Topical - Pleasing God (Part 1)
Have you ever thought about what most pleases God? Or what things He most desires to see in the lives of His believers? Important question wouldn’t you think? For many in the world, in all religions, desire to please God, but their zeal and commitment are not accepted because they are not based upon the solid truth that God has revealed in His word, the Bible. So what pleases God? And what displeases Him?
Does He expect anything? I would have to say that some Christians live as if God expects nothing from them. As Kristi and I watched the Olympic Games this year, I marveled as I watched people performing at their very best, going all out, and giving 100%.
· It reminded me of what Paul said to the Corinthians:
Speaking about athletics, Paul said that "All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:25, NLT)
· The Scripture’s also teaches that soldiers desire to please his superiors:
Writing to Timothy, Paul says "No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier." (2 Timothy 2:4, NKJV)
Speaking about the parable of the Sower, Jesus put it this way "the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." (Mark 4:18-19, NKJV)
Let me share a story that I read of a Marine who “lived to please those who enlisted him.”
It’s a bit lengthy, but well worth it!
Don Hamblen enlisted in the Corps at 17 and within months was serving as a rifleman and sniper at the height of the Korean War. During his tour in Korea, an enemy mortar fire hit Hamblen's squad. When a stretcher team came to their rescue, they were ambushed. Hamblen was shot and left for dead, but he managed to get to a battalion aid station. Eleven days later, he e0turned to his platoon and was promoted to squad leader.
Throughout a 20-year career in the military, Hamblen displayed a remarkable ability to rebound from serious injury. While serving in Vietnam, he participated in more than 80 covert missions and was wounded twice. To this day, he carries a .32-caliber bullet in his left arm. But most serious was the loss of a leg. As far as is known, Don Hamblen ended up doing what no other Marine in the history of the Corps has done - fighting in combat with a prosthesis. In fact, he served 30 consecutive months in Vietnam.
The most difficult challenge of his life began on September 21, 1962, when Hamblen and 12 men in his platoon made a parachute jump over Camp Pendleton in California before leaving on a one year deployment to Okinawa. As jumpmaster, Hamblen was the last to exit the C-130 aircraft, at a height of 1800 feet. Less than 50 feet above ground, the wind suddenly changed direction and blew his chute upward and backward into some high-tension wires. His canopy became entangled in the lines, leaving him suspended above three 12,000- volt auxiliary lines. As the winds caused him to sway, the canopy slipped, and his left foot caught the middle line, causing an explosive contact.
'I felt the shock as it came racing up from below,' he recalled. 'Everything turned a bright, flaming yellow. Thunderbolts seemed to ricochet through me.'
As electrical current and flames engulfed his body, Hamblen's nylon canopy melted, and he dropped 30 feet to the ground, still smoking. 'I remember lying on the ground, trying to move, but I couldn't,' he said. 'One of the electrical lines snapped and fell to the ground, igniting grass fires everywhere. Our training had been so repetitive that it was instinctive for me to try to get to my signal flare and let someone know I was alive, but I was just too weak to do it.'
Help finally arrived, and Hamblen was flown to the base hospital nearby. There, doctors informed him that third-degree burns had destroyed the flesh on his lower left leg and foot and a gangrenous infection had set in. Four days after the accident, his leg was amputated several inches below the knee. Hamplen's future as a Marine looked dim.
'My worst moment,' he said, 'was the realization that I might be forced out of the Marines because of my injury.’ But Hamblen resolved to continue to serve in combat as an amputee.
In January 1963, Hamblen was transferred to a naval hospital in Oakland for rehabilitation and to be fitted with a prosthesis. There, he taught himself how to stand, walk, run and even dance on his artificial leg. Only 58 days after being admitted, Hamblen was discharged from the hospital and reassigned to limited duty with his reconnaissance company.
After his recovery, Hamblen had to prove to skeptical Marine Corps officers that he could perform his duties without any difficulty, so that he would be allowed to return to full active duty.
