The Sin of Christian Sycophancy

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
    then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
    and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 2:15-17

The advice not to be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers in 2 Corinthians 6:14 is usually applied almost exclusively to marriage. It is given as a reason why Christians shouldn’t marry non-Christians, unless they became Christians after already being married (1 Corinthians 7:14). The application of it to marriage is certainly appropriate, but there is no indication from the text that this was Paul’s main intent in writing this. What then does it mean to be “unequally yoked” with an unbeliever? The yoke was a wooden beam fastened to the necks of a pair of animals ( usually oxen), that would organize the animals and make sure they move together. The “inequality” might refer to the state of having two different kinds of things forced together to work for the same purpose, such as yoking a donkey and an ox together (Deut 22:10). But the “inequality” here may perhaps have a different but related meaning, that of a weaker animal being pulled along by a stronger animal. The weaker animal will have no “say” in the direction they go, but the direction will be determined by the stronger animal. The “yoke” itself signifies some sort of partnership or shared purpose. So what implications does this have for the Christian relationships with non-Christians? I think we can gather the general thrust of what Paul was intending to communicate here, without necessarily knowing exactly what he had in mind when writing it. There are two contexts I think we should see this command being relevant. The first is the sphere of relationships the Christian has, with their spouse ( as already mentioned), with their non-Christian friends, family members, and co-workers. The second is the Christian’s relationship to the unbelieving culture more generally, and the collective relationship of the Church to the unbelieving culture that surrounds it. Let’s start with the first.

Personal Relationships with Non-Christians

Does the passage imply that it is wrong to have unbelieving friends, or that it is wrong to work for or with unbelievers? This seems unlikely. I believe the passage is not referring so much to relationships with unbelievers, but to the extent that our relationship to unbelievers and the unbelieving world is undermining our faith in and service to God. A lite friendship with a non-Christian might be perfectly innocuous on its own, depending to some extent on the character of the particular non-Christian. I believe the problem starts when your friendship begins in some way to undermine your faith. This can happen in all sorts of ways that I won’t be able to predict here, which is why it’s important for every Christian to be aware of what effect a friendship is having on them and their faith and to practice discernment. The most obvious respect is if your unbelieving friends are doing immoral things prohibited by Christianity, and there is some sort of pressure on you to do the same. They might consciously be placing pressure on you to join them in doing whatever they are doing or you might feel this pressure regardless, simply because they’re your friends and you want their approval or the goodwill between you to remain unscathed. Or you actually feel strongly tempted to do what they’re doing irrespective of the social pressure to do so. Alternatively, being around your unbelieving friends might simply make you feel ashamed of your faith. This could be because they mock your faith every now and again, or “tease” you about it. Or perhaps they’re not doing that at all, and you simply admire them, want their approval, and so you feel yourself disliking your faith when you’re around them. Perhaps it is some combination of these scenarios. The first scenario might be more obviously problematic, but the second scenario is probably more spiritually dangerous. The person in the first scenario is in danger of committing a particular sin, but the person in the second scenario is in danger of idolatry or covetousness, and apostasy. The person in the second scenario is in danger of making that friendship or the things that friendship gives them access to, into something that is more important than their relationship with God. In both situations, it is good to introduce some distance into the relationship, to see that person less, or simply to train yourself to play down your admiration for the friend and your desire for their approval. You should force yourself to notice their character flaws and to reemphasize the Christian standard of the good life in your mind. If these strategies don’t work, you should end the relationship. The same applies to an employment scenario and your relationships with co-workers. If your boss is requiring you to do things that are against Christian values, then you shouldn’t work there. As already covered, if you’re single it is a bad idea to marry a non-Christian. Apart from the biblical injunction, it is simply impractical. Think of the fact that what determines your moral compass and reason for living will not be shared with your spouse. Not only is this very likely to cause marital conflict, especially in the rearing of children, your most intimate relationship with another human being will also be a source of temptation to compromise or even abandon your Christian faith. That sounds like a recipe for all sorts of bad things. You can have a spouse who bolsters your faith or you can have one who makes you want compromise your faith and values, and may sometimes, during disputes, place pressure on you to do so.

