Even Jesus had to battle against temptation. How He responded to Satan’s attempts to tempt Him in the desert can teach us a lot about how to beat the temptation we see on a daily basis. One of the most common temptations that we face as humans is the temptation to define our value by other people’s acceptance of us rather than by what God declares our value to be in Christ. There are so many times when this comes into play in our lives: we might stay quiet about injustices we see because we are scared of how other people might react, or we may internalize and bottle up ways in which we’re hurting because we’re not sure that people would accept us if they knew our true brokenness. This isn’t the life that God meant for us to have.
Read Matthew 4.1–7.
First of all, check out Satan’s phrasing: “If you are the Son of God…” Before Satan even reveals a temptation to us, he will question and challenge our identity in Christ to try and undermine us. If we make sure that our identities are strongly rooted in who we are as sons and daughters of God, temptation won’t have nearly as strong of a foothold in our lives.
The temptation for Jesus to throw Himself off the the highest place on the temple is, at its root, a temptation for Him to do something extraordinary to gain the applause and approval of an audience. It’s a temptation to find His worth in what people thought of Him, instead of in His identity as the Son of God.
It’s normal for us to seek appreciation from others. In fact, it’s healthy. We are called to be servants to others, and if we didn’t care what anyone else thought of us, we’d be narcissists. But what’s not healthy is when we feel a need to seek approval from others and derive our identity and value from what they think. This is applause addiction, an unhealthy concern with the opinions of others and a corrupted desire for approval and acceptance.
Question: In your opinion, what are key differences between the desire to be appreciated and the need for approval? How can you make sure that a healthy desire to be appreciated doesn’t morph into unhealthy applause addiction?
Applause addiction only harms us; it enslaves us and dominates our lives in five major ways.
1. It stunts our spiritual growth.
In John 5.44, Jesus asks, “How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” When we are seeking the approval of other people, seeking the approval of God becomes less important to us. In other words, when other people’s opinions are big priorities in our lives, God’s truth and influence over our lives diminishes.
2. It causes us to forfeit God’s purpose for our lives.
We’re not very good multitaskers: we can’t be focused on what everybody else wants for us and what God wants for us at the same time. Matthew 6.24 tells us that “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” What God has written for our lives is not necessarily what the world wants from us, and if we desire to gain people’s approval, we are sacrificing our true purpose for it.
3. It silences our witness.
When we are fearful of what other people may think of us, we can be scared into silence. How many people haven’t heard about Jesus because we’ve been too worried about how they might react if we share the Gospel with them?
Read John 12.42–43.
When we care about the approval of the people around us, we are in danger of choosing to stay silent when we should be speaking up to tell them about the good news of Jesus’ love.
4. It leads us to sin.
When we attempt to please everybody, we will inevitably give into peer pressure. We’ve all done things that we knew were bad ideas simply because we wanted to be accepted and approved of.
5. It destroys the real us.
When we crave approval, we end up wearing masks to try to fit in. We cover up our true identity—who God created us to be—and trade it in for a fake one that we think will make people like us. If we try to be who everyone else wants us to be, we miss out on what God has for our lives.
Question: In what ways have you seen sin in your life come out of a place of wanting to please people? How has that affected your view of yourself and your identity?
Applause addiction can have some disastrous impacts on our lives, but luckily there are some practical ways to break free of its enslavement. Jesus tells us in John 8.32 that “The truth will set [us] free,” and His word is full of truth to help us do that.
1. Stop believing the lie.
We know that the truth is what sets us free, so we need to start believing it! Instead of believing Satan’s lie that we need everyone’s approval to be happy and that our worth comes from the acceptance of others, we can rest in God’s truth that His approval is the only approval that we truly need. If we are truly in Christ, then we have God’s full approval.
2. Choose to obtain value and identity from God, not from people.
This is the key to Jesus defeating Satan’s temptation in the desert, and the same can be true for us. Jesus’ identity was rooted in being the Son of the Father, and we know that we are also children of God. The true value of something is defined by two things: who made it and what people are willing to pay for it. We know that we were made by a perfect Creator and that He was willing to give up His Son to rescue us. That makes us far more valuable than anything the world attempts to throw at us.
3. Throw the masks away and live for an audience of one.
Instead of pretending to be who we’re not to get people’s approval, we can start making decisions based on who we are in Christ. To truly do this, we should try to step away from every situation, person, or place that would cause us to compromise our identity in Christ. 2 Corinthians 10.18 tells us that the only approval that counts is the Lord’s approval, so we can stop living to get approval anywhere else.
Question: Are there relationships or situations in your life that are causing you to compromise your identity in Christ? What are some of the consequences of those that you can clearly see?
Throughout the week, make it a point to try and distance yourselves from these situations or relationships by getting into the Word and believing truth.