How can I be pleasing to God?

Though I’m not big on controversy, I aroused some when I guest blogged on a friend’s website. Ostensibly about church attendance, the underlying question was one I’ve thought about, pondered, and prayed over many times and much over the past months and years: How can I please God in my day-to-day life?

The Bible describes actions that are pleasing to God. Does that mean that He’s always checking up on me to see how well I’m doing them? That I’m gaining His smile or His frown based on my efforts rather than on what Christ has done?

The thought was abhorrent to me even before I fully understood it or could put it into words. How can I say that my efforts (be they church attendance or something else) are pleasing to God if they don’t spring out of faith in Jesus Christ? After all, Enoch pleased God not because of his efforts but because of his intimate relationship in faith. Because without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God.

So I’m posting here some of what I wrote at the very end of that post on my friend’s website.

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Can a woman who has a sterile relationship with her husband decide that she’s going to produce a baby to please him? She could produce a lifeless doll (dead works brought forth out of dead faith) and pretend that it’s a baby. Maybe many people around her will even pretend along with her, because they’re all carrying their own lifeless dolls. Maybe that’s all they know.

But the real baby, the fruit of the womb, will be produced when the wife gives herself fully to her husband in joyful, trusting submission, in that intimate trusting relationship born of mutual love. The loving husband is pleased, really pleased, in that intimate relationship. Then, ultimately, the husband is pleased in the beautiful fruit born out of that intimate relationship: a living, breathing human being. Living works produced by living faith.

Though there is effort involved in having a baby (just as there is effort involved in the outworking of the Christian life), a woman cannot produce that fruit of the womb in her own strength: that fruit of her life is a gift of God. Just so, the fruit of my life that is well-pleasing to God is the works that are born out of my intimate, loving, trusting faith relationship with Jesus Christ, “Christ in you.” The Holy Spirit of Christ works within me to grow this fruit, to bring forth these natural works.

Those works, those living works, pouring out of a life of intoxicating love, result in a sweet savor in the nostrils of God. This isn’t because I have produced them from my own efforts, it isn’t because I try to discern the will of God and then try to carry it out. Instead, it’s because they spring out naturally, produced from the intimate relationship of mutual love.

Though church attendance or any other effort might ultimately be wood, hay, stubble or a filthy rag, my confidence can rest assured in the truth that in Christ my life really can be pleasing to God.

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