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How Can We Please God?

Why are we here? What is our purpose? 2 Corinthians 5:9 says, "So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it." A Christian's ambition should indeed be to please God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." We are to honor Him, and give Him our thanks in order to glorify Him.

How do we please and glorify God? First of all, we must have faith in order to please God. Hebrews 11:6 says, "Without faith, it is impossible to please God."

We must have and understand grace in order to please God. 2 Peter 3:18 says, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

It pleases God for us to grow in faith and grace. When we're properly oriented toward the concepts of grace and faith, we will want to please Him. Our obedience pleases God. John 14:15 says, "If you love me, you will obey what I command."

Righteous behavior pleases God. Hebrews 13:16 says, "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."

Doing good and sharing pleases God. Colossians 1:10 says, "And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God."

Believers are to please God by bearing fruit for Him through their good works, and through increasing in the knowledge of His word. After all, we recognize a fruit tree by the type of fruit it bears.

We cannot please God if we are proud. Proverbs 3:34 says, "He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. Pride is the insolent attitude that causes us to be haughty, and boastful. Are you proud of your work, your friends, or your children? We tend to think that God excuses this pride from condemnation. However, pride is never treated as a positive attribute in the Bible, except for boasting in Jesus. Pride in any form is just as displeasing to God as any other sin.

If we're going to please God, we cannot covet. Hebrews 13:5 says, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" Coveting is wanting what other people have, often to the extent that we want to take their possessions from them. Coveting is a common sin today, and it has always been prevalent. It is condemned in the Ten Commandments, and it is condemned in the epistles. We are to be satisfied with what we have. What good is money, compared to the promise that God will never leave us? Philippians 4:19 says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

We please God when we believe that He will generously provide for us. Coveting begins with envy, which is condemned in Romans 1:29. We become envious of the possessions, status, or position that others have. Then we become jealous, which is condemned in Galatians 5:20, and we lose our love for others by harboring ill will against them. Our coveting often includes greed, which is also condemned in Romans 1:29. We want what others have even when we already have more. Coveting material possessions is somewhat obvious, but this subtle sin can crop up under any set of circumstances. Coveting is particularly displeasing to God when we covet the position, recognition, or authority of others, especially in a church environment where Christians are jealous of other Christians.

Our verbal sins seem to hold a special status of contempt in the Bible, and they're particularly displeasing to God. Proverbs 6:16-19 tells us seven things that God hates, and most of them are due to sins of speech. James 3:5-9 says that the tongue can be a devastating weapon. With it, we can gossip, slander, and defame through abusive language. We've all felt the pain of an insult from the lips of others. It displeases God when we damage the reputations of others or sow discord through our speech.

If we're going to please God, we must learn His Word. How can we obey Him if we don't know His commandments? We must study the Bible in order to find out how to please Him. It is each believer's primary responsibility to study the Bible regularly, and to teach it to others. It is through the learning of Bible doctrine that we can achieve the peace that God intends for us as he sheds his grace upon us. The truly peaceful man may not be able to explain every small detail about the Bible, but he will surely be able to satisfy his conscience concerning major controversies, by regular study of the Word of God. The Christian who is forever questioning various aspects of his faith, due to Biblical ignorance, will never experience real peace. 1 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love and of self-discipline.

We are not born with a working knowledge of the Bible. God doesn't supernaturally transform our brains with the information he wishes to reveal to us. Instead, He transforms us by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). We please God by having our minds set on the Spirit (Romans 8:6). We are to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (Ephesians 5:17). He holds us responsible for knowing His wisdom and understanding what His will is. It is the inner self that matters most, which Paul described as the circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:29). Of ultimate importance is what's written in the heart (Romans 2:15). Then these inward thoughts produce our outward actions, which are pleasing to God.

In Colossians 1:9-10, Paul asks God to fill the Colossians Christians with ". . . the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding," so that they can "...live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God."

2 Timothy 3:15 says it was wisdom that originally led to our salvation through faith in Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to please God by taking every thought captive, because the mind is more important than the flesh. 1 Corinthians 14:15 calls us to pray and sing with our minds. Proverbs 4:7 tells us that wisdom is the most important thing.

