Watch Out: Being a People Pleaser

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  Today we’re going to begin a very short four week series that we’re calling Watch out!   There are times in the Bible where we read the words “Watch out”  – or be cautious!  And it’s not as often as you think – so we’re going to look at four common tripping hazards in our spiritual journey.  Common warnings signs that flash to tell us when danger is approaching.

One of the things I like about driving in Nebraska are these lights that the Nebraska Department of roads have installed on the Highways – that flash to alert you to the fact that the traffic light you are approaching is red or is about to turn red.  It takes so much stress out of driving – usually.

Because I know that if I drive by the sign and it isn’t flashing – then I am going to make the intersection – and it always feel great to get past the advance lights.  No need to have to lift my foot and move it all the way over to the brake!  Such a hassle!

And if I come upon a flashing light – I know it’s going to turn red – I can slow down and relax man – it gives me a few seconds to adjust to my new reality – I am going to have to stop and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

But it also presents a bit of a moral dilemma – when do I do when it begins flashing just as I drive by it?  Like if I see one flash – then I’m in a moral dilemma.  The sign is flashing as a warning.  Do I ignore it?  Do I punch the gas a little?

And that’s where we are today.  I want us to imagine that when Jesus gives us cautions – that the warning light has just flashed and we have a decision to make.  Are we going to listen or ignore these warnings?

So let’s read the first warning that Jesus gives us – in comes to us in the gospel of Matthew.  Matthew is the first book in the New Testament – it’s one of four books that detail the life and ministry and death and resurrection of Jesus.

And in the book of Matthew, in chapters 5,6, and 7, we find Jesus’ wonderful Sermon on the Mount.  Where Jesus lays out for us his plan to change us into different kinds of human beings.

That’s his goal.  To restore to us the kind of humanity that has been ground out of us by sin.  It’s the kind of human being that isn’t controlled by anger.  Doesn’t wallow in contempt, doesn’t turn people into objects of lust – free of manipulation – basically – the kinds of people who really love others as we relish the magnificent love that our heavenly Father has bestowed upon us.

Now right in the middle of the sermon Jesus is going to talk about hazards – he is going to say there are three things in particular to watch out for.  Like any journey – there are dangers to avoid – warnings to heed.

And so – this is the first one Jesus talks about.  By the way – I think that it’s the first one for a reason.  If you asked a person for directions – and asked  – is this the road I’m supposed to be on and the person said – yes – but listen – a couple of things – be careful about the turn – it’s a little bit of a sharper turn so watch your speed – also – after the turn – the bridge is out and if you keep going you you know…  you’d say – maybe you should lead with the bridge out?

Here’s Jesus lead – Mathew 6:1-4

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity!

I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

So this morning –

What exactly is the danger? 

Why is it dangerous? 

And how can we avoid it?

First – let’s identify the danger that Jesus addresses.  And the danger is this – living to be admired by others.  Be careful not to live for the approval of others.   Living to be a people pleaser – is a spiritual danger for our souls.

There is, inside all of us, an internal desire to be loved and accepted by people we value.  That’s totally human.  We want to be liked.  But, the problem is that if we aren’t careful, our desire to be liked by others can become a wedge between us and God.  And if unchecked – the desire to please fickle friends and family members can be very unhealthy for our souls.

Even if it means we are doing good things.  Here Jesus is using an example of doing a good thing – but it becomes an unhealthy thing if done to gain the approval of others.

I was talking to a friend this week who said she went to counseling and that at counseling her counselor told her that her desire to please people was seriously hurting her ability to grow and mature and all she said – Jesus is pretty smart.  He warns us about the dangers that 2 thousand years later doctors are treating people to become healthier by saying – don’t live for the applause of fickle people.

As a youth pastor I used to teach a class on understanding your teenager and I would say – hey parents remember when your son or daughter would beg you to come to school to watch them in their halloween costume – please come!   And then they turned 13 and they are like, Shrinking in the car and asking you to drop them off and please don’t embarrass me!  What happened?

David Elkind calls it the power of the invisible audience.  And teenagers think – that everyone in the school is watching them and talking about them.  And so it’s a very powerful and dangerous time –

But some people never escape the power of the invisible audience…  .  And nowadays the audience is far more visible.

