Cross
Week 2 Digging Deep: My Purpose Gods Pleasure

Ephesians 1:3-10  How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him.  (4)  Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.  (5)  Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!)  (6)  He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.  (7)  Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!  (8)  He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need,  (9)  letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ,  (10)  a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

Back in 2003 there was a movie called “Holes” about wayward teens who were sentenced to a camp for discipline and rehabilitation.  They found the camp was run by a wicked camp-mistress who had them digging holes every day in search for some supposed buried treasure at the camp.  They dug a lot of holes – until one day… the youth did find buried treasure and the evil camp-mistress inherited a jail sentence of her own. 

I believe God wants us to dig deep into our faith and draw close to Jesus.  When we do we find an amazing treasure hidden inside of us – Our purpose in life! 

Today, I am wondering how to live my life so it is pleasing to God.  I suspect most of us want to know that what we are doing is pleasing to God, and we would rather know now than later.  I’ve been reading in my Grace for the Moment bible the stories of the Kings of Israel and Judah.  They traded kings back then like kids trade baseball cards.  Over and over I read the words, ‘... King so and so, did not do what the Lord said was right.’   Only once in a while did I read. ‘… King so and so did what the Lord said was right.’   But the book of Kings was written long after all those guys were dead, which is a little too late to make any changes!

I think most of us want to please God.  The Psalmist said this:  Lord I hope my words and thoughts please you (Psalm 19:14).    Some will do just about anything to make sure God is pleased.

A friend gave me part of an old church journal where he grew up as a child.  This comes from The Western Christian Advocate (May,1854) – History of the North Indiana conference:  These are rules for the church, under the caption of “Things Not in Order.”

To engage in any kind of conversation, even religious, between the time of your going in and the commencement of service. That interval should be spent in composing the thoughts for the solemnities of the approaching service.

To look around to catch the eye of a friend and smiling at any remark from the pulpit.

To allow your children to be stuffing themselves with apples, candy or anything else. Sleeping in church.

To be reaching for garments or adjusting the dress while the blessing is pronounced. (in other words, don’t get ready to leave early).

To stand at the door, gazing at the ladies as they leave the church…

Many of us are pleasers; we have a need to please.  We want people to like us, like how we look, like our house, like our kids, like our work.  From the time we are little we like to please.

On the other hand, we can have a deep sense of failure or regret when we think we don’t please God.  We lose our self-esteem and our purpose; often we try to avoid God.  You’ve heard it - “If I ever walked into a church, lightning would strike.”   What’s the belief?  God’s not pleased with me.

How do we please God?  Anyone can do it.  Martin Luther said, “A dairyman can milk cows to the glory of God.”  So, it has nothing to do profession or intellect.  It’s not about how long one has been a Christian.  It has everything to do with desire and perseverance and being able to see the plan God has for you.  If you discover God’s plan and live it the best you can, you will please God; God will smile on you, and you will be filled with joy.

Of course, there are lots of things that can go wrong. Like the guy who was determined to give his mother a birthday present that would outshine all others. He saw an advertisement for a bird that had a vocabulary of 4000 words, could speak in numerous languages and sing three operatic arias. He went to the pet store and bought the bird for $50,000.  Then had it delivered to his mother with a nice card. The next day he called her and asked what she thought of the present.  She said, ‘The card was beautiful, and the chicken was the best I ever ate!’

Here’s what I really want you to know today:  God takes pleasure in us.  Psalm 149:4 says, “The Lord takes pleasure in His people.”   Revelation 4:11 says, “You (God) created everything, and it is for Your pleasure that they exist and were created!”   God made you for His pleasure.  God waited for your birthday for a long time.  When you were born, God was smiling.  When you took your first steps, He was clapping.  When you called His name for the first time, there was a tear of joy in God’s eye.  Our greatest purpose is to bring God pleasure. 

How do we do it?  How do we please God?  You do it in steps.  The Psalmist said this: “When a person’s steps follow the Lord, God is pleased about his ways” (Psalm 37:23).  Here is an acrostic for PLEASE.  Each letter is a step to pleasing God.   step 1 is ~

P    Praise.   When we praise it pleases God.  This is worship.  Worship is not ritual, it is not ceremony; worship is more than music.  Worship can take on any of those factors, but in themselves they are not worship.   

Worship has little to do with tempo or rhythm or style.  The style you like says more about you than it does about God.  Personally, I think God is a traditionalist.  That’s why the Bible calls Him the Ancient of Days.  I think God is contemporary.  The psalmist said to sing to Him a new song.  I even think God is even post-modern.  He also calls Himself the Omega - the last.  God likes all kinds of music.  After all, who do we think created it?  But praise / worship is more than music.

