasing God?


Dear Friends,    

“Now am I trying to win the favor of men, or of God? Do I seek to please men? If I were still seeking popularity with men, I should not be a bond servant (love-slave) of Christ (the Messiah).”  (Galatians 1:10) 

I still remember with sadness and regret caving in to peer pressure as a young teenager in my effort to fit in with the older teenagers and impress a sought after girlfriend.  I drank my first beer, and even though I hated the taste, I continued to drink it so I would be “cool” and accepted by my peers. I would like to say I am completely free of peer pressure even now as an adult and a Christian, but as we will see in this study, it can continue the rest of our lives unless we experientially grasp the gospel – the unconditional love of Christ. (Ephesians 3:16-19) There is a deep place in our hearts where His love and His love alone, can fully satisfy us and fill our need for acceptance and free us from wrongly needing the approval of man.                                           

In the book, The True Measure of a Man, by Richard Simmons III (which deals with this issue) he shares how ex-pro football star Joe Ehrmann (with whom I had the pleasure of working with at Search Ministries) defines “false masculinity” in three terms: ball field, bedroom and billfold.  Let’s look at these three big lies that can wrongly define us as men.                                                             

Ball field – Joe says that as young boys being one of the first few to be chosen to play on “the team” at recess or otherwise, makes us a “man.”   In other words if we have physical strength or athleticism we and we alone, are “real men.”  Character qualities like kindness and compassion (which God values highly) gets no votes for manhood from “real men.” I think of how Samuel (a godly man) almost overlooked David as the next king because of Eliab’s (Jesse’s oldest son) physical attributes: “When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:6-7)  As Dads and role models we must be careful not to push boys and young men to excel as athletes as God wires people differently, artistically, intellectually, and in other ways. It’s a mistake we can all make as Dads as the world system promotes this in many ways.                                           

Bedroom – The next big lie comes in at puberty when we are told by our peers, both by word and example, that to be a real man you must be promiscuous –sexually active. Again, this lie is promoted everywhere, TV, movies, and by our peers and sometimes even by fathers, who have bought into the lie.  What does God say about this?  “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.  Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor— not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways.”   (1 Thess. 4:3-5)                                     

Billfold – In our adult life, financial success is the lie that can drive us to win man’s approval. I remember buying into this lie by thinking that I worked extra hard because I wanted to provide well for my family. That was true to a degree, but only a small degree. I didn’t see it at the time. Self-deception is the worst kind of deception and only humbly receiving God’s Word and truth can set us free from it. So what does the Lord have to say about this:  “ Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men (peer pressure), but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:14-15) This is one of the strongest rebukes in Scripture about bowing to peer pressure which is “detestable” to God.                                     

Even Peter, (and Barnabas too) after being filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, caved in to peer pressure and Paul rebuked him publicly for doing so: “But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision.  As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.” (Gal. 2:11-13)                                                       

Before meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul was a legalistic Pharisee who exemplified the worst kind of peer pressure, self-righteousness in the name of God, and Jesus hated this sin with passion. (See all of Matthew 23 and Luke 11:37-54.) That is why he says this in Galatians 1:10: “If I were still seeking popularity with men, I should not be a bond servant (love-slave) of Christ (the Messiah).” Paul repented of seeking man’s approval and chose to be a bond-servant of the Lord Jesus even at the cost of incredible suffering (see 2 Cor. 11:23-33) and ultimately death. The Greek word for bond-slave is doulos and means: “a slave, bondman, man of servile condition; one who gives himself up to another’s will;  devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests; a servant, attendant.” http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5590&t=KJV                                 

But Paul got his example of true freedom from the approval of man from our Lord Himself:  “Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him (Jesus) in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.” (Matt. 22:15-16) Jesus always played to an audience of One – His Father.  “I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:41-44) Jesus shows us here that we do have a need for approval and affirmation yet it must come from God and God alone. God can and does mediate His affirmation to us through others but we must be careful when He does this to make sure our actions and even our motives are truly pleasing to Him, not just to His human messengers. This takes time alone with God as we seek to listen to His still small voice of affirmation for the actions and attitudes that please Him, which, as we have seen, are far different from what pleases fickle man. It is certainly not what fallen man values and pushes us to become as seen in Ehrmann’s metaphor of the ball field, bedroom, and billfold.                                  

 We see what God values and affirms spoken of through the prophet Jeremiah and these qualities are what we need to seek in our desire to please the only One that counts:  “This is what the LORD says:  “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom (worshiping our intellect, worldly-wise) or the strong man boast of his strength (worshiping the macho man; the athlete, man’s physique or appearance, or the “self-made business man”) or the rich man boast of his riches (worshiping the stuff money buys including man’s praise) but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:23-24) Note that it is kindness, justice and righteousness, not money, sex and power that please the Lord.           

I occasionally sing and modify the words to an old song by The Platters to remind myself to live for and play to the only Audience that counts: God.

“Only You can make this world live right

Only You can make my darkness bright

Only You and You alone Can thrill me like You do

And fill my heart with love for only You

Only You can make this change in me

For it’s true, You are my destiny

When You hold my hand I understand the wonder that You do

You’re my dream come true, my One and only You.”

Formed to Proclaim His Praise (Isaiah 43:21),                                      

Len and Kristen                        

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