How cool would it be to go through a week, a month, or a year out from under the control of what someone thinks about you?
One of the more common entanglements you’ll run into with people is what the Bible calls the fear of man (Proverbs 29:25). Sometimes you’ll hear folks talk about it as being comfortable in your skin. Proverbs teach us that if you’re not comfortable in your skin, you’re in a trap of your making.
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe. – Proverbs 29:25
The key to overcoming the damaging control of others is to have an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. If I’m putting my “state of being” in anything other than Christ, my strength and comfort level will never be more significant than the power of the thing that controls me.
If I am placing my “state of being” in the person and work of Jesus Christ, my strength and comfort levels are transcendent (Philippians 4:13). There is no higher power, force, or opposing entity that can subdue the King of kings and Lord of lords.
In Christ, you have something better than worldly wisdom, wealth, or fame. This concept raises a few questions for you to consider. Would you like to be comfortable in your skin? Would you like to be completely untethered from the opinion of others? Would you like to be secure? If you do, then be assured that you can get there. Perhaps you could say soon,
Hi, my name is (fill in your name), and because of the regenerative force of the gospel, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the illumination of the Word of God, and the empowering favor of the grace of God, I’m perfectly comfortable in my skin.
Wouldn’t it be great never to have to live in fear of displeasing someone or being over-guilty when someone disapproves of you? To be free from man’s opinion, while living securely in the reality of God’s pleasure in you, because of the work of the Son, should be the goal for any Christian.
To do this, you will have to come to terms with what some call a “works mentality.” This kind of thinking pesters you into believing that what you do is what matters most—that you can’t be right with God or others unless you behave in a certain way.
Believing your works matter the most is usually the nut that the fearful person must crack if they want to be free from man’s opinion. It does not matter who you are performing for; it will never be enough for you to experience unconditional acceptance.
Instructional Video on Overcoming Fear of Man
If you embrace the “yo-yo mentality” that your performance is the way to find acceptance, you’re barking up the wrong tree. You will be forever trying to figure out your best response that will fill your craving for “most favored status” among your peers.
God accepts you just as you are, warts and all. He receives you based on the finished works of His Son, not your lowly, earthly offerings. You can’t please Him with your human-centered actions. You will receive His praise when you accept the works of His Son.
Once you accept the labors of Jesus and stop striving or positioning yourself as though your works matter most of all, you can be free and untethered from striving for favorable opinions from others. There is rest for the person who is resting in the works of Christ alone.
This attitude does not mean you don’t have to ever change, or that you do not have to be obedient to the teaching of the Word of God. It means that your obedience is not to gain His good favor, but desire to obey is a response to His excellent approval that is already on your life.
You’re not working to find acceptance, but you’re working because you’re accepted. Obedience is an expression of gratitude for what God did for you, not so you can change His opinion to a more favorable one. If you have accepted the works of Jesus, the Father has a plenary, wonderful, and satisfying opinion of you.
In like manner, real friends imitate God similarly (Ephesians 5:1). They do not like you because of what you have or what you can do for them. They like you because they want to imitate their Lord: God is love, and so are real biblical friends. To have a friendship that is dependent on your performance is not the biblical definition of friendship.
Biblical friends are fellow beggars, who need the grace of God. They have benefited from that grace, and because of that, they can extend grace to each other. Biblical friends do not hold the relationship as a ransom—you meet my expectations, and I will like you. A biblical friend likes you because it is a choice, not based on your performance. Grace-based friendship is a picture of our grace-based gospel.
As an expression of gratitude for the friendship, you do biblical things for your friend like being kind, protective, generous, or expressing gratitude for each other. You don’t do these things as a bargaining chip designed to hold the friendship in place, but because you want to reciprocate with the same grace that has been extended to you by them.
And when your biblical friendships get rocky, you persevere because you did not base the bond on works, but grace. Just like your relationship with God, it is in these moments that the redemptive nature of the friendship comes into view.
Being comfortable with God and others begins with Christ. Before you can ever become comfortable in your skin, you have to find your comfort zone. And that comfort zone is in Christ alone.
Once you are “ensconced in Christ” and are maturing in that relationship, you should be gradually freed from opinion seeking. If you do not experience freedom from the opinions of others, you need to look no further than the dynamics of your relationship with Christ.
There are many Christians who are still heavily influenced by their culture, their peers, and other people like spouses, employers, or authority figures. Being insecure around others or overly influenced by others communicates a theological breakdown in a person’s soul.
Men are most prone to crave a favorable opinion from others based on their vocation, affluence, and reputation. Women are more prone to desire an acceptable response from others based on their perceived appearance, physicality, and station in life.
The man or woman who is secure in Christ is free to be himself or herself in any context while seemingly oblivious to what others think about them. This “biblical condition” is not a detached aloofness, but a freedom that is found in Christ alone.
To reach a state of eternal and unwavering approval, you must hang your hat on something other than your looks, money, earning potential, and physical presentation.
Eternal and unwavering approval begins with another kind of righteousness, a righteousness that will always be unearned. To be comfortable in your skin, you must know that you will forever be right, never wrong, and completely free from condemnation (Romans 8:1).
There is no way to achieve this “state of being” apart from Christ. A person who has been profoundly accepted by God is thoroughly free. The Scriptures tell us that our behavior will never produce enough rightness to experience a restored relationship with God. We need a different kind of goodness.
For by works of the law, no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. – Romans 3:20
Righteousness comes through belief in a righteous performer, not through your behavior. God has manifested and actualized His righteousness apart from the law. Through Jesus, there is a new way.
But you ask, “Will you be more practical than that? I love Christ, and I know He is the way to freedom, but I don’t know how to break from the bondage of fear and rest in His alternate righteousness.”
Here are four things that I recommend you pray about so you can be free. Take these things to the Lord and begin attacking your fear of disapproval—your striving for acceptance.
Justification and Sanctification Compared
If you are a Christian, you are justified by His grace. You have been declared not guilty in God’s court of law. It does not get any better than this. You are a free man or woman in Christ.
In justification, there is nothing you can do. It is something that is done to you by Another. It is a gift from God. Justification is a positional condition—it is who you are in Christ, based on the works of Christ.
Though it costs you nothing, it cost Christ His righteous life: He died for your sins. God, being a just God, declared an offering to satisfy His holy demands. Jesus Christ fully absorbed and met God’s righteous requirements, which defines propitiation.
Christ “satisfied” (propitiation) the wrath of God and that sacrifice opened the way for you to have salvation and to be positionally right with God. Stop trying to behave your way to acceptance and start believing in the Savior and His works on the cross.
It is His righteousness. It is His justification. It is His mercy. It is His grace. If you have accepted the works of Christ, you are born again. At the cross, justice and mercy met, and you saw the righteousness of God demonstrated.