Cross-Bearing for the People Pleaser…

There is no doubt about it.  I am a people pleasing pastor!  I have struggled with this thorn in the flesh for years.  When you boil it all down the ultimate root of my people pleasing struggle is pretty simple; self.  That’s right; it all boils down to me!  Pealing back the layers my motives are twofold.  The first reason is that when I please people I become a great recipient of the accolades of approval!  This pleases ‘self,’ because the accolades of man simply feed this all consuming god of self.  The second reason for my intoxication with the art of people pleasing is that by pleasing others I then can remove myself from possible criticisms by being placed on the good list, thus reducing anxiety.  Feeding my ego and avoiding the pain of criticism is the name of the game!
All is well in the land of ‘self’ and the tactics of people pleasing until I am hit with the cross.  In Matthew 16:25 it says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Lose self?  Lose the tactics of people pleasing?  Wait a minute!
Cross-bearing is the art of dying to self.  Daniel Deutschlander comments on this saying, “cross-bearing self denial is for the sake of Jesus and His Word.  Thus anything that tempts us to turn away from Jesus and His Word is in cahoots with this adulterous and sinful generation.”[1]  Simply put, dying to self is me and my tactics of upholding self ‘decreasing’ and Christ and His Word ‘increasing’ (John 3:30).
So what does this mean for me as a people pleasing pastor?  What it means is that the Holy Spirit through the Word is in the process of crucifying: me (i.e. self), the desires of people pleasing and its tactics.  All so that I may decrease and Christ may increase.  I am learning painfully that dying to self is God’s work by His Spirit through the Word of bringing me to humbleness and submission to the Word of God and not my will or the popular demands of other people.  Daniel Deutschlander says, “It’s all about Christ, not about me.  It’s all about pointing to Christ, the sacrifice for sinners of whom I am chief...  Yes, it’s all about getting lambs to think more and more about Christ and less and less about me.”
As self decreases and Christ increases in the life of a believer what are the implications?  The first is that the need for the accolades of man become futile compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8-9).  When self is continually crucified and buried in Christ, the believer no longer lives by accolade fuel and the centrality of ‘self’ but by faith in the one who loved and died on behalf of the believer (Gal. 2:20).  The second is that as self decreases and Christ increases, one is led by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  One’s conduct, life and integrity are continually being shaped not by what grants kudos or avoids criticism for the sake of ‘self’ but by the uprightness of the scriptures.  Daniel Deutschlander gracefully handles this in saying, “Dying to self is the struggle to deny self and instead to follow Jesus.  It is the struggle to follow him willing, even joyfully, in defiance of the adulterous and sinful generation that still remains in one’s own heart as well as the world…[2]  In other words, dying to self is being crucified into Christ and His cross rather than being crucified into the behaviors and denials of a cultural social norm.  For if we take up a cross other than Christ’s we are in deep trouble. 
Picking up on the language of Colossians 3, dying to self for a people pleaser is simply: the work of God putting off and dethroning ‘self’ of the need for gaining esteem from others.  On the other side of the coin, dying to self is also: the work of God in putting Christ on!  In putting on Christ we are taught to, “…take Christ and His Word seriously in both Law and Gospel.”[3]  The implications of this are that we are called and led by the Holy Spirit to minister both Law and Gospel in love (Ephesians 4:15) regardless and even in defiance of what self, the world and even the church may see as politically or socially correct. 
Cross-bearing… The art of dying to self into Christ.  An art perfected by Jesus and given to us as gift.

[1] Daniel Deutschlander, The Theology of the Cross, His Cross and Ours (Northwestern Publishing, 2008), 31.
[2] Ibid, 30.
[3] Ibid, 30.