It is through the training of the mind that Christians become mature believers, such that they can continuously please God. Indeed, Ephesians 4 tells us that the whole purpose of the church is for believers to encourage each other into spiritual maturity. We are to "grow up" and mature (Ephesians 4:15), We are to "know Christ" (Ephesians 4:20), and we are to "be made new in the attitude of (our) minds" (Ephesians 4:23). In 1 Corinthians 14:20, Paul warns us not to be like children in our thinking, but to be mature in our minds. In fact, Romans 1:31 says that being without understanding is a serious sin.

We must also please and glorify God by teaching His word to others. In Galatians 1:16-18, we see that Paul himself studied for three years before he came out of the wilderness to teach God's Word. In Philippians 1:9, he prayed that the love of the Philippian Christians would "abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight." In Colossians 1:28, he was "teaching everyone with all wisdom" In Colossians 2:7, this established firm roots in the faith. It built up "as (they) were taught." Colossians 3:16 tells us to let the word of Christ richly dwell within us, and to teach and admonish each other. We should develop the wisdom and discernment which is required to enable us to confidently reject new and false doctrines (2 John 1:10).

We are to please God by admonishing one another (Romans 15:14) and gently turning people back to the truth when they stray from it (James 5:19-20). Paul dwells on this concept of teaching and learning because it is not simply for temporal purposes alone. Don't be deceived into thinking that God will give each Christian omniscience or complete spiritual maturity when his body is glorified and ". . . changed--in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Only God is omniscient. His system of rewards precludes any thought of systematic equality in heaven. We will carry our spiritual maturity into heaven with us, and it will weigh heavily at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Through that maturity comes the divinely good works for which we will receive eternal rewards. God in His grace has chosen to give us our temporal lives on earth. During this time, we are to please God by building our spiritual maturity, and sharing it with others.

Evangelism pleases and glorifies God. One of the things that we should teach others is the gospel message, of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for the sins of the world, and belief in His sacrifice for securing eternal life (John 3:16). In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus said, "Therefore go and make disciples ...teaching them..." Obviously, the first step toward Christian maturity is understanding and believing the gospel.

2 Corinthians 4:13 says, "I believe, therefore I have spoken. What we believe, we pass on to others. 1 Peter 3:15 says, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. How can we prepare our defense except by absorbing God's Word? Just remember that witnessing is simply telling and explaining the truth. Witnessing does not include pressing for a decision.

So who should we teach? 2 Timothy 3:14 says that we're more confident if we learn from those we know and trust. Obviously we're entrusted to teach all who are willing to hear (2 Corinthians 4:13), but what better place to start than in our own homes, in God's institution of the family? Since the man is the head of his family, just as Christ is the head of the Church (Ephesians 5:22-24), husbands are charged by God to love, lead, and teach their wives (1 Corinthians 14:35). Women are charged by God to work in their homes (1 Timothy 5:14), to raise their children (1 Timothy 5:10), to be quiet in church (1 Timothy 2:11, Titus 2:5), and to be submissive to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24). Women are to learn from their husbands at home, and they're not to have authority over men (1 Timothy 2:12).

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Just as God told the Jews to teach their new generations, we are challenged to teach ours. The primary responsibility again falling on the man of the household. Fathers are to please God by bringing up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

This admonition applies to the family environment, which is the ultimate place for education, as well as to "formal" schooling. When the parents delegate their teaching authority to public or private schools, the parents still hold the ultimate responsibility for the education of their own children. Parents are accountable for their children as well as themselves. Even when the children are in a good school, the Bible calls for continued teaching of the children at home by the parents. Colossians 3:20 tells us how children please God: "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord."

Children are to obey their parents, and learn from them. If spiritual truths are not taught, they are lost. No wonder the epistles are filled with the kinds of words that involve mental activities, such as mind, heart, know, understand, think, repent, believe, faith, love, and glorify. Each of these words refers to our mentality, such as Romans 10:10 where we believe with our hearts, our minds. These words alone are used more than 1000 times in the epistles. Let us not therefore underestimate the importance of renewing our minds through the learning of Bible truths. Indeed, before we can please and love God, we must obey His commandments, and before we can obey Him, we must learn His Word.

Our purpose is to please and glorify God. To do this, we must exercise faith and grace. We must be righteous and obedient. We must learn and teach God's Word.

Owen Weber 2008