Before God, Before Men

Before God, Before Men

Pastor Vincent - 5 November 2022

Weekend Devotion: Before God, Before Men

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Often times we hear people say we should live before God and not before men. But is such a view fully biblical? Now of course we hear biblical instructions which says: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working, not for men, but for the Lord <Col 3:23>. Or we could familiarly recall what the Apostle Paul said: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?” <Gal 1:10>. We hear him said those words to justify that he wasn’t pleasing men but God. Now verses like that gives us a very fundamental proposition of the Christian living, that is we’ve to seek to live before God and not men. It corrects our motives for doing certain things. It reminds us of the danger of externalism. It tells us that godliness is something that is within us. It involves our response to the things of God, which produces obedience and righteous living. And everyone should keep that in mind. Because whatever we do, we must know that God judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart <Heb 4:12>. And I think every true Christian should bear that in mind, just as the Christian reformers always exhort believers to live before the face of God. No question with that.

 

But in this episode, I like to bring out another thought-provoking concept about living before men. You see, just as the true Christian man and woman should seek to live before God but should he or she totally disregard how they live before men? Should they even consider how men think? Is man’s view about the things we do totally invalidate?

 

Now you see, in my pastoral life, I have encountered extremely pious people who says: “Pastor, I just do right before God. I don’t care what men think. As long as I am right before God…”. You see, my question to such a person is: “How do you know you are right?” You see, you can be right before your own eyes, but may not be so before God. Why do I say that? Because if you do not have the validation of men, how do you know you are right before God? Don’t forget we are told in the Bible to not only submit to God, but also to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

 

So my brethren, if men around you, if your pastor, your cell leaders, or your close brethren do not feel your meekness and submission, how do you know you are really submitting to Christ? If people who prays for you are doubtful about your choice and decision, is it wise to think twice? So you see, just as it is important to live before God, but in disregarding man’s opinion about us, we run the danger of self-validating your rightness. Someone may say, “Well, I am abiding to the Word of God, the Bible is my standard”. But the problem is this. Everyone can claim he is a bible-believer or a bible-adherer, but there is a possibility that he could only be submitting to certain portion of the Bible. He could be doing one thing and not the other. He could be reading the Bible piously but not involved in church life or the serving of others. Or he could be so heavily involved in church life and miss taking good care of his family. Either way. But the point is you see, the problem with people who are right in their own eyes is that they tend to be selective in obedience.

 

So let’s take a moment to consider: Is living before men, doing good and doing right before men something that is required of in Christian living? Well, let us consider a verse in the scripture <2 Cor 8:21>. Paul said:

 

“For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man”.

Notice this. In the eyes of men.

 

Now, the context of this is Paul was telling the believers that he is very cautious and scrupulous in managing the financial gifts given by the church. He not only makes sure he will do it right before God, he will also do it right before men. You saw that? This gives a whole concept that we cannot be just validating our own actions before God. It has to be validated before men also.

 

When we say we are acting biblically, who is there to hold us accountable? Who is there to inform us that we are not just selectively obeying God? So living before men and be accountable to them is not something we can dispense with in Christian living. That is why we need a good church life. We need good coworkers and accountability partners in our life.

 

Of course, no one is above reproach, but let’s not forget the instruction of our Lord Himself to let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven <Mt 5:16>. So just as the Bible verifies our works, man verifies them too.

 

But over here I like to take this message a bit further, because I’ve often come across people who has some estrangement between their responsibility to God and to men. Some are so humanistic that they forgot about living before God altogether. They are totally absorbed in pleasing men. May God have mercy on such people. But on the other hand, there are some who are so scrupulous that they see any consideration of human needs as humanistic or indicative of human elements.  

 

I’ve heard people say: “Pastor, you should just preach the word of God. There is no need to consider the needs or problems of men, because by doing so that is satisfying the itching ears of men. And that’s humanistic”. Well, I’ve been in Christ long enough to hear such views. I mean yes, that’s a noble idea. We preachers are told to preach the word of God.  But are we really told to not consider the needs of men? To not consider their cries? To not consider their situations? Then may I ask how is the preacher going to fulfil his duties to correct, rebuke, and encourage? You see, the preaching of the word is not just doing a bible study Preaching of the Word is an expository of the word primarily but then also to be well-connected to the application of the word. There are subjectivities involved in preaching the word of God. There are correcting, rebuking and encouraging involved. Although some of them are not pleasing to the ears. But they are needed for men to come to Christ Himself, to obey Christ, not just getting the knowledge of Christ. So while the preacher preaches the word of God in full, he is also called to apply the Word, and to rebuke and encourage with the Word.

 

So in such a case, can a preacher not consider the needs of men when he reads the word of God and formulate His sermon? My answer is no. You see, even the incarnated word came in the form of flesh to relate what the Word of God is. He was with sinners. He knew their problems. He observed their lives and give them very relevant parables to teach them, or to rebuke them, or to draw them back to God. When Paul wrote to the Church of Corinth, he addressed their disunity and even some of their sins, and yes all with the Word of God. When the Prince of Preacher, Charles Spurgeon preaches, he preached on contemporary events. He preached against ministers absorbed in politics. He preaches against the Oxford Movements. The faithful preacher, while preaching from the word, he is not blind to the needs of men, or the needs of an Era.

 

You see, we can be “over-spiritual” and miss being spiritual. We can be “over-religious” and miss pure religion. James tells us that pure religion is one that visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction <James 1:27>. It is a religion by faith in the Son of God. And that faith is ultimately shown by his care of others. Such a person cares for the needs of others. He is not just absorbed in the meaning of the Word and miss applying the Word. So in this sense, when a preacher is called to preach the word of God, he is to preach a sermon. But what is a sermon? In the words of Pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “to preach a sermon is not to run a commentary. A preacher is not only to give the meaning of a verse or a passage or a paragraph. Yes,that is essential in expository preaching but that is only the introduction of a sermon. A sermon must come as a whole form”. So while every preacher should preach an expository sermon, he is to receive a sermon or in another words a burden of God for the people he is ministering to. So let’s not be confused. Let’s not be unbalanced. Let’s be clear that we as believers have a responsibility both to God and man. We are obligated to do right before God and before men, so that glory be to God alone. 

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Pastor Vincent Choo
choochisan@gmail.com

Vincent is the Senior Pastor of The Life Church and Missions (Singapore) and is an ardent missionary to the Chinese World. He currently lives in Singapore with his wife, Qiufen, and has three kids, Mary, David, and Caleb.

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