This is Lesson 2 of 6 in the Cleanse women’s series.
Let’s just say it: we are all acceptance junkies. We post pictures on social media, wear certain clothes, buy certain cars, or spend hours at the gym seeking the approval of the watching world. Many of us fall into a trap of constantly living life based on how others want us to. We buy and do and say things in order to gain approval. Our audiences might look different – a boss or a mother-in-law or a friend – but if the choices we’re making are for someone else other than God, we need to evaluate them.
The more we continue to seek the approval of whoever is watching, the more we compromise ourselves. When we live to please others, we are creating an idol out of acceptance. Desiring to be accepted by others, instead of focusing on God’s acceptance, pulls us away from following God.
Jeremiah was tempted to be a people-pleaser, too
The prophet Jeremiah understood the struggle we feel to be accepted. He also worried about what others thought of him. Being a prophet in Jeremiah’s day meant you had to stand up to (and against) the king, expose rampant sins, and warn about coming judgement. Prophets were often hated and Jeremiah was no exception.
In Jeremiah 1, we can see that Jeremiah feared what would happen if he followed God and became his prophet. He feared losing his reputation and afraid he might be rejected if he spoke for God. When God called Jeremiah to be a prophet. Jeremiah’s first response was:
Jeremiah 1:6 “O Sovereign Lord, I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”
Out of fear of what others might think, he claims he is too young and can’t speak. God sees through Jeremiah’s excuse and gets right to the heart of the issue, saying:
Jeremiah 1:8 “…don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
God understands Jeremiah’s fear of what people will think, and reminds him that he can have courage to obey because he has God on his side.
Following others leads us away from God
It’s natural to want others to accept us. But chasing the approval of others often leads to bad choices and moral compromises. The more we try to impress others, the less we worry about impressing God. God continually warns his people in the Old Testament through prophets like Jeremiah that they shouldn’t follow other nations who did not recognize him as their God. But God’s people didn’t listen to him.
2 Kings 17:15 They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, “Do not do as they do.”
When we are seeking the approval of those around us, we stop following after God, and it can lead us away from God.
Think about compromises you make when you are trying to seek someone else’s approval – you might charge too much on your credit card, drink more than you mean to at a party, make sexual compromises, gossip, the list can go on and on. Our need for acceptance drives us away from God. When God asks us to follow him, we need to trust that it is ultimately what is best for us. .
Tear down your idol of acceptance
Once we recognize the acceptance idol in our lives, we need to tear it down and replace it with God’s truth. God gives us so many reassurances to help us overcome our idol of acceptance. He promises that once we have trusted in Jesus for our salvation, we are and will always be accepted by God, no matter what. Jesus says in John 6:37 that he will never reject anyone who comes to him. Remembering we are accepted by God should help us to release our need to be accepted by others.
Like we mentioned above, God’s response to Jeremiah in Chapter 1 should also encourage us. When God calls us to something, he is with us in it. We’re never alone in our journey with God. If others can’t understand or accept us for who we are as followers of Jesus, we know God still does.
God has called each of us to follow him, just like he called Jeremiah. When we decide to follow Jesus, it means we are deciding to live our lives to please him more than anyone else. Sometimes following Jesus is hard to do. But don’t get side tracked. We’re not always going to be accepted by everyone. But we will always be accepted by God as we follow Jesus, and he will always be with us.
Cleanse yourself from the idol of acceptance
The need for acceptance pulls us away from God, and causes compromise. We need to rid ourselves of this idol and cleanse our thoughts and actions so that we are focused on pleasing God alone.
Jeremiah 4:14 O Jerusalem, cleanse your heart that you may be saved.
Begin with evaluating your actions from the past few days. What choices have you made that were based on what others might think? Talk with God about those choices and ask him to lead you to think clearly about how he wants you to live, instead of worrying about living for others. Start the homework for the lesson and Do the Cleanse. Also, find a friend, small group, or mentor and have a conversation using the questions below.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- What are some common ways that you see people trying to gain approval from those around them? Give some specific examples.
- Was there ever a time when you didn’t feel accepted by someone close to you? How did it make you feel? Did you do something to try to earn their acceptance? Did it work?
- Jeremiah was afraid to become God’s mouthpiece for fear of what others might think. When have you spoken up for God even when it wasn’t popular? Have you missed opportunities to speak for God because of fear?
- Read John 6:37. What does this verse say about Jesus and you? How should we respond?
- Tell about a time when your desire to be accepted caused you to compromise or make a poor choice. How do you think the truth of God’s acceptance can help you to act differently in the future?
- Read Romans 12:2. What are “patterns of this world”? What would it look like to “transform our minds” especially in regards to the idol of acceptance?
- Luke 12:1-2 and other passages talk about fearing man vs. fearing God. What does it mean to “fear man” and what does it mean to “fear God”? Why should we fear the Lord, but not fear man? (Learn about how God is a jealous God)
- What is a decision you are facing (new car, dating someone, having another child, school options, work decisions, time management, etc.) How can you use this topic to help you follow God with that decision instead of worrying about what anyone else might think?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.
Want More? (further study on this topic)
Watch the videos and read the passages. Journal your thoughts and insights as you learn who God is and evaluate if he’s the only one you worship.
Day 1: More about worldly acceptance
Watch – “Standing up for God”
Read Galatians 1:1-10. Paul is writing a letter to a church he started, which he has heard is leaving the truth of the gospel and following other ideas.
- Why are the Galatians leaving the truth of the gospel? Are there times you have doubted your own faith because of others?
- Read verse 10 – what does Paul call himself? Whose approval have you been seeking? What does your time, energy, money, words, actions say about who you serve – God or someone else? Do you need to come back to seeking God’s approval above everything else?
Memorize this verse – Galatians 1:10
Day 2: More about God’s acceptance
Watch – “Biblical Love and Codependency”
Read Ephesians 3:16-19. Rewrite verse 18 in your own words. Spend some time praying and journaling about these verses. How can we walk in God’s love more and worry about other’s acceptance less?
Memorize this verse – Ephesians 3:18
Day 3: Do the Cleanse
Journal – Make a list of choices you make because you are seeking others approval. Use the 4 step process below to help you overcome this idol in your life.
- Fix your eyes on Jesus. We need to remember God has already accepted us and Jesus is ultimately the only opinion we need to worry about. (John 6:37, Zephaniah 3:17, Ephesians 3:18)
- Go to the Bible. Find verses that remind you that God calls you to be different. Choose some key verses and memorize them. When you are tempted to act a certain way to impress someone else, revisit the verses. (Galatians 1:10, Romans 12:2, Micah 6:8, Isaiah 8:11)
- Commit to prayer before action. Before you make a decision that might be based on how someone else views you, take time to pray. Ask God to enable you to live boldly for him, and seek his approval first. (Jeremiah 1:8, Psalm 37:5, Isaiah 55:6)
- Seek wisdom and accountability. Seek out a mentor that is living to please Jesus and not others. Talk to someone about your struggle to be accepted, and how you often compromise. Ask for prayer and accountability, especially regarding situations where you have been living for the wrong things. (2 Corinthians 1:11, James 5:16)