His chance came that same year, in July, when he took the grueling Physical Readiness Test - a 2-minute up hill climb, 2 minutes of deep-knee bends, a 20-foot rope climb, a leap over an 8-foot trench and a 3-mile run while carrying a full combat pack and rifle. After completing the run, Hamblen removed his artificial leg and poured out a cup of blood. His scar tissue had split open.
IF anyone still had doubts, Hamblen made his 216th jump in September 1963. He was returned to 'full-duty' status, resuming his position as platoon sergeant, company jumpmaster and - after having his prosthesis fitted for a swim fin - scuba diver.
In the spring of 1965, Hamblen volunteered for the Naval Advisory Detachment, operating out of Vietnam's coastal city of Da Nang. He was assigned as military adviser to a secret 37-man team. 'My team's primary mission was to conduct nighttime prisoner snatches of North Vietnamese officers,' Hamblen explained. 'That combat was the final test of whether or not I was the equal of any other Marine.'
Hamblen served in Vietnam from June 1965 to November 1967. After a year at Camp Pendleton, he was assigned to the U.S. Strike Command at McDill Air Force Base in Florida. In 1969, he was promoted to first sergeant and returned to Camp Pendleton, where he completed his career with the Fifth Force Reconnaissance Company.
Again, as Paul was writing to Timothy, he said that "You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier." (2 Timothy 2:3-4, NKJV)
Don Hamblen lived to be a Marine. He lived in such a way as to please those "who enlisted him as a soldier.” Don went through great hardships and pain to live in such a way as to please those in authority over him.
How strong is your desire to please God? What are you willing to sacrifice, what pain are you willing to endure that you may live in a way that is pleasing to God? The Lord Jesus Christ lived his whole life with the aim of pleasing God.
In John 8:29, Jesus said that "He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him." (John 8:29, NKJV)
As Christians, we are called to imitate Christ; we are called to live our lives to please God. Do you? Is your life structured in such a way as to please God by all you do? Is pleasing God important to you?
I believe the Bible tells us the things God wants from us; it tells us how to please Him. But before we look at those, I want to point out the prerequisite for doing what pleases God. When I talk about pleasing God, I'm not talking about trying to earn our way into heaven. The Bible tells us that we can only get to heaven by the grace of God. However, what is the Prerequisite to Pleasing God?
A. Those Who Have Faith In God (Hebrews 10:38).
1. To please God we must trust God (Hebrews 11:5-6).
a) The Christian life starts with an act of faith (John 3:16).
(1) That is a promise; when I believe in Christ, I am given everlasting life.
(a) When I come to the living God as a guilty sinner who deserves hell, trusting in Jesus Christ and Him alone for my redemption, I am engaged in an act of faith.
(b) I've never seen God. I've never seen this place called "heaven", or this place called "hell". I've never seen Jesus Christ.
Speaking about our faith in the midst of trials, Peter says "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9, NKJV)
(c) By faith those things which I cannot see become realities to me. But trusting God for my eternal salvation is only the beginning. It is the start of a journey that cannot be traveled successfully in any other way but by a growing faith.
!!! 2. To please God we must walk in faith (Hebrews 11:5-6).
a) Enoch walked with God.
(1) Believing that God exists is the first step toward faith. Just believing that God exist will not save you.
(2) Believing that he rewards those who trust in Him is the first step of faith.
(a) Trusting fully in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is only the beginning of the faithful life in God.
(b) To continue pleasing God, we must fellowship with Him, commune with, “walk” with Him—just as Enoch did. In the four verses in Genesis (5:21–24) describing Enoch, he is twice spoken of as “walking with God.”
(c) In the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) this phrase is translated “pleased God,” using the same Greek word (euaresteō, “to be well-pleasing”) that is used twice in (Hebrews 11:5–6). Walking with God is pleasing God.
(3) The term walk is used many times in the New Testament to represent faithful living.
Paul makes this clear in Romans 6 where he say that “We have been buried with Him through baptism into death… so we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).
We do not walk by the things we see “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).
