It is a natural tendency in man, especially in the present age, to project an image of oneself, of strength, confidence, success, prestige and so on. Sadly, this kind of ideal image has to some extent invaded the church, and even some of the pulpits of our land. The question we must ask is: Is this the picture of believers that is set before us in the scriptures? The answer is, No. Jesus began His ‘sermon on the mount’ with a list of the characteristics of the ‘blessed’, in Matthew 5:3-11. Surely, there can be no doubt that He is giving us a list of the marks of a true believer, one who is RightWithGod. The list he gives us is very different from ‘strength, confidence, success and prestige’. It is ‘poor in spirit’, ‘mourning over sin’, ‘meek’, and so on. This is very different; but the latter are the happy ones. The literal meaning of the word translated, ‘blessed’ is ‘happy’. In fact, the comforting words addressed to those described in verses 3-11, are found in verse 12: “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you”. Their reward was not to be the approval of men, but a reward which awaited them in heaven; and it was a ‘great’ reward. In this world, their predecessors, the prophets, were persecuted rather than admired; so it would be with them.
Obviously there is a difference between the image that many christians of today like to project and the biblical picture of the happy christian, that we have in Matt chapter 5. Does this really matter? Of course it does. The question of motivation comes strongly into it, and motivations are the really important things. It is not just what we do that is important, but why we do it. The worry is that the believer who is more concerned about what the world thinks of him, than about what God thinks of him, is wrongly motivated, because it is what God thinks of us that is important. We are told in 1 Samuel 16:7 in words spoken by God to Samuel, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks upon the heart”.
If we are christians, and truly RightWithGod, we will have a strong desire to get beyond the ‘child’ stage in our christian lives. This means that we must “put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). We must put away our ‘image building’ and seek the honour and glory of God above all things. We must seek to be like Elijah who was able to say, “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts”(1 Kings 19:14). We should have something of that jealousy for the honour and glory of God, even though we are not prophets.
Let us examine our motives with honesty and sincerity, calling on the help of the Holy Spirit, the Great Enabler, to help us to get this very important area of our lives right, and to keep it right.