Relationship with the Unbelieving Culture

The application of the command not to be “unequally yoked” is very pertinent in our age, because our lives are constantly suffused by ideas, attitudes and information that come from beyond our local communities and personal relationships, in a way that is unprecedented. Opinion journalists, media personalities, bloggers, vloggers, celebrity tweeters, and other talking heads, that we constantly encounter on our screens, are all eager to tell you what they think is the right thing and the true thing. But that’s not all. We also watch movies and T.V. shows and we play video games, we listen to music and we read novels and non-fiction books. All of these things communicate certain ideas, whether deliberately or by misunderstanding. More insidiously, they communicate attitudes and ways of doing things, ways of relating to others, which are more implied and subtle. The younger generations, millennials and Generation Z, are also more likely to be plugged into popular culture and celebrity culture. We can limit the exposure we have to these people, but apart from a few mavericks who make conscious efforts to remain disconnected, most people will be influenced, to some degree or another, by this noisy digital cacophony that surrounds us. These voices determine “coolness.” That is to say, they determine what makes you look good in front of others and what makes you look like a fool, like an embarrassment. They determine what behaviour is humiliating and what is not. “Coolness” is especially pronounced in any context that is highly visible, where there are lots of eyes, and people know there are lots of eyes. When people know there are lots of eyes, they start to act differently. Coolness and vanity are brothers and they are always together. These voices also act, consciously or not, as arbiters of moral accountability. They determine what is right and what is wrong and make sure to hold accountable those who are straying from those standards. This is related to “cancel culture”. As I probably don’t need to tell you, faithful Christian faith is “uncool” and it always is to some extent or another. The elites of the culture do not like apostolic Christianity ( by which I mean the Christianity of the apostles who wrote the New Testament). It is not liked in celebrity culture, among novelists and artists, among humanities and social sciences academics, among scientists and among pretty much any other influential institution of culture ( including many churches). They only like very watered down forms of Christianity at best. Why is apostolic Christian faith “uncool” and why does it only become cool the more it adapts itself to the things that are considered cool? The New Testament itself provides a reason for that. “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble”(James 4:6). Coolness is all about vanity and appearances. The word of God will always resist the proud or those who are very engrossed in their own beauty, intelligence, their influence and followers etc.

The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers…

Psalm 5:5

Unbelief of various sorts always has a worldly prestige above that of faithful Christian faith. By “unbelief” I don’t mean just atheism, but anything apart from apostolic Christian faith. It is possible for Christians to be taken in by this prestige and to believe and accept it to varying degrees. This either just leads to a crippled and weak faith without any clear doctrinal error, or it may lead to heresy and moral backsliding, and eventually, apostasy. One way to be convinced by it is to allow yourself to get too attached to things in the world, to covet “coolness” and celebrity, to covet being praised and adulated, to desire being seen as clever and intelligent, and to admire prestigious unbelievers. This I believe may be what John was referring to with the “lust of the eyes” (1 John 2:15): getting attached to culturally prestigious and glamorous things, the appearance of cleverness and sophistication, and so on. The “lust of the eyes” drives a good deal of culture, including celebrity culture and it dehumanizes those it fixates on.

