In the Christian life, it is essential that our confidence be derived from the work of redemption as revealed in the Word of God. Our sense of confidence springs from the inner value system of the heart. What Christians truly find their confidence in often comes through where their fears and joys lie. For example, if we find ourselves engrossed in the opinion of others and concerned with garnering more favor with those perceived as powerful or influential, that is likely where we’ve derived our sense of confidence. Scripture calls this the fear of man.

In Matthew 15, the Pharisees come to Jesus and begin to rebuke His disciples, but they’re really targeting Him. They’re threatened by the power and anointing Jesus is walking in. They come and say, “You’re not following the rules. You’re not operating within the religious construct that You’re supposed to” (paraphrased). They’re offended at Him because they’re threatened.

In the true fashion of Jesus’ debate style, He answers them by asking them a question, “Why do you transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?You draw near to Me with your mouth, and you honor Me with your lips, but your heart is far from Me” (paraphrased).

Here, Christ exposes the value system of the Pharisees. In making the traditions of men doctrine, they had forsaken the most important issue—the condition of their heart. They were doing and saying the right things to honor God, but love didn’t exist inside. It was empty.

Every Black Friday, my parents, two sisters, cousin, and all our families go purchase a Christmas tree. It’s a tradition. The kids run around laughing (or crying) and playing hide-and-seek. Opinions fly as to how tall or fat the tree should be. Inspections are made to ensure the trunk doesn’t look green because even the kids know this indicates the tree has been spray-painted green. Oh, the horror!

Traditions can be good and often contribute a sense of belonging, but ultimately they’re meant to direct us into something. The traditions of church or holidays or religious ceremonies are only good in the ways that they direct our hearts into love for Christ. Issues arise when traditions become the goal. For example, we don’t worship our Christmas tree, we worship Christ. Though it seems silly when stated like this, what’s not so obvious is when Christian confidence is derived from affiliation with a particular institution (i.e. religious or political). How often does the confidence of the church rise and fall on the waves of an election cycle? How bolstered do we feel when our denomination or religious stream “tells off the other guys”?

Often these affiliations easily build an idol when the Lord wants an altar. An idol is something that parades as God, whereas an altar is where man meets with God to worship Him. The place of an altar is not the place where you firstly get, but the place where you firstly give. The Pharisees made a sport of the traditions of men, turning them into idols; here they received carnal praise from others and derived a sense of self-righteousness. Jesus wasn’t having it then, and He isn’t having it now.

The Pharisees were exalting the traditions of men as high as the commandment of the Lord. Their sense of value and purpose didn’t lie in a heart fully given to God but in the ordinances and particulars of the law. It mattered more that others saw them following the rituals of tradition than the God of Abraham approving of the condition of their heart.

Paul warned the church in Colossae of this in Colossians 2:8. He said, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men.”

The religious traditions of man have no power to transform the heart; nor is the Christian
superior because of belonging to a certain political party. Christian confidence must be derived from the grace of God given through the cross. Every time our confidence is found because of proximity in something we can control, we’re in the wrong spirit. We’re in the fear of man.

The gospel is the answer to all of this, Paul says in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation (emphasis added).” If you will allow me to put this in my own words, Paul is essentially saying, “I derive my sense of confidence from the gospel of Christ. In His grace alone is found the power for my salvation. Therefore, His redemptive work is the foundation I build my confidence upon.”

Pray this prayer: Lord, I repent for deriving my confidence from the opinions of others. I repent for finding my sense of worth in religious tradition. I repent for finding my source of righteousness in a political party. These are idols that I refuse to worship. I turn to you, Christ. You are my salvation and hope. Your work through the cross is where I derive my sense of confidence. Give me grace to grow in the understanding of the work of redemption, that I would find my joy in You alone.

In what area(s) are you challenged to rely on Jesus and oppose the fear of man?

Isaac Bennett shares more about this topic in Life in the Spirit. Watch his full message here >>

Isaac Bennett

Lead Pastor, Forerunner Church

Isaac and his wife, Morgan, are full-time intercessory missionaries who serve at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri. They have five children. Isaac is the lead pastor at Forerunner Church and an instructor at the International House of Prayer University. The Bennetts’ heart is to see day-and-night prayer established across the earth and the next generation called into wholehearted love for Jesus.

Important Update

It is with heavy hearts that we inform you that the Spring 2024 semester was the final expression of IHOPU.