Beth Moore - Rehab for Approval Addicts - Part 1
You may be seated. I want you to turn with me, if you would please, to 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 and then I would like for you to also get Galatians 1 in your hand so that you are ready to go back and forth between the two. Hold at 1 Thessalonians chapter 2. I'm gonna be reading verses 1 through 6 in just a moment, but let's pour a little bit of foundation and get us ready. So the title of our event is "Rehab for Approval Addicts". And here's what I think. I think that maybe our first response might be, "You know, that's really not my life because I don't live out in the public world. That really doesn't apply to me. I'm not even in all that social media stuff".
But I want you to understand something. Approval addiction has been with man since the earliest days on this planet. It doesn't have to do with numbers, though numbers would certainly complicate it. Numbers could certainly make it chronic and we'll see that and we certainly see it in the culture we live in. But we can be as addicted to one person's approval or one people group's approval as we could be to a large public approval with some kind of strange celebrity. Now, when there first began to be what we would call approval ratings, would have been if we're going to look at it, in the kinds of terms that they would have regarded it, like this: approval ratings, it would have begun in the late 1930s with a man by the name of George Gallup. And he decided to survey a certain amount of Americans to see what their opinion was about the president. And this became the Gallup Polls.
So the basic idea is that he was going to take a segment that somehow was going to represent the whole, get some kind of idea about the whole country's feeling of favorability or unfavorability based on this little segment being surveyed. And so it was basically, "Do you approve or do you disapprove"? And it's been used ever since, every single president. But that's not the only kind of polling we have. Saw a program not long ago where some women had realized that at a college they had been rated according to what the guys on the campus, it was a small school, thought about them. And then there began to surface from that point, other kinds of things very close to it, things that had been online that only a few people knew about, where there had been voting by one gender about the opposite gender.
How would you like to show up on a list and see just how approved of are you? How well are you doing out there? So what's happened here is that social media has only exaggerated the whole thing, and I don't have to tell you that. You already know it because now it's not just politicians and celebrities that polls are being taken on. We take our own daily survey if we're active on social media by checking what is our favorability rate opposed to what is not. If you're looking on YouTube, you can see how many thumbs up did you get and how many thumbs down did you get.
Now, in our family, we make a lot of fun of this because for whatever reason, I do not know why, we were a family of four, my husband and I had two daughters, Amanda and Melissa, and this is just ongoing between us at all times. We do it continually. We give one another thumbs up but we do it exactly like Keith and, for whatever reason, Keith does not do his thumb like this. Keith does his thumb like this. And it just, I don't know, it looks like are you, are we fist-bumping, what? What are we doing exactly? Then he'll go, like...and that means good job, but it's like, get that thumb up. I mean, it's just like, his is "good job," but it's just a little bit of a good job, just a tiny, tiny little bit of a good job.
But here's what's happening, is that we go for our daily approval ratings because we live in a culture banking multiple millions, if not billions, on our insatiable appetite for approval. And we are in rehab for it because what if we could get set free? And what are the implications of it if we don't? That's what I want you thinking on. That's what we're gonna be exploring together. What does this look like, if we break free of it, and what exactly does it look like if we do not?
So I want you to start with me. I have you in 1 Thessalonians chapter 2:1 through 7: "For you yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our visit with you was not without result. On the contrary, after we had previously suffered and were treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, we were emboldened by our God to speak the gospel of God to you in spite of great opposition. For our exhortation didn't come from error or impurity or any intent to deceive". Verse 4: "Instead, just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please people, but rather God, who examines our hearts. For we never used flattering speech, as you know, or had greedy motives, God is our witness, and we didn't seek glory from people, either from you or from others". Verse 7: "Although we could have been a burden as Christ's apostles, instead we were gentle among you".
I want you to pause there. And now I want you to look at Galatians 1, verse 10. The apostle Paul: "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God"? Whose approval are we seeking? Both of these books, both of these letters, are believed to have been written very early, 1 Thessalonians particularly early, because what he's doing through that letter is that they had been to visit Thessalonika, Paul and Timothy and Silas, back in Acts 17 it's recorded. But they could only stay a short time because they came under such great opposition. So he writes back a letter and says, "This is how we behave as people of God". And in these early letters, he is saying over and over again to this young church, this young group of believers in both of these cities and beyond, "We seek the approval of God. We are God pleasers, not people pleasers".