The New Testament repeatedly shows a strong suspicion of the unbelieving world and fame and popularity. There is no suggestion that because something is popular, it must be true. On the contrary, the New Testament seems to tend in exactly the opposite direction. It tends to say that the fact that something is popular in the secular world is a reason to treat it with suspicion. Jesus tells us in the beatitudes:

“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”

Luke 6:26

He tells the Pharisees ( who were the cultural elites of the time):

And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 16:15

That’s quite a statement! What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. It has always been the case that the high places of power, fame, money and influence are not great places to look for good people ( even though there certainly are a few). Why is this the case? It may be because people at the top are more likely to be covetous and greedy than others. They are more likely to have made the goal they strove for more important than anything else and even done immoral things in order to ensure success. Given their extreme success, they are also more likely to be proud. The Bible also sometimes expresses a distaste for the “wise and the learned” and says that God frustrates their wisdom (Isaiah 29:14) and does not reveal his truth to them (Luke 10:21). Why should this be? We are given a reason in 1 Corinthians:

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 20-25

So God does his work through the weak and the foolish so that no on may boast before him. God speaks to the world through illiterate fishermen which still puts to shame all the power and the intelligence of both the secular the religious world, of secular philosophers and Christian theologians. Once again, God resists the proud. Intelligent people are often proud of their intelligence and they look down on those who (they believe) do not share their intelligence. They are often vain and are preoccupied with appearing clever. This means that God is displeased with them and will not reveal his truth to them, unless they repent. Not only that, he will make their wisdom into foolishness.

The Prince of this World

The New Testament also often suggests that the unbelieving world is under Satan’s power. He is called the “prince of this world”, or the “god of this world”, which suggests that Satan has some sort of authority or power over the earth ( that God permits) and especially over the unbelieving world. If you want to read more about how this fits into God’s sovereignty, please see my post about that topic here.

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Corinthians 4:4

Again in 1 John:

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

1 John 5:19

But doesn’t John 12:31 say that the prince of this world is “cast out”?

Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.

John 12:31

The rest of the New Testament still seems to say that Satan still has power on earth, but here it seems to suggest that Satan has already been cast out and no longer has power. Satan’s power is crucially undermined at the cross of Jesus, and the thrall of his power is broken. The cross ushers in a new age when human beings will be able to effectively challenge Satan’s power through the power of the cross. He will no longer be the uncontested ruler of this world. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers says this about John 12:31:

The whole future is present to the mind of Christ, and in the confidence of victory He uses the emphatic “now” of both the judgment of the world and the dethronement of its prince. It should be noted, however, that the tenses differ. The one is thought of as the immediate result of His death; the other is the gradual victory of truth, and is spoken of in the same future as the drawing all men of the following verse.

So Satan’s power has been undermined, but he is still here and he still exercises power over people who reject the good news and he seeks a way to trap believers, or as Peter puts it:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

Revelation and the Book of Job also suggest that Satan makes himself at home on earth. The war between angels described in Revelation 12 ends with the following:

So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Revelation 12:9

When God asks Satan in the book of Job, where he came from, he responds: “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” (Job 1:7)

What do we make of this?

So what should we make of the command not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers with respect to the unbelieving culture? What should we make of the fact that the unbelieving world is evil in a fundamental sense? I think it comes down to the same thing as your personal relationships with non-Christians. We are not here to cloister ourselves off from the rest of the world and to live like wandering ascetics and hermits. Nevertheless, it is very important that we practice discernment, that we are spiritually alert about the influences we are allowing into our lives, and about what we are celebrating and delighting in when we engage with all these cultural influences. It is also important to be aware of on what or on whom our admiration is fixing itself.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

There are some ideas and attitudes that are clearly wrong, others that are a mixed bag, and yet others that are not obviously evil in any way. But as a general rule it is a good idea to keep some distance between your heart and secular culture. Guard your heart. Don’t covet any of the spectacle, the prestige and the glamour you see around you. You don’t need to cloister yourself off from the world to do this. All you need to do is to believe the biblical teaching about the unbelieving world and that it is not driven and energized by the Spirit of God. It is useful to remind yourself of this every now and again. Apart from that, it is good to be aware when you’re listening to certain talk shows, watching certain movies, listening to music and reading novels, what effect these things are having on you. Are you celebrating or delighting in things that are wrong from a Christian point of view? Are you watching political talk shows which are derisive to the other side, and enjoying this derisiveness? Are you watching movies that make you feel ashamed to be a Christian? The actual content is not always relevant since the same thing will have different impacts on different people.

