Live for an Audience of One

By Ryan Dawson

I’m an approval addict.  I admit it.  It matters to me too much what people think about me.  I have battled this a long time, actually as long as I can remember.  I remember in grade school, wanting desperately to fit in.  It was a recess ritual that my friends would often recount cool scenes from movies or TV shows they had watched the night before.  But I had to be in bed by 8pm so I wasn’t allowed to see most of these movies or cool shows like Dukes of Hazard & Magnum PI (I know I’m dating myself).  I actually never even saw the movie Jaws when it came out so I was at a real disadvantage that next day in the playground, when all the talk was about this blockbuster movie.  But I was a smart kid and a good listener.  By the second recess I had picked up enough about this movie that I was able to say to other kids:  “Hey wasn’t that cool when Jaws jumped on the boat and tore that guy in half”, or something like that.  I don’t think my friends were any the wiser.  

Playing hockey as a goalie at Carleton didn’t help much with overcoming this need for approval.  I relished wearing my CU Hockey jacket around campus, and I waited anxiously for the school newspaper to come out so I could see my name in the sports section.  Some weeks the report of my play was glowing and on other weeks not so much, which made for a bumpy ride when you are looking for affirmation from your performance.   But committing my life to Christ during this time really helped me better understand my identity in Christ.  I learned that God loved me in spite of my poor performance because of what Jesus has done.  This was freeing for me on so many levels, but it didn’t fully put to death my need for approval.  

We all struggle with the need for approval.  We want people to like us, admire us, and enjoy being with us and it can drive us to seek approval to our peril.  Most of our challenges in life come from having a wrong view of ourselves and a wrong view of God.  Finding our identity in Christ is so important if we want to experience a flourishing life.  

I think it must be an act of severe mercy that God has put me in the place of being a pastor because I get the awesome privilege of speaking most weeks to a great congregation about the promises of God.  Every week as I stand and deliver, I need to remind myself that I’m not speaking for the approval of people.  I’m simply trying to be faithful as a “workman approved who correctly handles the word of truth.”  Every week my fleshly need for approval is staring me in the face as I look out on the congregation.   Some days you feel like you hit it out of the park and on other days you want to slink off the stage.  I need to remember that ultimately I have an Audience of One.  The truth in this is that the only one in the audience I need approval from is Jesus, and guess what, I already have it.  That’s what grace has done for me.  God doesn’t approve of me because of my performance, He approves of me because of Jesus’ performance, and Jesus was perfect!

Your approval before God doesn’t come from your performance for God.  Whether you work in the trades, for the government, in IT, are a stay home mom or dad, teacher, student, athlete, ministry worker, or you are retired; God loves you and you have His full glowing approval because of your trust in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  There is nothing you can do to make God love you more than He does this very moment - nothing!  You don’t need to perform for Him or work for His approval.  You have it - period!  This is the reality of grace that we all need to rest in today.  

Ephesians 1:3-8 helps us with this:  "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us."

So as it turns out I’m actually a recovering approval addict.  I’m learning to trust the words of God more and more as I live my life in grace, recognizing my Audience of One loves me more than anything.  He loves you like that too!  
Blessings, Ryan

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