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People-Pleasers Make the Best Evangelists (I Corinthians 10:32, 33)

July 23, 2017 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: The Essentials: One Mission

Topic: One Mission: I am Not Ashamed Passage: 1 Corinthians 10:32–10:33

 

 

People-Pleasers Make the Best Evangelists

I Corinthians 10:32,33

(One Mission: I am Not Ashamed)

July 23rd, 2017

 

 

I. Not That People-Pleasing

 

This morning we are going to read a short passage from the Apostle Paul. Now, that's not unusual, is it? We do that all the time here at Way of Grace.

 

But in this passage, I believe Paul is making a very interesting point. I believe in this passage, Paul is arguing that people-pleasers make the best evangelists. You know what an evangelist is, right? According to the most general, the broadest definition of the term, it's simply someone who shares the evanglion, a Greek word that means “gospel” or (lit.) “good news”.

 

But wait a minute. People-pleasers are best at sharing the gospel? Well, to be clear, I'm not talking about what psychologists and our society refer to as 'people-pleasers'. What do they mean? Well one article puts it this way...

 

[A people-pleaser is] someone committed to bolstering the well-being of others even at the expense of [his or] her own. Responding to the needs of others, of course, is a crucial part of normal social functioning. But people-pleasers are so invested in outside approval that they set their own wants and needs aside. They find it almost impossible to say no—even when saying yes wreaks havoc on their own best-laid plans. What makes someone so anxious to fulfill other people's expectations that they end up sabotaging themselves? The typical people-pleaser is someone who lacks an internal compass to gauge the value of their own actions, explains Linda Tillman, a psychologist at Emory University. 'As a result, they spend their lives looking for validation from others.'” (Elizabeth Svoboda, Psychology Today)

 

THAT is not what Paul is talking about. So what does he mean? And since we're talking about a passage from God's word, we are ultimately asking, “What does God mean”. Let's look for answers together as we dive into I Corinthians 10:32, 33. Turn there if you haven't already.

 

 

II. The Passage: "In Everything I Do" (10:32, 33)

 

This is what Paul tells the disciples of Jesus in Corinth. He urges them to...

 

Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, [33] just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

 

Now, ripped from it's context, Paul's words in verse 33 could be seen as the Bible's justification for the kind of unhealthy 'people-pleasing' we just talked about. Look at those words: “...just as I try to please everyone in everything I do”. Really? So what in the world does Paul mean?

Well, as is always the case when we study God's word, it's the context that can help us understand what Paul means by his words. I believe there are three phrases that can help us make sense of this people-pleasing sentiment. The first phrase is right there at the beginning of verse 32. We read...

 

 

1. “Give No Offense”

 

It was Paul's desire to maintain a clear conscience before God and in terms of his relationships with, his ministry to all people. As we see from verse 32, this applies to people inside and outside the church. Since “the church of God” is included here, we know the “Jews” and “Gentiles” listed before that phrase are a reference to unbelievers.

 

But what does he mean by “give no offense”. Well, as we see in this passage, Paul wants to encourage them by his own example. And we know from the book of Acts how Paul, for example, worked to not be unnecessarily offensive to the Jews he was attempting to reach. A good example of this is Acts 16:1-3. We read there...

 

Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. [2] He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. [3] Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

 

Paul did not in any way believe circumcision was necessary for Timothy's salvation. But he knew Timothy's uncircumcision could be an unnecessary stumbling block to ministry among the Jews, especially those who knew Timothy.

 

Similarly, in the broader context of our main passage, which begins in 8:1, Paul talks about not giving offense to fellow believers who were struggling with eating food from pagan temples (you may recall, some of the meat sold in the meat market came from sacrifices in pagan temples; and there were also public eating halls connected to these temples). Paul did not per se forbid eating meat from pagan temples, but he warned believers about using their freedom in Christ wisely. Look with me back at 8:9, 10...

 

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block [an offense] to the weak. [10] For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?

