I grew up in a great family. My parents were married. Still are. I had an older brother that teased me relentlessly, as older brothers are supposed to do. I annoyed him relentlessly, as younger sisters are supposed to do. My dad worked hard at his job and my mother mostly stayed home with us kids. Thanks, Mom..
My parents took me and my brother to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. We were some of the first to arrive and some of the last to leave each time. It’s where I first learned about God. Early on, in my young mind, I decided that it would be a good idea if the God of the universe, who made me and everything else, was pleased with me. As I grew up in church and learned more of His power and love, I began to want to please Him more and more.
I became a God pleaser. God would be pleased with me if I went to church. So I went to church. God would be pleased with me if I learned more about him, so in third grade, I collected books about him, and read them. I created my own mini-library in my room so He could see it and admire it. I knew He must be pleased with my collection. I learned that God wanted me to be an obedient child who honored her parents, so I tried to be that so that God would be pleased.
Everything I did in relation to God was so that He would be pleased with me. I wanted to make sure when I stood before Him one day, I would here those most desired words, “Well done, Stacey, my good and faithful servant. I am well pleased.”
At first glance, pleasing God sounds good, appropriate, and worthy. Living a life trying to please God sounds down right Christian. Only it’s a works based faith. Of course, the Bible does say that faith without works is dead in James, chapter 2. James even goes so far as to ask if can faith alone save anyone.
So those good works are important. But we don’t do good works so that God will be pleased with us. Here’s a bit of good news, God is ALREADY pleased with us. Even before we do those good works. And guess what. He will not be any more or less pleased with us because we do or do not do those good works.
Let that sink in for a minute.
If God loves us the same either way, whether we are busy feeding the poor, honoring our parents, loving our neighbors or not, then what is our motivation to do those things?
We do not do those things to make God love us, we do those things because He already does. When we recognize, truly, His great love for us those things we do become “get to” and not “have to” things we do. When we can more fully comprehend His great love for us, and His great sacrifice on our behalf, something changes within us. Our hearts are filled with gratitude and love and a desire to share that with those around us. Those things we used to do to make sure God still looked upon us with favor become and outpouring of His love for us. We can’t not do them.
When we stop trying to please God and start loving Him, those good works just come.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
It is our faith in the saving power of Jesus that saves us. Any additions to that, and we can work our way there, which completely discounts what Christ did for us on the cross and in the grave.
But Paul goes on in verse 10:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
So all these things we think we are coming up with to do to please God? He had them in mind a long time ago. You are where you are, when you are, doing those good things you are doing, right on schedule. The difference is in our motivation.
Are we motivated out of fear of losing His love? Or out of our great love for Him and what he did. The former is religion. The latter is relationship. The former is have to, and it is life sucking. The latter is get to, and it is life giving.
I gave up being a God pleaser. Because while I was still sinning, He died for me. Before I had done one thing pleasing in His sight, He suffered and died for me. He chose me. He made the first move. My picture never comes off His refrigerator.
Neither does yours.