I asked my husband several years ago if he thought we could displease God. At the time I was troubled because of my lingering performance-oriented relationship with God. I was still learning about the truths of the gospel and its implications, and was periodically plagued with thinking that I needed to keep God “happy” with me. I thought that I had to obey and serve him so that he wouldn’t become disappointed in me. I felt guilty when I thought I wasn’t doing enough for God. I pictured God upstairs shaking his head in disappointment.
Where did I come up with these thoughts? Some of it was a misinterpretation of the following verses; “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10 ESV) Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:9 that he makes it his goal to please God. We could look at these verses alone and conclude that if we are called to live in a way pleasing to God, then when we don’t, he becomes displeased with us.
So should we fear that? Does God shake his head in disappointment? Does he become displeased with us? I don’t believe he does.
When God looks at me, he sees Christ. I like to think of it as if he has put on “Jesus-colored glasses”. Romans 8:1 has become a comforting verse for me, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
God does not condemn me. In Hebrews 10:19-22 it is written, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (NLT)
Through Christ’s blood we have become acceptable to God, so we can be in his presence. We do not have to fear his wrath or condemnation.
We also become children of God when we place our faith in Christ. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12 ESV)
We are also reconciled to the Father through Christ (Rom 5:9,10). We have peace with God. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1,2 ESV)
Those verses describe some of the aspects of our new relationship with God. These truths about our relationship with him are unshakable and irrevocable. That is why I do not believe that God looks at us in disappointment. We stand in his grace. He lovingly looks at us as his children.
However, this new relationship of ours with the Father does not give us license to do whatever we want. We can not fool ourselves into thinking that because God loves us, it doesn’t matter what we do. Yes, he does promise to forgive us. But we need to understand why we are called to live in a manner worthy of the Lord.
We have a new position in Christ. We are God’s children, we are righteous, we are holy, we are acceptable. Therefore, we need to live like who we have become. In Ephesians 5:1 we are told to be imitators of God because we are his children. Later in the same chapter Paul calls us children of light, “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light (for fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8-10 ESV)
We are to live our lives in a way that reflects what pleases God. Even Jesus had this as his goal. In John 8:29 he says, “and the one who sent me is with me- he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.” (NLT)
Before Christ, we do not possess the ability to please God. According to The New Bible Dictionary, the description of inability is as follows: “Inability is concerned with the incapacity arising from the nature of depravity. If depravity is total, i.e. affecting every aspect and area of man’s being, then inability for what is good and well-pleasing to God is likewise comprehensive in its reference.”
It is only after our conversion that we have the ability to please God. Yet even this comes from God himself. “Now may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20,21 ESV)
In my blog titled “Christ Lives in Me”, I highlighted this same idea. We are commanded to put to death the deeds of the flesh, yet we can only do that through the Holy Spirit’s power. We are commanded to live in a manner pleasing to God, yet it takes the Holy Spirit’s power to enable us to live that way.
Do you worry that God shakes his head in disappointment every time you mess up? Does this cause you to beat yourself up or discourage you? Satan would love for you to forget your position and give up. Remember who you are and make it your aim to live up to that.
And what exactly does it mean to live in a manner pleasing to the Lord? We will look more at that next time.
Milne, B. A. with J.M. (1996). Sin. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 1108). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.