Of all the strange stories making news over the weekend, this was perhaps the strangest. A worker went inside an ATM in Corpus Christi to repair the locking mechanism of the door. It shut behind him, locking him in.
He didn’t have his phone with him, so he started feeding notes into the receipt dispenser asking for help. Most customers thought his notes were a prank, but someone finally called the police. They kicked down the door, freeing the man.
Imagine this event as a parable: people are locked inside the materialism of our culture. They need help escaping their prison for the freedom found only in Jesus. How will we respond?
I was reading Jeremiah 1 and came to this statement from God about Israel: “I will declare my judgments against them, for all their evil in forsaking me” (v. 16a). What “evil”? “They have made offerings to other gods and worshiped the works of their own hands” (v. 16b).
What was Jeremiah to do in response? “But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you” (v. 17a). Note that the prophet must say “everything” he hears from God, whether his message will be popular or unpopular. The Lord anticipated this concern, continuing: “Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you” (v. 17b). “Dismayed” translates a Hebrew word that means to be “terrified.”
As I studied these words, this paradoxical insight came to me: we need not fear people unless we fear them.
If we fear the Lord more than we fear people, we can count on divine protection and power. But if we fear what people think of us more than what God thinks of us, he will bring judgment designed to bring us to repentance and renewed faith in him.
Now it’s our turn to be Jeremiah to our culture. So many in America have forsaken the Lord, following other religions and worshiping their possessions and achievements. Everyone we know deserves to know what God says about the issues we face. God is calling us to get ready, arise, and speak his truth in love.
Before you do, however, ask yourself: Am I worried more about the opinion of people or the judgment of God?
It’s easy to choose the former. The rejection of people is immediate and painful; the judgment of God seems far-off and intangible. If we disobey our Father, we know that he will forgive our sin when we confess it (1 John 1:9).
Here’s what’s wrong with that logic: when we put people ahead of God, we harm them. They need a word of truth from the Lord or he would not call us to deliver it. We also harm our Father by dishonoring him with our disobedience. And we harm ourselves by forfeiting the protection and blessing he can give only to those who position themselves to receive his best.
In short, putting the opinions of people ahead of the word of God is a lose—lose—lose proposition. Believing and speaking the truth of Scripture is a win—win—win decision.
Jonathan Edwards made seventy life resolutions. Two summarize all the rest: “Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.”
Jim Denison, Ph.D., speaks and writes on cultural and contemporary issues. He produces a daily column which is distributed to more than 113,000 subscribers in 203 countries. He also writes for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Post, Common Call, and other publications.