To Please Or To Become Pleasing, That Is The Question

I want to address an issue that came up not long ago in a comment here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. The post was “Grace Works Versus Law Works” and the comment, in part, said this:

You say, “We don’t obey to become pleasing to God, but to please God.” …

I have never done a good work thinking I’d please God. I would say we don’t do good works to become pleasing to God, but because he has become pleasing to us. In other words, I am so happy because of the grace God has given me, that I can’t help myself. The happiness bubbles out of me. That’s when I feel like I’m doing good works with the right motivation. When I’m doing them because I’m so pleased with God….

He’s commanded me to obey. It’s never crossed my mind that he’s pleased with my obedience….

So here’s my question. Do any of you have favorite verses about God being … pleased with us that I can look at and study?

First, I agree that we don’t do good works to become pleasing to God. The distinction I made in my post was between doing good works to become pleasing to God (works done because of law) and doing good works to please God (works done because of grace).

There’s nothing I can do to become pleasing to God. Not only would my motives be wrong in doing good, my efforts would be futile. My nature is sinful, and all the cleaning up I do amounts to rearranging dirt, not genuine washing.

For the person who believes, the work Christ did on the cross changes everything. Before, as we see in Romans 7, the wanting to do good was in me, but the doing ended up being that which I hated — and that which God hated, I might add.

Because of the new nature God gave me, because of the Holy Spirit in me, and because of the strength Christ provides me, I can now do the good I want to do. And why do I want to do good? To earn points with God? get jewels for my future crown? earn a spot closer to the throne?

No. The issue is still not about be becoming good or better or pleasing. Who I am in Christ is fixed. But because of what Christ has done, my response, as is true in any love relationship, is to want to give in return for what has been given me.

In one of the most amazing aspects of God’s love for us, He who needs nothing from us, asks something of us so that we can joyously give to Him as an expression of our love. Hence, my desire — a growing desire, not a fully mature thing — is to please Jesus.

Here are some of those favorite verses that touch on pleasing God:

I Thessalonians 4:1 – “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.”

II Corinthians 5:9 – “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”

Colossians 1:10 – “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.”

Ephesians 5:8-10 – “for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”

Pleasing God, as I see it, is all about getting to know Him.

Young people in love do this same thing. Does he like his coffee black or with cream, pie for dessert or cake, the beach or the mountains, football or golf, Hondas or Chevys, and on and on.

Why learn all these things? In order to provide him with what he wants, in order to choose his preferences, in order to please him as often as possible.

When I stand before God washed of my sins, that should spark in me a response — more and more I should like what He likes, do what He does, speak as He speaks. When I do, I am not more pleasing to God, but He is pleased.

Published in: on July 1, 2011 at 6:06 pm  Comments (3)  
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  1. Sorry I was unclear in my comment.

    You say, “We don’t obey to become pleasing to God,but to please God.

    I would say, “We don’t obey to become pleasing to God, but because he has become pleasing to us.

    I knew you didn’t think we did good works to earn salvation or to become pleasing to God. I was wondering whether our motivation to obey should be to please God or because we’re pleased with him?

    I don’t think about pleasing God. I think about obeying him and glorifying him and serving him and worshiping him, but I don’t think that anything I do pleases him. Why would he be pleased with my sinful efforts?

    And yet in Christ he is pleased with all my imperfect deeds of worship.

    I have, since I’ve been saved, been filled with the joy that comes from knowing that God loves me, he looks on me with joy, he comforts me and blesses me and pours good onto me. He had no anger toward me, but only love. Because of Christ, he is pleased with me, though I have never done anything that could please him. I have never done anything that wasn’t tainted by my pride and my self-love.

    I understand that there are things that are pleasing to God. Perfect obedience is pleasing to God. And I understand that we should aim for that and I believe that one day we will achieve that.

    The verses you quote appear to be saying seeking to please God is a proper motivation for obedience so I will have to adjust my thinking here and figure out what that means, to want to please God. Does it mean I can earn his pleasure by my obedience once I am in Christ? And does it mean as John Piper says that we can earn his displeasure by our disobedience?

    Without faith it is impossible to please God. I wonder if with faith it is impossible to displease God? I think that’s how I’ve believed all this time. Before I had faith God could never be pleased with me and after I had faith he could never be displeased with me.

    Thanks for answering my question. I will definitely think on this further.


  2. I think this is one of the areas where the picture of God as our Father is useful. Can a child ever be displeasing to a parent who loves him or her? But the child’s actions—in the child’s intention and their results—can certainly be pleasing or displeasing. If a child disobeys, or even if the child in trying to obey (for instance) breaks something, the parent will be displeased (at least somewhat, in the latter case), while if the child obeys, and especially if the child carries out the parent’s general instructions without being told, the parent will be pleased—but, on the gripping hand, the parent will not be pleased if the unprompted obedience is motivated by an attempt to make up for some earlier transgression or make the parent more willing to approve the child’s request.

    I disagree with your interpretation of Romans 7, at least verses 14 through 25. I don’t think that he’s talking (entirely) about before his conversion. If he were, he wouldn’t need to clarify that “good does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (v. 18, emphasis mine), and v. 25 would have said “who delivered me” rather than “who delivers me”.

    While I’d like to take a guided look through an interlinear New Testament (a guided look because I don’t know Greek myself) to see whether all of these “please” and “be pleasing” occurrences are forms of the same verb, I think that even if they are, the contexts make clear that there are people who are pleasing to God, and actions that please God. One of the marks, or fruit, of the former is that they will do the latter without being compelled by the law.


  3. I’m not sure we can earn God’s displeasure (those who are saved). We can grieve Him (Ephesians 4), but where does it say we (His children) can earn His displeasure?


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