Our lifestyle ought to be that of walking “In love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us” (Eph. 5:2).
Christ even speaks of our fellowship with Him in heaven as a walk: “They will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy” (Rev. 3:4). Like Enoch, every believer should walk with God every day he is on earth. When we get to heaven, we will walk with Him forever.
b) Four areas that are changed when we walk with God.
(1) Enoch was reconciled with God.
(a) The first thing implied in Enoch’s walk with God is reconciliation.
We read in Amos 3:3 “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3).
(i) The point is obvious. Two people cannot really walk together in intimate fellowship unless they are agreed.
(ii) If Enoch walked with God, he obviously was in agreement with God.
(iii) The intention of salvation is to reconcile men to God, to restore the relationship broken by sin. Because of his faith, Enoch was reconciled with God; and because he was reconciled with God, he could walk with God.
(2) Enoch dealt with sin.
(a) Walking with God implies moral fitness as well as a judicial dealing with sin. We could not have a new nature unless God took away sin.
(b) Because a person walks with God means that his sin has been forgiven and that he has been justified, counted righteous by God. Only when sin has been dealt with can we move into God’s presence and begin walking with Him.
God will not walk in any way but the way of holiness “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6–7).
(c) The only persons God walks with are those who are cleansed of sin. Since Enoch walked with God, he had to have been forgiven of his sin and declared righteous by God.
!!!!! (3) Enoch had a surrendered will.
(a) Walking with God implies a surrendered will. A surrendered will is surrender in love.
(b) It is what might be called a willful willingness, a glad and free surrender.
The Apostle John put it this way “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments” (2 John 6).
(c) Enoch walked with God for three hundred years! The New Testament refers to this sort of living as walking in the Spirit…living continually in the atmosphere of the Spirit’s presence, power, direction, and teaching.
The fruit of this walk in the Spirit is: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23).
(d) Walking in the Spirit is allowing Him to pervade your thoughts.
(i) It is saying, when you get up in the morning, “Holy Spirit, it is Your day, not mine. Use it as You see fit.”
(ii) It is saying throughout the day, “Holy Spirit, continue to keep me from sin, direct my choices and my decisions, use me to glorify Jesus Christ.”
(iii) It is putting each decision, each opportunity, each temptation, each desire before Him, and asking for His direction and His power.
(e) The New Testament describes walking with God in many ways.
(i) 3 John 4; Romans 8:4; Ephesians 5:2, 8, 15
(ii) Waling as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6).
(4) Enoch had continuing faith.
(a) Finally, a person cannot walk with God unless he has first come to God by faith. Just so, he cannot continue to walk without continuing to have faith.
Walking with God is a walk in faith and a walk by faith, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5 saying. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).
We need to continue to be built up as Paul says “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith” (Col. 2:6–7).
(b) Enoch believed God, and he continued to believe God. He could not have walked with God for three hundred years without trusting in God for three hundred years.
(i) Enoch never saw God. He walked with Him, but he did not see Him. He just believed He was there. That is how He pleased God.
Remember when Jesus appeared to the disciples and said specifically to Thomas "Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (John 20:29, NASB95)
And Peter says "and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8, NASB95)
(c) Turn with me to (2Cor.4:17-18) – Paul speaks about our light affliction
And the Apostle John gets real practical when he says "If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." (1 John 4:20, NASB95)
!! B. Those Who Desire the Right Heart (1 Kings 3:5-10).
1. “Solomon’s request pleased the Lord…” (1 Kings 3:10).
a) The true desire of our heart.
(1) From the verse above, what would you have asked for?
(a) God turns up, and says to you ‘I will give you whatever you like. Just name it!’ What would you say? Think about it.
(b) Let me put it another way - how interested are you in spiritual riches compared to the temporal earthly riches?
(c) We seem to live in an age that desires and equates the blessing of God with how much money we have.
But in reality, like the Laodicean church, we can be very poor. Jesus said to that church ‘You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich.’ (Rev 3:17-18).