And what I think we would see as we explore this topic is that the best thing we could do for people is to be God pleasers and not people pleasers. Well, here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna name a couple of things that are at stake here and what I'm going to do, so that we can make it more approachable, even though I'll just be speaking in general terms, I'm gonna say "we" over and over again, just so we can be comfortable with one another and I know that there are many exceptions to various ones but still, I'm gonna say "we" so that we can just be in community together because I'm just wondering is there anyone in the house that has no issue whatsoever with approval addiction? I doubt it. Because whether it's to an individual, your mother, to your Bible study group, to a community group of some kind, whether secular or sacred, to your workmates, whoever it may be, what is at stake when we stay in our addiction to people pleasing?
Now, some of these, I just wanna give a little bit of a disclaimer because some of these that I'm gonna mention, are perfectly fine in and of themselves because all of them will be actions, activities of some kind, something that we've done or not done. Some of these on their own, there's absolutely nothing wrong with. What makes it different is when we do these things straightforward for the approval of people instead of God.
So just listen up with me. Here's what I want you to do. I'm gonna read through them and I started to ask you to take a tally down, you know, line, line, line, line, cross, line, line, line, line, cross, line, but then I thought, "Some of 'em are gonna get so personal, you're gonna be going...lest somebody look on your paper". But here's what I want you to do. As much as you can, I want you to tally in your head, just give me some kind of just estimate by the time we get to the end of it, 'cause nobody's gonna know which one were yours but I just wanna know, by the time we get to the end of it, could you be able to jot down in the neighborhood somewhere how many you would have marked. I'd be embarrassed to tell you how many I would mark.
So here we go. Just a few things, just a few things, just to get our minds going. How much is at stake when we are in bondage to people pleasing instead of seeking the approval of God alone, okay? Well, we've signed up for stuff we didn't wanna do, anybody? We've spent money we did not want to spend. We've bought cars we couldn't afford just to please the man selling the car to us. Am I lying? We've taken jobs we did not want to take. We've quit jobs we should have kept. Am I speaking anybody's language? We have gotten terrible haircuts, terrible, and unfortunate hair colors, anybody? We have drastically changed our appearance and worn stuff we looked and felt utterly ridiculous in, anybody? We've acted like somebody we weren't. We've undergone painful surgical procedures. We've changed churches.
Now remember with me, when this is led by the Spirit is one thing. I'm saying, for human approval, purely for people pleasing, we've changed churches, denominations, sometimes doctrines. We've embarrassed ourselves. We've had sex with people just to get approval, usually theirs. We've married out of nothing but the need for our family's approval. Somebody knows exactly what I'm talking about. We've also divorced out of nothing but the pressure of someone's approval. We've aborted babies. We've abandoned our callings. We've changed schools. We've feigned fanaticism of teams or sports or bands we do not know from a truckful of banty roosters.
For instance, some of us have come down with such a sudden love of football when as far as you know, a quarterback is what you get when you hand a cashier a $1 bill for a 75 cent purchase, anybody? We've sold our souls. We've told lies. We've lived lies. We've covered up lies. We've covered up crimes, and some of us have committed crimes. We've betrayed people we really loved, just in an effort to please somebody else. We've flat out ignored crystal clear warnings from God just to get approval from somebody. We've committed sins we had never even remotely considered before. Can I see anybody's hand in the house, just under pure pressure from somebody, end up doing something you never even considered? We've never gotten the counseling we needed because someone influential in our lives thinks that a Christian ought never have to get counsel.
And that it's just nothing buy psychobabble. We've been dragged in the messes that we had nothing to do with. We've ended up with roommates and apartment mates we did not want. Anybody but me? We've hired and fired people we shouldn't have. We've smoked all manner of stuff; we didn't even smoke before. We've claimed to believe things that we don't. We've claimed to hate what we really love. We've claimed to love what we really hate. And you know what occurred to me this morning when I was thinking over this, because I wrote all of those yesterday on the plane. And then it occurred to me this morning with my heart just teeming over, that there are people perhaps even in this gathering who've literally attempted suicide to finally somehow, at least in your dying or death, finally get someone's approval. Or maybe in the hopelessness of believing that you would never ever be approved.
