Some time ago during a men's prayer breakfast I shared a devotional from Romans 5. I spoke about how powerless we were to live up to God's expectations in our own strength. And mentioned that some men have difficulty living up to their wife's expectations, let alone God's.
Some of my brothers had some fun twisting my words and misquoted me as saying that our wives were harder to please than God. In order to set the record straight, I just want to say that my wife is not hard to please. I'm living proof because she has kept me around for thirty years!
But what about pleasing God and living up to His expectations? Is the Lord a hard taskmaster? Are His requirements unjust and lacking compassion?
Often we say, "God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good." Is His goodness freely given to us, good enough to enable you and me to be good enough to please Him?
If we are called to live a life in which we make it our aim to please Him, then the question is: "What does it take to please the Lord?"
Remember that in our last study we looked at the dependable grace of our Lord. Grace which strengthens our hearts so that we can live by the truth, so that we can be courageous for our Lord, and we can be ready when He returns.
This grace is always available and always dependable because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever."
I confess my need for God's grace. I confess that it is only by depending upon the grace of God, that I can live a life pleasing to my Lord. Anytime we start depending upon anything else...our record, our goodness, our piety, our ability, our religious achievements, etc., we are walking in pride, rather than in grace.
So, the way a person lives when they are depending upon grace is pleasing to God. Does that sound like biblical reasoning?
Let's begin in verse 15 and see how we can please God in living by grace:
1. Verse 15: Living by grace, our lives produce praise. Even when offering praise is a sacrifice. When is offering praise a sacrifice? When I don't feel like praising God. When I am burdened down with stress, pressures, grief, heartache. When I am angry. When my head hurts and someone is singing off-key in my ear. When I just had a marital conflict and would rather be sitting by myself, except I don't want the whole church to know that I just had a marital conflict. When I just changed a flat tire on the way to church/work, etc. When your husband is late, dinner is getting cold, and you are getting hot.
Make your own list, folks.
There is grace available in our time of need. You can confess His Name. You can speak His Name and use your lips to offer to the Lord a sacrifice of praise. Let the Holy Spirit tune your heart to sing His praise.
Often I have discovered that when I least feel like praising God, the grace of God has placed a song in my heart. Sometimes I choose to sing it and sometimes I choose to complain. But the grace is there if I want to please the Lord.
2. Verse 16: Living by grace our life focus is shifted from self to others. When I am not living by grace, I focus on myself and the good that others should do for me. Grace teaches us that God is pleased when we do good and share with others.
Again, this may be a sacrifice. This may mean denying self. This may mean that I go without so another can be blessed. But having the pleasure of God upon your life...who can buy that?
God gives grace so that we can give. Study II Corinthians 8.
3. Verse 17: Do you ever just look at a police officer and get an attitude? Have you ever been followed by a police officer, and you're thinking: "I'm not doing anything wrong. I'm not speeding (at least not this time). Stop following me and find someone who's breaking the law!"
It's so easy to get an attitude toward those in authority, in the church and outside the church. We all need grace in this, because we all have people to whom we are accountable. May our lives be pleasing to the Lord in this. In fact, the scripture says that it is to our advantage to respond in a godly way to authority.
4. Verses 18-19: It seems that this is a desire to please the Lord. A desire to have a clear conscience and to live honorably. Wouldn't this be a great way to pray for one another? "Lord, I pray for my brother/sister, etc. I pray that you will give him grace so His life will please you. That you will give him grace so that he will live honorably in every way and have a clear conscience."
Would you like to have someone praying for you in that way?
5. Verses 20-21: God is the God of peace. Only He can bring peace to a troubled heart.
God's peace with us and in us is based upon the blood of the eternal covenant. We have an eternal shelter in what Jesus has done for us. We have a place to go with life's sins, weaknesses, and failures.
Jesus is the Great Shepherd of the sheep. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness, for His Name sake..."
The Shepherd cares for the sheep leading the sheep both into safety and into righteousness or right living.
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."
This is God working in us. This is the Shepherd making our lives productive and giving us power to live in a way that is pleasing to God.
The power that brought Jesus back from the dead is given to us for what purpose? To make our lives more comfortable and spare us from heartaches and problems?
No, this power is given to equip us to live a life of purpose and meaning. A life that produces good works. A life which does the will of God. A life which please God. A life which brings glory to Jesus.
I think I was about 19 years old. My one sister had a 57 Ford in which someone had put a racing engine. I had never driven a car with such power to spare. I found out that you had to carry extra axles in the trunk because if you let the clutch out too fast the engine overpowered the drive train and snapped an axle.
So we would let the clutch out real slow and then hit the gas hard and listen to the tires scream and watch smoke pour off the back tires as they started spinning all through first and second gear. Understandably, my sister was reluctant to let us drive the car because tires and axles cost money, and we were having fun at her expense.