(2) So what would you ask for? Maybe good health, or a well-paid job? Maybe a lottery win, or even three more wishes!
(a) Solomon saw his inadequacy and asked for wisdom and understanding that he may govern God’s people correctly. And it pleased God!
(b) And it pleases God today, when His people desire to have a true understanding and knowledge of Him so that they may walk in His ways and accurately testify about Him.
(c) I have a feeling that the most pleasing answer in the ears of God would be that we want to truly know and love Him. That we desire Him more than any gift He would give.
This was Paul’s desire and everything else stems from that. Writing to the Philippians, Paul said "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death," (Philippians 3:8-10, NKJV)
C. Those Who Walk In the Light (Ephesians 5:8-10).
1. The contrast of the believer before salvation and after salvation.
a) The believer is trying to learn or proving what is pleasing to the Lord.
Just a quick note: (v.10) says “proving what is acceptable to the Lord” the NASB renders it like this “trying the learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”
(1) Romans 2:17-23 – Before our salvation, we did not try to please God, or if we did, it was in a legalistic way:
(2) However, as a “new creation in Christ” we want to try and even prove what is pleasing to God:
After understanding what great lengths God went to in order to save us, Paul says "Brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:1-2, NASB95)
Paul prayed to God for those in Philip that "there love would abound still more and more…” Why? "So that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ" (Philippians 1:10, NASB95)
(a) The excellent things are all the truths, attitudes, thoughts, words, and deeds that are expressions of God’s will for the believer. They are the elements of sanctified, holy thinking and living.
!!!!!! (b) It is much like Paul’s later command: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (4:8).
(3) What are some other areas that are acceptable to God?
· Our words and meditation of our heart, the Psalmist says "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
· When we obey God’s will and unbelievers examine our lives and how we love each other, Paul says "For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men." (Romans 14:18)
· When the believer strives for excellence and all that is honorable before God "We make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him." (2 Corinthians 5:9, NKJV)
· The Philippians gift was a spiritual sacrifice that was acceptable to God, Paul says "At the moment I have all I need—more than I need! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable to God and pleases him.” (Philippians 4:18, NLT)
· The obedience of children to their parents is pleasing to God "Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord." (Colossians 3:20, NASB95)
· Employees are to be obedient, seeking to please his boss "Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, " (Titus 2:9, NASB95)
· Cooperating with God and allowing Him to work in us pleasing to 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, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21, NKJV)
(4) So we have seen that the believer is trying to learn what is pleasing to God. Now lets look at what “we were” before we knew Christ to “what we are” now in Christ.
b) What we were (Ephesian 5:8a).
(1) Ephesians 2:1-3 – let’s see what Paul says about our former life.
(2) Before we came to Christ our total existence—our being as well as our behavior—was characterized by darkness. We were not simply victims of Satan’s system but were contributors to it. Four characteristics of this spiritual darkness:
(a) Spiritual darkness is the work of Satan – Those who are not the children of God are the children of their “father the devil.”
Speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus said "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44, NKJV)
(b) Spiritual darkness is the dominion of Satan – The unbeliever does Satan’s work because he is under Satan’s control & dominion.
When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said "When I was with you daily in the temple, you did not try to seize Me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness." (Luke 22:53, NKJV)
Paul said that Jesus "Has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love," (Colossians 1:13, NKJV)
(c) Spiritual darkness brings God’s penalty – Paul declared that “the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6), who are “by nature children of wrath” (2:3).
In the book of Romans he says, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (1:18).
(d) Spiritual darkness leads to the destiny of eternal darkness – Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior “shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12). Those who reject Christ love darkness rather than light (John 3:19-20).
c) What we are (Ephesians 5:8b).
(1) The second verb in verse 8 (are) tells us two important things.
(a) This indicates our new spiritual condition, in contrast to what we were before trusting Christ. Now [we] are light in the Lord.
(b) Christ “delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13), and He has “called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
(2) Scripture sometimes speaks of believers being in and of the light, but here we are said to be light.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14).