Hey – if you are joining us today on Facebook or youtube – mash the like and subscribe button right down here!  This is our life now.

We post a picture on social media – and check it three times a day – I wonder how many people liked my picture.  I bet all of my friends liked my picture!  What?  Only 20 likes!  This is the best picture of my dinner I ever posted!

If anyone likes your picture of dinner you should write each and every one of them a thank you note.  Because they really do love you.

I read an article last night about a woman who said she had to delete her instagram because she said it was the first thing she checked in the morning and the last thing she checked at night and that she couldn’t help but compare her posts to others she respected and when she lost followers it put her completely in the dumpster and was causing her all kinds of anxiety and stress.  And she said it was not unlike her fight to become sober – giving it up is a real battle.

And I’m not trying to be an old fuddy duddy about social media but the recent article that come out that attributed the dangers of instagram to young people, especially young woman – it brings Jesus teaching into sharper focus.  It brings his warning right into 2021.  When scientific studies conclude that the like button is causing real mental health problems in humanity.

The good news is this – Jesus wants to bust you free from that kind of life.  The gospel frees you from living life like a trained seal.  Bark Bark!  Throw me a fish!  See how good I am!  Notice me!  Jesus has come to break you free from the shackles of a life lived as a people pleaser.

Jesus wants to deliver us out of the kingdom of likes into the kingdom of Love.  Jesus has come to rescue us from the kingdom of trolls.  Trolls live under bridges – they have their phones and post negative things and dislike you. Jesus says come out from under the bridge and live in green pastures beside quiet waters and let me restore your soul.

But what if he said – But first – your phone?  If you hesitate for a split second – then this warning is for you.

You are not a trained seal.  You do not have to perform for the audience.  Through faith in Jesus – you have become a cherished daughter of our heavenly father –  a beloved son – and you are becoming a different kind of human being – one who does not have to live for the approval of others.

Now – why is it dangerous to our souls to live for the approval of others?  Jesus gives us two reasons in the text.

First – now this is interesting because Jesus is talking here about living for the approval of religious people.  He is talking about motives – not actions.  And he says – you can be doing really good things – but if your motive is off, then it’s just as damaging for your soul.

Here he talks about giving money away.  Which is a good thing.  You should do it.   But you should do it for the right reasons.  What if I never have the right reasons?  Well, that’s another sermon.  Look up the warning that Jesus gives about greed in Luke 12:15.  And we’re not going to preach about that in this series, I feel like we’ve touched on that recently enough…

We’re in Matthew 6, and Jesus says that one of the damaging affects of living for the approval of others is that you will lose your reward from our Heavenly Father.  Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.

This part of Jesus’ sermon, Jesus is talking about motives for giving money away.  And he says that if you give your money away for the attention it brings you, then you are losing any reward that God intends for you.

An interesting idea that God notices what we are doing and plans to reward our generosity – but – Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.

When we first started Journey we used to pass the offering plate around during the service.  And I remember one of the earliest services that We usually give once a month – but that plate was coming to me and I thought to myself – if I don’t put money in there people are going to wonder – doesn’t the pastor give money to church?  And then I was like – what do I do?  And I had a brief inclination to put an empty offering envelope in – anyone else ever fake give?

Pathetic isn’t it?  You know Jim said, we should stop passing the plate around – and when we did our offering dropped – by like 12 dollar bills a week.  People throwing a dollar in there – just feeling the pressure – people are watching!

Jesus says – let’s not live – and let’s not give for the approval of others.  Now – what does it mean that we lose our reward?

Author Dallas Willard writes, “When we want human approval God courteously stands aside because, by our wish, it does not concern him.”

This goes along with the personal nature of God and of our relationship to him. As we saw earlier, God does not like to be present where he is not wanted.  And he knows when he is wanted and when he is not.

Similarly, where people are really seeking a response from someone else, he does not intrude.   When our aim is to impress human beings with how devout we are, he lets us do that and stands aside.

In fact they have received their reward in full. What they wanted, they got. They wanted people to recognize their good deed and people did. The ego is bloated and the soul shrivels.

