If my heart is motivated by the approval of others—if that is my mindset, influencing the way I live—my loyalties will be divided. I’ll always be striving to please someone other than Jesus.
A few years after the apostle Paul was converted, he went to the church in Jerusalem to try to join the disciples there. “But they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26).
The apostles knew Paul’s reputation as a persecutor. “[I] was unknown by face unto the churches of Judea which were in Christ: but they had heard only, that he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed” (Galatians 1:22–23).
Barnabas helped the apostles get over their fear of Paul, and they offered him fellowship. But Paul decided to itinerate among the Gentiles. Indeed, Paul is careful to describe his calling very clearly. He states that it came “not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” (Galatians 1:1).
He then adds emphatically: “I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. . . . I conferred not with flesh and blood” (1:11–12, 16).
What Paul is saying here applies to all who desire to have the mind of Christ: “I didn’t have to read books or borrow men’s methods to get what I have. I received my message, my ministry and my anointing on my knees. I tell you, these things came while I was shut in with the Lord, interceding and fasting. Any revelation of Christ I have comes from the Holy Spirit, who abides in me and leads my life. I cannot allow myself to follow the trends and devices of others.”
In fact, Paul points out that before he ever considered going back to Jerusalem, “I went into Arabia” (1:17). He’s saying, in other words: “I didn’t get my revelation of Christ from the saints in Jerusalem. Instead, I went to the desert to have Christ revealed to me. I spent precious time there, being emptied of self, hearing and being taught by the Holy Spirit.”
Please understand: Paul wasn’t some proud, arrogant preacher. He had a servant’s heart and had emptied himself of all ambition, finding total satisfaction in Christ. Paul wouldn’t need a single person to show him how to preach Christ, or how to win sinners to the gospel. The Holy Spirit was his teacher!