Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
2 Corinthians 5:9
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 also 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?
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 God’s good pleasure rests upon the one who lives out that faith. So then, faith is not the reason for but the instrument by which the believing sinner pleases God. 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 in the second half of the verse 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. He is like a man who says he believes the bridge is safe to cross, but then refuses to use it when he needs to get to the other side. Conversely, Christians are “just” because they live by that faith. They “are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:39). At this point Hebrews 11 begins by briefly describing faith, and then giving many examples of men and women who lived by faith. 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). God takes no delight in those who live for the pleasures of sin (2 Pet. 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, and in order to obey Him we must believe in Jesus Christ. That is, we must sincerely strive to do what God says, but our hope of pleasing Him cannot be in our obedience, but rather 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 flawless works. God saw all that Jesus did in His life, carefully weighing every motive, word, deed, and thought on His perfect scales of pure, undiluted 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). Christ alone succeeded in pleasing God and offers to save all those who trust in Him. So then, all of my hope to please God must be on the basis that by faith I am united to Jesus Christ. His blood has atoned for all of my sins. His righteousness is counted as my own. 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 and by the righteousness 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!