Worship is a life pleasing to God.  Everything we do is worship.  Brother Lawrence, a 15th century French monk said worship was cooking, doing dishes, and cleaning the kitchen in the monastery.  Praise, worship is my saying to God that He is number 1, God is the most important part of my life and I want to live for Him.  Paul wrote in Romans 12:1, “Because of God’s great mercy, offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to His service and pleasing to Him.  This is the true worship that you should offer.”  Praise, worship pleases God.  step 2 is ~

  Love.   The great commandment is this, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your might and your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:37). When we love, God is pleased.  Several of you have told me, ‘All I need is for my grandchildren to come home, crawl up on my lap and say, ‘I love you.’  Then you buy them anything they want!

In Hosea 6:6, God says, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offering.”   God wants you to know Him and love Him.   You do that through a relationship with Him where you acknowledge Him as Father.  

See, God loves us so much that He wants us to be in His family forever.  Today’s passage from Ephesians 1 says,Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, God had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.  Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!)’  The whole purpose of Jesus Christ dying on the Cross was, so we could be part of God’s eternal family.  Nothing gives Him more pleasure than that.

The greatest pleasure you can give God is to come home to Him and say you want to be part of His family and call God, Father.  Jesus called God ‘Abba’ a most intimate name like Father. So, acknowledge God as head of your house, the Lord of your life. 

And your past doesn’t matter. God wants you to be part of His family.  His plan is not for you to just spend 85 or 90 years on this earth, but to live with Him in His house for eternity.  Picture yourself running into God’s open arms.   He has the biggest smile on His face, the angels are cheering, because you cannot please God in any greater way than coming home to God.  God’s getting to embrace you in that moment pleases God more than any work you could ever do or any gift you could ever give.    step 3 ~

E   Enjoy.   God wants us to enjoy life.  How many parents take their children to the McDonald’s play land, Kings Island, or the swimming pool to be miserable?    In the same way, God wants us to enjoy this world He has made for us.  Why do you think God made black-eyed Susan’s and purple phlox?  Why did He make some cows red and others black and white?  Why did He make some clouds look like snowballs and others like feathers?   Why do you think God made bunny rabbits and squirrels and put them in your backyard?  So, you can enjoy them!

Sometimes we have trouble enjoying life.  Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a member of the U.S. Supreme Court for 30 years, once explained his career choice: “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.”  It’s just hard for some to have fun in life.

Some people think God doesn’t like people dancing.  God loves dancing.  David danced when He brought the ark of the covenant into the Temple.  Some think God doesn’t like a good joke.  But God played a joke on Sarah when He decided she would get pregnant at age 90.  (Some of you wouldn’t think that was funny!)  God loves to laugh. God is pleased when we enjoy His gifts.  Life is good; God says enjoy it.  step 4 ~

A  Abilities.    We please God when we use the talents God’s given us.  In books like Ephesians, Romans, and I Corinthians we are told that God has given us gifts or tools with which to serve Him, and others.  These gifts are given to us through our spiritual birth to help build up God’s Kingdom.  When we use these gifts, God is pleased.                                                                                                                  

How pleased would you be if you gave a birthday present to someone then several months later you say to them, ‘Hey did you enjoy your present?’  They said, ‘Oh, a, a yeah – that was really nice, um… it’s still in the box in my garage, I haven’t used it yet.’    That would probably be one less person on your gift list.  But when you give a child a paint by number set and they sit at the table for hours and make something beautiful, it fills your soul.   Just like you, God is pleased when you use His gifts. Then ~

Surrender.     Jesus surrendered His life to His heavenly Father.  He knelt at that rock before His crucifixion and said, ‘Lord take this cup from me, but now my will but Yours be done.’

One of the strangest passages in the Bible for me is Isaiah 53:10 – it says, ‘It pleased the Lord to bruise him.’  It pleased God to bruise, to allow His own Son to be tortured, beaten and crucified.  Why?

Look at this verse:    6He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. 7Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!    

Can this make sense to us?  Jesus surrendered His life to God and died on the Cross, so we could have freedom from our past, our sin, our failure, and then surrender our life to God.  Freedom comes from our surrender to God.  That pleases God and God was pleased to provide the means for our freedom even when it meant the bruising, torture, and crucifixion of His own Son.  Amazing.  You are never freer to live than when you surrender to God.  The final step is make an ~

E  Eternal difference.   God is pleased when we make an eternal difference in someone.  In today’s passage it says, (Ephesians 1:8) He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet Earth.

God wants us all together in God’s family.  God wants every person to spend eternity with Him.  What pleases God is when we help in that process.   A friend of mine named Don called me about his friend Gary who is dying of cancer.  He asked me to help him in caring for Gary spiritually.  One morning a number of us gathered and baptized Gary in his bed. It was beautiful.  I was so honored to be part of this.  In that situation Don knew his purpose was to help make an eternal difference for his friend.  I don’t believe anything pleases God more than something like that. 

How do we live a life pleasing to God?  Take these steps: Praise. Love. Enjoy life. Use your Abilities.  Surrender your life.  Make an Eternal difference.   God will smile, the angels will applaud, you will know your purpose and you will be filled with the greatest joy.  When a person’s steps follow the Lord, God is pleased with his ways (Psalm 37:23).  Amen.

 

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