Because we now share Christ’s own nature, we share in His light. Just as He is the “light of the world” (John 8:12), His people are also “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14).
(3) Because we are in the Lord, we who were once children of darkness are now children of light, we should walk as children of light.
D. Our Sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:1-5).
1. “How you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk)…” (v.1 NASB).
a) A call to moral purity – Keep your life pleasing to God.
(1) As I mentioned earlier, faith is our inward action toward God, sanctification is the outward manifestation for pleasing God.
(2) The moral landscape of our culture is changing daily.
(a) An incredible desensitization has taken place in our society. We have seen so much immorality that sometimes it doesn’t bother us anymore.
(b) Hollywood has a clear agenda when it comes to sex outside the marriage relationship. Their message is its okay, everybody’s doing it. And it’s not just our generation.
(c) At the time of Apostle Paul, immorality and divorce were rampant. The Bible is not outdated! Here, Paul writes to the Thessalonians from Corinth, a town full of immorality.
(d) Thessalonica also had deities that were worshipped with illicit sexual encounters. Paul provides us with three ways to develop moral purity.
2. Keep your life pleasing to God (v.1-2).
a) Moral purity begins only with God Himself.
(1) Your commitment to God is the first step to keeping your life pure, morally, and sexually.
(2) By calling believers “brothers,” Paul was expressing deep affection and care for them.
(a) The word “beseech” means to ask or request. But note: it always has a sense of urgency about it.
(b) Paul was tenderly requesting his dear brothers to continue to please God in their daily walk, but it was an urgent request. Their walking to please God was an absolute necessity, a necessity that carried with it great blessings for obedience and terrible judgment for disobedience (the displeasure of God).
!!!!! (3) The believers had been taught how they must walk and please God.
(a) They had sat under the teachers and preachers of the Word; therefore, they were without excuse, for they knew exactly how to live and to please God.
(b) Once the believers had heard and been taught how they should live and please God, they were responsible to live that way. Pleasing God was not an option; it was a duty.
3. Keeping your lust under control (1Thess.4:3-8).
a) Sanctification means abstaining from fornication.
(1) The major commandment is sanctification, that is, moral purity. It can be stated no clearer:
(a) “This is the will of God.” There is no higher will than the will of God. When the will of God is known, then the will of God must be done. Sanctification—moral purity—is the will of God. The word sanctification means to be set apart and separated. We are to be set apart to God and His will, and His will is moral purity. Therefore, we are to be set apart to live pure lives before God. This means three things.
(2) The word “fornication” (porneias) means all kinds of immoral sexual acts: adultery, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, and all forms of sexual deviation.
b) Sanctification means controlling your body and your spouse (v.4).
(1) Leon Morris points out that the word “vessel” (skeuos) can refer either to a person’s own body or to a person’s spouse
(2) Both Hold Great Meaning For The Christian Believer. A believer is to know how to control his own body and how to control his spouse. A person can neglect, ignore, and abuse his body and a person can neglect, ignore, and abuse his or her spouse.
c) Sanctification means resisting the passion of lust (v.5)
(1) We must resist the passion of lust.
(2) The passion of lust is the way of the world.
(a) Moral purity begins with saying yes to God and no to things that would displease God.
(b) You never have to pray about whether or not God wants you to be sexually pure. He does!
(c) God created sex. It was created for procreation and to be enjoyed between married people.
(d) Though sex is God-given, it must also be God-governed.
(e) Paul admonished these believers to abstain. Safe sex outside of marriage is an oxymoron.
(f) “Thou shall not commit adultery.” With this commandment, God put a wall around marriage to protect the people inside.
d) Finish reading (v.6-8).
I. Pleasing God (Hebrews 11:5-6).
A. Those Who Have Faith In God (Hebrews 10:38).
B. Those Who Desire the Right Heart (1 Kings 3:5-10).
C. Those Who Walk In the Light (Ephesians 5:8-10).
D. Our Sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:1-5).