Who Are We Striving to Please?

I recently listened and listened again to a message by Alistair Begg on the importance of Transparency, Integrity, and Urgency in church leadership. It is yet another solid confirmation that truth, righteousness, and the consistent exhortation to both are far more important than not stepping on toes or offending people who have made traditions of men their idols, more important to them than the Word of God.

The people whom God has sent to a church are there for a purpose, and those who have been sent to lead ought to lead courageously as the Spirit has moved. Neither the zeal of youth nor fifty years of membership in a particular body gives us the right to usurp God’s Word or His Spirit’s leading for our traditions, whatever they may be. If traditions and personal preferences are of higher priority to the majority of a given body than sound doctrine and submitting to the appointed leadership of the church, then perhaps we might ought to reconsider our membership in a given body, whether a church, a small group, a ministry, or some para-church organization.

Now I’m not saying traditions aren’t important. They do help us to identify culturally with those in the local body. But they are not even half as important as the Truth being proclaimed boldly and accurately — that is to say the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and not some counterfeit. However, when a people elevates the traditions of men over the truth of the Gospel, they have missed the point entirely and are focusing on man rather than on God. Their minds are set on the flesh and not on the Spirit.

Accordingly, godly leadership ought not to acquiesce to this nonsense and in fact ought to expose it and call it what it is. Now I know that doesn’t make people comfortable, nor will it win me a lot of friends among my peers or my elders. But that’s not the point. You see, so often we play politics in God’s church so as not to upset anyone over how the Spirit has led the leadership of the church to move, and we’ll string them along deceptively, slowly taking them somewhere their stony hearts were never willing to go in the first place.

They are no more willing participants in the end than at the beginning because their hearts never changed, and they never will because we fail to acknowledge and address the source of the problem: the attitudes of their hearts toward God and their love of man’s traditions over God’s Word. We tiptoe around them and call it “patience” or “tolerance” or “understanding.” What we ought to be doing is speaking firmly, transparently, and honestly with regard to all matters, including conflicts. Gentleness does not require secrecy, deception, or walking on egg shells to please stiff-necked idolaters. It is shameful that we would even consider doing these things.

We are more concerned with pleasing men and not being judged by them than we are of being obedient to God’s calling and being judged by Him! How utterly foolish of us! Should not our primary concern be with He who will one day judge us and our works? Only those works which have been crafted with the precious metals and gemstones of the directing of the Spirit shall stand. All our worthless man-centered works shall be burned as hay and stubble.

I, for one, care very little whether I am judged by men. I care very much for how my God and King will judge my stewardship of this His abundant grace to me: the Truth in His Word. May God grant that to my dying breath I defend His Word and proclaim its Truth without timidity. The power of God to save men is not in my ability or inability to preach the Word, but in His Word itself! The Word of God, plainly spoken without intricately woven tapestries of language to dress it up is still the Word of God, and it is powerful! Christ crucified will always be a stumbling block and foolishness to those who will die in their transgressions. But it is the power of God to those who will be saved.

Now that is not to say that I am above guidance, teaching, or correction. But it is to say that my primary concern is with God and His approval and not man and his approval. Would that all whom God has appointed to lead His church and Christ’s body gave no heed to either the undue praise or the undue criticism of men and led with transparency, integrity, and urgency, just as Paul is described as having done in Acts 20.

I’ll close with an quote from our friend and brother Charles Spurgeon.

A certain man placed a fountain by the wayside, and he hung up a cup near to it by a little chain. He was told some time after that a great art-critic had found much fault with its design. “But,” said he, “do many thirsty persons drink at it?” Then they told him that thousands of poor people, men, women, and children, slaked their thirst at this fountain; and he smiled and said, that he was little troubled by the critic’s observation, only he hoped that on some sultry summer’s day the critic himself might fill the cup, and be refreshed, and praise the name of the Lord.

Here is my fountain, and here is my cup: find fault if you please; but do drink of the water of life. I only care for this. I had rather bless the soul of the poorest crossing-sweeper, or rag-gatherer, than please a prince of the blood, and fail to convert him to God.

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4 Responses to Who Are We Striving to Please?

  1. Kristi says:

    They had this saying on a church nearby me a couple of months ago, and i think it’s So true. “He who stands for nothing will fall for anything”. Thanks brother for always striving to encourage everyone to follow the truth.

  2. Kristi says:

    oops, sorry I wanted to say one more thing, follow after traditions certainly does cause people to become ‘stale’ to worshipping God for Who He really is. The only way to grow is by changing, right?

  3. Bill says:

    The problem isn’t the traditions themselves. Many traditions, particularly those of the catechisms, creeds, and hymns of faith are deeply rooted in biblical truth. The problem arises when we elevate these things to equal or higher status than the Word of God.

    Traditions are not inherently good or bad apart from their content and how we use them. Traditions like the Westminster Catechism help to serve as anchors for sound doctrine and teaching. They are guideposts by which we can look to Scripture. Think of them as somewhat like a bookmark or colored markings on a map. The map for life and all our theology is God’s Word. The way we mark the map or highlight certain portions of the route may differ, but the map remains the same. We may not mark out for ourselves an alternate route simply because we desire to do so. What we want to believe does not determine what God’s Word says, rather what God’s Word says ought to determine our beliefs. Correct theological foundations translate into correct actions, feelings, and experiences, not the other way around.

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