Admiring Prestigious Unbelievers

I’m not so concerned here with what entertainment Christians consume. I’m more concerned about the priority that glamorous and prestigious (non-Christian) cultural voices have on Christian minds. As Christians, we want to love and respect every non-Christian. However, we must be careful about admiring non-Christians, especially prestigious non-Christians. Why is that? When you admire someone, you want to be like them. So if you admire a non-Christian, your own faith will be an obstacle to that admiration, and you will be tempted to compromise and abandon it. Even if you do not compromise your values or apostatize, your admiration may cause you to live in the shadow of that person or group of people, so that you are afraid to deviate from their opinions. Even if you do not abandon sound doctrine, you de-emphasize it. You will be very afraid to step outside that shadow, and if you do, it will be very tentatively. You will be living with the weight of a lifeless soul on top of you and you will be afraid and unmotivated to go where ( you think) that soul doesn’t want you to go. In all sorts of ways, in subtle and insidious ways, your behaviour will change and the way you live out your faith will change. This is especially true of Christian leaders who have made themselves beholden to the secular world as a result of their admiration or their fear of offending. If you are like this or you accept the counsel of Christian leaders who are like this, your faith will be damaged as a result. Your faith is filtered through the world for acceptability, rather than the world filtered through your faith. This will lead to a weak faith, a faith under spiritual bondage, perhaps even a faith that attempts to serve two masters? As we know, you cannot serve two masters.

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other…”

Matthew 6:24

Jesus is talking about money in this passage, but the principle is applicable here as well. And you may find that the faith you have left is just a form of godliness, but without the Spirit. I’m talking about admiring any prominent or prestigious unbeliever, whether Hollywood celebrities, famous authors, public intellectuals, talk show hosts and the like. These people are usually not Christians and are often against specific ideas in a devout Christian faith. It is especially if you agree with these people in other respects, that you should be wary, because you will then be more inclined to accept what they have to say in different respects and to adopt their attitudes. It is important to remember that these people are unredeemed and are under God’s judgment. If you allow yourself to admire them and to follow their lead in all sorts of ways, you may eventually find yourself following them into hell.

Some people might think that this type of thinking leads to dehumanization and bigotry against non-Christians. Certainly, if you only have this belief and nothing else, then it will lead to hatred of non-Christians. The worst crimes that Christians commit is the result of honing in on a few biblical passages and ignoring the weight of the biblical emphasis, or the greatest themes of the Bible. However, the evil of the world is not the most important or central belief in Christianity. The most important belief is that God sent his Son to die for every person, and loves them dearly, and our belief in the evil of the world and the darkened minds of unbelievers must be understood in light of this. The only difference between the believer and the unbeliever is the mercy of Jesus, but how great that difference! “There but for the grace of God go I”, but the grace of God makes all the difference in the world. We must love the world as God loves the world, but we must know that it is evil.

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 6:10

And also:

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

Titus 3:1-2

In other words, the fact that the world is evil must be understood in the context of the central Christians truths and New Testament moral teaching and being good and loving to all.

If you truly believe that this world is evil and that those who belong to it are unredeemed and under judgment, then you will not be flattered by their praise and you won’t be cowed by their condemnation. You will love the unbeliever equally, whether he is a New Yorker editor or billionaire, or a homeless man on the side of the street. If your kindness and love is motivated by sycophancy and a desire for approval and praise, or an attachment to prestige and glamour, then your love is based on the unbeliever’s prestige and it will dissipate with their prestige. However, if you believe the truth of God’s word about this world and those who belong to it, then your selfish sycophantic favoritism can be transformed into an unselfish love by which God “so loved the world.”

