“The applause of the world is worth nothing. When it is got, what have you? A vain empty puff of wind. They think much of you, you think much of yourself, and in the meantime, God thinks nothing of you.” (Thomas Boston)
In chapter 1 of Galatians, the Apostle Paul gives a thunderous rebuke of anybody who preaches a different gospel—even going far enough to say that those who preach a different gospel are anathema: cursed by God.
Perhaps you’re wondering why he’s pulling no punches here. The next verse explains why.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.Gal. 1:10 (ESV)
He’s not going to tip-toe around the gospel because he’s not looking for the approval of man, but of God Himself. In Paul’s mind—and what the Bible teaches—the gospel is not something to trifle with. You can’t mess with the gospel.
But much of what we see in the evangelical church today is professing Christians looking for the world’s approval. They want the culture to think much of them, so they cave on core biblical doctrines. That’s not love, but compromise. By garnering the approval of society, you’ve lost the approval that matters infinitely more—God’s.
And though the world perhaps will think much of you and give you praise, God will not. As Boston says, “God will think nothing of you.”
You might think that’s too strong of language. I don’t believe it is. How silly—how preposterous!—is it for us to ignore the approval of God and seek after the culture’s approval? There’s only one person, God Himself, that has the last say over our lives. So while we might enjoy praise and worldly honor from society, God is not pleased.
“The greatest weakness in the church today,” RC Sproul once wrote, “is that the servants of God keep looking over their shoulder for the approval of men.”
The world’s approval is vanity—it means and counts for nothing. You will get to the judgement seat of God and say, “But I was very well-liked by the world!” God, with righteousness, will belly laugh in your face. How asinine is it to pursue the world’s approval over God’s? And don’t believe for a second you can have both, because you most certainly cannot.
Christian, stop looking for society’s approval. If you are in lock step with the Bible, the culture will not approve. Be okay with that. Stand firm on that. Don’t back away from that. The culture’s approval will come and go, but when you have God’s approval, that is abiding. It is eternal, never-ending. Culture will turn its back on you the moment you mess up—God won’t.
Now, do you really want the approval of the culture, or God’s?
Enjoy my writing? You might like my book, Gospel Smugness.