Sermons

Summary: First message in revival series at Emmaus Baptist Church, Quinton, VA: We may so need human approval that we forget to seek God’s approval. Either we look backward too much, returning to old habits, or we look forward too much, expecting some "magic" wor

There are certain questions all of us need to ask ourselves. There are certain ways in which we need to probe our own minds and figure out just what we are doing. It never hurts to look inside and be honest and dig out our own motives.

For example, since I am now in that wonderful status of senior adult, every now and again I need to ask myself, “Do I weigh too much?” And, since the answer to that is perfectly obvious, then I need to ask, “Am I eating too many sweets, too many fats, too many things that I like but they don’t like me?” That’s a painful question; but you get to that point in your life when, if you care at all about your health, you have to ask it.

Or, again, since today my wife and I celebrate our 46th wedding anniversary, it’s time to ask a very penetrating question about that relationship. “How are we doing?” “Is our marriage healthy?” “Do we communicate accurately and lovingly?” I’m not going to share the answers to those questions, because she who has the right answers is sitting out here, and if you need to know, she will tell you in a heartbeat! But here is one of those questions that everyone in any significant relationship needs to ask. We’d have better marriages, better parenting, and better friendships if we stopped to figure that out.

Questions we need to ask ourselves – what else? Here’s one. Here is a whopper of a motive question: “Am I seeking human approval?” Am I seeking human approval? Do I need for others to affirm me and tell me I am doing well? Do I crave praise, and, on the other side of the ledger, do I hate to be criticized? It’s an important question, because if your need to be approved runs too deep, you will find that you aren’t you anymore! If you have to have others’ approval for everything, you’ll end up trying to please everybody, and you won’t even know what you think or what you believe any longer. In fact, if your life consists in little more than seeking human approval, you will have left God out of the equation. You will no longer be concerned with doing what God wants, because you are so preoccupied with doing what you think others want.

Now I need to confess from the start that this is an issue for me. If I ask myself, “Am I seeking human approval?” I have to tell you that I always have wanted that, and probably always will, to some degree. I remember an incident in the 8th grade – now, if you are keeping score, that would be around 1951, so you see how long this old hurt has stayed with me. My 8th grade English teacher, for some perverse reason, asked us all to write down on a slip of paper the grade we thought we deserved. Well, I had a need – not just a desire, but a need – to be a top student, and I thought I had done rather well, so I wrote down “Joe Smith, A”, and thought that was over with. Well, not so! Not at all! That teacher proceeded to open and read those little slips of paper out loud in front of the whole class, and I will never forget her reaction when she got to mine: “Joe Smith, A! Who do you think I am, Santa Claus?! More like C or B at best!” With a glare in my direction, punctuated by giggles from all around the room, she put me down hard. She did not know – or if she did, she did not care – that I needed human approval.

But don’t we all? In one fashion or another, don’t we all crave to be liked and appreciated? Don’t we all need for others to think well of us? Of course we do. Nothing wrong with that. Unless – unless – it becomes so profound a need that we forget to ask what God thinks of us. Unless our need for human approval wipes away caring about God’s expectations.

Saul of Tarsus, persecutor of Christians, had one day been confronted by a vision he could not deny and a power he could not shake off. On the road to Damascus, expecting to root out and punish those who were following the new way of Jesus, he had met this Jesus face to face. And nearly everything changed. His outlook, his perspective, his life purpose, his belief system -- even his name was changed. Known originally as Saul of Tarsus, he now used his Roman name, Paul, and was on his way to becoming the greatest of the Apostles.

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