Admiring Prestigious Christians

The Christian world is also dotted with Christian celebrities, many of whom are successful pastors of megachurches, who often make it into Christian and secular news. This isn’t strictly related to the issue of being unequally yoked with unbelievers, but it is connected to a similar impulse: the lust of the eyes, the desire and attachment to prestige, spectacle and glamour. When we think about this, it is good to consider Jesus’s words about how we should relate to Christian teachers. It is significant that this advice is in the context of Jesus rebuking the Pharisees for their vanity.

They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Matthew 23:5-12

Call no one but Jesus your teacher. Your admiration should fix itself on no one but Jesus alone, not another believer, and certainly not an unbeliever. Admire God. He is the only one worthy of your admiration. Sit at the feet of One and only One.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…

1 Timothy 2:5

Flattery and Contrarianism

Relevant to our topic here, there are at least two errors the Church can fall into in its relationship with the unbelieving world: flattery and contrarianism. Contrarianism was, to some extent, the error of the fundamentalists. While I believe the Christian fundamentalist movement in general was prophetic, it had its faults. One of these was an emphasis on parts of Christianity which didn’t agree with the secular world. Another was a neglect of the virtue of gentleness. An emphasis on those things in preaching and evangelism will lead to a lopsided and distorted Christianity, because its structure is defined in opposition, not in itself. Many Christians have reacted against the contrarianism of the fundamentalists, but I think this reaction has gone too far. Another error is flattery. There are many biblical passages that deal with the “flatterer”, none of them positive. A flatterer is a sycophant, or someone who is good to others in an insincere way, in order to gain approval and other good things from that person. The Christian church may also be too ingratiating of the unbelieving world, so that it impairs their witness, their doctrine and their character. This leads to an emphasis on parts of Christianity which agree with the unbelieving culture. As with contrarianism, this leads to a distorted Christianity and a weak and impotent faith that is always looking for approval from unbelievers before doing something significant.

Doing evangelism by beginning with a point of commonality with the unbelieving audience is not a bad thing, but if that approach starts to define the way you live out your faith, the way you preach in churches, and the way you relate to God, then it definitely is a bad thing.

The proliferation of emergent and seeker-sensitive church strategies, especially like that practiced by Timothy Keller, I believe encourages a worldly Christianity that is very concerned with cultural acceptance. Keller often quoted secular intellectuals in his sermons to bolster Christian claims. Doing this occasionally may be fine, but if you do it often, then it may lead to the impression that Christianity is somehow beholden to secular intellectualism. Keller himself has been very influential, probably the most influential New Calvinist, and his influence has stretched far beyond a Calvinist audience. Many people have incorporated his way of doing things in their churches. The power of Christianity is undermined if it is made to look like the rest of the world, even if you still technically adhere to sound doctrine. This type of church will not lead to revival. The mark of revival is distinctiveness from the rest of the world, not similarity to it. What are they being converted to? A weak faith that only has confidence in parts of Christianity that are seconded by secular thinkers? This is not the type of faith we want to create. If we do not call with the voice of the Shepherd, will we get the sheep? We may find ourselves calling wolves instead. If you want to give Christianity a worldly prestige, you will attract those who love the world.

I think an important problem with both fundamentalism ( contrarianism) and emergent Christianity ( flattery) is that they seem to me to aim at cultural domination. Fundamentalism attempted to do this through boycotting and shaming. Emergentism attempts to do this with persuasion and advertising. It isn’t wrong for Christians to seek to influence the culture, but that project should not be conflated with evangelism and should not define our preaching and teaching. If your goal is cultural hegemony, you will ingratiate the cultural and political elites ( including academia, the arts, entertainment etc.). The cultural elites are often very different from the ordinary person and taking control of the culture is not necessarily going to make people more Christian.

Apologetics also has become too central in how we live out our faith and how the Bible is preached, even though it should just be a support ministry.

And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

1 Corinthians 2:3-5

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

1 Corinthians 1:17

Apologetics shouldn’t determine how pastors preach and how we live out our faith. If you allow apologetics to determine the sermons, this means you’ll constantly tailor your sermons to people who are not even in the church and to a cultural elite that mostly doesn’t care.

