Seeking to please God – Do you know what it takes in order for you to please God?
For the past couple of weeks, we have been taking a look at the spirit of Christmas which I hope dwells inside of all of your hearts. We have celebrated the truth – Jesus Christ – coming to our world and giving us a light of hope. We have also celebrated the power given to us through Christ to be able to stand strong in a world that is shrouded in wickedness and darkness.
Now that we have celebrated Christ and opened up our gifts, the question I feel I must ask is: What are you going to do next? A new year is just days away and your pilgrimage continues so, again, what are you going to do as you keep moving forward?
My hope every year at the end of Christmas, when our hearts are filled with much love and joy, is that we will carry that love and joy forward with us and not leave it behind in the season of Christmas. Jesus taught us and He showed us the way in which we ought to live while we are present in this world. The way: with a spirit that is not of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). So, my question today is this: will you live in His way in order to please God?
Seeking to Please God
In John’s gospel, the apostle recorded a moment in time where the Jews asked a very important question of Jesus. The Jews desired to know what the Lord wanted from them. They came to Jesus and they asked, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God (John 6:28)?”
I have referenced this scripture fairly often in my preaching, so, if you do not have this verse highlighted in your bible, highlight it now. This question is a very important question and the answer to this question is also very important as well. You see, there are many people, like you and I, who truly do seek to please the Lord and they want to know what to do in order to please Him. So, we ask, ‘what does God require of us? What does the Lord want from me?’
In the book of Micah, we will see that this same question was asked of the Lord by those of Israel that sought to please God. The people asked, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul (Mic. 6:6-7)?”
God’s love towards us
Now, something that is fascinating about the people asking this question of the Lord is the time in which this question was being asked. Micah prophesied during some of the worst years for the divided kingdom of Israel. He lived in Jerusalem during the years of a terrible king of Judah but his message was primarily focused against the unruly northern kingdom that was completely given over to wickedness.
God, we will see, was directing His very own complaint against Israel, the northern kingdom, in this chapter of Micah (Mic. 6:2). You will see that God was even wondering what He had done to Israel to cause them to testify against (work against) Him (Mic. 6:3).
God considered some of the things that He had done for Israel with the thought that because He had been good to them, they would be good to Him and love Him. The Lord recalled that He had brought the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt and redeemed them from the house of bondage (Mic. 6:4). We will then see the Lord also speak of Balak and how He prevented harm and danger coming upon the children of Israel (Mic. 6:5). At that time, the children of Israel were journeying through the wilderness and were completely unaware of the present danger of Balak (Num. 22:2-12).
The Lord could have listed off a great deal more of the things that He had done for the Israelites but He left it at that. God had done so much for them and you would certainly think that they would love Him for it, yet, as we see in scripture, Israel rebelled and turned from Him. This frustrated the Lord greatly and I tell you today that I believe the Lord is very much still frustrated with mankind today. I say this because just as the days were wicked during the divided kingdom years of Israel, our days are filled with great wickedness and people turning from God.
God’s frustration with mankind
As the Lord had done much for Israel, He has done much for all of us. Yet, as you have heard me say before, there are many people in our world today that do not recognize how good God has been to them. Many are living their lives in a manner where God loves them, but they do not love the Lord in return! This, I believe, frustrates and displeases the Lord greatly.
With that being said, there was a small minority that realized that God is good and sought to please God during the days of Micah, just as there is still a minority today that knows that God is good and we seek to please God. So, the question remains for some in this minority – ‘How can I return this love back to the Lord? What can I give in order to please God?’
To Please God
The people, we will notice, begin to consider the things that they could bring to God that might please Him. They wonder if they could present to the Lord burnt offerings of young calves, thousands of rams, and tons of oil. We will see that they even go as far as offering up their firstborns to atone for their sins so that they could please the Lord. Would these offerings please God?
Vain religion won’t please God
These offerings, aside from the offering up of a firstborn, which is a bit much to me, sound very generous. They are generous offerings in that they were willing to give up much in order to find favor in the Lord’s eyes. Honestly, we could think of these offerings in the same manner in which we think of giving our tithes and offerings. They were seeking what more could they give to please God in the same manner in which some people believe that what they give in their tithes and offerings to the church, will please the Lord.
Now, there was a time when the burnt offerings of young calves and rams left an aroma that the Lord would consider to be a sweet aroma (Ex. 29:18). However, by this point in time, the offering up of such sacrifice had become more of a practice of religion than an act of genuine faith for those of Israel. In fact, as shown in the book of Isaiah, the day came where the Lord told Israel that He was done with their meaningless offerings and did not delight in them any longer (Is. 1:11).
As I preached recently, there are many people who believe that the Lord’s favor can be bought at a price. Again, there are some who come forward with their tithes and offerings with the idea that such offerings please the Lord and because God is pleased with their offerings, He will love them. Let me make something clear, our tithes and offerings do nothing to please God! Just because you put $100 in the collection plate does not mean you are going to be wonderfully rewarded by God!
As I asked a couple of weeks ago, what is our money going to do for the Lord? Nothing! You see, our tithes and offerings help to pay bills and for believers to be able to keep gathering together in a location; they help in charity and in outreach as well! Our tithes and offerings, what you put in the collection plate is for us and not the Lord.