 

And of course, since we find the word “Gentiles” there in verse 32, Paul also wants Christians to follow the same path, to apply the same wisdom, to express the same heart with unbelievers. On one of my trips to India, we were asked to remove our sandals before entering a very large and very old mosque in the center of Hyderabad. Now, some might say by doing this we were affirming this place was holy ground. But for us, it was a simple gesture of respect to our hosts. There was no reason to “give...offense” on something like that.

 

But if we continue on in our main verses, we come across another principle that can help us understand what Paul means when he writes about 'people-pleasing'. The next phrase we need to think about is there in verse 33. Paul writes that “I am...”

2. “Not Seeking My Own Advantage”

 

I Corinthians 8:1-11:1 is one of the very best passages in the Bible to study if you are interested in Christian maturity. Some people who confess to trust Christ and to follow Christ seem content in their spiritual immaturity. They have no real desire to grow; or they have 'set the bar' so low it seems they've already arrived. And of course, many of us have found ourselves in this kind of season of complacency.

 

But when the Spirit of God is stirring the genuine child of God, that son or daughter desires to grow in maturity. Paul wrote this letter, Paul wrote all his letters, with this precise goal in mind. And again, in I Corinthians 8:1-11:1, Paul gives us one of the thickest discourses on Christian maturity. One of those defining characteristics of spiritual maturity is when a man or woman is not sinfully seeking his or her own advantage.

 

Paul writes in verse 33, [I am] not seeking my own advantage, but that of many. It was Paul's goal to live his life for God and for others. Who are the “many” he mentions here? Well, he's already told us in verse 32. The “many” are the “Jews”, the “Gentiles”, and “the church of God”. And that covers everyone Paul, as well as you and I, would ever or will ever meet.

 

What does the Apostle practically mean when he declares that he was not seeking his “own advantage”? Well two passages from two earlier chapters give us two examples. Look first with me at I Corinthians 8:13. In talking about those weak in faith who were struggling with the issue of meat from pagan temples, Paul writes...Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

 

Did you hear that? For all we know, Paul could be a serious lover of steaks, or prime rib, or a nice lamb korma. But he will gladly give up that right for the good of another's faith. He is not looking to preserve his pleasures. He is looking to preserve his brother's spiritual well-being.

 

We find another example in I Corinthians 9:12. In this passage, Paul is speaking about receiving financial support as a full-time minister of the gospel. He writes...

 

If others share this rightful claim on you [i.e. the right to ask for financial support], do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

 

Possibly to distinguish himself from other traveling teachers who charged a fee for their services, Paul did no take any money from the Corinthians. He would rather struggle financially than see them struggle to see the uniqueness of the gospel message.

 

So whether it meant the loss of meat or money, Paul was not seeking his “own advantage”. He was seeking the advantage of “many”. But what does he mean by “advantage”? Well that brings us to our third phrase. Look at that next phrase in v. 33. He labors...

 

 

3. “That They May Be Saved”

 

Listen to the whole thing again, keeping in mind Paul's idea of 'people-pleasing'...

 

Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, [33] just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

 

For anyone and everyone who crossed his path, Paul sought to give no offense, and he gladly set aside his own rights, with one objective in mind: the eternal well-being of men and women, from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

 

He expressed this kind of faithful flexibility, he wrote about this kind soul-seeking selflessness, in the previous chapter. Listen to this extensive description of Paul's version of being a people-pleaser. This is I Corinthians 9:19-23...

