By George H. Alquist Jr.
When serving the Lord we must remember to be aware of the pressure to please men. Peer pressure can be good or it can be harmful. When peer pressure encourages one in the right direction it is good. Peer pressure that is in accordance with the principles and practices of the scripture is welcome. Peer pressure of this kind can help the servant of God stand and carry on in times of self-weakness. However, the opposite proves true as well. Peer pressure that is not Biblically based and is simply the opinion or preferences of men can be detrimental to true God-pleasing service. We must be aware of this kind of peer pressure. I have found over the years that many of the things which I had taken for granted as the "right" way to do things or the "right" way to think was more man-made than God-breathed! Often if we are not careful the peer pressure of the "Big Boys" or of the "Successful Ones" can intimidate us into going against what we may know in our hearts to be right and proper. This can prove especially true when trying to fit formulas of success from one ministry onto another or one preacher onto another.
The Scripture is our infallible and inerrant guide to faith and practice. It alone is God-breathed! The opinions, preferences, convictions, methods, and practices of men may be very helpful if they do not violate scriptural principles or doctrines. It is the responsibility of every servant of God to carefully examine things in light of the Word of God. I have incorporated many of the ideas and methods of various preachers into my own life and ministry over the years. I have been very grateful for how many of them have been a real blessing and a help. I have also rejected some things though very popular or highly praised by certain individuals, groups, or segments of Bible-believing Christianity because I felt that it was more men's ideas and less God's best. The problem with not always "going with the flow" is the intimidation others may use to get you to conform or "get with it" or "get right." You may even hear things like, "Well, who do you think you are to question or doubt so and so?" Your answer must be, "I am a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ who will ultimately answer to Him for my decisions and not to you, so and so, or any other man." This again will not be very palatable to some, but after all are they not also "men subject to like passions as we are?" James 5:17 Please do not think that I am advocating an arrogance and pride that is maverick or unreachable. On the contrary, we should be teachable and willing to use every available means to improve our ministry for Christ. I simply warn of the danger of accepting things "lock, stock and barrel" no matter from whom they may flow.
Romans chapter 14:1-10 addresses this very thing. It discusses the subject of eating meat offered to idols. Some Christians would and some would not eat such meat. For some of the Christian believers it was a conviction that it was wrong while to others it was not. Those who were spiritually mature recognized that idols were nothing and that meat offered to them was not changed. These believers could eat it without violating conscience or scripture. However, others felt that to eat it would give some kind of honor of recognition to the idols and for conscience sake could not eat it. Paul said, "Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth, Yea he shall be holden up: For God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day age. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." Romans 14:3-5 Again in verses 10 and 12, "But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." There it is; I will not be able to point to someone else at the judgment seat of Christ and say, "Well, so and so said it should be done this way," or "Well, so and so said it was o.k." No sir, we each have personal responsibility to check things out for ourselves and to do only that which we believe to be the will of God as directed by His Word.
When we find ourselves striving to measure up to human expectations we will live in frustration and disappointment never really measuring up at all. We are here to serve God not man. Paul felt this way. In I Corinthians 2:15 he records, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged by no man." The spiritual believer is concerned about judging or examining everything to see if it is permissible by God's standards. However, the believer himself cannot be judged as to his motives or desire to serve the Lord in truth and spirit. In I Corinthians 4:3-4 Paul said, "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but He that judgeth me is the Lord." The Greek word for judged, anakrino means to be examined by with the idea of passing sentence. Paul was not worried what sentence men would find but rather what sentence God would pass upon his life and ministry. Sometimes we are more concerned about what men think than what God thinks not realizing that men do not understand everything and may pass unrighteous judgment. We must not let man's unrighteous judgment hinder us in our efforts to please and to serve God. Some of God's choicest servants were ridiculed by their peers only to be proven years later to have been in step with God all along.
Of course, when we speak of not judging we are not speaking of failing to judge outright sin. Anything which is clearly against the Word of God can be judged as sin. We are to be about the matter of judging sin first in our own lives and the admonishing of it in the lives of our brethren. We are also to be about the business of preaching against sin publicly. This type of judgment is proper and good and needed and commanded by the Scripture. What we have been discussing is something entirely different. It has to do with the attitudes, motives, convictions, and conscience of the individual which no man can know and judge, only God. You must realize that you need to be your own man before the Lord. You must make your own decisions based upon your own convictions in light of the Word of God. You must be able to stand on your own two feet armed with the Sword of the Spirit serving the Lord. It is good and helpful to garner from others. Be sure that what you finally end up with is your own heart-held convictions and not the leftover convictions of others. This will free you up to serve the Lord with gladness. The standard is not other men, other men's works, other men's ideas, or other men's opinions. The standard is the Word of God. The judge is Jesus Christ. James gives some great advice in chapter 2 and verse 12, "So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty." Go out and do your best for the Master remembering that He is the Author and Finisher of your faith and the One who will judge and reward.
"Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God." I Corinthians 4:5
Be your own man as God's man!