God wants us to “find out” — to make an effort to discover for ourselves — what pleases Him. Thankfully, we don’t have to guess. The Scriptures of the Bible tell us very plainly what pleases God. Let’s go see and change our lives accordingly.
Right at the outset, be assured of a great truth from God’s Word: He is “pleased to make you His own,” to make you His son or daughter. God happily, not reluctantly, includes the faithful in His family.
We have a fuller revelation of this blessing in the New Testament. John 1:12 tells us that “to all who did receive [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, [God] gave the right to become children of God.” By repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are born again (John 3:3,7) and become God’s sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18).
Jesus Christ, the Savior who died for our sins and rose again, “is not ashamed to call [us] brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:11). Imagine that! The divine Son of God, the co-creator of the universe (Ephesians 3:9), the one to whom God the Father has given “all authority in heaven and earth” (Matthew 28:18), is pleased to call born-again believers his brothers and sisters.
God doesn’t dole out His goodness grudgingly to His people. No! It pleased Him to bless His people Israel under the Old Covenant. And it still pleases God to bless His New Covenant people today—“I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6, KJV).
Many years ago, a true prophet of God, Ernest Gentile, was conducting a seminar on the gift of prophecy in our church in Anchorage, Alaska. In the middle of one of his messages, he paused. Then he spoke a short, clear word, and he spoke it with conviction and anointing: God said, “I have purposed to bless you.” It spoke deeply to my heart. God our Father loves us, he cares for us, and His intent is to bless His children, just as we mortal parents love to bless our kids.
Don’t think of our heavenly Father as some stern, distant, uninvolved God. Not at all! Quite to the contrary, God loves us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins, so that repentant believers could be forgiven and adopted spiritually into the family of God. And His ongoing care for His born-again children is warm, loving, and freely given. It pleases the Lord to bless His people!
As noted earlier, by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, we are born again into the kingdom of God (John 3:3,7). And Jesus has told us that our Father is pleased to give us the kingdom. Where God the Father and His Son Jesus reign, there is life, health, healing, deliverance, spiritual power and authority, the presence and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, and so much more.
And it is God’s good pleasure to give us these things. We don’t need to go about life on this earth downcast, fearful, and hopeless. To the contrary, Jesus brought the kingdom of God to earth (Mark 1:15), and He is pleased to send His followers forth into kingdom ministry (Matthew 10:7-8) with His blessing and empowerment.
Integrity! That’s what God looks for in people, and He finds it by “test[ing] the “heart.” He is pleased not so much with their “charisma” as He is with their integrity. Dictionary.com’s good definition of integrity is: “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” Some synonyms of integrity are: honesty, probity, rectitude, honor, good character, ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, virtue, decency, and fairness.
My practical, working definition of integrity is simply this: “You know what’s right to do, and that’s what you do.”
Notice where God looks to evaluate our integrity. He “tests the heart.” It’s not our outward actions or what we say that is the primary test of integrity, but God’s direct inspection of our hearts. Remember Jesus’ words in Mark 7:21-23, KJV: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”
Jesus also told us that good things (in our current discussion, integrity) come from our hearts: “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good” (Luke 6:45). And this is where we can please the Lord in the matter of integrity. That is, as the apostle Paul said it, “striv[ing] always to keep [our] conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16). God will be continually pleased with our efforts, by His grace, to keep our consciences clean and our hearts full of integrity.
God is pleased with our praise, our heartfelt songs of worship to Him, our thanksgiving to Him for His goodness and His many blessings to us. And remember, God doesn’t care one bit how well or how poorly you sing! Remember that people typically “look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). God sees the joy in your heart as you praise and worship Him in song and in thanksgiving.
This verse should remind us that the church worship service is not an afterthought! In fact, worship in song will continue throughout all eternity, as we see in various heavenly scenes in the Book of Revelation. Preaching ceases in heaven. And we will have no need of the spiritual gifts. But worship of the Lord will joyfully continue forever!
