Don’t Try to Impress God

One of the easiest traps into which believers fall is the trap of trying to impress God. We do this in quite a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons.

One way we try to impress God is by trying to pray in a certain way. This is a little difficult to describe, but some of the elements include using flowery language because we think it will be more easily heard (important caveat: if the translation you use is the KJV, and you are rightly trying to pray God’s Word back to Him, then your language will inevitably sound archaic, and in this case that is excusable); not being honest in our prayers (because we think God can’t handle the truth); trying to maintain always a perfect facade in front of others, no matter how torn up we are inside (forgetting that God sees the heart); and using fake emotion to try to manipulate ourselves into greater piety through an emotional jolt.

Another way we try to impress God is through busyness. I am more and more convinced that there are lots of people out there, even in the church (and maybe especially in the church!) who think that they will either get into heaven by busyness, or will get a substantially greater reward of another kind by being busy. Busyness is not inherently bad, but which kind of busyness are we espousing and for what reason? Being busy about our Father’s business for His glory is one thing. Being busy to try to impress (especially so that God will tell us how lucky He is to have us around) is no good at all.

Often going along with this busyness is an attitude of impressiveness. We try to take on a persona that is fake to anyone who knows us really well, but quite effective at making us feel important. It is only a small step from here to the belief that we are indispensable to God.

Of course, these ways of trying to impress God are often really an attempt to mask ourselves from the real problem, which is that we fear man. Putting on an aura of perfection serves as an excellent cover-up to the fact that when it comes to God, we really feel empty and lifeless. Sometimes it is even more than a cover-up. We can use our aura of perfection as a substitute for a good relationship with God. Or, we can often think that impressing our neighbors is a way of impressing God. Yes, there are people just this deluded on planet earth.

It has been said often, and quite correctly, that one of the most amazing things about grace is that God sees everything inside us and loves us anyway. He knows the worst bits, the parts we keep from almost everyone (sometimes even our spouses), and He still loves His children.

Remember that Jesus’ blood is more powerful to cleanse than any sin is to stain. As has also often been pointed out, thinking that our sin is unforgivable is a form of spiritual pride (“Jesus’ blood would have to be extra special to take care of my sins, because they’re so much greater than anyone else’s”).

It might sound trite, but it is still good advice: get real with God. Be honest with Him in your prayers. I have a sneaking suspicion that He can handle it. Read Psalm 88, which is an excellent lesson in honesty with regard to prayer.

13 Comments

  1. John Harutunian said,

    October 2, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Great thoughts! A hearty thank you from this [Continuing] Anglican.

  2. Phil Derksen said,

    October 2, 2015 at 11:02 am

    I’ll second John – excellent, and in my case convicting thoughts.

  3. Truth2Freedom said,

    October 2, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.

  4. roberty bob said,

    October 2, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    ” . . . thinking that our sin is unforgivable is a form of spiritual pride.”
    — greenbaggins

    In my experience counseling others I have found little evidence of any form [what form did you have in mind?] of spiritual pride in those who felt that they were beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness. Instead I found people who were deeply shamed by something they had done, who were filled with remorse and a thousand regrets. They felt quite undeserving of any degree of mercy or grace; thus they could not even forgive themselves. Honestly, I do not see spiritual pride in this common scenario. I do see an opportunity to comfort those who are truly contrite by assuring them of our Lord’s amazing grace which comes with the “better blood” of Christ. Those who claim membership in the Chief of Sinners Club [Apostle Paul, King David, John Newton, Tullian Tchvidjian, and so forth] never cease to be astonished that their sins could ever have been forgiven. So they say!

  5. Dennis said,

    October 4, 2015 at 1:05 am

    Lane,

    Great post.

  6. Kevin said,

    October 5, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Great post Mr Baggins.

  7. October 7, 2015 at 12:01 am

    […] the Presbyterian Church in America and is pastor of Lebanon Presbyterian Church in Winnsboro, S.C. This article appeared on his blog and is used with […]

  8. Ron said,

    October 24, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    Was just getting tired of checking back and always seeing “7 replies.”

  9. roberty bob said,

    October 25, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    That’s great, number eight!

  10. Kevin said,

    October 31, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Robert bob said ” instead I found people who were deeply shamed by something they had done, who were full of remorse and a thousand regrets. They felt undesreving of any mercy and grace” did you tell them they are undesreving of God’s grace, and always will be. When people understand they can never measure up to God’s standard, thats when they trust in the mercy and favor of God only. Invite them on the mercy train, its going to Zion. God bless.

  11. roberty bob said,

    October 31, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    to Kevin at #10 . . .

    I was referencing persons who, due deeply regrettable sin, believed themselves beyond the reach of forgiveness. They could not believe that God would forgive them, as they were unworthy of it. You are correct to point out that everyone is unworthy — and undeserving — of the Lord’s forgiveness, and that is a truth I would accentuate to those who feel that they are beyond the reach of forgiveness. Yes, I would invite them onto the mercy train.

    A good gospel reference to the kind of person who feels unworthy in the presence of the Lord is the centurion of Luke 7:7. Also, the Apostle Peter, who, upon being shamed by his own faithlessness, said to our Lord, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” At that moment, I believe, he felt unworthy — and perhaps beyond the reach of the Lord’s forgiveness. This is not a matter, then, of being filled with spiritual pride. Quite the opposite.

  12. Alan J. Perrick said,

    November 1, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    Psalm 88 is a very good one.

    A.J.P

  13. Ken Christian, Jr. said,

    November 5, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks, Lane. Great stuff!


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