"So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light." (Colossians 1:10-12)
What would it mean to live a life that is pleasing to God? A lot of people while attempting to answer that question will point to the external things in their life. It may be the method of their baptism or the way they gained Church membership. Which they seldom miss except on Super Bowl Sunday. It may be an answer of certain vices that they do not participate in such as rude and profane language, gambling with cards and so forth, not smoking or given to drunkenness, lewd dancing, or not watching “R” rated movies. They may pin their answer to theological issues like their stance on the abortion issue or same-gender marriage, their view on the end times as pre-tribulation or post-tribulation beliefs, and if they have certain spiritual gifts, and even which version of the Bible they read.
These are all external and if we listen to ourselves close enough we will see the people who please God are the ones who believe exactly as we do. I firmly believe that this effort on their part to tend to the externals of their life is an honest effort to please the Father. Living in an external way that we believe is pleasing to God is not an easy row in the boat across the sea of life. We cannot grow from the external in, we must grow from the internal out. If the heart is wicked, then the external is for show and we are nothing but hypocrites. We must allow the Spirit to change our heart and then the external will follow. It takes discipline and determination to be a part from the natural tendency to be drawn to the ways of the world. Our adversary will test every inch of our wall searching for a weak point to find a stronghold on our lives.
In our text, the Apostle Paul gives us four characteristics of a life that is pleasing to the Father. Amazingly these characteristics are the same that was pleasing to my earthly father, as it was my good fortune by the grace of God to grow up in a Christian home. Paul teaches us that “bearing fruit, growing in knowledge, being strengthened, and giving thanks” is pleasing to the Father.
If we are farmers or not we have our way of telling good fruit from the bad. When I go shopping with Mary Macbeth I watch as she thumps, sniffs, and checks the outer appearance of the fruit. She does a pretty good job and only once in a great while do we find a worm in the apple. When we moved to Florida my father planted some orange and grapefruit trees in the backyard. He gave them great care and several years later we had good oranges and grapefruit for breakfast each morning. It was expected that they would produce good fruit because my father cared for them with great love. If those trees had not produced good fruit my father would have removed them and found trees that would produce good fruit.
Jesus expects people of the faith to produce good fruit for the Kingdom. Jesus clearly teaches us that we will know the sheep from the wolves by the fruit they produce. "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit." (Matthew 7:15-17)
When I was attending the Eastside Baptist Church in Plant City, Florida the Pastor there said something that tweaked my ears. He said it was not his calling to judge people but that he was a fruit inspector. This is a marvelous observation and this is the way we will know if a professing Christian is really not. We can tell by the way that they live their lives. If there is no change, if they blend in with the world around them, then we can safely see that there is not a real change in their heat. What is in the heart will determine the way that we live our lives. "For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, "Eat and drink!" But his heart is not with you." (Proverbs 23:7)
Now it is important that we remember that fruitfulness takes time. You don't get any good fruit the first year you plant a fruit tree. It takes time for the tree to mature. The same is true for followers of Christ. The change might not be immediately discernable. However, over time we should be seeing a difference in the way people live.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he describes the ways of people who are living in the flesh, the kind of bad fruit that they produce. "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21) Paul goes on to show the good fruit that the believer will produce. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)
We are not brought into the bonds of Christ’s love for idleness. We are brought in to be workers for the harvest. We are to testify to the truth just as Jesus did during His ministry. We cannot save one soul, only God can do that. We are to spread His good news to the uttermost parts of the world. We plant the seeds of His truth and God causes the growth. But this is not easy. It is more than our spoken word. It is by our deed which proves our word. We are empowered to do this by our Lord who opens the doors for the ministry of His gospel. We must abide in Him, as He is our source of strength and power. "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me." (John 15:4)
We please God not just on Sunday but in our everyday walk with Him. We are to live our life to glorify Him each day by our word and deed. Do we glorify Him in the way that we treat our fellow co-workers, the tactics that we use or do not use to make a profit, and do we glorify God in the way that we treat our families and friends?
The purpose of God was to establish a relationship with us. He knows us and wants us to know Him. It pleases God when we grow in our knowledge of Him. We should have a strong desire to know Him better and we do that through prayer and study of His Word.
One should not just come to God in order to tap into His resources. It is like a child of ours that just calls us when he needs something from us. If that were the only time that we hear from our child, then would we think that child really loved us? Love is not using our parents that way and love is not using God that way. God knows and He will not be mocked. "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." (Galatians 6:7)
There are many who know the Bible and can speak long on each doctrine. But if you listen long enough to them you will realize that they do not know God in a personal relationship. Knowing about God is not the same as knowing God. I know a lot about some of my childhood hero’s but I do not know them personally. We need to know God personally and this is what pleases Him.
People who want to know God do not read the Bible to learn the facts of each story only but to learn the heart of God the author. Their prayers are not filled with a request for their wants and needs but their time is taken in building a relationship with God. They search the Scriptures to find any nugget that will help them to know God better. They are not in the Scriptures to find ammo to defend their own perceptions of God but are seeking the truth of who God really is.
We want to have a life that perseveres through the hard times as well as the good times. We want to have a life that is patient with unruly people. Paul tells us, strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might. The purpose of the strength and power is that we will have endurance and patience. For the attaining of all steadfastness and patience.
We are to hang in there, not fall back, keep on keeping on, and completing the race that has been set before us by our calling. Jesus told His disciples, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62) Many times we will come into contact with difficult people, people that will challenge the way we are living a life for Jesus, people who will hate Jesus and therefore hate us, and people who will try to put up roadblocks in the path we are to go. God will give us the strength and power to be patient with these people. He will give us the ability to persevere for our benefit. "And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)
God will enable us to endure by the power of His Holy Spirit indwelling within us and our faith in His Word. The Word of God tells us these truths, God is in control, God always does what is good and perfect, God is all knowing and never makes a mistake, and the world is not our home, we are sojourners bound for His glory. The Christian does not complain but praises God’s Holy name and trusts Him through the bad times and the good. We don’t walk away and we do not turn back we listen for His voice and learn. We do not fall into despair but hang on tighter.
We are told to please God we must show our gratitude. "Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name." (Psalm 100:4) Sin entered the world because man fell to the temptation of Satan. God warned the man that this would result in death, as this is the wage of sin. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23) If it is long or short God gives us a lifetime to learn how to live in His Kingdom and we should ever be thankful for this privilege. We have little to complain about for the ills of this world are manmade.
God created the heavens and the earth. He created all that is in the earth and then He created man and gave him dominion over His creation. How can a man be thankful and yet complain that God has not given us more? God does not create the troubles of our life but He does use them for our own good. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) If we thanked God and then complained which would He believe? God knows our heart.
If we feel that we deserve more consider that He has not given us what we truly deserve. How thankful we should be for all sufficient grace. God has opened the door from our dead-end life and set us on a course to an eternity in His Kingdom. We should be grateful that He called us knowing how wretched we really are. The closer we come to God the more we realize how grateful we should be, as His blessings poured out upon us are more than we ever know.
If we feel somewhat insufficient then we must realize that Paul has pointed to the goal that we should be working towards. We are not there now and probably won’t be until we are in the presence of our Lord. We must also realize that this perfect character is not something that we can achieve by our own abilities. We cannot bear the good fruit apart from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The point here is to not only work harder at achieving the goal but to draw closer to our Lord and follow Him. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded." (James 4:8)
Thomas N Kirkpatrick
First Baptist Church of Durant, May 18, 2016