That’s a great line.  The ego is bloated.  Living for the applause of others bloats our ego.  The Ego is the little hype man who lives in your soul.  Look at you man!  You are awesome!  But are you really though?  Don’t trust your hype man.  It’ll bloat your ego – and your soul shrivels.

So the first danger of living for the applause of fickle friends and family – is that we lose our reward in heaven.  But Jesus also gives us a second ramification of that kind of life.  And the second danger is that it turns us into hypocrites.

When Jesus uses the terms hypocrites here – it’s an actual term for actor.  The actors were called hypocrites – it wasn’t necessarily a bad term.  Jesus was the first to bring that term into the spiritual realm.

And what Jesus is saying is that if you are living your life for the approval of others, then you are going to act differently depending on what audience you are with.  And it leads to a disjointed life.

I remember when I was in high school – I would go to church on Sunday and I acted a certain way with all the church kids.  But then I went to school on Monday and I acted a different way with the football team.

And I began to feel uneasy about the two-ness of my life.  Which was the real me?  See, Jesus wants to deliver to us a life of oneness.  A life of integrity.  Where we can be the same person no matter our surroundings.

A life lived for the applause of others can only lead to dis-integration.  Jesus came to deliver us from the disintegrating life – and make us cool with who we are no matter who is standing in front of us.

Now – how can we avoid the danger of living for the applause of others?

1.  A thorough understanding of the Gospel frees us from the prison of living for the approval of others.

Now you might be new to church and you are unsure about this word Gospel. The word literally means Good news.  But we use the term to encompass exactly what Jesus has done for us and why.  And many wouldn’t be able to define the term Gospel other than as good news.  I’d challenge us all to learn a definition that makes sense to our soul.

When we think of the Gospel it has two halves.  What Jesus has done for us and what God is now doing with us.  What Jesus has done for us – in order to bring to us the “With God Life” 

What has Jesus done for us?  The bible says that sin in your life caused a gap between us and God that we could never bridge.  No amount of good works could bring us back into right standing with God.  Sin is rebellion- it’s treason against God – and then as it is now – the penalty for treason is death.

And that is where you and I were heading.  Death – eternal death forever apart from the God who made us – had not God decided to act on our behalf.  And the gospel – the good news – is that Jesus left heaven, became a human died a death that was our death to pay – in order that we might, through faith in Jesus, be washed clean from our sins and be able to live this life with God as our good shepherd, leading us, making life an exciting adventure lived with God by our side.

Through faith in Jesus, we are delivered from the kingdom of darkness that we were born into by default, and brought into the kingdom of light. We are adopted into the Family of God we’re forevermore we are God’s beloved sons and cherished daughters.

Now why does the Gospel – free us from a life lived for the applause of others?  Well, for one thing, The Gospel protects us from thinking too highly of ourselves.

When our ego begins to hype us up – the gospel reminds our ego – what, before God rescued you from an eternal death – did you have going on for you?  If you are so awesome then why was it Jesus had to die for you?  It brings the ego into the reality that we had nothing going for us except the love of our heavenly father.

And conversely – The Gospel protects us from thinking too lowly of ourselves.  Anytime we want to start feeling lousy about ourselves – the gospel says – why are you feeling worthless?  Don’t you know how valuable you are to God?  You are worth everything to him!

The gospel keeps us in perfect balance.  It delivers to us the opportunity to live a life of integrity and oneness – we don’t need to be held captive to the opinions of others because we know that God’s opinion of us.

So – to avoid the danger of living to please others, we are going to soak ourselves in a full understanding of what Jesus has done for us.  We are going to be transformed by the renewing of the way we think.  We don’t need to perform to get God to like us.  He already does and paid the highest price he could to deliver us to himself.

2.  Now, can I suggest one spiritual discipline – one thing to train your soul to be able to break free from the ‘likes’ of others?  It’s the discipline of secrecy.

The discipline of secrecy will help us break the grip of human opinion over our souls and our actions.

What that means is this – this week – in an effort to break ourselves free from the desire to hear the applause of our fickle audience, do something for someone every day – that they will not know about.  Pray you can find a way to bless someone without them knowing they were blessed.

Do something for someone where the only person who knows you did it is God himself.  And rest in the joy of knowing that your father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you in the right time.