The Love of Man's Praise

We read that “among the chief rulers many believed on Christ; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” [John 12:42–43]

These unhappy men were evidently convinced that Jesus was the true Messiah. Reason, and intellect, and mind, and conscience, obliged them secretly to admit that no one could do the miracles which He did, unless God was with Him, and that the preacher of Nazareth really was the Christ of God. But they had not courage to confess it. They dared not face the storm of ridicule, if not persecution, which confession would have entailed. And so, like cowards, they held their peace and kept their convictions to themselves.

Their case, it may be feared, is a sadly common one. There are thousands of people who know far more in religion than they act up to. They know they ought to come forward as decided Christians. They know that they are not living up to their light. But the fear of man keeps them back. They are afraid of being laughed at, jeered at, and despised by the world. They dread losing the good opinion of society and the favorable judgment of men and women like themselves. And so they go on from year to year, secretly ill at ease and dissatisfied with themselves – knowing too much of religion to be happy in the world and clinging too much to the world to enjoy any religion.

Faith is the only cure for soul ailments like this. A believing view of an unseen God, an unseen Christ, an unseen heaven, and an unseen judgment-day – this is the grand secret of overcoming the fear of man. The expulsive power of a new principle is required to heal the disease. “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). Let us pray for faith, if we would conquer that deadly enemy of souls, the fear of man, and the love of man’s praise. And if we have any faith, let us pray for more. Let our daily cry be, “Lord, increase our faith.” We may easily have too much money or too much worldly prosperity; but we can never have too much faith.

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on John'

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