 

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. [20] To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. [21] To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. [22] To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. [23] I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

 

Paul's deep desire was to see others come to faith in Jesus; to be born again; to “win” them to Christ; to see them reconciled to God, by grace through faith. And that objective was far more important than Paul's personal preferences or cultural comforts. One commentator put it this way, “[Paul] made himself a servant, that they might be made free...He would not sin against God to save the soul of his neighbor, but he would readily and cheerfully deny himself...a heart warmed with zeal for God, and breathing after the salvation of men, will not plead and insist on rights and privileges...” (Matthew Henry)

 

So think about what we've learned from these three phrases. We've learned that when Paul talks about trying to please everyone in everything he did, he was not talking about an inability to say 'no' or slavish attempts to be validated by others. No, Paul's people-pleasing aspirations were about being as careful as he could, doing everything within his power, and giving up whatever was necessary to see others won to Jesus; to both inspire and nurture saving faith.

 

Now, we've talked a lot about Paul this morning, but let's not forget that Paul, through his own example, is urging the Corinthians believers, that God is urging every believer, to have this very same perspective. When God's people are God's 'people-pleasers', they are, through redemptively respectful and selfless, soul-seeking service, attempting to win the hearts of those in their circles, in order to win them to Christ; to earn their trust so that they might trust Jesus as their only hope. (2x)

 

Brothers and sisters, are you mature in this way? Do you share Paul's perspective? His goal? His redemptive purpose and his plan of attack? This passage does not allow us to place Paul in a special category. He is encouraging this whole church; he is encouraging the butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers in Corinth to follow his example. He is encouraging the moms and grandmas, the teens and teachers, the marrieds and singles, the blue-collared and white-collared, all of them to be people-pleasers for Christ.

III. Beautiful Brackets

 

And it is to Christ we must look. Think for a minute about the beautiful brackets we find around our two main verses. Look at the closing bracket in 11:1 (which should really be 10:34). Paul writes, Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

 

This “heart warmed with zeal for God, and breathing after the salvation of men” did not originate with Paul. Paul's people-pleasing priority and passion was inspired by the example Jesus and powered by the Spirit of Jesus. ...the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28) Selfless, soul-seeking service. If we desire to be like Jesus, then God is calling us to this same heart. Why? Because it's His heart.

 

And that points us to the first bracket in 10:31. You may remember this was also one of our memory verses, back in November. Look at it with me: So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

 

Do you see why this passage is so important in terms of Christian maturity? Mature believers make it their goal to do all to the glory of God by living for and living like Jesus Christ. And right in the middle of those beautiful brackets is this call to soul-seeking servanthood and selflessness.

 

How would you describe spiritual maturity? What are it's defining characteristics? I believe you would be hard-pressed to find a better answer than what we find in 10:31 to 11:1.

 

And if that's the case, we must ask, “Am I mature in my faith?”

 

Listen again to three expressions (from chapters 9 and 10, three expressions) of the heart of Jesus in the heart of Paul. As you do, consider whether or not they express the trajectory of your life: That I might win more of them...that by all means I might save some...[I am seeking the advantage] of many, that they may be saved.

 

Every single day we fight the temptation to seek our own advantage; to care more about my everyday comfort than the eternal destiny of those in my circle. But that is not the heart of Jesus. So if we accept that all of this is true, what can we do?

 

Well, first of all, we can confess our failure to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ. Second, we can look to the gospel. Paul said he was careful not to put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. That should be true in our own lives. In the gospel we find forgiveness for our failures and inspiration for our obedience. In the gospel we see the selfless, soul-seeking service of Jesus. Third, we can pray regularly for those in our circles. Finally, number four, we can plan to serve the lost around us, that they may be saved.

 

Unlike a worldly people-pleaser, we are not looking for validation from othes. Why would we need to? We have the validation of God through the finished work of Jesus, through His death and resurrection. And it is that acceptance and affirmation that should embolden us to live differently, to move out of our comfortable spaces and away from our empty pursuits...to imitate Paul as he imitated Jesus Christ. To be people-pleasers, for God's glory.

 

More in The Essentials: One Mission

August 6, 2017

Then the End Comes (I Corinthians 15:22-26)

April 23, 2017

When You're Anxious (Philippians 4:6, 7)

March 26, 2017

Get Defensive for Jesus! (I Peter 3:15)