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. — Galatians 1:10
Are you seeking to please God? Do you even need to try to please God? Some preachers today would say, “That’s wrong! Don’t try to please God! God is already fully pleased with you as you are!” That contemporary Christian maxim sounds wonderful, but if it’s true, then why did Paul say in Galatians 1:10 that he was seeking the approval of God?
In my years of ministry, I have found that many Christians experience a pendulum effect in their relationship with God. They swing from grace to condemnation and back again. Some moments we feel God’s absolute love for us and other moments we doubt His unconditional kindness to us in Christ.
Christian ministers aim to help those who are suffering from this vacillating spiritual experience, and that’s a good thing (and that’s partly my goal in this devotional!). However, the way to help those on the pendulum is not to push them back the other direction. Rather, it’s to pull them down from a groundless existence where circumstantial inertia has it’s way in their lives, to plant them on the unshifting ground of God’s word.
The Bible is solid footing that teaches us the contours of our relationship with God. In the same letter of Galatians, God can teach us that we are declared righteous solely by faith – “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal 2:16) – and that we must seek to please Him, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10).
The Lord stabilizes our hearts in these truths by combining these ideas in just one sentence, “be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall” (2 Pet 1:10).
We are loved by God and we seek to please God. It’s not one or the other.
For the past 20 years I have been taking my wife on a date each week. Why? I don’t have to seek to please her, right? Wrong! Just because we said “I do” two decades ago, I don’t neglect our relationship. Yes, we made an unbreakable covenant to each other on our wedding day, but I must continue to serve her and seek her love. After all, wasn’t that the covenant that I made with her – to serve her till death do us part or Christ returns?
The same dual dynamic is true in our covenant relationship with God. When we received Christ, we pledged to serve Him, not just receive our eternal inheritance. Paul understood this relationship with God, and so must we if we are to have a mature relationship with our Lord, if we are to be “a servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10).
May God help us to be set free from the spiritual pendulum – “no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14) – and instead be grounded in His truth and love, and so seek to please our God who died for us.
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for dying for me so that I can live for You. Enlighten us by the multi-colored insight of Your Scriptures. Help me to be secure in Your indescribable love and also to seek to serve You with all that I am, not trying to please people but only You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Chuck Hetzler, Ph.D.
Senior Associate, Christian Union Day and Night
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