Learn What is Pleasing to the Lord
“Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” Ephesians 5: 8-10
It should be the goal of every Christian to please the Lord, but we cannot do this unless we know what is pleasing to Him. The main source to learn what pleases Him is the Bible, but we also have the Holy Spirit and our conscience to guide us. It is a good thing to seek God to find out what pleases Him, and to read the scriptures with this intention in mind.
In general, the father and child relationship is a good guide for us. We know that a father is pleased by a wise and well behaved son or daughter who listens well to instructions and follows closely what they are told to do. The book of Proverbs brings out this idea of the Lord being like a wise Father instructing His children:
“Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; for I give you good doctrine; do not forsake my law.” Prov. 4:1
And this about how a wise son pleases his father:
“A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother.” Prov. 10:1
This may seem simple or obvious, that God is pleased with our wisdom, understanding and obedience to His commandments, but it is the lack of focus on these simple things that has gotten many well meaning believers into trouble over the years (like the Pharisees during the time of Jesus).
We have a tendency to focus on what pleases other men, instead of what pleases God, or we focus more on what feeds our own flesh and pleases us. We easily get distracted and turn our focus to secondary things. The Gospel of Mark has a great guide for what should be the focus of our attention to please God and do what is most important to Him:
“Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘Which is the first (foremost) commandment of all?’ Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all commandments is: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all you mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ So the scribe said to Him, ‘Well said, Teacher, You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’” Mark 12: 28-34
You will notice that the scribe’s wise answer included the point that having this understanding that there is only one God, and having a love for God and neighbor is more important than offerings and sacrifice, indicating that even back then there was an issue with people focusing on the wrong things when attempting to please God.
We must also recognize that God is Spirit and therefore we must be spiritual and understand the things of the Spirit in order to please God. Being spiritual requires faith.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11: 6
It is very clear in the scriptures that our carnality, or our focus on the things of this physical world that feed our carnal nature, is displeasing to God. Removing the things of this world from our hearts and focusing on the things of the Spirit, or being spiritually minded, is pleasing to Him.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal (fleshly) mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8: 5-8
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but of the world.” 1 John 2: 15-16
This makes perfect, logical, sense because if we are carnally minded and without true faith, we become foolish and are unable to follow God’s instructions (or even see and hear them), and cannot walk in true love. But if we exercise our faith, and turn from the things of this world in our hearts, and focus on the spiritual promises that God has given to us, and long for heaven, then we can see and perceive the truth, and are empowered to walk in love with the law written on our hearts, therefore pleasing Him.
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” Galatians 5: 16-17
When we focus our hearts on the things of God, the things of the Spirit, and His power and influence in our lives, and through our faith begin to walk in the Spirit, we then are able to see the truth from God’s perspective, and can honor Him and give thanks for what He is doing in our lives.
In Psalm 50, the Lord makes it clear that He doesn’t need anything from us, but He expects from us thankfulness, obedience to what we have committed to Him, and that we call upon Him for help so that He can be the glorified when He delivers us from our troubles and meets our needs.
“If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Ps. 50: 12-15
And so we see that it pleases God that we are thankful, and we should be thankful often, for the food that we eat and even the air that we breathe, we should not take it for granted. And we should thank God for the many things that He does for us throughout our lives.
It is not wise for us to make vows to the Lord, but if we do, we should fulfill them. For example, if you are married, you made of vow before God that needs to be honored completely until death.
We see also that God is pleased when we come to Him. He wants us to make Him our God and not to substitute His place as God in our life with either our own power or thoughts, or with other men or other manmade organizations or institutions. He alone is our deliver and help in our time of need. He needs to be honored as such and then rightfully glorified when He delivers us from our situations.
Pleasing the Lord takes some effort and requires our attention. Paul the apostle makes this clear in his teachings:
“But I want you to be without care (concern). He who is unmarried cares for (or is concerned about) the things of the Lord – how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world – how he may please his wife.” 1 Cor. 7: 32-33
“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” 2 Timothy 4: 3-4
In summary, we see that as beloved children we should be focused on making sure that our lives and actions are pleasing to our Father in heaven. We need therefore to be obedient to His instructions and commands, but this requires that we turn from this world and focus our minds and hearts on the things of the Spirit, becoming spiritually minded. Walking in the spirit will allow us to love God fully and to love our neighbors, as we have been instructed to do. The Lord needs nothing from us, but instead desires that we are thankful to Him for the things He does in our lives, honoring Him as our God, and looking to Him in our time of need, and glorifying Him for His help and deliverance. It requires some effort on our part to not only learn what pleases Him, but to keep focused on what is pleasing to God rather than what pleases us or other men.
I will leave you with this exhortation from the word from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians:
“Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 4: 1-2