God has done something for us at His expense. He has made the power of the resurrection available to us. It is power to spare! But it is not power for spinning wheels and creating a lot of religious smoke and noise. It is power to live a life pleasing to God.
God is hard to please! If you try pleasing Him in your own strength and with your own goodness. But when you let Him equip you with what you need, then He enables us to live a pleasing life.
What must I do? I must give Him a willing and yielded heart. I must work with Him, not against Him. I must come in my weakness and receive of His strength. I must let go of pride in what I can do for God, and let God do in me and through me according to His plan.
Christian living is not just about embracing a biblical value system, going to church on Sunday, and praying at mealtimes.
Christian living is letting the Shepherd guide us, the sheep. It is letting the Teacher instruct us, the disciples. It is doing His will rather than doing my will. It is pleasing Him before I think about pleasing myself. It is living for His glory rather than seeking for personal glory. It is letting Him be the Captain of our salvation and us being good soldiers for Jesus. It is letting the Builder of the home and the church give us the blueprint, and us being good subcontractors who do His will in what we build.
And when people look at you and at your life and say: "You're a wonderful person." You can say: "Thank you, Lord that your glory is shining through me. You are the wonderful One! You are the great One!"
6. Verse 22: Sometimes we do not want to hear the truth and we will at all costs endeavor to avoid the truth. The exhortation given here is for us to bear with or to receive the truth. Rather than try to rationalize and make excuses for where our lives do not measure up to the truth, let us open our hearts saying: "Lord, this is your truth. I receive it. I know I do not measure up. The problem is not your Word, but me. Change me Lord. Bring my life into line with your truth."
How much better to have receptive minds and warm hearts toward God's Word, than to have a closed mind, a stubborn mind, and a cold heart. All through this letter the writer has appealed to the conscience, the intellect, the will, and the emotions. Now he urges or exhorts the readers to respond with open hearts to this word.
Responding to the Word is not just a matter of saying, "Amen!". Rather it is putting out the welcome mat and unlocking the door and saying, "Come on in!". It is saying to the Lord, "Keep on bringing your Word into my life. I need your Word to change me!"
There is grace available so we can please God with our responsiveness to His Word. And when we proclaim the Word, the truth of God to others and it is rejected...we must remember it is the Lord and His Word which is being rejected. God knows how to deal with stubborn hearts.
Notice that the letter is described as short or brief. Actually, you could read this letter in less than an hour. Think of the different ways you could use an hour?
In an hour you could read the newspaper, read a sports magazine or a home-maker magazine, you could watch TV news, or two sit- coms, or a one hour drama.
Such use of time comes easy for most of us. Why is it so hard to spend even five minutes reading the Word of God? Because we have an enemy who wants our minds and time distracted. We need grace to rearrange our priorities.
A recent Sunday School survey indicated that 40% of our Sunday School children read the Bible only at church. I wonder if that means that 40% of parents read the Bible only at church?
Let me ask: When was the last time your children saw you reading the Bible?
It is not in what we say, but in what we do that we pass on true instruction to the next generation! God give us warm hearts toward the Word, hearts that hunger for more and minds that listen, read, and receive.
8. Verse 23: The historical details of Timothy's imprisonment are unknown. But the good news is shared here that he has been released. Thank God for good news, for prayers answered, for people set free from all kinds of prisons!
9. Verses 24-25: Greetings to all, grace to all!
We need to remember one another, leaders and all God's people. We all need grace. Even my relatives are included in this.
The Italian clan...my mother's and grandmother's family send their greetings. I'm sure glad that they heard about Jesus and passed on a Godly heritage. God's grace blesses generation after generation. And we rejoice when we see the next generation walking in His grace. It is grace that brings us all together in the family of God, and it is grace that keeps us moving forward in the faith.
So, we make it our aim to please the Lord. Jesus is our example in this because the Father said of Him, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased."
In all our behavior, Jesus Christ is our supreme example. If we want to learn about love, we look to Jesus. If we want to learn about compassion we look to Jesus who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities.
If we want to know what sexual purity is like, we look to Jesus, "who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sinning." (Heb. 4:15)
If we want to learn about satisfaction and contentment we look to Jesus who learned to do the will of His Father, and who promised to never leave us...to never forsake us.
If we want to learn about dependability we look to Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever. If we want to know about sacrifice, Jesus not only made the perfect sacrifice, He was the perfect sacrifice, giving Himself up for us all as a sacrifice for our sins.
If we would learn submission to authority, we look to Jesus who learned the lessons of obedience in the midst of His suffering.
This whole letter is about Jesus.
This whole letter is about what He did in order to make us pleasing to the Father. It is about how we can now live a life pleasing to the Father. It is about the grace of our Lord Jesus given to us so that we can aim to please....and live to please our Savior and our God.
The Great Shepherd of the sheep knows how to lead us home where I pray each of us will hear the Father say: "Well done good and faithful servant, enter in to the joy prepared for you."
"Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Grace be with you all!
Other sermons by Pastor John.