“What Pleases God?” – 2-5-17 sermon

“What does the LORD require of you?” -Micah 6:8 What pleases God? In a world full of turmoil, self-centeredness, with the 40 days of Lent coming and the desire to do a devotion based on experiencing God, I kept spinning my mental wheels and kept coming back to Micah 6:6-8. Make no mistake that if there is one thing we come to understand recently: Absolutely no one can even come close to pleasing any group of people that exceeds 50% of the people.

With that in mind in our present day and time, I considered it all boils down to one thing that we followers of Jesus should do, make that should desire to do, what we should spend our whole life doing more and more: Please God. That shakes the heavens! Remember when Jesus was baptized scripture says the heavens were opened and God said “This is my Son, the Beloved, with who, I am well pleased.” Well by extension then if our life’s desire is to be like Jesus, that will please God too.

What brings God joy? Have you ever thought about what pleases God? Have you ever thought what He wants for you? Short answer is that He wants you to get to know Him, focus on Him, walk in His will, be motivated to be like and act like Jesus not because of the “rules” but because of what Jesus did for you.

Maybe you think that there are some sort of strict requirements that you have to meet in order to please God. Every part of our lives has requirements and consequences. We’re used to both. We know the requirements of the law. We know the consequences if we fail to meet them. We know our requirements to pay taxes to the government. We know the consequence if we don’t. We are used to requirements. So let me ask you: What does God require of you? What is required to do with our lives to please God? I promise you this: it’s not as hard as you think. The first thing we’re going to do is to look at 4 of the most popular ways we humans displease God.

1. Living with an absence of a real faith. Faith is important in relationships. For example, faith plays a big role in my relationship with you as the preacher today. You know why? Because it is only by faith that you came here today expecting me to have anything worth saying. And it is only by faith that I believe you’re actually paying attention when I speak!

So, faith plays an important part in our relationships. So how important must it be in our relationship with the author of our faith? Main Point: Faith always pleases God. But living with an absence of real faith hinders us from pleasing God. Hebrews 11:6a, “And without faith it is impossible to please God.” We can’t please God if we constantly worry about tomorrow and all it might or might now bring, because God wants to be trusted, and He wants the world to see the peace he offers to those who have real faith in Him.

Where’s the evidence of faith in your life? Some people talk a lot about faith, but that’s all it is – talk. They may know all the right words to say, but their lives don’t reflect God’s power. It’s nothing new. New Living Translation 1 Cor. 4:19 Paul said: “But I will come—and soon—if the Lord lets me, and then I’ll find out whether these arrogant people just give pretentious speeches or whether they really have God’s power.”
Paul says that the Kingdom of God is to be lived, not just talked about. There’s a big difference between knowing the right words and having a close walk with God. And pleasing God is always directly linked to our daily walk with Him. Whoever wants to find God must seek Him with their whole heart. So, are you really experiencing God’s power in your life? Would you say your faith is pleasing to Him or not? Are you seeking Him with all of your heart? If not, there’s no way your life can be pleasing to Him.

2. Allowing the activity of the flesh to guide our decisions. I had to use the Bible words “the flesh” and that very simply means our old, and rebellion against God nature that is in each and every one of us. Basically it’s that thing inside of you that makes you want to live for nothing more than yourself. You in essence say to God: “Hey God, what about me and what I want!” That part of us that goes against anything that God is trying to do in our lives.

Paul got it in Romans 8:8 “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” Fleshly sinful activities, by definition, put self in place of God. When we pursue them, we want our way, our pleasure, and our glory. This can’t please God. Thankfully, God has placed His Spirit within the heart of every believer to help us win over our “flesh” so that His will can become ours.

So when you look at your life right now, what’s guiding the decisions you are making? Are those decisions leading you closer to God’s heart and His righteousness? Or do they seem to be leading you down another path entirely? When we allow the activity of our sinful nature to guide our decisions, we never get any closer to God, we always get further away.

3. Always striving to be a people-pleaser. Now I know that some of you might not believe this but especially back in my early years I felt like the nerd kid that wanted deep down to truly please people. In the heart of many people, when push comes to shove, many just want to please the people around them. I’m not the only one, am I? Okay, here’s a better question: Did you ever really grow out of it?

I ask that because, you see, I see people as they go through their years so concerned with what others think of them that they are unconsciously hindering their walk with God. Some people are so worried about what others think of them that they don’t have any time to consider what God thinks about them and more importantly, what God wants of them. Often these are people where almost every worldly event, meeting or social activity is more important than God’s desired will and activity.

