Saturday, May 14, 2011

Living to please God

What are the things we do that give delight and joy to the LORD?  The Bible tells us that praising God's name and singing psalms to honor Him with thanksgiving, will please the LORD more than "the blood of bulls and goats":
I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving.  For this will please the Lord more than sacrificing cattle, more than presenting a bull with its horns and hooves.  Psalm 69:30-31
We also read that Samuel told King Saul the same thing, obedience delights the LORD more than animal sacrifices:  
Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Sam 15:22)
What we are taught in this verses is that the LORD delights in our obedience and careful attention to His Word and walking in them.  The Psalms and Proverbs also tell us that the Lord is pleased with those whose ways are blameless, who are trustworthy and humble, and with those who put their hope in His love : 
  • the LORD delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love. (Psalms 147:11)
  • For the LORD takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with victory. (Psalms 149:4)
  • He delights in those whose ways are blameless (Proverbs 11:20)  
  • He delights in people who are trustworthy (Proverbs 12:22) 
    In other words, as it is written in the book of Isaiah, the Lord favors and is pleased with those who are humble, confess their sins before Him, and trust and live according to His Word:
    These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word. (Isaiah 66:2)
    Love and obedience to God are the results of faith of who God is, believing that He is a faithful, merciful and a loving God who is always true to His Word and never changes His promises. When we have such an understanding and relationship with God, our love must be evident through our obedience.  As the Apostle John writes:
    Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:4-6)
    This the Lord Jesus had had also made manifestly clear, both positively and negatively, when he said: 
    Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.
    Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.
    (John 14:23-24)
    The Lord Jesus Christ's teaching is all the Bible: "the Scriptures testify about me" (John 5:39)

    It as been said that everyone lives to please someone: himself, his spouse, his parents, his child, his God, or someone else.  In 1 Thessalonians 4:1-10, Paul tells us that a Christian's motivation for correct living should be based on love for God - not a set of rules to be obeyed, or a list of restrictions to to avoid, but as the outworking of a loving desire to please God who has chosen us.  As such he exhorts us that it is God's will that we should:
    • be holy, abstaining from sexual immorality (1:3); 
    • learn to control our bodies in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God (1:4-5);
    • love our brothers and sisters - love all God's family (1:6,9-10)
    Let us pray daily that the Holy Spirit will help us live a life pleasing to the LORD, and that when we mess up, we have a forgiving Father and a High Priest:
    Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Heb 4:14-16
    All of the above requires one basic ingredient without which we cannot please God.  The foundation for pleasing God is faith, because:
    without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  (Heb 11:6)
    I will come back to a brief look about hope and faith next time.

    Standing at the Crossroads

    Please ponder this text from Jeremiah 6:16: 

    This is what the LORD says:
       'Stand at the crossroads and look;  
       ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, 
       and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls'.

    There are a few key words and phrases in this verse: 1) Standing at the crossroads,  2) Look,  3) the good Way, 4) Ask,  5) Walk in the good way, and the blessings of heeding the command: you will find rest for your souls.

    Amazing what God does with such a short verse - He has loaded it with all the wisdom and truth we need, as He always does. 

    STAND at the CROSSROAD:  Isn't every moment of life about standing on a crossroad.  We are always at a crossroad - every moment and second of our life.  Whether through our thoughts or actions, or both.  We are always deciding and choosing what to do at the crossroad, how to behave, how to react...  We always take one of the forks on the crossroad - we can't take both since they go in different directions (left or right, back or forward, good or bad, sin or righteousness, giving in to our sinful desires and pleasure or being self-controlled, to be generous or self-indulging, to carry our cross or decline it, to save our life or lose it for Him so we can find it ...)

    LOOK:  Where should we look to find the help we need to decide which path to take at the crossroad?  How do we know what the "good way" is?  We are being asked to seek, find and follow the truth "with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength" (Luke 10:27), not merely look with our eyes.  Where should we look? - to God's Word, the only place where the answer can be found.  At every crossroad, evaluate choices and decisions based on God's Word, and God's Word alone. 

