Romans 2:29 (KJV) 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. That’s a saying we’ve probably heard many times, but its truthfulness can’t be ignored. It’s not that outside appearances aren’t important to God, it’s that He knows that the true nature of a person is found and comes from the heart. The heart is the wellspring of life. Our words and actions, whether they be good or evil, are just natural external expressions of what’s abundantly stored within us.
Obedience is good, good works are that—good, but it’s obviously possible for people to obey and do good things externally—as great pretenders. To do good, even when forced, for the purpose of helping others has some merits, but doing good for the purpose of deceiving others is reprehensible. It’s possible to have a heart that really desires to worship, serve, and obey God—a heart that sincerely desires to do good to others. It’s a heart changed by God’s Spirit.
One of the best evidences of a Spirit-transformed heart is that it’s “praise is not of men, but of God.” For us, living good, upright, and godly lives isn’t to impress people but to bring their attention to the Him Who made us new creations as we shine our lights. He deserves our full surrender and obedience. The truth is: He deserves everything we are and everything we have. More so, He deserves infinitely more than everything we all are and everything we all have. We see perfect sense in giving Him no less than our all and our best.
1 Thessalonians 4:1 (KJV) 4Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.
It’s easy to understand our brothers and sisters who teach us and assure us that God loves us so much and is already pleased with us just as we are. Some believe this in the light of our relationship with our precious Lord Jesus, i.e., the Father loves His Son and is perfectly pleased with Him, and because we’re in Jesus, He’s also pleased with us. Others take it a little farther, i.e., with or without Jesus, He already loves us and is already pleased with us.
What’s my humble take? I believe God’s love for us is from everlasting to everlasting—this is even before our saving relationship with our precious Lord Jesus. It was because of His love that Jesus willingly came to save us and reconcile us to our heavenly Father. His pleasure is different. He has always loved us, but He’s not always pleased with us. I believe that if God is pleased with us in a constant and an unchanging way, meaning, He always loves us, it is only because of His pleasure in His Son.
Scriptures like the one above encourages us as His people to walk in a manner that pleases God. In fact, even when we already do, we’re encouraged to keep growing in it—to do so even more. This has to do with our practical daily living or walk with and in God. This makes it very clear that it’s possible, even for us believers, to displease God. In Christ, He’s always pleased with us; in our walk, we restfully and diligently strive to please Him. This isn’t a burden; as I’ve repeatedly stated: as children of God, we find our greatest pleasure in pleasing our Father.
John 8:29 (KJV) 29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
The beloved Son, Jesus, willingly came as He was sent by His loving Father. He was never alone though; this may be hard to understand for some, but the Sender was also with the Sent. The Father’s presence in our Lord Jesus is universally accepted among believers. However, the reason He gives is a matter of contention for some. Jesus affirms that the reason for His Father’s presence in His life is His obedience.
There is much value in pleasing God; that’s always the case for a lover. God has given everything we need for life and godliness; He has given us everything for our enjoyment. All those are natural expressions of His amazing love for us. We love Him too, albeit, totally much less than He does us. But love Him, we do. And because we do, it’s our wholehearted desire to please Him. We come up short every now and then, rather, often perhaps, but it doesn’t change our desire to please Him.
God is everywhere; He’s with everyone. One of the wonderful blessings of being a believer is receiving the high honor of becoming God’s temple. He’s not only with us; He’s in us. If doing the things that please Him is one of the reasons for it, the more we ought to please Him. How does it play in the grand scheme of His promise of not leaving and forsaking us? Is His promise anchored on a condition? It seemingly is. But we’re not worried. Real believers are passionate pursuers of the condition anyway. We as believers live for His pleasure.