God isn’t pleased with a person who is always striving to be a people-pleaser. I know people who are afraid to tell their close friends when they’re struggling with something because they’re afraid to appear weak. I know people who refuse to come into a church service because their afraid of what Christians there will think of them. I know people who are afraid to lift their hands in worship when we sing because they don’t want people to think that they’re some kind of fanatic.

I know people who are scared to come to an altar or ask a friend to pray with them when we have time to respond to what God is doing in our service because they wonder how they’ll be perceived. What will the people think? And then on the flip side, there’s the Christian who always comes to church but never talks about Jesus or shares their faith with their friends or family because they don’t want to offend anybody.

What it really comes down to is this: who are you living for? Who are you living to please? Whose approval do you really want? Paul asked that questions rhetorically: Galatians 1:10
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” If your goal is to impress people, chances are you won’t impress God.

4. Focusing your efforts on meaningless religious externals. (Micah 6:6-7)
Outward appearances don’t mean all that much if there’s nothing on the inside. Like the husband who accompanied his wife to her thirty-fifth high school reunion. While she was reminiscing with some of her old friends, a man approached the husband and confessed, “Years ago, I was madly in live with your wife.” The dry-witted husband smile and said, “So was I.”

How much does a marriage certificate and a ring mean to two people if there’s no love between them? The divorce rate of our country would probably give us a good estimate, right? Main Point: Outward expressions of love don’t mean anything if there’s no inward affection. It’s the same way in our relationship with God. The prophet Micah in the Old Testament saw the people of Israel trying to win God favor through religious rituals, so he asked them sarcastically:

Micah 6:6-7 “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” This is what Micah was talking about: Focusing your efforts on meaningless religious externals will never please God.

So, what does please God? Will giving Him all our money make Him happy? Going to church every Sunday for the rest of our lives? Offering all our free time now and then for church things? Sacrificing our relationships with our children on the altar of our religious busy work? Surely, there’s a better way! Ready for Micah’s answer?

3 Ways You Please God Most – Micah 6:8 – “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

1. Do what is right.
To act justly basically means to do the right things. Micah said that “He has showed you, O man, what is good.” So if we believe that God has shown us what is good, then we must believe that He expects us to do it. He expects us to take action. He expects us to be proactive about it. He expects us to look for ways to be His body and expand His Kingdom here on earth.

This is big. God spoke to Micah before Jesus was on the scene. You see, Jesus was God’s ultimate way of showing us how to live. Of how to do what is right in all situations and with all people. So it’s like we get a cheat sheet that Micah and the people of the Old Testament didn’t have! We have the advantage over the people God was speaking to in Micah 6. All we need to do is look to Jesus, turn our lives over to Him, and we will be able to truly know and do what is right.

Knowing what is right and doing what is right are two different matters, entirely. This is why it’s important to have a relationship with Jesus. Until you turn your life over to His control, all you can do is try to know what is right. When your life is in His hands, though, you can truly please God by doing what is right, His will.

2. Love what is merciful. Do you see how one leads to another here? If you are always striving to do what is right, if you’re always doing what Jesus wants you to do, your life will be marked by mercy. What is mercy? It’s been defined as not receiving the punishment you deserve. To love mercy is against our human nature. When people mess up, we expect to see them pay for it. When someone does something stupid, we expect them to get what’s coming to them.

But God’s Kingdom doesn’t operate like ours. God’s call for us is to love mercy. God’s call for us is to forgive those who wrong us. God standard for us is to love those who hate us. God’s expectation of us is for us care for those who have no one else to care for them, to love the unlovable, to give to the poor, to feed the hungry, to serve the lowly, to bring joy to the joyless and hope to the hopeless. Make no mistake if you truly study the Bible and Jesus’ life: This is what God expects of you. Others may see genuine kindness and mercy as weakness, but God sees it as strength.

3. Go where he leads. Micah finishes by challenging us to “walk humbly with your God.” Walking implies that we are actually moving somewhere with Him. So many of us turn our lives over to Jesus and then just sit there and expect Him to do all the work. It’s not enough. If you want to walk with Jesus, you’ve got to move. You’ve got to take the initiative to go.

Micah also says to walk “humbly” with God. This means that we don’t seek what we want. We submit to His leadership and follow Him. We go were He leads. “Every thought within us must be brought down, to be brought into obedience to God, if we would walk comfortably with Him. We must do this as penitent sinners, in dependence on Jesus and His death and resurrection.” (Matthew Henry Concise Commentary)

Will you surrender to the Lord your whole life? Will you surrender all? Sing 252

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