Have you ever found yourself laboring to win the approval of those around you, whether they are your parents, your kids, your friends, your bosses, or church leaders? Have you ever found yourself acting a particular way to draw the attention of others, exaggerating a story to entertain others, making purchases to impress others, or working hard simply to gain the affirmation of others?
All of us like to be liked by others, and most, if not all of us, are willing to go to extreme measures to win the approval of the important people in our lives. And whether we recognize it or not, many of us take a similar approach to our relationship with God. We attend worship services regularly, give generously, serve tirelessly, and read our Bibles faithfully, all in an effort to win the approval of our Father in Heaven.
There is just one problem: sin. The Bible teaches us that there is no one righteous enough to win the approval of God (Romans 3:10-12). In other words, all of our religious efforts to win the approval of God will short. Our sin has separated us from Him (Isaiah 59:2), made us His enemies (Colossians 1:21), and will ultimately cause Him to reject us when He judges the world (John 12:48).
That is unless we believe the good news contained in Isaiah 53. In this chapter, Isaiah prophesies about the “Suffering Servant” that was to come to deliver God’s people. We of course, know Him as Jesus.
This Suffering Servant had no form, majesty, or beauty to win the approval of others. But not only was Jesus unable to win the approval of others, but he was also despised and rejected by men (53:2-3). Furthermore, Jesus was rejected by God, not because of his sin, but because he chose to bear our sin. Isaiah says he was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (v. 5). While it was us who sinned against God, God chose to lay upon Jesus our sins (v. 6).
God lovingly chose to do this so that we could have our sins removed, be counted as righteous, and be accepted and approved of by God (vv. 5, 10-11). So we see in this chapter of Isaiah a clear picture of the gospel, that Jesus was rejected by God because of our sin, so that we could be accepted by God because of Jesus’ righteousness.
If we believe that to be true, then we will realize that all our striving to win God’s approval through religious works is in vain. Because of what Jesus has done, we no longer have to fear being rejected by God! Because of what Jesus has done, we already have God’s approval! Because of what Jesus has done, all of our religious works become a joyful overflow of a heart that already knows it is loved and accepted by our Heavenly Father!
My prayer is that as we read Isaiah this month, and particularly chapter 53, we would be reminded yet again of what Christ has done for us. I pray that we would leave our religious striving behind, and believe that we already are accepted by God through our faith in Jesus Christ. And that all of our worship attendance, giving, serving, and Bible reading would be out of gratitude for the rejection that this Suffering Servant endured for our sake.