December 13, 2020 Pleasing God

Pleasing God

Scripture reading: Matthew 3:13-17.


Can you imagine what Jesus must have felt when the words came from heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” As Christians, we have been taught that Christ is God manifested in the flesh. Of course, this is true. Sometimes knowing his divinity makes us forget his humanity. He was like you and I when he walked this earth. He had a family life growing up. He was tempted. He had feelings as you and I have feelings. So, when he heard that the Father was pleased with him. He must have been so happy and peaceful!


Here is an amazing thought: God can be pleased with you! There are two obstacles in knowing this. One obstacle is that, if we understand justification by faith (which every Christian should!), then we may just assume that God is pleased with all Christians. In one sense he is. The blood of Christ covers our sins and God sees our final sanctification at the end of all things. But, we must also realize that both our thought-life and our conduct may either please or displease God. Putting it more simply, some believers please God and some displease God.


So, one obstacle in knowing with certainty that we can please God is mistakenly thinking that we always please him. This is not the case. Think of Peter. He displeased the Lord on more than one occasion. Think of King David. He did, too.


The other obstacle is assuming that we cannot please God. Many believers have a sensitive conscience. They recognize their own failures, their own sins, and their own weaknesses, which are many. They may have struggled to overcome a particular sin and failed so often that they are on the verge of giving up. Being aware of our sinfulness helps to keep us humble. But it may also cause us to presume that we can never please God. This is not true. You can please God!


Let us take a moment to prove that fallen people, like you and me, can please God.


We will soon be celebrating the birth of our Savior. So, this is an appropriate verse to look at. In Luke chapter two he records the words of the angels to the shepherds at our Lord’s birth:


“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” [1]


From the angels’ words, it is clear that God is pleased with some people! He is not just that he is pleased with what some people do (although that is true also), but he is pleased with some people!


Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. [2]


From this encouragement it is made known that God is pleased with certain actions that we do.


Do we not wish to please God? Of course, we do. Those who do not, have not been born anew. This morning I wish to ask and answer only two questions. Why should we please God? And, How can we please God?


[1.] Why should we please God? There are at least three reasons why we should please God. First, we should please God because we love him. Know that there are only two kinds of people in the world. There are those that love God and those that do not. Those that do not love the Lord are cursed:


If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come![3]


Those who we truly love we seek to please. It is most natural and a sign of genuine love when we desire to see the person we love pleased. This is true among human relationships and it is true with God. Those who love God will naturally desire to please him.


Secondly, God is the most worthy Person in the universe. In human affairs, the more important a person is the more we seek to please them, at least if we consider them worthy and important.


In the classic movie, White Christmas, there is an outgoing commander, General Thomas Waverly (played by Dean Jagger), who is appreciated and loved by his troops. Two of them are Captain Wallace (played by Bing Crosby) and Private Phil (played by Danny Kaye). After the war is over Bob Wallace and Phil become famous as entertainers. They start liking two upcoming singers who are sisters. These sisters invite them to the Columbia Inn, a large hotel in Vermont, where they are booked to perform. When Bob and Phil get there they discover that the landlord and owner is their former General, Tom Waverly. They also discover that the hotel is failing and all the General’s money is tied up into it. Because they love the General they do all they can to make it a success. Of course, because they are famous, their help makes all the difference and Columbia Inn becomes a big hit. You see, because Bob and Phil loved the General they desired to please him. His worthiness as a commander only intensified their desire.


God is the most worthy Person there is, so it is so very right to please him!


Thirdly, when we learn that God is pleased with us, it soothes our soul. It lifts our spirit. We sense that all is right with the universe when God is pleased with us! Pleasing God fulfills us! In other words, pleasing God pleases us! What a wonderful, thing that is!


Why should we please God? Because we love him. It is the right thing to do. And, it pleases us to please him!


[2.] How do we please him? Most Christians know the things that please God. When we do good things God is pleased with us. When we share the gospel, God is pleased. When we help the sick, God is pleased. When we resist temptation, God is pleased. When we worship him, God is pleased (because worship is a good thing!). When we read and study God’s word, God is pleased (Ezra 7:10; 2 Tim 2:15; 3:14-16; Col. 1:10). When we love, God is pleased. And, when we give money or needed items to those who need help, God is pleased. Knowing what pleases God is not often the problem. Although, truly, many of us should have a better understanding of what pleases God. The knowledge of his will is an area in which we may grow and should grow (Col 1:9).


Our problem is not so much in knowing God’s will. It is in doing God’s will. Before we came to saving faith, we could never please God. It is impossible to please God while we are in rebellion against him. Once a person repents and trusts in Christ, they are transferred into God’s kingdom and they have the ability to please God. A follower of Christ can please God but we often struggle and we often fail. How do we actually please him?


