Honor of men vs. honor of God
All believers in the true God and in Jesus Christ whom He sent are aware of a sobering truth — “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). We recognize that honoring God with our lips is useless if our hearts are far from Him (Matt. 15:8). God is pleased by those whose faith contains substance and not just form. The shocking truth is that people can believe in God and Jesus Christ and the salvation that comes only from them and yet not even be “on God's program”. Many religious people of Jesus' day fit in this category:
You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life (John 5:39-40).
In light of Jesus' statements to the effect that many would be deceived (Matt. 24:11), how can we be sure that we have truly come to Jesus and are on the path of life, that we are under Jesus' blood and therefore in the Father's grace? One vital key is provided in the words of Jesus quoted above — we must do the will of God. Which means that we will do exactly the same things Jesus did, following in His footsteps and framing our lives in accord with His example in all things. (Do we, for example, observe biblical laws? Jesus did.) But the things we do are of little use if we are merely conforming to a standard. Worshiping God “in spirit and in truth” requires a complete mental overhaul, involving our total thought processes — being transformed by the “renewing of our minds” (Rom. 12:2).
So let's reframe the question we are grappling with: how can we know that our thoughts are in the process of transformation? The answer is found in the words that follow those quoted above:
But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who
receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? (John 5:42-44).
The nature of one's faith/belief — whether it be fruitful or dead — is tied to the object of one's giving and receiving of honor. These words of our Lord suggest that the ultimate litmus test of faith is constituted in whom one is trying to impress — man or God. A “true believer”, one who worships God in sincerity and truth, focuses his thoughts wholeheartedly on God, while a “lips believer” worries about what other people think of him, loving the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 14:23).
Jesus goes say far as to imply that it is impossible “to believe” in the saving sense of the word if one is more concerned about praise from man than from God. A little reflection will reveal why. God is glorious beyond all understanding, He is infinite in power, IQ, and love. Humans are the result of His planning and work; they are subject to sin, frailty and death. God is everything, we are nothing. A heart that works to impress pathetic, mortal men rather than to humbly please (not "impress") God is obviously not on God's saving program, no matter how loud its proclamation of devotion. One who dedicates his life to the service of this world's destitute and suffering in the hopes of gaining accolades from men might just as well push rocks uphill with Sisyphus as far as salvation is concerned.
If we wish to receive honor from God, we have a simple biblical guideline on how to do it:
But now the LORD says… those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed (1 Sam. 2:30).
May we frame our entire lives around the pursuit of honoring God and Jesus Whom He sent. If that's our focus, we can be confident that we will one day hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21). What more could one wish for than that?