Pleasing God

 

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Many wrongly say, “If I’m totally accepted by God through Christ, it is ridiculous to say I should try to please Him”. The reason people say such things is they do not understand the difference taught in the New Testament between our position in Christ and our practical daily living. Also they do not know the difference between us being accepted by grace and not by works and us being rewarded for our post-conversion service to God and works.

The New Testament contains many verses about the importance of pleasing God: 1 Corinthians 7:32, 2 Corinthians 5:9, Galatians 1:10, Colossians 1:10, 3:20, 1 Thessalonians 2:4, 4:1, Hebrews 13:16 and 1 John 3:22. Note each of these verses are written about Christians who were already “accepted in their Beloved Jesus” by God the Father. Each of the above-mentioned five verses relate to practical daily behaviour.

Colossians 1:10 shows Paul prayed that believers may have a walk with God which is: “…fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work…” 1 Thessalonians 4:1 commands “brothers” – born-again believers who were already accepted in Jesus – to please God. 2 Corinthians 5:9 expresses Paul’s words about himself and other believers who already had a perfect position in Jesus Christ before God the Father: “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.”

One false view suggests that if a born-again believer tries to please God, this is a form of legalism which detracts from God’s grace. Legalism involves trying to merit God’s gifts by our good actions. The New Testament reveals God’s grace results in believers being forgiven by God, assured of a place in heaven, saved from eternal punishment and given a perfect position in Christ before God the Father. But 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, Titus 2:11-14 and Romans 6:14 show God’s grace was also given to help believers obey Him, please Him and overcome the rule of sin.

Note even though Jesus Christ was perfectly loved and accepted by God, He still aimed to please God by His every thought, word and action, as John 5:30 and 8:29 reveal. In John 8:29, Jesus said: “…I always do those things that please Him.” Jesus set a perfect example for us to follow. 1 John 2:6 says: “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” Just as Jesus aimed to please God, so must we.

In Hebrews 13:20-21, God promises that Jesus Christ is willing to equip us with His abilities needed to please Him: “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ…” We need to make sure our attempts to please God are based on the power of Jesus Christ living within us by His Spirit.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 shows God regards any effort to please Him not based on Jesus Christ as a waste of time. God does not approve of self-effort and self-help philosophies. Only Jesus Christ perfectly pleased the Father (see John 8:29). By His Spirit, He imparts to us His ability to please God.

If you once belonged to a church which taught you to try to earn salvation by supposedly “pleasing” God by good works, you need to be very careful not to misinterpret what I am teaching here.

Aim to please God not in order to try to merit or deserve salvation. Continually seek to please Him because:

 

·         you love Him (see John 14:15, 21 and 23).

·         it is right. (Sadly, many people these days are only interested in the fulfilment of their needs and wants, not in what God says is right.)

 

Unbelievers do not please God at all

 

The New Testament teaches that unbelievers do not please God at all. Hebrews 11:6 shows that it is impossible for anyone who does not have faith in Him to please Him: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him…”

All believers please God, but to different degrees. Believers please God by the degree they manifest the fruit of Jesus Christ’s Presence in their character, thoughts, words and actions. Good actions are called “good works” in the New Testament.

 

The unconditional and conditional

 

God’s love for all people, including non-Christians, is unconditional. It never changes, no matter how sinful the people are. For example, God loved Adolf Hitler and his murderous “SS” no less than He loved very godly men and women such as Paul, Peter, Deborah, Mary, Smith Wigglesworth and Corrie Ten Boom.

God’s acceptance of people is conditional. Even though His acceptance is totally based on undeserved grace, it only applies to us under the New Covenant if we have Jesus Christ living in us by His Spirit. If we do not have Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we will be sadly but deservedly condemned to eternal punishment. This is even though God loves us. John 3:18 says: “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Our pleasing of God is conditional also. It depends on whether by the Holy Spirit with us, we obey His will, resist and turn from sin.

 

 

Bible Study Questions

 

1.    What New Testament verses reveal the importance of pleasing God in our practical daily behaviour?

2.    Why is it wrong to say it is a form of legalism which detracts from God’s grace when believers try to please Him by their daily living?

3.    Which New Testament verses show Jesus aimed to please God?

4.    What does 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 teach us about our efforts to please God?

5.    Why is it impossible for unbelievers to please Him?

6.    Is His love conditional or unconditional?

7.    On what condition does God accept people?

8.    Is our pleasing of God conditional or unconditional?


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