We live in such an image focus culture that easily gets sucked into putting on the appearance of joy, happiness, trustworthiness, niceness and much more to be accepted. This is what we think a true Christian is supposed to look like. I believe it stems from good intentions because we want to reflect well on Jesus and make it appear that it’s nothing but a joy and happy times while living for him. To put it another way, many of us have concerns that if we are honest about being scared, anxious, depressed, frustrated, or confused that we give the gospel a bad name.
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To avoid that we, as Christians, put on a nice exterior to help keep all those negative feelings in. Some project a “perfect” Christian life for acceptance. This causes us to compromise and think that the inappropriate remark a coworker made is alright. Or catching a friend gossiping about someone else is just who they are. Maybe our marriage and finances are in trouble but we think we are fine…. Niceness toes this line and does what it has to to protect the image we think or want others to see us as. This need for acceptance breeds inauthentic people with inauthentic relationships.
Peter’s Struggle with Acceptability
This technique has been around for a long time. Let’s look at the disciple Peter and his struggle with acceptability in Luke 22: 54-60;
Luke 22: 54-60 – “54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”
58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.” (ESV) emphasis mine
After reading these verses we can tell Peter is scared of what people will think of him. He is also scared people will associate him with Jesus “the trouble maker.” This shows that Peter has a deep need to be accepted by people. He’d rather fit in with the crowd than be true to his God-given personality.
Discipline of Confession
There are two steps to help us grow into our God given personality and remove the mask of acceptability. The first is the discipline of confession. Confession has developed a negative connotation over the years and almost carries a weight with it. However, confession is as simple as sharing our story with others. Stories of past troubles, issues, addictions, vanity, the pull of our insecurities, and the list goes on. Every time we share our testimony, we are confessing what Christ has done for us and through us.
Discipline of Secrecy
The second step is the discipline of secrecy. Matthew 6:3-4 is a great example of what righteous secrecy looks like;
Matthew 6:3-4 – 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (ESV)
Dallas Willard has a fantastic saying that ties this verse together with our message today and it goes like this;
“Through the discipline of secrecy, we abstain from causing our good deeds and qualities to be know and we do this in order to purify our motives.”
When we give in secret, we actively push back the need of recognition and acceptance. This creates space for our true Christ given identities to cultivate, grow, and show! Which in turn will produce a natural by-product of pure joy, completeness, and fullness in our lives.
Next time you feel the overwhelming sense that people don’t accept you or that you need to impress others, stop! Take a deep breath and remind yourself who’s you are and who you are living for. God accepts us the way we are because he made us the way we are. He doesn’t make a mistake, which means you aren’t a mistake. It can be scary to shift our focus away from others acceptance. But God has accepted us from day 1 and he isn’t going anywhere! It doesn’t get any better than that.