Chapter 8 – The Purpose of Studying Virtues Part 2 – Knowing and Pleasing God

            “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth…  God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen.1:1, 31).  Please take a moment and read Genesis chapters one through three.         

 

            God created everything such that it pleased Him.  Man was created to know God.  To know God is to acquaint ourselves with as many of His attributes and His ways as we can comprehend so that they are readily recognized.  To please God is to utilize one of the many ways God has provided for us to worship Him.  It is not inaccurate to say that the purpose of life (in a biological sense) is to live life (spiritual life in communion with God).  God is the source of all life and therefore has no need of anything; He does not have a need to be known or to be pleased.  It is to our pleasure and well being that we fulfill the intent of the gift of life He has given us, to know and to please God.  As we do so, we rightly glorify God who is wholly deserving of our worship and praise.  

 

            God created man in His image, meaning man is spirit and has a triune nature.  We understand God to be Father, Son and Holy Spirit; likewise, we are soul, body and spirit.  Man was originally created in full communion with God, righteous and living fully in His presence.  As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, they died.  Communion with God was broken.  They fell from the presence of God and they were cut off from the life giving breath God originally breathed into mankind.  No longer did they dwell in the fullness of life with God.  Immediately they became needy, becoming insecure and lacking in significance.  Their concern for being naked before God is evidence of their lack of security in that they felt a need to do something in order to be acceptable to God.  The way they tried to shift blame upon one another when confronted by God, is evidence of their lack of significance as they attempted to restore their sense of worth by absolving themselves of responsibility for wrongdoing.  The fallen state of the first human beings has been inherited by all subsequent souls. 

 

            Pondering the immensity of their loss, of life before the fall and the pain of the immediate consequences of the original sin, can help us to appreciate what Jesus has done for all mankind and the magnificence of what is available to us if we choose to draw nearer to God.  Jesus came to restore what had been lost in the Garden of Eden.  He came that man might again have life in abundance (Jn.10:10) and be restored to righteousness and be able to enter fully into the presence of God (Heb.4:16).  Praise God!  With this gift, we are to pursue virtue which is glory and praise to God (Phil.1:8-11).  In so doing, we create a life of harmony by unifying our thoughts and actions with the original intent of God in creation.  Our desire to please God our Father should be as natural as any child’s desire to please their parents.  It is an expression of our love for Him in response to His love for us, and an expression of gratitude for the many blessings He eternally bestows.

 

            To please God is to be obedient to God.  To be obedient to God is to please God.  These deeds are definitely not exclusive of each other, as motivations they are exceptionally complementary.  The difference between the two is the direction in which the blessings flow.  Obedience brings blessings from God to us.  Pleasing God is our way of blessing Him in that we return to Him the goodness of our lives.  We do so out of gratitude and reverence for God with joy and praise, replacing the stench of our sin with the warm aroma of righteousness (Lev.23:18).  To align our beliefs and motivations with our actions in a godly way requires a conscious effort.  First, we need to be aware of our current motivations.   Next, be willing to contrast our thoughts and attitudes against what Jesus has taught us in His Word, and against the heroic examples of the saints who have gone on before us as, and also against lessons learned from mentors.  Then, we must be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to have access to our heart, allowing His ways to become our ways by forsaking all unholy or impure thoughts and motivations that are hostile toward the goodness of God.  Lastly, acting in full knowledge that we are in Christ and Christ is in us, proceed in accord with the Holy Spirit, surrendering our will to the divine will of God and following His instruction.  Doing so affirms our identity as children of God while not doing so is evidence of deception, rebellion and sin in general.    

 

            Acting contrary to the ways of God is the hypocrisy of not aligning behavior with identity; we are children of God, not children of wrath.  In Christ, we possess all the goodness of God, and all we need do is be willing to let it be expressed outwardly.  Our identity is in Christ, we are the family of God.  As His children, we are to be like Him because we are born anew in His Holy Spirit.  When we fail to act in accordance with our identity, we pretend to be something we’re not (unrighteous when in Christ we have the righteousness of God) and succumb to hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy isn’t merely saying one thing and doing another; it’s being righteous but acting as if it were not so.  Our failure is our sin.  Trying to shift blame by pointing an accusatory finger at others, only serves to avoid owning up to one’s own sin.  We are always responsible for our own behavior.  Others may aggravate or instigate, but we are still responsible for our response.  The standard of behavior that is acceptable to God and preached from the gospels is perfection.  Spiritually, we have the perfect righteousness of Christ in us (1Cor.1:30) and are thus qualified to carry the gospel message in word and deed.  Therefore, it is not hypocritical to teach and preach the gospel despite having shortcomings.  In the flesh, which is not a Christian’s identity, no one is qualified. 

