SEEKING GOD OR SEEKING FOLLOWERS? HOW WE AVOID SELF DECEPTION
Richard Whitaker- Discipleship and Connections Pastor LHBC
I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (ESV) John 5:30-47
Jesus never forces himself on people. He simply points us to the truth, sets the example and allows us to respond to him in love. For our lives to reflect the character of Christ, we want the truth of Jesus and the pattern of his life to find permanent residence and consistent expression in our lives.
But, strong forces oppose our individual and collective pursuit of a life that is patterned after Christ. Threatened by ultimate defeat, Satan and his demons keep loaded their weapons of lies and deceit, seeking to obscure the true nature of Jesus and the victory he wants to bring to everyone who believes. Such is the case with Jesus’ accusers who find their path to Jesus blocked by the familiar foes of darkness.
Perhaps you have wondered like me how people so close in proximity to Jesus could so resolutely reject him. Jesus explains that his accusers denied the witness of the Father, the witness of John the Baptist, the witness of Jesus’ works, and witness of the law of Moses. In the face of overwhelming evidence, Jesus’ detractors just doubled down on their efforts to subvert his mission.
We must look closely to discover what was driving Jesus’ accusers’ self-deception so that we avoid falling into the same blinding trap. Jesus explains the reason for their blindness with a question, “How can you believe when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” v.44. The cause for their self-deception came down to their desire for approval from their social network instead of the approval of almighty God. Desiring “likes” from their social tribe of friends, family, and followers resulted in facts being interpreted as fiction, firmly holding them in the relentless grip of Satan.
The apostle Paul speaks to the battle that rages between truth and falsehood, explaining to the church in Rome that people of that culture “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (ESV) Romans 1:25 The people were blinded to the truth because they lived to worship themselves and others rather than Creator God.
How do we avoid the trap of self-deception? Jesus tells us how when he says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (NIV) Luke 9:23. Jesus also commands us to, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” (NIV) Matthew 6:33.
Living by the transforming truths of Christ begins with earnest prayer and intentional steps to seek the will of God in the ways we arrange our lives, engage the word of God, and obey the Lord. Otherwise our sinful flesh will fall into deceit and gravitate toward worshipping the world in order to gain the world’s approval.
We can filter our thoughts and actions with these questions: “Do my thoughts and actions indicate that I am seeking God’s will at this very moment?” Does my motivation flow from the desire to be popular, accepted by men and women of my particular tribe? Am I trying to gain followers or am I seeking to follow Jesus? These helpful questions will refine our thinking and lead us to be useful instruments of God’s glory and break the bonds of deceit. May the grace of God empower us to seek the Jesus-way with our whole hearts and keep us on the path of truth and righteousness for his name’s sake.
PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Dear Lord, thank you for always pointing me to the truth. Please forgive me for ways that I reject the truth for lies that hurt you and your kingdom. Keep me in the truth Lord and help me by your grace to desire your will and approval before my social circle. Help me to remember that even if rejected by my earthly tribe, I will always find that I am your dearly loved child and co-heir with your Son Jesus to an eternal inheritance that will never fade. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
MEMORY VERSE OF THE WEEK:
1 John 4:4
4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.