by Dionne Stratton
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Lord, here I am. May You speak through me. May the minds and hearts of everyone reading this be open to Your Word. May it go forth with power to accomplish Your purpose. Amen!
I’m sure you’ve all heard of God’s unfailing love… “For God so loved the world…”
That’s right, God’s love does not change or fade. He will not change His mind because of something we do or don't do. His love is relentless, determined, and absolute. It is because of His love that God shows us mercy and grace – that is; He gives us what we don’t deserve instead of what we do deserve. God’s blessings tend to be conditional, but not His love. You’ve heard of the Israelites, right? Always on and off. Read the book of Judges if you haven’t, you’ll see what I mean. Yet He still kept calling Israel to repent, to come back to Him, even though they had deliberately turned their backs on Him so many times. Why did He do this? He tells us, “For you are a holy people belonging to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be His own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord was devoted to you and chose you, not because you were more numerous than all peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He swore to your fathers, He brought you out with a strong hand and redeemed you from the place of slavery... Know that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands. (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)”.
God chose them not because of who they were but in spite of it. In spite of the fact that He Himself said they were a “stiff-necked people (Exodus 32:9)”. Like Israel, there was nothing good in us before we were saved that merited His love and saving grace. We were His enemies, in our minds, our hearts, and in our actions (Romans 5:10, Colossians 1:21). yet, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)”. This is the miracle of God's unconditional and unfailing love. There is no earning it, there is no losing it. “Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in His sight, adopted as His own. He did this because He wanted to and it makes Him happy. (Ephesians 1:4)”. When He had made everything on earth and in heaven God called it all “good”, but it was only after He made mankind that God said it was “very good” (Genesis 1:1-31). God is the one who created us in His image (Genesis 1:26) and we are all created through Him and to Him (Romans 11:36) and for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). As Christians, we are His special creations and there is a special place in God's heart that is just for those whom He has purchased with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-20, 1 Corinthians 6:20). This is God's love and it never changes for He says, “Could a mother forget her child?... Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have carved you into My hands... (Isaiah 49:15-16)”.
Because God’s unconditional love is so amazing, I want to talk to you today about something just as amazing and that’s this – you can bring delight and joy to the heart of God. You can please God! That’s right, everything you do impacts the heart of God and He sees it all. The Bible tells us, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30)”. And also that, “Jesus wept (John 11:35)”. But just as you can make God sad, and grieve His heart, you can also make Him happy. Think of it; you can please the God of the universe in a way that nothing else can! Not the animals, nor anything else on the planet. Not our sun or anything else in our solar system or even in the whole universe. We’ve already talked about His unconditional love and those you love affect your heart. If someone’s tears or happiness don’t affect you, they have no place in your heart. Did you know that because God loves you so much and is always with you that when you feel happy about something good, He’s happy with you? Do you know that when you’re hurting and crying, God is there with you, His arms around you, crying with you? Scripture says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all. (Psalm 34:18-19)”. But really, you have only to look at Jesus in the Gospels to see that every detail of your life moves the heart of God. As Scripture says, “the LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)”.
So, you want to know how to make God happy right? You want to be able to know that God smiles every time He looks at you and thinks about you right? He thinks about you all the time, by the way. Who knows how to make God happy? It’s just this simple: You do what He tells you to in His Word, the Bible. The place to start is here, “What God wants you to do is to believe in the One He sent (John 6:29)”, that is, in Jesus. You’ll get nowhere without trusting in Jesus, without saving faith. Scripture says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for those who come to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)”.
Now, I’m not talking about legalism here. That does not please God. No, what God truly wants is our hearts. As He says, “these people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. (Isaiah 29:13)”. And “I know your deeds, your hard work and perseverance… Yet I hold this against you, you have lost your first love. (Revelation 2:2&4)”. He means their love for Him.