 

            Those who reject our Lord put themselves at odds with God (Mt.12:30).  All such souls can be considered “anti-Christ”, for everything they espouse is contrary to the way of Truth.  Their words are perverse, delusional, and evil.  In all they do or say, they mock the suggestion that all souls should strive to be pleasing to God.  Unbeknownst to them, they grieve their own spirit with resentments, hostilities, anger, and self-loathing, for God is not mocked (Gal.6:7).  Should such souls die without repentance, they pay the ultimate penalty of eternal damnation.  While on Earth, the consequences for sin are many and varied.  Constant opposition to the nature of creation as God meant it to be, robs a person of the peace that only comes from resting in the arms of God.  The more adamant the rebellious soul becomes, the further they progress in ungodliness as their sins become ever more grievous.  A life of depression, of various personality or anxiety disorders, is meant for the ungodly, not His saints.  Active rebellion often leads to suicide.   Such souls prefer to put an end to their self-imposed misery rather than own up to mistakes and repent of their sinful ways.  The misery of sin is bitterness, isolation, a cold heart, a sense of inadequacy, worthlessness, futility, lack of fulfillment and a pervasive fear of what lies ahead or beyond the grave.   God has ordained creation so that we reap what we sow.  All that is good is from God and goodness fulfills while evil leaves a soul destitute.  Hell is the abyss of eternal damnation for those who fail to repent of their evil.  It is characterized by the complete absence of goodness; no creativity, no life, no joy and no peace.  There is also plenty of that here on Earth as well for those who choose not to please God.  

 

Scriptural References:

 

Mt.3:16-17, the obedience of Jesus followed by God the Father being pleased

Jn.17, identity as children of God and separating the godly from the worldly

Rom.8:5-14, secular attitudes are hostile toward God; the ways of God bring peace

Rom.12:1-2, as an act of worship, forsake secular ways for the ways of God

Rom.14:16-18, abiding in righteousness pleases God; also earns respect of our fellows

Gal.6:8-10, we reap what we sow, either eternal blessings or further corruption

Eph.5:6-14, learn to discern goodness from evil to know how to please our Lord

1Tim.2:1-4, godliness and dignity as being pleasing to God

 

Commentaries:

 

“Our greatest ambition must be to see the crucified Christ always before us, His life and death, what efforts He demands of us.

            Seek nothing beyond this.  It will please the divine Master.  His real friends ask only for those things that will enable them to fulfill His commissions.  Any other desire, any other quest, is but self-love, spiritual pride, and encirclement by the devil.”

Dom Lorenzo Scupoli (16th C.?); “The Spiritual Combat”, pg. 23 as printed by Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., © 1945 by The Newman Bookshop

 

“The practice of performing all of our actions solely from the intention of pleasing God may be difficult at first.  With the passing of time it will become familiar and even delightful, if we strive to find God in all sincerity of heart, if we continually long for Him, the only and greatest Good, deserving to be sought, valued, and loved by all His creatures.  The more attentively we contemplate the greatness and goodness of God, the more frequently and tenderly our affections will turn to that divine Object.  In this way we will more quickly, and with greater facility, obtain the habit of directing all our actions to His glory.”

ibid. pg. 30

 

“In particular, we must never forget that His majesty is infinitely worthy of our service, a service motivated by a single principle of love, whose only object is His will and desire.”

ibid. pg. 32

 

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One thought on “Chapter 8 – The Purpose of Studying Virtues Part 2 – Knowing and Pleasing God

  1. Pingback: A Primer on Virtue & Spiritual Growth Manual For Christians | A Primer on Virtue

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