So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 2 Corinthians 5:9 ESV
Question 104 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What are the duties required in the first commandment?” It gives the answer, “The duties required in the first commandment are, the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly, by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honouring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him; believing him; trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him; being zealous for him; calling upon him, giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man; being careful in all things to please him, and sorrowful when in any thing he is offended; and walking humbly with him.” Last week we considered our duty to walk humbly with God. This week we conclude our study of Question 104 as we look at what it means to please Him.
Pleasing God is the purpose and goal of life. It is also that which reveals the difference between good and evil. Whatever pleases God is good, whatever displeases God is evil. Thus, the Catechism rightly teaches the duty of man of “being careful in all things to please him.” As the Scripture at the head of this article teaches, whether we are living in our bodies on this planet (“at home”), or in heaven with the souls of the departed saints (“away”), we must make it our aim to please God. Nothing else satisfies our reason for being. So how do we please God?
Scripture reveals how we are to please God, both in its positive commands and in its negative prohibitions. The Bible states that “without faith it is impossible to please God,” (Heb. 11:6). Accordingly, we understand that the only way we can please God is by faith. However, very clearly it is not the mere profession of faith that pleases God, but it is upon he who lives out that faith, that God’s favor or good pleasure rests. Thus, a few verses earlier Scripture declared, “Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him,” (Heb. 10:38). The image described here is of one who says he has faith, but when the moment comes to prove it, he does not act out of that faith but “draws” or shrinks back. An example would be if a man says he believes that a particular bridge is safe to cross, but then refuses to do so when it is his turn to. The man who pleases God does not merely claim to believe in God’s Word, he actually lives his life and bases all of his decisions and actions upon it. Consequently, Hebrews chapter 11 goes on to set forth many examples of men and women who lived by faith. Because they truly, that is, sincerely believed God, they acted upon His Word and did what He told them to. These are the people who pleased God.
Contrast these pleasers of God with those professing believers who provoked God’s wrath during the exodus out of Egypt. The Bible condemns those Israelites, whose “bodies were scattered in the wilderness” by declaring that “God was not pleased” with them, (1 Cor. 10:5). Here is an example of Biblical understatement! God is holy. He is not amused by those who say they believe in Him; making the claim that they honor Him with their lives; but who actually live by some other word. To do such is to mock God and play Him for the fool. God takes no delight in those who live for the pleasures of sin (2 Peter 2:13-15). On the contrary, it is when we keep God’s commandments that we “do those things that are pleasing in His sight,” (1 John 3:22).
Accordingly, in order to please God we must obey Him. However, as sinners we must place our faith in Jesus Christ if we are going to live lives that are pleasing to God. That is, we must do what God says, but our hope that we are pleasing to God cannot be in our obedience, but it must be entirely in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Jesus alone truly pleased God: “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,’” (Matt. 3:17). Jesus alone lived a sinless and perfectly righteous life, pleasing God by His works. In other words, God looked at all that Jesus did in His life, carefully weighing every motive, deed, and thought on His perfect scales of pure unadulterated justice, and God was pleased! He found only that which was holy, righteous, perfect, and good. Jesus said of Himself “I always do those things that please Him,” (John 8:29b). He alone was pleasing to God, so that all of my hope to please Him must be on the basis that by faith I am united to Jesus Christ. My sins have been taken away. I am now free to live for God with the certain knowledge that He is pleased with every act of sincere obedience that I set before Him, no matter how imperfect it is, so long as I bring it to Him through the blood of Jesus, the One who pleased God! Meditate today on how you can be careful in all things to please God, for He is pleased with your blood-bought obedience!