Seek Praise from God, not from Men
“…but he is a [real] Jew who is one inwardly: and [real] circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” Romans 2:29
Conversion to Christianity is a transforming event in a person’s life that changes a person on the inside, impacting the thoughts and feelings of the inner man – the mind and heart. Christians not only need to be transformed initially at conversion, but the transformation is a process that continues throughout their walk with the Lord and they need to continue to live and walk in this transformed inner state. Unfortunately, we find that we are tempted daily to undo this transformation and revert back to our worldly or carnal ways of thinking. We need to guard against this influence.
“Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life” Proverbs 4:23
At the core of this change in thinking, as suggested in the Scripture quoted above from Romans, is a change from seeking the praises of men to seeking praise from God. This change is critical and a deeper look at this will help us secure and maintain a way of thinking that seeks God’s praise.
Our source of praise, whether from God or from other men, is a deep inner mechanism for us that can influence our actions, and be the root of our motives, and therefore, there is a need for Christians to take an honest look at what motivates them. Mankind has a tendency towards not facing up to the reality of our true motives.
This misguided motive of seeking praise from men was one of the issues that Jesus targeted in His rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees (the religious people of His day):
“But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries (leather box attachments to their sleeves containing Scripture verses) broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at the feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’” Matthew 23: 5-7
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:25-28
Looking deeper at this inner source of praise from men, we must admit that we find pleasure in being admired by others. Some people seek after public fame so that they can be praised by the masses. Some like to be admired for their appearance. This seems to especially apply to women, although some men do the same, who like to turn heads when they walk into a room or down the street. We call it vanity or being vain. Vain is defined on dictionary.com as “excessively proud of or concerned about one’s appearance, qualities, achievements, etc.; conceited”. As Christians we need to be careful about what we consider “excessive” when it comes to pride. Here is some guidance from the Scriptures concerning our appearance:
“Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6
Clearly, this desire to be praised by men is a part of our pride and it feeds our flesh or carnal nature. It is also clear that as Christians, just like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time, we can let this desire for men’s praise go unchecked, resulting in an outward change that men can see and that attracts their praises, but we don’t make the needed internal change that God sees and pleases Him.
Remember that pride is not of the Father, but is of the world (and is therefore evil):
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2: 15-16
It is interesting too that Satan desires to be worshiped, and the original rebellion of evil started when Satan desired to be like God, and elevate himself to be glorified like God. Consider how Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness:
“And he [Satan] said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.”’” Matthew 4: 9-10
This desire of mankind to be admired and praised by our peers, and the associated pride, is a root of evil that needs to be corrected and guarded against.
The first step in correcting or defending against this issue is to be honest about our motives, and to guard against the urge to feed off of the praises of men. We must realize also that if we keep our flesh dead, then we will have the power to stay humble and resist the desire to be praised by men.
It is possible for Christians to remain in their flesh, that is, to be carnally minded and not spiritually minded. Paul the Apostle corrected the Corinthians for this issue in his first letter to them:
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.” 1 Cor. 3:1
“for you are still carnal. For where there are envy , strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” 1 Cor. 3: 3
I remind you that the key to being spiritual is to shift your focus and the hope of your life to what God has promised through the Lord Jesus Christ: eternal life in heaven as His children. Do not live with your heart and mind set on the things of this world, for in doing so, your flesh will be alive and crave the carnal things such as the praises of men. But if your heart is set on heaven and receiving the reward that will be offered upon your entry to heaven, then you will desire to please God and not men, seeing this world as just a temporary condition that you are passing through on your journey to your true destination.
Gaining praise from other men is truly vain or without value because it has no eternal value. We learn quickly that the praises of men are fickle and short lived even in this life for those who seek them. Even if our attractive appearance turn heads for now, it will soon fade away in this short life. And those who have reached some position of fame and are idolized by people find it to be more of a curse than a blessing.
Let’s heed the scriptures admonishment to be heavenly minded, putting to death the flesh, and walking in the spirit where there is true life:
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set you mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection, and let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3: 1-17