In an effort to please people, you will fall into the trap

There are two questions I’ll ask after I get to heaven (but not in that order): First, why was I a fan of the New York Yankees? In Ashland, Kentucky, all the people I knew were for the Cincinnati Reds. Secondly, why John 5:44 – “How can you believe when you receive glory from one another, but do not seek the glory that is from the One God?” – captured me in the rudimentary phase of my ministry?

This became the key verse that I have used as a guide for over 65 years. All I know is that from the very beginning I was given the desire to please God, not man. Later I learned that fear of man is dangerous. The Bible says it’s a trap.

What is a trap?

A trap is a trap. It takes you by surprise when you look the other way when you didn’t think it could happen to you. It is deceiving. You can hardly foresee that this will happen, otherwise you would have avoided it. It takes you by surprise. You had no idea that you were suddenly in trouble. Or that you were framed. A trap is something that confuses. It’s what’s stopping you from moving on. It hinders success. It prevents you from reaching your goal.

A snare is a trap used to catch birds or animals. The birds and animals you see in the zoo were caught in this way. This is how we fish. I can catch fish because the fish don’t know there’s a hook in the worm when I’m fishing in fresh water, or in a shrimp when I’m fishing in salt water. Artificial bait looks like real bait to fish, but it is a trap.

Because we are fallen creatures, we are vulnerable to traps. The trap can catch you in different ways. For example, flattery. Criticism that can be demoralizing. Money that seems so right and good because you are in financial trouble. Despondency. Fatigue. Choosing the easy way. Shortest way. The most traveled road. Wide gates.

We can fall into a trap that we ourselves have created. This can be called “natural judgment” – you reap what you sow. Yes, it could be the devil (which we’ll look at below). For example, the inability to pray. The pious Joshua fell into a terrible trap set by the Gibeonites, and all because he accepted their offer without praying to God, but right on the spot agreed with them on their terms (Joshua 9:14-15). Israel has paid dearly for this for generations.

We are vulnerable to traps because we do not know the Word of God. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). We are commanded to “be ready to give an answer” for what we believe (1 Pet. 3:15). We are told to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). One of my biggest concerns about the church right now is that people don’t know their Bibles. When I started preaching in 1954, many lay people knew their Bibles inside and out. However, today even many preachers do not know their Bibles.

I myself would never avoid paying tithing. This is not a guarantee of prosperity, but I have learned from both the Scriptures and my own experience that you cannot outplay the Lord. When I preached about tithing as a pastor, there were those who understandably questioned my motives! But now I’m retired and preaching the importance of tithing around the world. The only blessing I receive from preaching about tithing is that I consciously honor the Word of God.

Applying biblical truth with common sense will enable us to avoid the trap—or anticipate it and avoid it. The best way to deal with a crisis is to anticipate it and avoid it. The best way to keep from sin is to avoid the temptation that you know you are subject to.

I believe that most preachers, divinity teachers, professors, churches, seminaries, Christian colleges, and Bible colleges become liberals for one reason: they want to appear “intellectual,” up to date, in order to earn the respect of the whole world. Behind this lies pure pride and a desire to gain the approval of a person.

Paul said, “For am I now seeking the approval of man or of God? Or am I trying to please the person? If I still tried to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10, ESV). And yet, when we talk about “pleasing a man,” it is a phrase that often means that we are driven by fear of a person, that is, his disapproval. Their approval is worthless, but so many of us foolishly allow it to motivate us.

The temptation to protect your reputation

While a good name is better to choose than great wealth (Prov. 22:1), and no sane person would go looking for a bad reputation, we can turn our reputation into an idol. The last words of 1 John are: “My children, beware of idols” (1 John 5:21). An idol is not necessarily a wooden image or a stone god that people can see. It’s all that can distract you from the desire for honor and praise that comes from the one and only God. Jesus didn’t care about His reputation when it came to who He chose or spent time with. Call it fearlessness or courage – you and I should be like that.

Sexual temptation

The devil often tempts someone to flatter you. Generally speaking, women are seduced by flattery and touch, men by looks. But men, too, often easily succumb to the temptation of flattery. Satan knows exactly what will tempt you and what type of person you will like. Billy Graham said that the devil seems to conquer over 75% of God’s best people with sexual temptation.

Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son, forced to live in Egypt, could not have known that Potiphar’s wife would be a trap. He also did not know that God had ordained him to be the future ruler of Egypt. Joseph avoided falling into her trap – and became a hero of the ages. What makes me admire Joseph the most is that he resisted sexual temptation when no one would likely know if he slept with Mrs. Potiphar. She wouldn’t tell her husband. No one in Egypt will know about it unless she tells it herself. None of his family in Canaan will ever know. Perhaps he thought to himself, “I don’t deserve to be here. I didn’t do anything wrong. God allowed this situation to happen. He would understand it if I committed adultery in this case.” None of these excuses he would have come up with. His reasons for refusing to sleep with her were (1) your husband trusts me and (2) God knows; how can I do this and sin against God (Gen. 39:8-9). He had integrity and a desire to please God. And that was before the Ten Commandments were given!

God honored Joseph for his honesty and fear of God. He will do it for you too.

Financial temptation

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Tim. 6:10, ESV).

John described the things of the world as “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life.” (1 John 2:16, ESV). The pride of life lies in focusing on the here and now, not eternity. Sooner or later it has to do with money. Yet money is not the root of all evil; it is the love of money. We all need money. In a sense, “money is the answer to everything” (Ecclesiastes 10:19, NASB). Yet one of the most disturbing trends in our generation has been the emergence of an emphasis on “health and wealth,” “name it and proclaim it,” “believe it and receive it,” especially on religious television. This directly affects people’s love of money and greed. I would not like to be in the place of these people who have built their ministry on such an emphasis.

Learn to distrust yourself

Perhaps we should be afraid of these two things: (1) afraid of our fear of man because of where it will lead, and (2) afraid of the huge potential in your heart to displease God. Here are three scriptures you should become familiar with:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  (Jer. 17:9, ESV).

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom. 7:18, ESV).

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8, ESV).

By R. T. Kendall.

Source: Premier Christianity Magazine