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One of the most common temptations we face as Christians is rooted in a desire to belong.
To fit in with the world in which we live and be accepted by it.
We go to great lengths to ensure we look, speak, and behave in such a way as to bring about a certain degree of worldly approval. This appetite is enhanced by the fact that technology, particularly with regard to social media, has made obtaining such worldly approval easier by making the world smaller.
As a result of this global contraction, the things about us which we fear may result in our being rejected by the individuals and associations we care to impress, are now open to greater scrutiny by them.
It is a two-edged sword.
On the one hand there are advantages to leveraging technology to engage and interact with the world around us. In doing so, however, the temptation to camouflage our faults and shortcomings from those whose approval we seek is heightened. Realizing this, we endeavor in vain to convince ourselves that the less conspicuous our imperfections, the more accepting others will be of us and, consequently, the more contented we will be with ourselves and with our current station in life.
The desire to be accepted is a temptation we all face to one extent or another.
No one is immune.
It is a desire that is present within us from the moment we are born, and that remains until the day we die.
Nevertheless, as with any temptation, it is beneficial to explore the root causes (motives) of why we find such allurements so appealing to begin with (Hebrews 12:1.) For example, with regard to social media, we must ask ourselves why it matters to us – and it does – how many “likes” we receive when we post something on Facebook or how many followers we gain or lose on Twitter or Instagram.
And yet, our desire for the world’s acceptance is not limited to our self-serving embracement of social media. The truth is there are many aspects of our earthly existence that matter more to us than they should.
The allure of this world invites us to latch on tightly to dreams of month-long vacations to the Mediterranean, of adding that post-secondary degree to our resume, and of owning that Mercedes-Benz E-Class that will broadcast to all the world “you’ve finally arrived.”
“If you don’t see the greatness of God then all the things that money can buy become very exciting. If you can’t see the sun you will be impressed with a street light. If you’ve never felt thunder and lightning you’ll be impressed with fireworks. And if you turn your back on the greatness and majesty of God you’ll fall in love with a world of shadows and short-lived pleasures.” – John Piper
Of course, none of this is to say that Christians are never to have fun or partake in worldly experiences or ambitions that bring us a sense of happiness and personal fulfillment. Not at all. In fact, it pleases God and brings Him great glory that we would enjoy the world He has graciously prepared for us (Genesis 1:26-30; Ecclesiastes 2:24-25; 1 Timothy 6:17b.”)
The challenge we face, however, is not everything that brings us enjoyment and pleasure in this life contributes positively to our spiritual edification (1 Corinthians 10:23.) And it is our spiritual condition that is of utmost importance to God (1 Samuel 16:7; Mark 7:17-23.) With this in mind, we should consider that the same Scriptures that invite us to enjoy this world, also caution us against becoming too attached to it (Ecclesiastes 11:9; 1 John 2:15-17; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4.)
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” – John 17:14-16 (NASB)
Our goal as Christians is not to live in this world in such a way that we have arrived in it, but as if we are going to depart from it.
As those who profess the name of Christ we should not only expect to be repudiated by the world, we should welcome such rejection as a by-product of our not being like the world.
“Christianity removes the attraction of the earth; and this is one way in which it diminishes men’s burdens. It makes them citizens of another world.” – Henry Drummond
The reality is that Christians are more akin to the group of “misfit toys” from the classic 1964 television special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The toys were “misfits” because they were all defective in some way. Among this group of misfit toys was:
– a caboose with square wheels instead of round ones
– a cowboy that rode an ostrich instead of a horse
– a boat that couldn’t float
– a water-gun that shoots jelly
– a plane that couldn’t fly
– a “Charlie-in-the-Box” (as opposed to a “Jack-in-the-Box”)
– a girl rag doll that was depressed over being abandoned by her owner
It is because of these defects that no child wanted any of the misfit toys as a Christmas gift.
As a result, they were all banished to the “Island of Misfit Toys” where, year after year, one Christmas after another, the toys lamented their inability to “fit in” like other toys. In the end, Santa promises to find loving homes for each of them. And, as they saying goes, everyone lived happily ever after.
As believers in Jesus Christ, we should rejoice in the fact that we are indeed misfits in this world (1 Peter 4:3-5.)
We are viewed as “defective” by the world because our appearance is so unmistakably different from those who do not know Christ as Savior and Lord (Matthew 5:13-16; 1 Corinthians 1:18.) Unlike the world, we forgive when wronged. We pray for our enemies. We love those who hate us. We endure unwarranted persecution with grace and patience. All of which are characteristics the world cannot possibly understand (1 Corinthians 2:14.)
“Worldliness is any preoccupation with or interest in the temporal system of life that places anything perishable before that which is eternal.” – John MacArthur
As Christians, the last thing we should be concerned with is the approval and acceptance of a world whose eventual destiny is destruction (Revelation 21:1-4.)
This world is not our permanent home.
It was never meant to be.
We are misfits in this world, brothers and sisters.
Wear the label proudly, for through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross, His elect are wholly accepted and approved by God – defects and all.
Humbly in Christ,
Gospel Wisdom for Approval Junkies – Desiring God