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Satisfy the Crowd

Satisfy the Crowd

I remember the first time I felt it. It was like some kind of magic. Around 4th grade, I made the discovery that if you wore a shirt that had a little horse on the front and said Ralph Lauren on the tag, you immediately became a person of value. It was just a year later that I felt the dark side of this same phenomenon. I was 11 years old and playing in a little league baseball game. Before the season started, my parents did what they did every year for me and my brother. They bought us new cleats. This year, though, they let us know they couldn’t afford the Nikes. So they took us to Kmart and bought us McGregor cleats. That made sense and was no big deal until it became a big deal. I was playing in a game and I was in the on deck circle, which is where you stand when you’re the next one to bat. That’s when Chris Bruchaus, the #1 player in our league, said those words that made their way deep into my soul. “Those cleats suck!” Those three words produced in me what I now know to call shame. And somehow, this 35 year old memory is still quite vivid.

Then I went to middle school and well, you know, middle school. I remember this guy named Jeremy saying this to me one day. “You eat your French fries like a girl.” Now, I still have no idea what that means. But I do remember feeling self-conscious every time I would eat French fries. I’m just throwing 4 or 5 in my mouth at a time, thinking surely this is how a man is supposed to eat his fries.

I started high school at a large public school and mostly felt unseen there. But when I transferred to a smaller, private school for my sophomore year, I now had a chance to stand out. I decided I would do whatever it took to be part of the “in” crowd and somehow I made it in. But what did I have to give up to satisfy the crowd that I thought mattered most?

You and I would love to believe that satisfying the crowd was merely a temptation during our youth, but with age, we no longer feel the pull of it. But I know and you know that this temptation never really goes away.

Who is the crowd you are tempted to satisfy?

Investors? Other parents at your kid’s school? People in the Epic Church community? Maybe those who hold the power for your next promotion? Could it be the majority of people in our city who tend to live the opposite of how following Jesus would lead you to live? Maybe it’s your parents or it could certainly be your own children.

Is it possible you care too much about pleasing people and not enough about pleasing God?

If you care too much about pleasing people, here are some realities coming for you:

You will live out of a false self more than your true self.

You will not be able to be an effective leader.

You cannot be a non-anxious presence when there is so much reactivity and criticism coming from others.

You will not be able to parent well if your main objective is making your kids happy.

If your ultimate aim is to win the approval of others, you will be one person when you’re here at Epic and a totally different person when you go to the office tomorrow.

Here’s the question we’re going after today:

Whose approval would mean everything to you?

I’m calling this message “Satisfy the Crowd”. I want to take you to one of the most significant moments in history that you’re probably somewhat familiar with. But I’m guessing you’ve never thought about it in terms of people pleasing. It’s the moment Jesus goes before Pilate. Pilate was the Roman governor of Judaea from AD 26-36, which means he was in this position when Jesus was crucified.

On the Friday morning that we have come to call Good Friday, the religious leaders bound Jesus and handed him over to Pilate. There was a custom to release a prisoner and Pilate asks them if they want him to release Jesus.

Mark 15:9-15 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them. “Crucify him!” they shouted. “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

It's easy for us to think, “How could Pilate do this? How could he hand the innocent Jesus over to be crucified?” He knew what they were doing was out of self-interest. He knew no crime had been committed. We think, “I never would have done that.” But let’s reflect for a moment on our own lives.

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, I _____________________________.

Go along with everyone else’s opinions at the office.

Let my kids do what I know isn’t good for them.

Buy cars and clothes that I can’t really afford and don’t even like that much.

Use language that everyone around me uses.

Keep quiet about my faith.

Preach sermons that keep people happy with me.

Don’t bring my full self into my dating relationships.

Wanting to satisfy the crowd can keep us from going public with our faith.

John 12:42-43 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

Will we live for human praise or praise from God?

I’m seeing so many of my friends, especially in this community, finding freedom in bringing their true selves into every arena of life. I love how so many of you are being more open about your faith, knowing not everyone’s going to be pleased with it.

I know what many of us want to be true. We want to be able to please God and have all 8 billion people on planet earth be pleased with us too. It’s just not possible. I have four children and I can’t even please them all when it comes to what we’re having for dinner tonight. The same in this church. I’ve spent the last 13 years seeking to lead this community. But when criticism comes or some people get really loud in telling me what I have to do to gain their approval, I feel that temptation. But let me tell you what I’ve learned.

It’s way easier to love and lead people when you don’t need their approval.

You’ll lead your team better when you don’t need their approval.

You’ll love your kids better when your aim isn’t to please them.

You’ll impact our city in a deeper way if you don’t need applause from its citizens.

You cannot lead people if you have to please them. Leadership, especially in the beginning, is about taking people where they would not choose to go on their own. Otherwise, there would not be a need for leaders.

I’m encouraged to know that every human has struggled with this. Listen to what Paul reveals to the Galatians.

Galatians 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Paul used to try to please people, until he discovered what we’re seeking to discover today. He could not please God and please every person. He had to forfeit one to keep the other. And the same is true for us too.

How do we live this out practically?

Give more attention to your inner circle than your outer circle.

I’ve been learning so much about this idea and I’d love to teach it to you now. I know I have to get my sense of self and my identity from somewhere. Here’s the question I’ve been asking and I want to ask you:

Who are you entrusting yourself to?

entrust – to make someone responsible for caring for something

John 2:23-25 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.

Jesus is teaching us a key lesson – be careful about who you entrust yourself to. But you have to entrust yourself to someone.

1 Peter 2:23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

What does this mean? It means that when they were trying to confer an identity on Jesus, he didn’t entrust himself to their opinions or threats. He kept entrusting himself to his heavenly Father – the one who knows the whole truth about him.

We’ve spent too long entrusting ourselves to the outer circle – the crowds, the culture, the people who don’t even know us. Let’s aim our lives to please God and let’s give more attention to the inner circle than the outer circle.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Faith in Jesus today.

Free from living for the crowds.

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