Your entire orientation and attitude is then defined by a focus on unbelievers who are not even there, rather than the ordinary Christians in the service who need spiritual nourishment.

Back to the Bible

There should be a move again to preaching simple apostolic Christianity without allowing this teaching to be framed and filtered by all sorts of other ideas, whether ideas from the unbelieving culture or the ideas of theologians and popular Christian thinkers. By apostolic Christianity I mean the Christianity preached in the New Testament, unfiltered through apologetics and emergent and seeker-sensitive church models, unfiltered through creeds and confessions, unfiltered through popular ideas in the culture, unfiltered through missional theology and all the clever ideas of sophisticated theologians, unfiltered through the ideas of C.S. Lewis or G.K. Chesterton or Martin Luther or John Calvin or the New Calvinists or the New Perspective on Paul or other glamorous Christian voices. You don’t need theologians to tell you what the Bible says. You don’t need an expensive seminary degree in order to preach the Bible. As indicated before, apologetics can play a role in evangelism, but it should not determine the content of the evangelical message, spiritual formation and preaching. We shouldn’t be selecting content based on what would be easy to defend or what would be palatable to intellectual non-Christians. It’s fine to have “intellectual” interests, and to enjoy apologetics, but this should not become central to our faith and who we are.

All these ideas and their glamour will whither and pass away, but the word of God will not. The hyper-contextualization of the Bible in history should also be rejected. Historical context is useful for determining reference to specific things in the text that the author expects the audience to know about. However, we should be suspicious of attempts to reconstruct a biblical author’s ideology or worldview from some works of his contemporaries. This basically precludes the biblical author from saying anything unique and they are made into a mouthpiece of their surroundings. It also allows the theologian to determine what to “interpret” in light of the historical context and what to think of as unique. How does one make that judgment accurately especially given that so little from that time survives? Any heavy dependence on the historical context to understand the text should be resisted. Believe it or not, the primary determinant of the meaning of a particular text is the text itself.

Evangelicalism has recently paid a great deal of attention to theologians. What has it gotten as a result? Revival? No, spiritual stagnation and a people-pleasing Christianity. I once paid a lot of attention to theologians and my faith suffered as a result. When you look at the current state of the Church, you realize why Jesus says that God has revealed the truth to children and kept it from the wise and learned (Matthew 11:25). Let’s de-emphasize all the glamorous things that sound clever and get to the simple and unglamorous truth of God’s word that we must accept as a child would. This and this alone must form our faith and determine our walk with God. This must determine the preaching in our churches. This truth angers the unbelieving world and it hates this truth. It invites the derision of scoffers, but it will be worth it, because it is the pearl of great price. If you pass over this truth, and put the emphasis instead on the ideas of theologians and apologists, the scoffers may spare you, the world may accept you, but you have lost something priceless. Don’t focus and pin your faith on things written about the Bible. Go to the Bible itself.

Conclusion

Everybody wants acceptance from other people, but it’s important not to be driven by it, to identify the covetousness for it in yourself and work against it. I know I have been guilty of it. If you think you are guilty of it, take some steps to fight against it. This will look differently for different people. Perhaps unfollow a few celebrities whose opinion has a little too much influence on the way you think. Perhaps stop listening to a podcast which tempts you to celebrate and adopt un-Christian ideas and attitudes. Perhaps only contemplate the biblical truth of the world’s evil to put some distance between your heart and the world’s spectacle and glamour, to put some distance between your heart and the “lust of the eyes” (1 John 2:15-17). Our churches should once again focus in on the Bible without filtering its message through theologians’  and apologists’ recommendations, emerging church strategies, and without filtering it through popular ideas in the culture. We should focus only on pleasing God, not prestigious believers, not prestigious unbelievers, and not even the pastors of our local churches. Trust in and aim to please only Jesus.

‘Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
    and makes flesh his strength,
    whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
    and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
    in an uninhabited salt land.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”’

Jeremiah 17:5-8

 

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