Reviewed by: Mark Sumpter
Date posted: 05/17/2009
Pleasing People: How Not to Be an "Approval Junkie," by Lou Priolo. Published by P&R Publishing, 2007. Paperback, 256 pages, list price $14.99. Reviewed by OP pastor Mark Sumpter.
In John Stott’s The Cross of Christ, we read, "Bought by Christ, we have no business to become the slaves of anybody or anything else. Once we were the slaves of sin; now we are the slaves of Christ, and his service is the true freedom." Freedom through our heavenly Father's gracious act of adoption includes freedom from man-pleasing. Author Lou Priolo aims to get us to understand this.
His book Pleasing People deserves a very high recommendation, and yet a caution. The book gets very high marks for its analysis of the sin of the fear of man. For nearly one hundred pages, the author explores our deceptive ways of self-promotion, self-service, and man-pleasing. The look at biblical passages and quotes from the seventeenth-century pastor Richard Baxter demonstrate the need of the Great Physician's corrective eye surgery that gives liberating and glorious sight! Priolo provides excellent commentary diagnosing man’s foolish ways with respect to hypocrisy, pride, fear of man, seeking of applause, excessive sensitivity to correction, and self-centeredness.
High marks here! Pastors, parents, Bible study leaders, Sunday school teachers, and youth workers, here is your practical guide!
However, readers must be cautioned. The book does not explain God's provision of liberty for believers through justification by faith in Christ, the adopting of his children, and the foundation of his definitive work of sanctification from which the believer moves forward in daily life. In short, the book fails to explicate the doctrine of the believer's union with Jesus Christ. It thoroughly analyzes man's sin, but does not give the same attention to union with Christ, which is the primary basis for the Christian walk. In short, the book doesn't deliver the gospel mail. The author's thorough diagnosis needs the same thoroughness for antidote, healing, and recovery.
Priolo realizes that Pleasing People needs this caution. In his preface, he says: "It is possible to open up this volume at any point and read for pages without any apparent reference to justification by faith, the gospel of Christ or the ministry of the Holy Spirit, but these truths are to be understood throughout." The rhythm of God's indicative and then the imperative, as in Paul's letters, urges us to follow that method of Bible teaching. There are places where the book rightly employs the indicative and the imperative, as on pages 173–75. But the proper context for all of this discussion of the far-reaching temptations of the fear of man is the vital truth about the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, and how we are united to him in them. The book needs this balance of teaching digestible practical help and hope. Such work in the truth, when applied with the Spirit's help, sets men free indeed.