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The failure of making decisions just for outward appearances has corrupted the Church, destroyed vibrant movements of God, and placed men into positions of leadership that simply shouldn’t be there. When Paul warned the Galatians of starting well but finishing in the flesh, he no doubt had Pharisaical man-pleasing “so-called leadership” in mind. Instead of living whole, honest, and authentic lives, many spiritual leaders today have only chosen to live for outward appearances. They make their decisions based on optics. How will it look? How will people respond? What will people think?  These questions almost always lead to decisions that are deceitful, disingenuous, and destructive. It’s not spiritual leadership. It’s a flesh-filled power trip.  God is not a part of it.

Externals. If we’re not careful in our worship, fellowship, and friendships, and yes, even in our leadership, we will focus on the externals more than what matters most. This almost always ends disastrously.

Is that why you answered the call to follow and serve Jesus, to see things end disastrously? Or did you step into the sacrificial life of following Jesus to see lives changed and forever renewed by the grace of Jesus? I’m sure it was the latter.

The great mistake of the first-century religious rulers was their wholesale spiritual disconnect from the God they served. They replaced intimacy with religion. They replaced closeness with distant rituals. They became masters in outwardly appearing to worship God while inwardly, they were spiritually dead. Jesus gave them one of the strongest rebukes recorded in the Bible.

Matthew 23:23–28 (NKJV) “”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

They became “masters of the ministry” instead of “servants of the King.” This is something you must choose to avoid. You cannot do both. It’s one or the other.

When we focus on ourselves and how things look to others, we have lost sight of what matters: intimacy with God and obedience to His Word. We have failed when our relationship with Him becomes secondary to anything else. And when our obedience is based on anything other than a desire to please Him, many will be hurt by our lack of submission to Jesus.

Question yourself today: Am I more concerned with how things look or being obedient to God? The answer to that question will determine whether you live for externals or internals. And it will also show you where your priorities lie.

You must re-evaluate your life if you put anything before your relationship with God. He should be first in everything. And when He is, the rest will fall into place. You won’t have to worry about how things look because you’ll be focused on Him and His righteousness instead. So ask yourself today: What is more important, my relationship with God or how things look? And then decide to live for Him alone.

Before answering that question, you need to understand what it means to have a relationship with God.

A relationship with God is not just a one-time event like getting baptized or joining a church. It’s a daily choice to follow Him. It’s a decision to obey His Word. And it’s a commitment to walk with Him through everything life throws your way.

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