Sunday, December 25, 2016

People-Driven Holiness: A Dangerous Pursuit [Part One]

Note: This article is written in three parts. It would be helpful to the readers to study this material in its entirety in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the message.

What is people-driven holiness? It is an effort to live a pious life with an ulterior motive that is obsessed with self-image. It is a life that appears holy but its focus is on maintaining a good image before people rather than cultivating a good character in the fear of God.

Honestly, there is no such thing as holiness when it is people-driven. But it does appear holy and good before people. Nevertheless, the Lord who searches the heart and tests the mind knows the wickedness behind the appearance of our piety. When He walked in flesh on earth, the Lord said to the religious people who were clothed with people-driven holiness:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:27-28)
Let me share five features of people-driven holiness. I have learned these lessons primarily by observing the filthiness of my own heart, which only the Spirit of God can expose.

First, people-driven holiness is led by the fear of what people think about oneself. 

The other day, I was all set to go to church fellowship, but my family wasn’t ready yet. I got frustrated because I love to be on time for church. So I yelled at my kids to leave the house immediately and hopped into the car and on the way I spoke rudely to my wife.

After some time, I thought, “What if there were guests at my home. Would I have behaved in the same manner?” No, I would have conducted myself politely, suppressing all my frustration. My guests would have thought how patient and gentle I am at home.

What do you think my motive behind my pious conduct if there were guests at my home? It is the fear of what they would think about me. [But how constant and genuine my holiness would be if I live every moment of my life knowing that God is with me and watching me, and that I do all things to please Him and glorify His Name! Sadly, this is often not the case.]

Though being wicked in my heart, how easy it is to paint the picture of piety before others in order not to let my image get debased. Don’t you think many times we are driven to behave well in order to guard our self-image before others? We often give a different impression to others than what we actually are in the inside.

This also reminds me of my commitment not to share about my personal, family, and ministry needs with others, except when I am given the freedom to do so. People think I am a man of faith, like George Mueller.

However, considering the sinfulness of my heart, I fear such a commitment essentially is not to uphold the glory of God by my faith in Him. It may be my arrogance which refuses to stretch my hands before others for help, and also not wanting my image to be marred like many Christian leaders who publicly make financial appeals. Who knows, it could also be a subtle way to let others know, “Hey, I don’t ask money from anyone. So, remember to help me without me asking you.”

It seems a lot of our good conduct is manifested, not out of our fear of God, but out of our fear of people’s impression about us. Holiness can be pursued for self-image with no focus on being conformed to the image of Christ.

Second, people-driven holiness is more focused about personal honor rather than repenting of one’s failures. 

Due to my forgetful nature and negligent attitude in house responsibilities, I commit many blunders and often make my wife upset. Sometimes, she raises her voice to express her frustration and to get my attention. 

As long as the conflict is just between my wife and me, it’s fine; but, if I realize somebody is nearby, hearing her upsetting voice over me, I get very angry. I want my wife to let others think good about me, whatever my conduct may be. I cannot tolerate if my image is tarnished before others.  

Voluntarily or involuntarily, when someone corrects me before others, like a patriotic soldier who fights for his nation, I want to immediately rise to defend my image. I want to say, "It's okay that I've failed. We all fail. But don't think bad about me. That's not what I am." 

Of course, it is good that correction must be generally given in private. However, our problem is that when we fail, we are too obsessed with our self-image before others rather than about our flawed character, confession of sin, and transformation. 

When Saul was rejected by the Lord for disobeying His commandment, Samuel sharply rebuked him. Do you know what Saul said to Samuel? “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel” (1 Sam. 15:30). 

Observe the words of Saul, “I have sinned, YET honor me before people.” Many times, do we not manifest similar sinful attitude? No matter how sinful our behavior is, we want to be honored before people and desire our image to be highly esteemed. 

Those whose holiness is people-driven, they do not walk in transparency about their weaknesses, failures, and imperfections. They do not usually take correction and ask apology with humility. Even if they do these acts, they do so with concern about their image before others. They are basically good at justifying themselves. Despite their obvious failures, they always want to impress others that they are strong and good.  Click Here to Read Part Two..... 

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