As Christians we are all trying to do the things that we think pleases God. Most often we think we must strive to be righteous, to obey His commandments, on a day to day basis. We do our best to resist temptation and are always intent on “doing the right thing”. We read the words of our Lord, such as those spoken on the Sermon on the Mount, (Matthew 5-7), and attempt to measure up to those requirements to the best of our human abilities. We go about “witnessing” to non Christians attempting to convince them to accept Christ and “be saved”. We build great churches and attend elaborate services, believing that we are pleasing God by such endeavors. We give our money and our time “doing God’s will”.
Yet, after all of that, we sometimes feel unfulfilled in all our efforts and we feel we still fail to live a righteous life. We constantly repent of every wrongdoing we consider to be sin and are forever seeking God’s forgiveness for our perceived wrong acts. Finally we throw up our hands and feel that if we have tried hard enough to be good that God will make up the difference and we will, when we die, find a place in heaven. What we don’t realize is that often we are concerned about doing things of which God is not concerned and that His true purposes for our lives escape us.
Solomon aptly described everyday life as “Vanity of vanities,” [futilities of futilities] says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” [futile] (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2; 12:8). The book goes on to state: “And I set my mind [heart] to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with. I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted.
"I said to myself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.” And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind. Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain” (Ecclesiastes 1:13-18). Many of us saved Christians feel the same at the end of the day and if we don’t then we are going about with our eyes closed. .
We must conclude that all the works we do, even if well intentioned, don’t please God as we think they should. The truth is that God is not interested in our many works or our attempts to be righteous and do the right thing. As a matter of fact, God hates our human attempts to be righteous in ourselves. Isaiah 64:6 says: “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;”We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, “.
If God is not pleased by our many labors done with the purpose of pleasing Him, what does please Him? The ancient Israelites learned the hard way that, even though they were the chosen nation of God, that they could not please God by trying to fulfill the Mosaic Law they were subject unto. Time and time again God punished them as a nation because of their inability to follow the Law. Likewise we today try to follow what we think are the laws of Christ and continually fail.
What man can really fulfill Christ’s teaching? Who among us can control our thoughts that so continually turn to sin? Who can really love his neighbor as himself? Who can prevent anxiety about material things such as money or housing? Who does not, on occasion, judge or criticize another. And who can, in himself, be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect. The Sermon on the Mount seems to require these things of us and we miserably fail at them every moment (see Matthew 5-7).
We must conclude that the first step in pleasing God is by faith. There is nothing else we can do. Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). But He doesn’t even allow us to use our own human faith which often is nothing more than optimism. Faith itself is a gift from God, not something we have naturally (1 Corinthians 12:7-8).
Abraham, called the Father of Faith, did many things wrong in his life. Yet, because of his faith, God reckoned his life righteous. Abraham also did many things right and he amassed a fortune due to God’s blessing and gave birth to Isaac the son of promise. But God didn’t weigh Abraham on a scale, balancing the things he did right against those he did wrong. It was Abraham’s faith toward God that made him righteous and pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:8-9; see Genesis generally chapters 12-22).
The one thing that pleases God as it concerns our lives is having His Son formed fully and revealed in us. Paul said: “when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me” (Galatians 1:15-16). God does not want us to reveal our own futile attempts at righteousness but he wants to reveal His Son Jesus in us. This involves a spiritual transformation and actually becoming Christ, with His divine nature. The scriptures bear this out.
1 John 3:2 states: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is”. The only righteousness that pleases God is the righteousness that exists in His Son and it is His will that we obtain that righteousness. Paul said: “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,” (Philippians 3:8-9).
True righteousness comes not from ourselves but comes from God. He imparts righteousness to us by faith through His spirit. Paul goes on: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect [mature], have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; (Philippians 3:13-15).
Christ’s goal is to bring many Sons to glory, who are Sons of God just like Him. “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:10). Further: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (Colossians 13:12).
In order to be pleasing to God we must undergo a complete change of nature. Our best is never enough. Christ’s purpose remains clear: “Therefore you are to be perfect, as you’re heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
How do we become perfect and obtain the nature of God which is already perfect? Many think that simply by being saved we will go to heaven and automatically become perfect. This is not scriptural. Even the great men of God who went before us, as listed in Hebrews 11, did not become perfect by dying in the Lord. Hebrews 11:39-40 states: “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect”.
In other words all those who have gone on before us are waiting for us to become perfect before they can obtain their promise of perfection. They cry out, from under the altar, in heaven: “I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9-10).
As God has said, the last will be first and the first will be last. The martyred men of God were the first but will be the last group to be perfected because the perfection of those on the other side is dependent on our becoming perfect first.
How do we obtain this perfection? Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [from above] he cannot see the kingdom of God… “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water [the word] and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again [from above].’ “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:3, 5-8).
The current Christian world would have you believe that simply being saved constitutes this complete born again experience. That is not true. Salvation is only the first step. In salvation your sins are forgiven but beyond that we must be born again or born from aboveinto the Christ nature in order to please God.
Romans 8 discusses this spiritual walk in detail. Paul says: “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:10-11). Note that Paul says the life will be given to our mortal bodies. That means our mortal bodies can be perfected while we are still on the earth, not after we die.
True Sons are known only by what do by the Spirit of God. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God….The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:14, 16-17).
It is also by the Spirit that we overcome the divinely imposed futility discussed above. Paul said: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Romans 8:20-22).
Scripture is clear that we can neither know God or worship Him except by the spirit because God Himself is a spirit. Jesus said: “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4: 23-24).
It should be abundantly clear that we in and of ourselves we can do nothing to please God except to walk with Him by the spirit. What can we give Him? He already has everything. What can we build for Him? He already dwells in a heavenly temple of glory and He created everything in the first place. He says: “For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills. “I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine. “If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains [the fullness thereof]” Psalm 50:10-12). .
He does not honor our effort to please Him by any amount of good works or well intentions. The Father’s Son Jesus Christ pleases Him. That’s what He said on the day Jesus was baptized. “My Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). As we set about to become the righteousness of the Son, not having a righteousness of our own, He will give us the delight of our hearts.