Ask most people, ‘Are you living to please God?’ and it is likely you will get the answer, ‘Yes’. The person may be a member of your ecclesia, a member of a church with quite different beliefs, an ordinary co-worker or a schoolmate, and in almost all cases you will get the same answer, ‘Yes, of course!’ Probe a little deeper and ask how such a conclusion is arrived at, and the answer invariably will be, ‘I am quite satisfied in my mind that my life is pleasing God.’ Probe still further, and it turns out in most cases to be just a gut feeling.
Our opinion not good enough
The book of Proverbs is uncompromising. A gut feeling is not good enough. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise” (Prov. 12:15). “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes.” “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (16:2,25). These perceptive proverbs are very important. Let us not rely on what is right in our own eyes. We are given much ‘counsel’ and guidance in the Bible about living to please God.
Jesus was asked this question: “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” In other words, how shall we live in a way to please God? The Master gave a simple, clearanswer: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:28,29). We live to please God only if we believe in Jesus His beloved Son, the lifegiver, and follow his way of life. As Jesus said on another occasion, “According to your faith [belief in me] be it unto you” (Matt. 9:29).
Jesus gives life
Just as in Palestine when Jesus was teaching, there is hardly anyone in the Caribbean today who doesn’t believe in God. But it is just as difficult for Jesus’ teaching about living to please God to get a hearing here today as it was then!
Jesus came to offer eternal life for those who live to please God. He showed that he could give that life by miraculous signs, by raising the dead to life. He said, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up” (Luke 7:14,15).
The sad part of the incident recorded in John 6 is that the Jewish church elders who challenged Jesus knew their Bibles well, but were ‘wise in their own eyes.’ As the Lord told them, they were much more concerned about maintaining and justifying their own ‘traditions’ [longstanding traditional interpretations of prophecy and ritual] than believing in the authoritative teaching of the Son of God, backed up as it was by his amazing ‘signs.’ “Ye reject the commandment of God [to love, not hate], that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:9).
They did their daily Bible readings, they read the Bible every Sabbath day, but they failed to recognize or accept the One whom God so clearly promised in their Bibles. They thought that they were living to please God, but their God was not the God revealed in their Bibles. Their long-cherished traditions had become idols in their hearts (Ezek. 14:4). Jesus caricatured the smug church elder praying to and about himself, looking smugly inward and saying, ‘God, I thank thee…’ (Luke 18:11). O why were they so pious yet so blind? It is such a tragedy when that happens.
Why are we here at this table? “This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). Encouraged by that wonderful, marvellous, amazing promise, we draw near to sup together in faith and love, truly living to please God.
Leroy Johnson, May Pen, Jamaica