The pleasure of salvation
We are called to ‘please God’ (1 Thessalonians 4v1esv) but how are we meant to do this? What is it that God finds pleasing? What is it that honours and values him as most precious and glorious?
The greatest commandment is ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Matthew 22v37esv). Loving God with our all, above anything else declares him to be of supreme satisfaction and worth. Cherishing, taking delight, joy & pleasure in God recognises him for who he is and relates to him as he is. So we please God by taking pleasure in Him.
Unfortunately this is the very thing we don’t do. The essence of our sin is that we prefer to take pleasure in almost anything above God. In so doing declaring it to be of more value and worth than the Almighty and so turning our backs on him.
The good news is that this is why Jesus came. He lived, died & rose again so that through faith in him we can be forgiven of all our sinful displeasure & dishonouring lack of joy in God, and be given Jesus’ righteousness as our own. ‘not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God’ (Philippians 3v9esv)
To be given Jesus’ righteousness, is to be given his record of rightly relating to or correctly valuing God. That is, we are given Jesus’ perfect record of total pleasure in God, and so declared 100% pleasing to God 100% of the time, just as Jesus himself is! Therefore we are brought back to God, enabled to come into his presence and to take pleasure in him, to the honour of his name and delight of his heart.
This is wonderful news; you will not hear better. But at this point confusion can set in. We can think ‘how do I please him who is already totally pleased with me?’ And in our attempts to do so, fall back into trying to make God pleased with us; trying to win his approval.
The problem is that often we can confuse ‘God being pleased with us’ and ‘us pleasing God’. They are not the same thing. The first is justification, the second is sanctification. Once we put our trust in Jesus we are pleasing to God, how he thinks and feels towards us does not and cannot change, as it is set in Jesus Christ (justification).
Once this is the case we can please God day by day, moment by moment, because he is already pleased with us. We please him by giving to him what he finds pleasing, namely ourselves in Christ & Christ in us (sanctification). That is, we delight God by delighting in his delight in us in Christ (that is, in what he has graciously done for us), and ultimately we delight him by delighting in him (that is, in who he is; his character, attributes & ways).
This is just another way of saying we please God by being with him. Through faith in Jesus, God is pleased with us, so we can please him, by taking pleasure in Him!