We live in a day when people are out to please themselves. Such a dynamic is seen in a me-centered advertising industry and consumer mentality, in an entertainment oriented media and leisure-driven society, in a self-esteem promoting psychology and humanistic religion, and indeed in a thousand other cultural meisms. The emphasis is on what we deserve and how we can make ourselves over. In a culture given to an ever-increasing drive to please self, should we not ask the question, "what about pleasing God?" Should we put a real emphasis upon pleasing God? If so, the question remains, "why?"
We are indeed to place a major emphasis upon pleasing God according to the Scriptures. Paul wrote, "Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus (1 Thes. 4:1-2). Herein lies our answer to what we ought to do and why we ought to do it.
First, there is an urgency in pleasing God. This urgency is grounded in the holiness of God's character. He demands that we please Him by virtue of His uniqueness. He is ultimately worthy of an individual's quest to please someone.
Moreover, salvation is not merely escape from Hell. Salvation is about reflecting the character, grace, and power of God through one's life to a lost world. Pleasing God is no optional extra in the Christian life. It is not a mere suggestion. We must be impressed with the need to walk in a way that pleases the Lord. There is no time to waste regarding our sanctification and obedience nor is there anything more important for us in that our sanctification proves our union with Christ and glorifies God at the same time.
That means that the urgency to please God is further grounded in the reflection of His glory, the reality of our salvation, and the importance of our sanctification. Again, pleasing God is not a suggestion, but a duty, and, it is not mere conformity to the law or external standards, but a delight.
Second, there is an encouragement in pleasing God. We are encouraged to please God by our brothers as they come beside us and exhort us to love and good works. In that moment, as believers, we are encouraged to please God by the Spirit through that general call issued by our brothers in conjunction with the powerful, effectual call that He alone can issue. When our brothers seek to encourage us, another voice speaks to our hearts: the Holy Spirit Himself. When a brother exhorts, he comes along side and figuratively puts his arm around us and encourages us to abound more and more, in pleasing God.
Third, there is an identification in pleasing God. Our brothers who exhort us to please God do so by a derived authority. That authority is God's word, our rule for faith and practice, and the fact that when our brothers speak from God's word to us, they are ambassadors of Christ and bring us a message of grace and truth. In other words, this urging and exhortation is in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our brothers urge and exhort us by virtue of their union with Christ and they stand as Christ's representatives to us and give us exhortation in His stead. Further, because we are in Christ, we are encouraged and enabled to please God.
Fourth, there is an abundance in pleasing God. We are told to abound toward one another. We are to abound more and more in love toward God and love toward one another. We are then to abound in holiness before God. We are to superabound in love and holiness for the sake of Christ and in so doing, we please God. Thus, we are driven to walk in such a way that pleases God.
The concept of superabundance implies a quantity of substance: the aforementioned love and holiness. Further, the concept of superabundance implies a quality of being. If we superabound in love and holiness we will superabound in pleasing the Lord and if we superabound in pleasing the Lord, we will superabound in joy and peace.
Fifth, there is an obedience in pleasing God. Obedience is associated with "oughtness" and command. We are commanded to please God. It should be pointed out here that God is pleased or satisfied with us as His glory is reflected. The reason for this dynamic is two-fold.
In the first place, God delights in His children as He has set His love upon them and sees them in Christ. He cannot delight in them apart from Christ as they have no righteousness apart from Him.
In the second place, God ultimately delights in His Son. Christ is the Son of His Love (1:13) and God has purposed that Christ would be glorified by all things. In terms of justification, God can never be more pleased with us than He already is. But, in terms of the practical dynamic of pleasing, as we are increasingly filled with the knowledge of God's will, we can walk in a way that increasingly pleases Him.
Sixth, there is a glory in pleasing God. We do what we do for the sake of Christ and His glory and indeed to draw others to Him. The obligation upon us to please God comes to us through and for the Lord Jesus Christ. Our focus is on Christ's authority and our derived obligation to obey. At the same time, our focus is on Christ's glory and reputation and our subsequent obligation to obey then is for the sake of that glory. Further, commandment-keeping under the New Covenant is ultimately for the purpose of putting Christ's character and power on display. It is for His glory to be revealed in and through those whom He has saved. Let us please God for that reason if for no other.
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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