Your obedience pleases God because it demonstrates that you love Him. So if you love Him, you’ll want to do what He says. He even said so Himself. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commands. (John 14:15)”. And, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching…(14:23)” and Scripture says elsewhere, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments… (1 John 5:3)”. Anyone who says, “I love God,” and yet never obeys Him is a liar and is self-deceived. Real love for God will always show itself in obedience to God. Surely you’ve heard the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” Well it’s true.
Your obedience also pleases God because it demonstrates that you trust Him. Let me share some more Scriptures with you: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16) “For I know the plans I have for you.” Says the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) “His commands are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)”, “… what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart, and to keep the LORD'S commands and His decrees which I am giving you today for your own good. (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)”.
If I could tell you a guaranteed, easy, and legal way to go out and make a million dollars in just one day would you do what I told you to? If you believed me you would. In the same way, if you believe that the Bible is really inspired by God then you’ll believe the verses I just gave you and (with God’s help) you’ll do what the Bible tells you to. People consistently disobey God for the same two reasons as those who obey God. … anyone remember what they were? Love and trust. A person deliberately disobeys God because they don’t love Him and don’t trust Him. But God is not trying to rob us of the joys of this life, rather, He is trying to help us to avoid those things that can seem desirable up front but hurt us in the end. He wants us to reject these things rather than “enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25), because “these things result in death” (Romans 6:21).
So if you really love and trust God you’ll obey Him. The Bible says, “Now someone may argue, "Some people have faith; others have good deeds." I say, "I can't see your faith if you don't have good deeds, but I will show you my faith through my good deeds." Do you still think it's enough just to believe that there is one God? Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror! Fool! When will you ever learn that faith that does not result in good deeds is useless? (James 2:18-20)”. Likewise Scripture says a little earlier in that same book, “And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don't obey, you are only fooling yourself. (James 1:22)”.
God often refers to Himself as Father and this is no accident. Just as a natural father (usually) loves his children unconditionally and forgives them and looks for the best in them, so too God loves all those who are His children, adopted through Christ. However, in the same way, not all children are a delight and joy to their parents but only those who consistently (though not perfectly) obey their parents. So too God has a special delight and joy in those who obey Him out of love and trust.
There is a special kind of joy that God has in us when we obey Him and live for Him. If you could see the radiant smile that the loving and trusting obedience of His children brings to the face of God you would never want to sin again!! I hope that it will become the deep desire of every one of your hearts, just as it is mine, to be a delight and joy to God in every way for every day of your lives! Let it be our aim, “to please Him” (2 Corinthians 5:9) here and now in everything we do so that “whether eating or drinking, (we) do everything to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)”. How can any Christian not long to please the One who rescued and redeemed us out of His great unconditional love for us?! How could we not desire to bring joy to the One we say we love and trust – as we should – more than everything! How can we not desire to delight the heart of the One who loves us so much that “He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life (John 3:16)”. He is the One who plans and works everything out for our good (Jeremiah 29:11, and Romans 8:28), who invites us into a close relationship with Him (John15:5). May He have every reason to say of us, “as a bridegroom rejoices over his new bride, so your God will rejoice over you (Isaiah 62:5)”.
Now, you don’t want to fall into the trap of trying to live for God in your own strength. Scripture says, “How ridiculous is this?! After starting your Christian lives in and by the Holy Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? (Galatians 3:3)”. Even when you start our relying on God it is easy to eventually think “I got this.” God calls us to something and we begin knowing that we must rely on Him to guide us and to strengthen us for as we just talked about “we can do nothing without Him’ (John 15:5). But somewhere along the way, what was new and uncertain becomes routine and we begin to think that we can do it on our own. No longer do we rely on God or ask for His help, we begin to rely on human strength and human wisdom to accomplish what we have been called to. But sooner or later, our strength runs out and all the human wisdom of the world fails us and we are left disappointed. We find ourselves exerting all our effort and getting nowhere except backwards.