So, instead of telling the people to continue in offering up vain tithes and offerings, the Lord desired much more from them! It is not about the offering but the heart behind the offering. As shown with Cain and Abel, it is about the genuineness of the heart! We will see this as the Lord tells the Israelites that vain religion will not please Him!
What God requires of us
So, instead of practicing vain religion, we will see in the key verse for today that the Lord tells the people that He has shown (told) them what He requires them to do to please Him. God tells the people to do justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. Now, I want you to understand that this was not something new that the Lord was telling Israel to do.
We can go back to the days of Abraham and see where the Lord commanded Israel’s grandfather to do the same. To Abraham, the Lord commanded him, his children, and household to keep His way, and to do righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19). Again, in the book of Isaiah, the Lord told Judah (the southern kingdom) to put away the evil of their doings and to learn to do good; seeking justice and rebuking the oppressor; defending the fatherless and pleading for the widow (Is. 1:16-17).
I believe that God has made it clear to mankind what the He desires of us to please Him. God does not require the vain practice of religion from anybody; it does nothing for Him. I know that we also just gave gifts and we certainly love receiving our gifts but, there is no package that we can give that would please the Lord. I say this often, but it is only because I want you to understand that there is nothing that we can give God that is of the world that would please the Lord!
Imitators of the Lord
Jesus said to the disciples that the Lord requires for us to love Him with our whole heart and then do justly by our neighbors by loving them as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40). As we saw in this week’s Sunday School, I believe Paul summed it up best when he said to the Ephesians that we, as God’s children, should be imitators of the Lord (Eph. 5:1).
So, I must ask this question of you, today: As a child of God, are you living your life in a manner where you imitate how Christ lived? You see, we know that Christ pleased the Lord, especially in how He went about living in our world (Matt. 17:5). So, if we were to simply imitate Christ – follow His example – then we know that we can also please God as well! Again, consider to yourself whether you are truly imitating Christ in how you are living in our world today.
I can recall when I was just a boy, how I idolized my dad and often tried to imitate him. I did my best to imitate him because I truly admired him and looked up to him. This is what children often do, right? They imitate those who they admire. Daughters imitate their mom. Sons imitate their dads. Younger siblings look up to their older siblings and will try to imitate them as well.
So, what this makes me wonder today is why do so many who claim to be a child of God not go about imitating Him? The Lord lowered Himself and became one of us and lived in our world humbly. Jesus, who was divine, did not act in a conceited manner but genuinely loved all people. Jesus took to Him those who others considered to not be smart. To the annoyance of the religious leaders, He also sat down with those considered to be sinners. Jesus respected and loved all people the same regardless of what the world may have thought of them.
Again, I must ask, if we desire to please God, should we not live as Christ lived? Should we not be imitators of Christ? No, we must absolutely be of the same mindset! Again, as Paul stated in this week’s Sunday School, we ought to be of the same mindset as Christ (Phil. 2:5).
The child of God that seeks to please Him, should live a humble life where they not only have a great regard for themselves but have a great regard for others as well. What this means to you is that you should treat those around you with a great amount of humility instead of with a great amount of disregard. We should be empathetic and sympathetic to others. We should also care for the well-being of others and do nothing to bring harm upon them. The imitators of Christ ought to live in a manner where they genuinely desire to lift up all people instead of tear them down.
Pleasing God by Living Christ-Like
As we prepare ourselves to enter into another year, we can see that the road ahead is already filled with a challenge presented to mankind. This challenge is a challenge that has been noticeably present for the past couple of years! The challenge: Will we treat each other with a great amount of humility or will we continue in our disregard of one another?
Disregard of one another
I genuinely wonder about us, mankind, quite a bit about why we collectively live with one another as if only our lives matter and the lives around us do not. For example, it seems like every time me and mom are out and about, people drive with a blatant disregard for those that are around them. The first rule of the road that we are taught is that you don’t drive for yourself but you drive for those around you. People speed; people cut you off; people don’t even bother to use signal lights. They do this, not necessarily because they are in a rush but because people simply do not care.
Maybe that is all a pet-peeve of mine, but all the same, we bring so much harm to each other. We oppress; we rob; we kill and we steal from one another. In the past couple of years, frankly, we have seen that we have little to no care for the health of those around us; be it others physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual health.
There is a total lack of respect and love that is present in large numbers in our world today! When we live our life with such disregard to those that are around us, we should understand that the Lord is not pleased with us! Such blatant disregard in selfishness and conceitedness in not something that will please God!
The necessary adjustment we must make
So, as we exit this Christmas season and begin our way into the new year, I hope that you will carry the love that we find in the spirit of Christ with you into the new year. We sing about giving love at Christmas time during the season of Christmas, but I must ask: why stop there? Why not carry love with us everyday of the year?
Loving the Lord and loving our neighbor is what pleases God. God has not hidden this message from us as it is plainly explained to us throughout the bible. The Lord requires from you that you act in your faith in Him by truly imitating His only begotten Son by loving all people.
The question that you and I must answer today is this: will we choose to object to what He requires or will we be obedient to what the Lord requires of us? Again, God said that He has shown us what is required of us — that is to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. All we have to do is imitate Christ and we will do these things easily. This is an act of genuine faith that is done out of the generosity of our hearts — this is what will please God.