For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Our Goal: To Please God

What are you living for? What is your ultimate goal? Who are you trying to please? The old catechism answer says that our chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. So what does that mean? Simply, it means our goal is to please God.

In Ephesians 5 we are told that our goal is to “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8b-10, ESV) Take out the parenthetical statement in verse 9 and what we are left with is simply: “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”

Find out what pleases the Lord, one translation says. KJV says – Proving what is acceptable to the Lord. The word literally means to test, but has the meaning of discerning or examining. And the word for pleasing or acceptable comes from two words: the word for well or good, and the word for agreeable or pleasing. Literally then it means that which is well pleasing or fully agreeable.

So what we’re told in this verse is that we should be testing or discerning, trying to find or discover that which is well pleasing and fully agreeable to God. To walk as children of light in such a way that we discover what is pleasing to God.

I looked for other places where these words were used and I found almost the same phrase in Romans 12:2. In verses 1and 2 of Romans 12, Paul says:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (ESV)

If we put these two texts together we get somewhat of a circular argument.

1. Our goal is to please God. Our goal is to determine what pleases Him. Our aim is His pleasure. 2 Corinthians 5:9 says, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him,” or to be acceptable to Him. That’s our aim.

Unfortunately I don’t think pleasing God is always our aim. In fact, we’re often not even trying to find out what it is that pleases Him. We’re much more concerned about what pleases us, aren’t we? Or what pleases our friends and family, or whatever. But we are clearly told that our aim should be to please God, to determine what it is that pleases Him.

2. To please God we must seek His will. To determine what pleases God is intimately tied up in discerning what His will is. That seems somewhat obvious, since His will is for us to please Him. Paul says in Romans that we need to discern what is His pleasing will.

Again, I don’t think we’re as concerned about that as we are about our own will sometimes. Even when it comes to spiritual matters we seem to want what we want, when we want it. I want God’s blessing. I want a full church every week. I want people to grow up and act mature. And in some cases we can see how our wants overlap with God’s. Certainly God wants His people to grow up and be mature. Certainly He wants His kingdom to grow.

But what we have to remember is that often God’s will is also in the difficulties and the struggles. Often He is more concerned with building character in us than simply skipping forward to the end. He could have used Moses to deliver the people from Egypt in any number of ways. But His will was to mold and shape and test and try Moses for 80 years to become the man He wanted him to be before he could do what God wanted Him to do. The point is, our desire should be for God’s will above all things in all things.

3. To seek his will, we must live transformed lives/live in the light. In both of these passages, Paul tells us that the way to prove God’s will and pleasure is through living obedient to His commands. To walk as children of light. To live transformed lives. By doing so, we begin to see what God is doing in and around us, and ultimately we move to step four…

4. When we walk in the light, we please God. You see the circular nature here. We want to please God, to do that we need to seek His will, to do that we need to live transformed lives, and by doing that, we please God.

John MacArthur sums it up in his commentary on Romans; writing this about the verses in Romans 12: “A transformed mind produces a transformed will, by which we become eager and able, with the Spirit’s’ help, to lay aside our own plans and to trustingly accept God’s, no matter what the cost. This continued yielding involves the strong desire to know God better and to comprehend and follow His purpose for our lives. This divine transformation of our minds and wills must be constant. Because we are still continuously tempted through our remaining humanness, our minds and wills must be continuously transformed through God’s Word and by God’s Spirit. The product of a transformed mind is a life that does the things God has declared to be righteous, fitting and complete. That is the goal of the supreme act of spiritual worship.”

The point is simply that this should be our chief desire. My plans, my wants, my desires don’t mean anything. They’re worthless and pointless. The only thing that matters is the will of God and the pleasure of God as He transforms me into His image and replaces my desires with His. So as we pray, our strongest prayer should be that we would please God by seeking His will above all, that He will continue to transform us in mind and Spirit so that we will indeed live as children of light, which ultimately brings us full circle by pleasing God.

In thinking along those lines, here is one of my favorite prayers from the collection of Puritan prayers called The Valley of Vision:

To Be Fit for God

Thou Maker and Sustainer of all things,
Day and night are thine, heaven and earth declare thy glory;
but I, a creature of thy power and bounty,
have sinned against thee by resisting
the dictates of conscience,
the demands of thy law,
the calls of thy gospel;
yet I live under the dispensation of a given hope.
Deliver me from worldly dispositions,
for I am born from above and bound for glory.
May I view and long after holiness
as the beauty and dignity of the soul.
Let me never slumber, never lose my assurance,
never fail to wear armour when passing through enemy land.
Fit me for every scene and circumstance;
Stay my mind upon you and turn my trials to blessings,
that they may draw out my gratitude and praise
as I see their design and effects.
Render my obedience to thy will holy, natural, and delightful.
Rectify all my principles by clear consistent,
and influential views of divine truth.
Let me never undervalue or neglect any part of thy revealed will.
May I duly regard the doctrine and practice of the gospel,
prizing its commands as well as its promises.
Sanctify me in every relation, office, transaction and condition of life,
that if I prosper I may not be unduly exalted,
if I suffer I may not be over-sorrowful.
Balance my mind in all varying circumstances
and help me to cultivate a disposition
that renders every duty a spiritual privilege.
Thus may I be content,
be a glory to thee and an example to others.

1 comment:

Gregg Metcalf said...

Excellent word, Brother!