Sunday, October 18, 2009

For They Loved Praise from Men More Than Praise from God!

Many people confuse the attributes of God with Jesus and vice verse. I know I did as I was growing up. I had these images of Jesus as a loving, warm, kind human being who loved the little children; but my view of God was one of a big, mean person, up in heaven with a loaded shotgun, ready to blow me away for committing even the smallest sin.

Later on I learned that God, in reality, is just like Jesus because Jesus told us that if you have seen Him, you have seen the father (John 14:9). From that day forward, I have learned that God is a loving God, but who also requires obedience. He is also the God (in case we fail to meet His standards) who has provided us with the ultimate escape clause, the act of redemption performed by Jesus as He sacrificed His life on the cross to pay for our debts.

Throughout my 35 year journey as a disciple of Christ, one of the hardest things to deal with has been my ego. It is this that most of the time stands between us and God from a totally and completely fulfilled life. It is our ego, and the need to be praised by others, that for many has been a lifelong quest to the detriment of living a truly victorious life in all that we seek and do.

It’s a terrible struggle, especially for those of us who have been blessed with gifts from God which we credit ourselves for creating and or developing rather than thanking him and praising Him for the glorious (yet undeserved) opportunity to use those gifts in an honorable manner. We are gifted surgeons, innovative contractors, stalwart administrators, above average athletes, blessed with creative talents in music, art, drama, writing and communication skills, among others. But yet, we find ourselves seeking praise and glory for these skills and attributes rather than praising the true author of these blessings: God!

One of the reasons we fail to give thanks and praise to Jesus is because we fail to recognize that He is God (John 10:30, John 14:9)! Many folks do not believe this, and most often, lump Him along with Buddha, Mohammad and other lesser known religious icons. Jesus doesn’t need to be praised, He doesn’t need nor want recognition (as most men do) but He does weep for those He loves the most, those He wants to bless (in all things), especially with eternal salvation, who instead shun that gift and seek to heap glory on themselves, yearning to be praised by others rather than to be praised by God!

I have always admired the old theology scholars more so than the new, hip, pop, self-professed prophets that inundate the television, radio and Internet, those seeking two primary goals: money and fame!
Matthew Henry is considered one of the best commentators of the Bible in antiquity and his analysis of our lead verse above: For they loved praise from men more than praise from God! (John 12:43) sums it up best:

"Some honor was done to Christ by these rulers: for they believed on him, were convinced that he was sent of God, and received his doctrine as divine; but they did not do him honor enough, for they had not courage to own their faith in him. Many professed more kindness for Christ than really they had; these had more kindness for him than they were willing to profess. See here what a struggle was in these rulers between their convictions and their corruptions.

See the power of the word in the convictions that many of them were under, who did not willfully shut their eyes against the light. They believed on him as Nicodemus, received him as a teacher come from God.

Note, the truth of the gospel has perhaps a better interest in the consciences of men than we are aware of. Many cannot but approve of that in their hearts which yet outwardly they are shy of. Perhaps these chief rulers were true believers, though very weak, and their faith likes smoking flax.

Note, it may be, there are more good people than we think there are. Elijah thought he was left alone, when God had seven thousand faithful worshippers in Israel. Some are really better than they seem to be. Their faults are known, but their repentance is not; a man’s goodness may be concealed by a culpable yet pardonable weakness, which he himself truly repents of. The kingdom of God comes not in all with a like observation; nor have all who are good the same faculty of appearing to be so.

See the power of the world in the smothering of these convictions. They believed in Christ, but because of the Pharisees, who had it in their power to do them diskindness; they dare not confess him for fear of being excommunicated. Observe here;

1. Wherein they failed and were defective; they did not confess Christ. There is cause to question the sincerity of that faith which is either afraid or ashamed to show itself; for those who believe with the heart ought to confess with the mouth, Romans10:9.

2. What they feared: being put out of the synagogue (the public arena), which they thought would be a disgrace and damage to them; as if it would do them any harm to be expelled from a synagogue that had made itself a synagogue of Satan, and from which God was departing.

3. What was at the bottom of this fear: They loved the praise of men, chose it as a more valuable good, and pursued it as a more desirable end, than the praise of God; which was an implicit idolatry, like that (Romans1:25) of worshiping and serving the creature more than the Creator. They set these two in the scale one against the other, and, having weighed them, they proceeded accordingly.

(a) They set the praise of men in one scale, and considered how good it was to give praise to men, and to pay a deference to the opinion of the Pharisees, and receive praise from men, to be commended by the chief priests and applauded by the people as good sons of the church, the Jewish church; and they would not confess Christ, lest they should thereby derogate from the reputation of the Pharisees, and forfeit their own, and thus hinder their own preferment. And, besides, the followers of Christ were put into an ill name, and were looked upon with contempt, which those who had been used to honor could not bear. Yet perhaps if they had known one another’s minds they would have had more courage; but each one thought that if he should declare himself in favor of Christ he should stand alone, and have nobody to back him; whereas, if any one had had resolution to break the ice, he would have had more seconds than he thought of.

(b) They put the praise of God in the other scale. They were sensible that by confessing Christ they should both give praise to God, and have praise from God, that he would be pleased with them, and say, Well done; but;

(c) They gave the preference to the praise of men, and this turned the scale; sense prevailed above faith, and represented it as more desirable to stand right in the opinion of the Pharisees than to be accepted of God. Note Love of the praise of men is a very great prejudice to the power and practice of religion and godliness. Many come short of the glory of God by having a regard to the applause of men, and a value for that. Love of the praise of men, as a by-end in that which is good, will make a man a hypocrite when religion is in fashion and credit is to be got by it; and love of the praise of men, as a base principle in that which is evil, will make a man an apostate when religion is in disgrace, and credit is to be lost for it, as here.

We have here the honor Christ not assumed, but asserted, to himself, in the account he gave of his mission and his errand into the world.

Probably this discourse was not at the same time with that before (for them he departed, v. 36), but some time after, when he made another public appearance; and, as this evangelist records it, it was Christ’s farewell sermon to the Jews, and his last public discourse; all that follows was private with his disciples.

Now observe how our Lord Jesus delivered this parting word: he cried and said. Doth not wisdom cry (Proverbs 8:1), in the raising of his voice and crying intimately, His boldness in speaking. Though they had not courage openly to profess faith in his doctrine, he had courage openly to publish it; if they were ashamed of it, he was not, but set his face as a flint, Isaiah 50:7. 2. His earnestness in speaking. He cried as one that was serious and importunate, and in good earnest in what he said, and was willing to impart to them, not only the gospel of God, but even his own soul. It denotes his desire that all might take notice of it. This being the last time of the publication of his gospel by himself in person, he makes proclamation,

"Whoever will hear me, let them come now."

Joe Ortiz is the author of two books that challenge the Left Behind and Pre-Tribulation Rapture, and premillennial dispensational precepts and doctrines being promoted by many right-wing evangelicals. The two books include The End Times Passover (Etymological Challenges to Millenarian Doctrines) and Why Christians Will Suffer Great Tribulation (The Sequel to The End Times Passover), published by Author House. The End Times Passover ~

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