Fear of Man and Gospel Identities
In my last post, I focused on what the Bible has to say about who we are, our identity in Christ. But, when it comes down to the nitty gritty of daily life, rather than reaching for what the Bible says about who we are, we reach instead for something more tangible, more accessible. We reach for things like careers, reputations, relationships, accomplishments, hobbies and personal interests. We form and fashion our identities by how we dress, our height, our weight, our financial status, our education, our social circles. While some of this can be motivated by a desire for personal achievement, if we look deep enough we may also find it rooted in a desire to be well regarded, to be loved, liked, accepted, and appreciated.
Much of my life I have been a people pleaser. While some of it is rooted in love for others, much of it is a self-centered desire for approval. It is a need to control how others perceive me. It is rooting my hope in, my value and worth in, my identity in the opinion of man. It is fear of man.
Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” Fear of man drives us to seek the approval of man. Fear of man robs us of peace, enslaves us to the pursuit of the acceptance of others, and hinders us from resting in our identities as children of God.
Fear of man is being more enamored with man than with God; it is elevating the thoughts, opinions, and approval of a broken, fallible person above the thoughts, opinions, and approval of a perfect, holy God. And, it is idolatry.
Fear of man is self-centered. It is being a “here I am person” clamoring for love, approval, and acceptance rather than being a “there you are person” giving love, approval, and acceptance. It is simply caring more for self than the other person.
Man is fickle, easily offended or disappointed. There is no security in the approval of man. You may have it one second and lose it the next. One may love you, while another despises you. Approval of man is a tyrannical idol. It is an endless treadmill – a treacherous journey never reaching its destination. There is no comfort, no security, no rest found there.
In Luke 6:26 Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” The true prophets were hated, excluded, reviled, spurned, beaten, tortured, and killed. The false prophets were well spoke of because they told people what they wanted to hear.
Perhaps worse than enslaving us, fear of man tempts us into sin. The false prophets were more concerned with being liked, celebrated, and praised than they were with speaking truth. They cared more for themselves than for God. They cared more about the fame of their own name, than making God’s name great. They cared more about their reputation among men than their place among the family of God. And, the same is true of us today.
The only way we will be freed from this desire for the approval of man is to become more enamored with the Gospel and what the Gospel says of us. Our key to freedom is to become less self-focused and more Gospel focused. It is to become more enamored with our identity in Christ than our reputation in this world. It is to echo the words of John the Baptist, “He must become greater; I must become less.”
Unlike the approval of man, our Gospel identity is certain and secure.
It is something moths and rust cannot destroy. The Gospel tells us that we are loved, accepted, adopted into the family of God, heirs to the kingdom, valuable, and righteous. This is certain and secure. We do not have to fear losing it. It is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is kept for us by God’s power. And, it is ours right here, right now. We do not have to wait for it or earn it. He has already declared it. It is ours in Christ.
The Gospel tells us that this is who we are now. It is also a shadow of who we will be in the future, who we will be for eternity. In this and this alone, we find rest from the approval treadmill. To become more enamored with God, the Gospel, and our Gospel identities in Christ, is to find freedom from the fear of man. May we rise up as the children of God, celebrating who we are in Him, and who we will be because of Him.
 ESV Bible commentary on Luke 6:26