Monday, January 28, 2019

Seeking Wisdom -- Pleasing God

A professional violinist ended a magnificent performance. The crowd jumped up from their seats and gave him a standing ovation. But with tears coming down his cheeks, he walked off the stage, dejected. A stagehand saw him and said, ‘Why are you so sad? Those people are going crazy out there and you’re crying. I don’t understand.’ ‘Do you see the one man sitting in the center section?” The stagehand said, ‘Yeah, one man sitting, so what? There are two thousand other people standing.’ ‘That man is my violin teacher. If he doesn’t stand, it doesn’t matter what two thousand other people do.’

There are some people who, no matter what you do, they aren’t pleased. You do a job 99% good, they point out the 1% bad. It’s as though they look only for what’s wrong not what’s right. They hear the one note that was out of tune. They see the single smudge on the painting. They find the one misplaced comma in the paper.

And when those people are authority figures in our lives, we often transfer their negative comments over to God. God must think about us like they do. God must not like us, either.

As we’re reading through the Proverbs, it’s easy to look more at the negative side of each verse than the positive, isn’t it. Why? We see ourselves as foolish more than righteous. In fact, we typically don’t think of ourselves as righteous. That’s a category for only a select few who live a more spiritual life than we do.

We hear Solomon direct something to the righteous but we aren’t sure he’s talking about us.
·       The hope of the righteous is gladness
·       The righteous will never be shaken.
·       The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom.
·       The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable.
·       The righteous is delivered from trouble.
·       The desire of the righteous is only good.
·       The righteous will flourish like the green leaf.
·       The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.
·       The thoughts of the righteous are just.
·       The house of the righteous will stand.

And we think, if that’s the life of the righteous, I must not be one.

Solomon writes: Prov 4:24-27 Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you. Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil. 

And we say, “Yep, that’s what I want to do.” That’s the way we want to live, but it’s not what we end up doing.

Like Paul said: Rom 7:15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 

And because that seems normal, we can stay there, accepting it as the way it is, or we can read on: Rom 7:24-25 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

If I miss that answer, I’m stuck stumbling through life, trying to achieve something that’s already done. I will spend my time thinking: if I keep trying I can earn that freedom. We imagine God has scales that weigh out our lives. Each good thing goes on one side and the bad on the other. In the end, the one who has more good than bad wins. It’s an empty pursuit!

First of all, what are we talking about? Righteousness. Righteous – being right with God and not wrong. Acceptance by God. Belonging to God. Being declared a Child of God.

Rom 5:19 For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 

Key word: made, not earned or achieved but turned into. The moment we become Christians, we are turned into God’s righteous Children.

Col 2:13-14 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 

What is the debt? Debt is an obligation with a cost to gain a particular result. To what were we obligated? Trying to do the best we could to earn God’s acceptance. Why do we want His acceptance – so He’ll be pleased with us and love us and bless our lives.

By what Paul says, that’s already happened. Then, why do we keep trying to get God to accept us after He has already done so? Because we don’t trust that what Jesus did was enough.

You’ll remember there were 613 obligations the Pharisees imposed on the people, that in keeping all of them would produce righteous before God. It was a constant burden. Peter said neither we nor our fathers we able to keep these. So they lived under the fear of rejection by God.

I read this week of a supposed Christian organization that had found 1050 commands in the NT. On their website they stated: If obeyed, they will bring rich rewards here and forever; if disobeyed, they will bring condemnation and eternal punishment.

Do what? God will love you only if you achieve a perfect score on keeping rules? Baloney.

Any obligation like that was taken away by the cross. And because of the cross we were labeled righteous. We are accepted. God is pleased to call us His Children. We are righteous as the result of the what Jesus did, not by what we do or don’t do.

Two times in Jesus’ life God spoke His opinion of His Son: Matt 3:16-17 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." 

And at the Transfiguration: Matt 17:3-5 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!" 

Both of those moments were before Jesus did what He came to do – die on the cross. So, the opinion of God toward His Son was based on who Jesus was not on what He did or didn’t do.