If you are exhausting yourself, “living for God”, more than likely, you are trying to do it in your own strength which will never be enough. Think for a moment about what that little word “effort” really means - exertion, struggle, force, labor, sweat, - no wonder you wind up exhausted! It is this that the writer here calls “ridiculous” - absurd, silly, stupid! Why? Because all that effort – all that striving – is not only unnecessary but it is counterproductive! It won’t get you where you want to go and keeps you from what will.
So I know what you’re wondering now, “How can I do that? Can I really live the way you say I should?” The answer is: Absolutely! But not by yourself. You have to learn to live your life completely relying on and connected to Jesus. As He Himself said, “Remain united to Me, and I will remain united to you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who remains in Me and I in him will bear much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)”.
When we put our faith in Jesus and accept Him as our Savior and Lord, then we are spiritually united with Him in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:5). This union is symbolized and acknowledged by baptism (Col. 2:12, Rom. 6:4). We are to remain united to Him through our intentional interaction with Him – by reading and thinking about His word, by prayer, and by allowing/wanting Him to live through us and work through us every day – this is how we grow spiritually. The more we are connected to God and experience His life, love, and power flowing through us; the more spiritual fruit we will bear and the more our lives will please Him. A branch bears fruit as a natural connection to the vine. It is the vine that supplies the life giving nutrients that a branch needs to be able to bear fruit. If that connection to the vine is hindered, there will be less fruit; if the connection is severed, there will be no fruit at all and the branch will eventually die. Too often we try to live for God in our own strength. We do all the things we think we’re supposed to do to be “good Christians” and wonder why we only seem to exhaust ourselves while getting nowhere. Possibly the most important part of this passage is this; “you can do nothing without Me.”
Notice that He says “nothing”. This does not merely apply to whatever we categorize as our “Christian life” but to absolutely every part of our lives. If we are truly living for God it should be evidenced in every area of our lives – church, work, friends, family, and even as a customer at the store – and it should be something that is evidenced from within us and not simply an act that we put on. More than trying harder, it’s about learning to rest in God and to desire and allow Him to change us. We all desperately need for God to be at work in us. For Him to do as Scripture says, “for it is God who is at work in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him.” (Philippians 2:13). That’s what we were talking about right? Pleasing God? The most important part of your day is the time that you spend strengthening your connection to God. It is not so much the amount of time that you spend, or quantity of Scripture you read, but the position of your heart that matters. Still, too few “believers” actually read their Bible, but how can you live according to God’s standard if you don’t know what it is? Too few “Christians” genuinely follow in the steps of Christ, but how can you be His follower unless you “take up your cross and (actually) follow” Him? (Matt. 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). Too few of “God’s children” really spend time in prayer, but how can you know God and His will if you never stop to listen and how can God work in you to change you if you’re never still enough to let Him? If we are going to be what God has called us to be, we must first step out of the culture far enough to get the culture out of us so that we no longer conform to it. Then we must step into God’s word and immerse ourselves in the truths of Scripture. We must decide to take up our cross daily and we must also learn to rest in His love and His promise, for He says to you, “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). I am the One who calls you and I will do it (1 Thess. 5:24).”
Point to Ponder
So, I have a few questions I want you to consider. Have you responded first to God's unfailing love by receiving His gift of forgiveness and reconciliation through faith in the precious blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:19) the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)? Remember, that’s where obedience starts and you can’t please God without doing that first. My second question is this: If you have been adopted into His family, do you take His unfailing love for granted or do you truly respond to Him in love and trust by living a life of consistent obedience to His Word by His power and Spirit at work in you?
Let's pray, “Father, thank You for Your love for us that never changes. Thank You for sending Your Son to save us, even when we were dead in our sins. Lord, reveal to our hearts the truth of Your unfailing love – let it be real to us. May we put all of our trust in Your unfailing love, believing in the truth of Your Word and living a life of obedience – a life that pleases You. Let it be our deepest desire to be a delight to Your eyes and a joy to Your heart, oh God. We claim Your promise to be at work in us by Your Holy Spirit, giving us “the desire to obey You and the power to do what pleases You (Philippians 2:13)”. May we live in that power and from that desire every day of our lives. Amen.”
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