February 2, 2017

Pleasing God

The question today is, “How can I please God?” If I could ask a dozen people, I might get a dozen answers.

Some would say God is pleased when people live an upright, moral life. However, God says we all fall short. Trying to please anyone whose standards are so high that no one can reach them is a futile and frustrating task. God has high standards, but He knew we would never reach them. His plan was not to drive me toward perfectionism, but to show me that I cannot get there.

“Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” (Galatians 3:21–22)

Trying to please God by obeying His law misses the point of the law.
Others might say God is pleased when I separate myself from this sinful world, but Paul said to do that, I would have to leave this world! (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). There is a sense that I’m not to associate with sinners or participate in what they are doing, but anyone can do that — without dealing with their own sin. Sin comes from the heart, not from hanging around sinful people. When questioned about eating certain foods, Jesus said . . .

"It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person . . . . what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person . . . .” (Matthew 15:11–20)

Pleasing God is far less complicated than trying to remember and keep a mass of rules or trying to avoid all things sinful. The Bible says the place to start is simply believing Him . . .

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

But is that simple? I can easily believe that Jesus died to save me from my sin, but does that belief have any effect on how I live? The tests of faith are outlined in 1 John and all of them relate to practice more than proclamation . . .

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” (1 John 3:1–5)

Faith believes that God is in the process of transforming my life AND because I believe Him, I desire to cooperate with what He is doing. To fight the transformation process is a declaration that denies faith and does not please God.

Faith believes that God loves me and therefore I must return that love and demonstrate it by my actions toward others . . .

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth . . . . And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 John 3:16–24)

People of faith love God and show it by loving people. Faith and love go together; as do love and action. No one is pleased with a declaration of love that does absolutely nothing to show it. God is pleased by faith that is visible. As someone once said, “Share the Gospel (the message of faith) with everyone, and when necessary use words.”

Lord Jesus, You ask me to trust You with all of life, and as Scripture says, this is the way to please You. I’m still learning, yet how pleased I would be if I put a smile on Your face today.

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