Col 1:15-20 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 

The Father’s good pleasure means it pleased God to accomplish His work through Jesus. It then delighted Him for what would happen as a result. He could now fully accept us as His Children.
2Cor 5:21 The Father made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 

We are righteous because we are Children of God. When did that happen? John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 

The moment we were invited to receive the privilege of God’s acceptance we called out to Him to apply what Jesus did to what separated us from God, we got the title of righteous. It’s who we are. We are righteous. So, Solomon isn’t talking about some other, more spiritually superior group. He’s talking about us. We are the righteous ones.

You might find this interesting: there are no references to Children of God in the OT. There are sons of God, but these refer to angels not humans. Jews are referred to the People of God or the Children of Israel. So, our only example of how God speaks about His children is by how He spoke to His Son. This My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.

Does that make the jump to you? Can you hear God saying to you, “You are my beloved Child in whom I am well-pleased?” That’s His opinion, based on who Jesus was not on what He did or didn’t do. His opinion of us is the same. He is pleased simply because we are His children. Settle that in your heart.

Now, let’s talk about behavior as a Child of God.

Remember, being a Christian is a privilege. Living the Christian life is a responsibility. That’s where we choose to follow God’s way, taking the path He points out. It is an intentional choice to reject contrary forces and stay on track. When we do, we bring Him pleasure.

Phil 2:12-13 work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure

God is pleased because we are His children. We bring Him additional pleasure as we live as His children.

Ps 69:30-31 I will praise the name of God with song And magnify Him with thanksgiving. And it will please the LORD better than an ox or a young bull. 

It pleased God that we worshipped Him this morning.

Ps 104:34 Let my meditation be pleasing to Him

It pleases God we are here to think about Him while we study His Word.

Mal 3:3-4 He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. Then their offering will be pleasing to the LORD. 

It pleased God when we gave our offering today.

Solomon says:
  • The blameless in their walk are His delight.
  • Those who deal faithfully are His delight.
  • The prayer of the upright is His delight.

Paul said: Col 1:10 walk [intentionally] 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; 

God is pleased when we walk as His Children – not so much when we walk as people motivated by fleshly desires. Paul wrote: Rom 8:8 those who are walking in the flesh cannot please God. Or we could say, walking in the flesh displeases God.

Why? Because they are walking like something they aren’t. They are not people of the flesh but people of the Spirit. They are not children of the world but children of God. What’s the difference? They have been given faith. They have exercised faith. They are living by faith.

Fulfilling: Rom 1:17  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." 

Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. 

Seekers are those who want what God wants for their lives. They are open to trust Him and not lean on their own understanding. That brings Him joy. We please God when we live to bring Him joy.

So, is God pleased with you? Don’t look at your behavior, look at your heart. Do you belong to Him? Then the answer is Yes, God is pleased you are His child.

Is your lifestyle pleasing Him? I don’t know. You’ll have to measure your behavior with how God wants you to live.

How do we do that? We ask Him for wisdom as we hold our lives up to be examined by His Word. That’s why we’re studying the Proverbs: to see the lifestyle that pleases God.

Give me your heart this morning. If you leave here and don’t know God loves you and is pleased with you simply because you are His child, then you missed the message today. 

If you think that: because God is pleased with you as His child, you can live contrary to how He wants you to live and He will be delighted by your life, then you’ve missed the message today.

If you are not a child of God yet and you wonder if it is possible for God to love you? Listen: God already loves you, but He will not be pleased with you until you become one of His children.

In the 1980s movie, Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddle, an athlete in the 1924 Olympics, was trying to convince his sister that God was pleased with him choosing to compete. He said, “God made me for a purpose – the mission field in China – but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” I hope you experience the joy of feeling His pleasure today.

  1. God is pleased to label us His righteous Children when we receive the gift of life provided through Jesus’ death.
  2. God will be delighted in us as we live like Children of God by seeking Him and following His way.
  3. Nothing we can do or not do will make Him love us more or love us less, but we will feel His pleasure when we intentionally live to bring Him joy.

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