Prayer pleases God! At home and in church. The early church went to the temple for the “hour of prayer” (Acts 3:1, KJV). In the churches that I pastored (and now in the church I attend in these my senior years), we had regular preservice prayer. It gives us an excellent opportunity to get in touch with the Lord, to honor Him, and to ask His blessing upon the upcoming service. It provides us regular times, via corporate prayer, to please God. And the same obviously holds true for our individual times of prayer.
“The prayer of the upright pleases [the Lord].” Psa. 66:18 (KJV) says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” This offers a possible clue to why some prayer is not answered — that is, there may be unrepented sin in the life of the person offering the prayer. Remember, it is not just prayer in general, but “the prayer of the upright,” that pleases the Lord.
God is pleased with a changed life, turning from wicked ways to God and to His ways. Jesus said that “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7).
Sad to say, in this 21st century, at least in American Christianity that I am able to observe firsthand, there seems to have developed a very shallow understanding of what salvation is. In the minds of many, salvation seems to be little more than a get-out-of-jail-free ticket, without the necessity of a repentant, changed life. But what pleases the Lord is when we come to Jesus in faith, repent of our sins, and pursue a life of holiness (Titus 2:11-14). This pursuit of a changed life, not an erroneous concept of “loose” grace, pleases God and is consistent with the angel’s words to Joseph: “…she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, KJV). The apostle Peter spoke a similar message at Pentecost: “…Be saved from this crooked (perverse, wicked, unjust generation” (Acts 2:40, AMPC).
“Anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God.” In what way? By evaluating our conduct in the light of whether or not it might cause a brother to fall.
Convicted by Scriptures like this one and others, I “went on the wagon” or, as some say, “took the pledge” to forsake alcohol in my mid 20s. Nearly a half century later, I am still motivated by this portion of Scripture to remain a teetotaler. Let me share a very poignant moment from many years ago. I was teaching on these verses in a church-based Bible school in Alaska and was encouraging the students to avoid alcohol, and by so doing they would never cause a fellow believer to stumble or fall in this regard. Well, a young lady student came up to me after class, and she said essentially this to me: “Thank you for taking that stand. I was a hopeless drunk and am sober now and away from alcohol. But if I knew that my pastors and bible teachers were ‘social drinkers,’ I would be right back in the ditch again!” Several decades later those words still ring in my ears. As the apostle wrote, “Serving Christ in this way [that is, avoiding any conduct that might ‘cause your brother to fall’] is pleasing to God.” If you are a Christian “social drinker,” I encourage you to ponder these verses carefully.
God is pleased when we do not love the world and do not follow its ways. For example:
Ask the Lord to give you illumination on your relationship with this world, with "this life." And evaluate how you’re doing in that regard in light of verses like these:
The time-honored phrase about our threefold enemy — the world, the flesh, and the devil — is biblically sound. God has put us in this world to be lights in the darkness (Matthew 5:14). As Jesus said, He has “sent [us] into the world,” but we are “not of the world” (John 17:16,18). By working for the Lord in this world, but not being entangled by it, we “please Him who hath chosen [us] to be a soldier.”
Last, but certainly not least, faith! It pleases God when we believe in Him (who He is) and when we believe that what He says, He will do. That is, He will reward those who diligently seek Him. Without this kind of faith, the Scripture declares, it is impossible to please God.
In a word, God is pleased with men and women of faith. In fact, simple, strong faith in Him is a key, Jesus said, to doing the works of God: “Therefore they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him [Jesus] whom He has sent’.” (John 6:28-29) And Jesus says further, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).
Our opening verse (Ephesians 5:10) exhorted us to “find out what pleases the Lord.” Our walk together through Scripture has shown us a number of those God-pleasing things:
Although we haven't touched on them in this message, let me add in closing a few more things that please the Lord:
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©2016, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.