Pleasing God, Part III: Pursuing and Maintaining a Fruitful Relationship

So far in this series, we’ve learned that, if we are going to live authentic, accountable Christian lives; lives that are pleasing to God, then we are going to have to get to know who He is and what He asks of us.

Ideally, we’ve come to understand that the best way we can get to know who He is and what He asks of us is through His Word, the Bible.

Behaviorally, we’ve learned that there is nothing we can do that will cause God to love us anymore and that there’s also nothing we can do that will cause Him to love us any less.

While it’s true that our continual, unrepentant sin is not pleasing to God, (Romans 8:7-8), he created us to remain in relationship with him.

Pleasing God by remaining in relationship with Him is the focus of this post.

As stated previously, through His son, Jesus, we can be made right with God and receive our salvation into eternal life.  We receive this salvation as a gift.  It cannot be earned, no matter how good we may try to be.  But each of us has to accept this gift in order to make it real.

It’s been said that God loves you just the way you are, but too much to leave you that way.

He wants us to grow up, spiritually, and to become more like Jesus.

God will not ask us to do anything that He will not give us the power to do.  (Romans 8:28-30 NIV)

The calling of God is the enabling of God.  (1 Thessalonians 5: 23-24 NIV)

We begin to respond to the calling of God when we accept the gift of salvation by claiming Christ Jesus as our Savior; the one who took the righteous wrath of God for our sin upon Himself at the cross.

Who among us, doesn’t want a gift that we choose, perhaps even sacrifice for and give, to be well received, with appreciation and gratitude?

We enter into relationship with God and begin to experience His enabling when we make Him the Lord over every aspect of our lives; to learn to humble ourselves, accept correction, practice discipline and walk, daily, in step with His Holy Spirit.

What pleases God is a simple, honest, clean and refreshing relationship with Him.

No hiding; no pretenses; no condemnation…just real relationship.

Think, if you will for a minute, about the best relationships you have in your life right now.  What makes them the best?  What are some of the attributes that, if they weren’t there; if they weren’t regularly cultivated and maintained – the relationship would falter or, perhaps even fail?

Honest, open, trusting, respectful and regular communication and engagement are some of the things that came to mind for me.

And, doesn’t it stand to reason then, that those are some of the attributes that should exist and be cultivated and maintained in our relationship with The Lord?

The Bible tells us what pleases God in relationship, listing three basic actions: to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8 NIV)

When we live with integrity in both our public and private lives, when we show mercy to those who wrong us, and when we can cling tightly to God’s Word and crave His presence, we will make choices that please God.

On this side of Heaven, we will fall short of perfect; no matter how hard we may try in this broken world. But we can aim and strive for perfection as we model ourselves after the examples of Jesus.

God was “well pleased” with His Son (Matthew 3:17), and the more we resemble Jesus, the more we will also please God.

“That sounds good,” you might say, “but you don’t know how much I’ve really messed things up.”

I may not, but God does.  And His standards are high.  We’ve all blown it.

God wants his people to live lives that measure up to his moral and ethical standards.

Through faith in Christ’s death, not good works, God graciously saves us from the penalty of sin and makes peace with us.  But that’s not the end of the story.

Jesus came into our world to be an example to us and to save us when/where we could not save ourselves.  He did so that we could build and maintain relationship with Him.

Through the power of His Holy Spirit within us, He enables us to feel convicted when we fall short; to then change our minds and our ways; to begin to think and act in ways that do a better job of exhibiting God’s character.  (Ephesians 2: 8-10 NIV)

There’s no question that God wants us to treat others fairly and compassionately; that He wants us to live humble obedient lives.

But we must acknowledge that this is a continual process; not a flip-switch proposition.

It is, continuous learning of new behavior and, as Paul writes, a constant renewal of our minds.  (Romans 12:2 NIV)

Consider, further the example in the Book of Micah.  Many of God’s people failed to live up to God’s high standards in Micah’s time.  God had delivered the Israelites from Egypt and established them as a nation.  He called them to be a model society that would attract other nations to him. (Deut. 4: 5-6 NIV) Instead, they exploited the poor, selfishly pursuing their own interests.  They rebelled against God’s authority and rejected his prophets.

Despite their crimes, many Israelites actually thought their sacrifice made them pleasing to God.  Micah attacked their faulty thinking.  Empty ritual means nothing to God, Micah said.  God wants lives of genuine ethical and moral integrity.

“Wait,” you might say, “didn’t we just establish that Jesus covered all of that for us on the cross?”

He absolutely did.

But, think again about the relationships you maintain and cultivate.

When someone falls short of the expectations, guidelines or boundaries you’ve established, what do you expect (or, at least want) to happen next in order to be able to move forward?  If you’re like many, you look for a sincere apology that includes some change in behavior going forward in order for you to be able to feel as though trust can be rebuilt, don’t you?

We spoke earlier about how it’s the relentless, unconfessed, unacknowledged, and unrepentant sin in our lives that displeases God.

The Bible speaks of this in Paul’s writing to the Roman believers, “What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”  (Romans 6: 1-2 NIV)

As we claim salvation from our sin through the shed blood of Jesus, there must be that process of acknowledging and feeling remorseful for our sin.

My study Bible commentary, I believe, guides us well when it speaks of our need for confession in this way:

“The primary reason for confessing our sins is to find God’s forgiveness. Only God can forgive our sins, and in most cases, only God needs to hear our confession. According to 1 John 1:9, ‘if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’”

“Confession involves verbally acknowledging our sin, but we must also repent, meaning we must turn away from our sin in sad awareness that our actions have offended God and often hurt others.  God responds to such a confession with forgiveness because Jesus Christ died and rose again, becoming the sacrifice God required to make us clean. (Hebrews 9:28 NIV).

However, confessing one’s sins to other Christians does also have a place in a believer’s life. James 5:16 says, “…confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Evidently, sin is sometimes – but certainly not always – the cause of illness, and healing (even if different than what you expect and are asking for) will follow confession and prayer.  Confessing our sins to others can also break the power of secret sin, enabling others to pray for us in our spiritual struggles and hold us accountable for our choices.”

Every good and growing relationship requires pursuit with honest and loving communication and feedback.  Our relationship with God must be no exception.  In fact, as we lean into Him and learn to share with Him those things He already knows, we place ourselves positionally correct with Him and He is well pleased.

What could be better?

Right here with you,