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3.24.2010

THE FUTILITY OF TRYING TO PLEASE GOD APART FROM CHRIST:


I used to stress over all that I needed to do to please God. I’ve even stressed over all that I needed to not do in order to please God. I long struggled to live a life that would give God pleasure, and it was truly a roller-coaster ride. So when I failed to do what I thought would please Him (Romans 7), I questioned if I was saved at all! What a miserable experience it was for me, for a Christian who was supposedly assured that I could not be removed from God’s hand. I examined my life and found it to be lacking whatever necessary to please God.

I saw my salvation in light of the stringent set of laws given by God. I thought, “If I can’t obey them, then I must not please God. And if I am not pleasing God, then I must not be saved.” How could I possibly meet God’s heavy demands when my life is plagued by sins of commission (things that I did that are forbidden) and sins of omission (things that I did not do that I should have done)?

I would finally realize that I would never please God on my own, or “in the flesh”, as the Bible puts it. Apart from Christ I can do nothing. Sure, I can dress and eat and sleep and work apart from Christ…but it was in this phrase “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” that I found hope as a Christian man struggling to please God. Finally, I have assurance that I DO please God, but only by and through Jesus Christ! John recorded Jesus’ words in John 15 that apart from Him we will bear no fruit of salvation that pleases God.

Watchman Nee puts it this way: “If I try to please God ‘in the flesh’, then immediately I place myself under the Law. I broke the Law; the Law pronounced the death sentence…but it is Christ who works in me what is well-pleasing to God.” (“The Normal Christian Life” pp.164-165). A drowning man will fight for his life and possibly even drown his rescuer. But “a drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself” (ibid, p.168).

What truly brings God pleasure is the glory that Jesus Christ brings Him. I share in glorifying God when it is Jesus Christ doing the glorifying on my behalf.


Have you noticed any efforts in your own life to please God, not because you enjoy living a life that pleases Him, but because you felt the obligation to do so for the sake of your salvation?

5 comments:

  1. I really like Watchman Nee.
    I guess sometimes I confuse the two...sometimes I have to step back and look at what I am doing and examine my motives. If I find its not the right motive then it won't bear much fruit and be counterproductive but sometimes it takes me a bit of wastefulness to spot it.

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  2. I don't think I consciously try to please God because it's my duty or I'm obligated to for the sake of my salvation.

    For me personally I want to please God by my thoughts, my actions and my life style out of a spirit of thankfulness for what He did on the cross to save a wretch like me.

    Do I fail? Does a monkey like bananas? Of course I do! But that's all part of working out my own salvation, not a works trip to prove to myself I'm saved.

    Sometimes It's hard for me to separate people pleasing from God pleasing and that's where I get in trouble. My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak.

    Great question Mike, I hope I understood what you were asking correctly?

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  3. Ron, exactly what I'm getting at.

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  4. GREAT post, Mike!! I am just like Ron...however, I do find myself questioning my obedience in my prayer life. I realize some prayers get answered and others don't, but when I can't understand why the prayers go unanswered I tend to focus on my actions and obedience. I know God knows better than I -- "lean not on your own understanding" but unanswered prayer is something that really rattles my brain. I've not really ever questioned my salvation, but I have a hard time not questioning unanswered prayer. Does this make sense?

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  5. I have attempted to please God in gratitude for my salvation. Thats ok. I also want to plaease God for many reasons, both selfless and selfish. Its not easy being a Christian, especially when you are so aware of your own sinfulness. Thank God for Jesus Christ. Good posts and hit me right where I'm at right now. Thank you.

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