    Here is what God says about Scripture:
    The Holy Scriptures are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
    At every crossroad, God is telling us to listen to His voice, to make a choice that honors God and demonstrates our Love for Him. We hold fast to Him if we make choices according to His Will, there is no fast holding of God in disobedience. On the crossroad, we should look to God's Word for help, and ask to be taught what the good way is and walk accordingly.

    The WAYThe good way is actually a person.  "Who is the Way?", you might ask?  The Way is none other than the LORD Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God:
     I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6)
    He is the only One who gives eternal life, there is no one else.  He is the only one who can help us be reconciled with God. That is what salvation is - reconciliation with God, and only Jesus Christ can provide salvation and life:
    Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
    The life that God's Word talks about can only be had through His Son Jesus Christ:
    And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  (1 John 5:11-12)
    ASK:  The biggest crossroad decision confronting us has therefore to do with our relationship with God - whether we choose Him and Life or not.  Moses asked Israel and urged them to choose God and life instead of death: 

    This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life. (Deut 30:19-20)  

    Each person should respond to the above call and give a definite and decisive answer.  Praise be to God, for those who follow Christ, he made us turn the right way - towards Him - by believing in His Son Jesus Christ so that we can have LIFE, and have it abundantly ("I have come that they may have life" - John 10:10).  Moses put these choices before Israel and now before us: 
    1. choose God, the LORD is your life
    2. Love the LORD your God
    3. Listen to His Voice
    4. Hold Fast to Him.
    Why? FOR THE LORD IS YOUR LIFE - whoever has the Son has life! Joshua, after Moses, also put a similar choice before the people of Israel and asked them to make a choice:
    But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15)
    The big crossroad question must be answered by every person: each must choose whom to serve and follow.  For those of us who say we have chosen life, "serve" is the keyword that goes with it.  Is it evident we have chosen LIFE, at least most of the time or even some of the time? If we have really been on the receiving end of God's grace, Paul tells us that God's grace teaches us to: 
    say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. (Titus 2:12).  

    WALK: At every crossroad, God's grace helps us choose the Godly way - He helps us walk on "the good way":  to choose to love God, listen to His voice and hold fast to Him.  Remember that silent voice in Isaiah?  
    Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." (ISA 30:21)

    Isaiah uses the same key words Jeremiah uses in our text above: 
        "ask where the good way is and walk in it".  

    You see, if we ask, we are not left helpless - He is there to guide us on the proper path.  Of course, it is not always a silent voice we hear - a silent voice requires careful attention and waiting to listen expectantly (far be it from us to do that!).  More often than not, He talks to us very loudly and plainly - the problem is not that He is not talking to us enough, the problem is that we are not listening most of the time.  What is this "ancient path", if not the Scriptures - the Bible that is always waiting on the corner table for out attention while we give full ear to other worldly voices and sounds (like the TV).   "The good way" also reminds us of Ephesians 2:10: 
    For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
    Paul says the same thing in Titus 2:14, about why God saved us: 
    he gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
    "Be eager to do what is good", "purify yourself" ... that is the answer we get when we ask for the "ancient paths, and ask where the good way is" from the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7).

    To summarize the path we have to take at the crossroads, I repeat what Paul in the same section of Titus mentioned above tells us: 
    to say NO to ungodliness or sin, NO to worldly passions, say YES to a godly and upright lives.
    Waiting for The Blessed Hope: When, how often, shall we do such things?  In this present age WHILE WE WAIT FOR THE BLESSED HOPE — 
    the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:12-13).  
     The Apostle John says the same thing in 1 John 3:1-3: 
    See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

    A Christian's life is nothing but the BLESSED HOPE - all who have this hope purify themselves, just as He is pure.  Some decisions at some crossroads are hard, but purity and love and honor for God should be our purpose in life for we are bought with a price and redeemed from the slavery of sin. Our Redeemer is our Blessed Hope, the sure rest for our souls.