What is it to please the Lord?

Colossians 1: 9-14: And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 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; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks[d] to the Father, who has qualified you[e] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

 

The Apostle Paul is setting us an example of:

… Unceasing prayer…. For other believers…. Even for those he’s never met… Who are growing in the Lord and in many ways doing well.

 

He not only is praying for these brothers and sisters, he tells them that he’s praying for them – that’s encouraging… and he tells them for what he is asking the Lord for them – that’s really encouraging to know.

 

So what is he requesting for them?  That they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  Last week we discussed what that means.  Paul is asking that they would know the facts and teaching of Scripture and that this teaching would make a difference in their thinking and behavior.

 

And not just a little difference, but that the truth of Scripture would become the primary guide for their life – more influential than public opinion, than their upbringing, even than their natural instincts.

 

Paul prays that the word of Scripture – which is the revelation of God’s will – which [spoiler alert] has much to do with making much of Jesus – Paul prays that this word of Jesus would rule our thinking.

 

And if the knowledge of God’s will impacts us as it could, then we won’t be the same.  Not only will our thinking be changed, but our walk– the way we conduct ourselves, the manner in which we move around in the world – that will also be changed.

 

When we really know God’s will we walk in a manner worthy of the Lord [Jesus], fully pleasing to Him. 

 

Praying to know God’s will so that our character is changed to the extent that we Fully please the Lord. That’s where Paul’s prayer was headed.  We grow in knowledge so that we have the know-how to please the Lord.

 

The life of the Christian is purposeful, and the purpose isn’t ultimately moral or academic but rather always personal – to “make just one person happy.”

 

Christian, we should think and respond and love and hate and invest and work and rest –  in view of Jesus Christ.  Remember that we exist for His pleasure.

 

Living to please Jesus Christ might seem to some insubstantial or colorless.  But actually Jesus is the only one worthy of our laboring to center our purpose and direction on Him.  Moreover, living deliberately to please Jesus is the most rational and rounded and meaning-full life there is, because Jesus is the Creator and Maintainer and Inheritor of all that there is.

 

When your life is ultimatelyabout something other than pleasing the Lord – status, progress, pleasure, social good, excellence, attainment, likes, influence, family, creativity, peace – you will have failed to align with what is most fundamental, and thus you will be accordingly shrunken.  “They who worship [idols] become like them.”

 

Ok,  but now let’s hear and list in detail what is a result of being filled with the knowledge of God’s will.  What is involved in walk[ing] in a manner worthy of the Lord [Jesus], fully pleasing to Him. 

 

May you be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, so as to alter your behavior, so that the Lord is satisfied with what He has bought –

 

And for the Lord to be satisfied will entail that you are:

 

  1. Bearing fruit in every good work
  2. Increasing in the knowledge of God
  3. Being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy
  4. Giving thanks to the Father

 

Let’s re-state these:

 

The Lord is pleased when we are diligent and productive.

 

The Lord is pleased when we are learning more about God, that is, when the knowledge of God’s will changes our behavior so that become obedient, so that then by this new obedience we understand more about God.  Knowledge ®Obedience ®Knowledge ®Obedience.  There’s a lot you won’t understand until you’re obedient!

 

The Lord is pleased when, out of the understanding of God’s will given by the Spirit, we are then given strength from God to endure all kinds of hardship.  Hardship:  Pain, uncertainty, loss, nagging fears, inter-family complications, others’ dislike, a distasteful project with several tasks that you’re not sure about, long stretches of work requiring involved thought, boredom, temptation that has settled down on you, breaking away from heavy chains of bad habits…

 

And not just endure doggedly.  To quote the Message paraphrase: you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy[Peterson].

 

[Note in passing how this item is phrased – here the Lord is pleased, not first in us doing something but when we are given the strength from God to handle circumstances in a certain way.  This phrasing “being strengthened” highlights something about all of these: It reminds us that each one of these ways of pleasing is ultimately a gift of God.]

 

The Lord is pleasedwhen His Father is receiving thanks from us, not sporadically, but constantly, since, no matter what is happening around us in any given moment, it is alwaysthe case that He has brought us from death to life, from darkness to light.

 

Recap: What does the Lord want for His people?  What satisfies Him?