The Father proclaimed so all could hear, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Immediately following his baptism, Jesus was taken into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted. His temptation was also a test. He passed the test magnificently. His victory over temptation pleased the Father. Angels came and ministered to the Lord after his testing. Hence, we can learn how to please God by considering our Lord’s temptation.


The first temptation was for the Lord to miraculously turn the stones to bread. This represents the temptation of the flesh. We have bodily appetites. We can choose to live by those appetites, whether it be food or drink or sleep or sex or clothing or acceptance by others. None of these appetites are wrong in themselves. We must eat. We must rest. Sex is a gift within the bounds of marriage. When they become our guide is when we have gone astray and failed to please God.


How did our Lord answer the devil?


But he answered, “It is written,

“ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” [4]


He quoted Scripture. We ought to immediately note that our Lord’s memorization of Scripture aided him in overcoming temptation. The proper life of man, but especially one who has given his or her life to Christ, is to live by God’s words. It is a matter of priority. Obedience to God’s will takes priority over self-gratification, even over the apparently essential provision of food. God will provide the food when he is ready. He will provide a satisfaction for the other appetites in his time.


How can we please God? By eating his words. When we meditate on God’s words, he is pleased (Psalm 1:2; Ezra 7:10; 2 Tim 2:15; 3:14-16; Col. 1:10). How can we please God? By not allowing our bodily appetites to control our decisions. We overcome our flesh. We can do this by the Spirit whom he has given us!


Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ [5]


The devil’s suggestion was to test the literal truth of God’s promise of protection by deliberately creating a situation in which he will be obliged to act to save his Son’s life. In this way, man may become lord of God, and compels him to act through the power of his faith. It would be to act as if God is there to serve his Son, rather than the reverse. Does this sound familiar? It may. It is the teaching of the Health & Wealth televangelists. It is the teaching of the so-called “Faith Movement.”


The Lord answered again by quoting Scripture, that we are not to put the Lord God to the test. God is not at our beck and call. Life is not focused upon us. This idea, that life is focused upon one's self, was the original sin of the devil. He was making everything around him for him. This is what he was tempting our Lord to do. Thus, this is a temptation about the devil – taking the devil’s way. We may think that the last temptation, where he asks Jesus to worship him, is a temptation representing the devil. But that temptation is about the world. It is the draw upon our psyche that identifies the kind of temptation it is, not the outward appearance.


How can we please God? By not expecting or seeking our own selves to be served, but to serve God.


Then the devil takes him to a very high mountain and shows him the kingdoms of the world. There is no mountain high enough to enable a person to see all the kingdoms of this world. Therefore, the devil also used whatever powers he had to enable Jesus to actually see the splendors of all the many kingdoms. We can imagine him seeing, for the first time, the splendors of Rome, the exotic and unique culture of China, the wealth of Persia, and all the other kingdoms. Of course, the devil would only have shown him the glory of these places, not the poverty or vices. Although these places and his immediate ownership and rulership of them would have been enticing, our Lord was not moved. He again affirms his absolute allegiance to God.


Our Lord knew that he would receive these kingdoms one day in the distant future. He is promised them in the OT Scriptures, which he knew well (e.g., Psalm 2:8-9; 110:1). Hence, this temptation is about whether he was willing to wait on God’s timing to receive what God had for him. We are faced with this same temptation. Are you willing to wait for the good things that God has for you? There are good things coming, even in this life. But we often want what we want now. Or, at least sometime very soon. We need to keep trusting God. Find a promise of God. Ensure that it is applicable to you. Next, pray about it using the words of Scripture to remind God of his promise. Then comes the hard part: wait! This is why we need to trust God! When we trust him it makes the waiting easier (but it may still be hard). And this is what faith really is: trusting God. It is not “a force” where we try to manipulate reality (this is what the Faith Movement teachers say).


God will give in his time and it will be the perfect time. Jesus knew this. And he refused the devil’s offer.


How can we please God? By not permitting the world, that is the splendor of material possessions, to entice us. We will receive possessions but they will be in God’s time. We must learn to wait upon the Lord.


From Jesus’ victory over temptation we learned how to please God. We refuse to allow the flesh to direct our decisions. How can we please God? We enjoy the liberating truth that life is not about us. We don’t take the devil’s way. How can we please God? By waiting on the Lord.


You can please God! Would you like to hear the words, “This is my daughter in whom I am well pleased?” Or, “this is my son in whom I am well pleased?” Well, you will not actually hear those words in this life. You may be able to hear them in the next age, if you are faithful. You may not hear the words now, but you can have the experience of pleasing God. And with that experience will come the knowledge that we have pleased him. And that is worth more than gold!


When you learn that God is pleased with you, it will soothe your soul. Your spirit will be lifted. This week, experience the pleasure of pleasing God!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 2:14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 13:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 16:22). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 4:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 4:5–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.