So, we bring the question to the table again. Why would this topic be important enough? Those are all the reasons. Because approval addiction, people pleasing, can cause us to do all sorts of things we would not do otherwise. The best thing we could ever do for someone else is to seek the approval of God alone, and if in seeking his approval, they approve, glory to God, that's a beautiful thing. But we've done them the better, one way or the other. Approval addiction makes us untrue to God, to self, and others. There is a very strong link between people pleasing and deception that there is a deception we cannot avoid when we are driven by people pleasing. We can't, because what we're doing is we are adapting, regardless of who we really are, we're trying to adapt to whatever would bring us either just plain acceptance. Some people are, like, we're just looking like, "Accept me. I'm not asking you for a lot. I'm just asking you to accept me". Everything from acceptance to applause. I mean, there's something absurd about the people of God feeling the need to do dog tricks.
Anybody know what I'm talking about? Run after the ball, jump for the bone, roll over, performing for one person after another so they will accept us, so they will approve of us. Or best of all, so they would applaud for us. Let me tell you something: this thing becomes insatiable. Listen, when we are addicted to the approval of man, we become someone we're not for someone who is equally not. Let me see if I can explain that for you, because I'm gonna tell you something. Anybody who is acting like they are worthy of you seeking their approval over God's is playing God, and they're not God. So you're both playing a game when you're addicted to their approval, because they're not worthy of it because they're not God. I need somebody to "Amen" tonight. They're worthy of a lot of things: worthy of love, worthy of help, worthy of sharing their burden, worthy of serving next to, worthy of serving, worthy of so many things. Worthy of seeking their approval over God's? Absolutely not. Absolutely not. That's where this line gets drawn.
Listen to me here. Listen to me here. I will go so far as to say that if we have never broken out of this addiction, we don't even begin to know what God could really do. And if we don't begin to know what God could really do, I'm gonna go out and just throw this out here for consideration. We don't even know who we are because we're posing half the time and morphing into somebody that other people need us to be. Is anybody tracking in this with me? If we're living, let me say it again, for the approval of humans instead of God, you don't even know who we are, because we're just adapting, morphing constantly. What can I get approval from? How could I get you to like me? Something occurred to me so strongly today, and I jotted this down in my notes. People who don't approve of the actual you won't end up approving of any you. I wanna say that again because I sat there in my hotel room and I tested it over and over in my mind. I thought, "No, no, can you really say that? Can you really make that claim"?
I wanna say it again: people who don't approve of the actual you won't end up approving of any you. I believe it's true, because sooner or later, you're not gonna be able to keep up that you that they approved of, and the whole thing starts breaking down. But there is an actual you inside. There's an actual me inside. And you and I are gonna try to get to the bottom of it. You talk about some freedom. We could walk out of here with a thousand pounds off of us just by selecting just one Master, just one Lord, one. Just one God over us. Listen to the way the NET, the New English Translation, translates that same verse, Galatians 1:10. Listen to it because it uses a very strong wording here that will get in under our skin. It says this: "Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ"! Listen to that again. "I would not be a slave of Christ"!
If you noticed earlier, when I read it out of the CSB and then out of the ESV, it said a servant of Christ. It's all being translated from the same Greek word and I want you to see it on the screen for a moment. It's "doúlos," doúlos, and it means: "A slave, one who is in permanent relation of servitude to another, his will being altogether consumed to the will of the other". It shows some verses where you'd find examples of this. "Generally, one serving, bound to serve, in bondage to". See, the whole premise and Paul really goes there in Romans chapter 6, for instance, and he implies the same thing in the letter to the Galatians. Then only when we are bound, bond slaves to Christ, are we truly free. He's going, like, "You wanna know how to be free? You clip yourself onto him just as hard as you can. He's holding on to you, you hold on to him as tightly as you can as your one and only Lord and Savior and there you will find your freedom".
Now, here's where the concept comes together for us because what we're learning from the NET rendering of that verse and he's there, take it right out of the Greek language, is that we've become a slave to the ones we crave approval from. And you know it's the truth, and I know it's the truth, that there's a certain slavery. We're in bondage to the ones that we just continually want to approve of us. And we just fight and maybe we have it but, man, we're fighting to keep it. We're fighting to keep it. We're fighting to keep it because we're enslaved to it. We're bowed down to it. Who is worthy of you being bowed down to that way? Because what you have chosen to do and what I've chosen to do is place myself in bondage to someone who could change the rules tomorrow on us, where "Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday, and forever".