  • When we are good workers.
  • When we keep learning more about God.
  • When we’re given the strength to not be wimpy or feel sorry for ourselves, but rather are still interested in/ enjoying things.
  • When from our mouths there is a constant stream of thanksgiving sources in a mind that is more and more attentive to, and appreciative of God.

 

Hands.  Minds.  Eyes. Mouths.

 

Hands at work.

Minds expanding, always acknowledging God.

Eyes open to things other than our problems.

Mouths thanking God.

 

Let me give an example of what it might look like to fully please the Lord by bearing fruit in every good work because you’re filled with the knowledge of God’s will:

 

You are Joe, 18 years old. Maybe in answers to the prayers of your parents and church, you’ve been filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with spiritual understanding.  From the Scriptures you have grasped a basic truth: that the great aim of any human being is to be conformed to Jesus Christ.  You realize that God has ordered that humans should achieve this aim by growing up in families; moreover that fathers lead these families through provision and counsel and example; that parents teach their children by word and deed the wisdom of God, particularly stressing the salvation and kingdom of Jesus Christ.

 

So what comes out of this knowledge given by the Spirit to your spirit?  Bearing fruit in every good work.  What might that look like?

  • You go to a school (trade, community college, liberal arts university) to acquire an education that will allow you to support the future children that you will be leading to be conformed to Christ
  • You set out on the complicated and often painful odyssey of finding a woman that will partner with you in rearing children to be conformed to Christ
  • Once married you start having and rearing children – and that’s a lot of work.
  • You go out to work five days a week to provide for your children. You keep up with your vocation, becoming more competent, going to conferences etc.
  • A sixth day of the week you are keeping up with your house, mowing your lawn, planting some shrubs, keeping viruses off the computers, ensuring that the kids have clean clothes to wear – because somewhere in the back of your mind you know and want to model that Jesus Christ is the Lord over all creation and culture and that this lordship is a good and pleasant and beautiful thing that can pile up a lot of good memories.
  • You take the time to play sports and watch sports with your children, and watch them play sports, knowing that there are a lot of sport metaphors in the Word, knowing that there is a lot of goodness in and around sports and part of what makes good people good is that they love what is good. But you also fight the good fight of modeling for your children not getting so carried away with good things that you lose sight of what is the best.
  • You take the time to support your children in music practice, developing interests and skills…all the while laboring to keep in your mind and theirs that these interests are connected to Jesus Christ and His mission and people.
  • You see to it that your children are constantly exposed to the facts and doctrines and appreciation of Jesus Christ.
  • You see to it that your children are exposed to the mission of Jesus Christ – they are constantly around people that He has saved; they are introduced to missions and missionaries; the Church of Jesus Christ plays a central role; and in your estimation, the people of God they are the excellent ones in whom is all your delight.
  • You yourself are deliberately pursuing more knowledge of God from the Scripture – awake during sermons, reading the bible on your own, even reading theology.
  • You interest yourself in acquiring wisdom – memorizing Scripture, thinking through the good life – i.e., how to speak well, what is diligence, how to stave off sexual lusts, the skill of accepting rebuke, the glory of putting up with others’ faults, the necessity of often saying ‘I’m sorry’, the specific thoughts behind forgiving people, how to make good decisions, how to invest, how to give wisely, how to get free and remain free from covetousness, what’s involved in being a good neighbor and citizen. You do this extra work of acquiring wisdom to make a way through life for you and your family, to set a good example, but also to prepare for when your kids are older and are looking to you for good counsel.
  • You are seeking and developing interests outside of theology and career and bare survival, so as to stay fresh, be humble, expand your understanding, further explore the works of God… and again in this striving to learn and acquire skills you are training your children in the lordship of Jesus Christ. There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’ [Kuyper]
  • You are working at praying for your children, that they’ll be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding so that they’ll walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him…
  • You provide counsel to your older children – here’s where I see your talents. Here’s how to get into a career.  Here’s what to focus on at this stage of your life.  Here’s where you need to be on guard.  Here’s the path for pleasing the Lord and training your children to be conformed to the Lord.  You support them in their efforts.
  • In all kinds of practical and quiet and indirect ways ou support your children in passing the facts and way of life of Jesus Christ on to your grandchildren.
  • And then you die.

 

Good job!  What a lot of work and fruitfulness!  That’s a life that pleases the Lord.  That’s a life that can only come by the powerful working of God’s Spirit.  That’s a life that has been filled up with the knowledge of God’s will.

 

 

 

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