We’re Made to Bring God Pleasure
A Pocket Paper
We’re Made to Bring God Pleasure
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).
Abraham Maslow, who is considered one of the founders of humanistic psychology, developed many theories about human personality and behavior. One of his insights had to do with the role that purpose plays in human longevity. He found that both the quality and quantity of life are affected by a person’s sense of purpose. If, for example, at mid-life, a person feels a strong sense of mission and purpose, he or she will on average live longer than those who don’t have such a sense of purpose.
Viktor Frankl reached a similar conclusion. He was the famous psychologist who survived the terrors on a Nazi death camp, and afterward he wrote a profound book called Man’s Search for Meaning. Among his conclusions is that the inmates in the death camps who had a sense of purpose and meaning in life handled stress better and were far more likely to survive than those who didn’t.
The great Christian writer, A. W. Tozer, devotes a chapter to this subject in his book Whatever Happened to Worship. The chapter is entitled “Born to Worship God,” and it’s so good I almost decided to read his chapter to you today instead of preaching. In this chapter, he told a story. He said that he was waiting one day on a bench in front of City Hall when a stranger approached him. The man looked at him and smiled, but he seemed a little bewildered. Tozer said, “Do we know each other?” The man replied, “No, I don’t think so. I think I am in some kind of a jam.”
He went on: “Something has happened to me. I think I tripped and fell somewhere in the city and bumped my head. I cannot remember anything for sure. When I woke up I had been robbed. My wallet and all of my cards and papers were gone. I have no identification—and I do not know who I am.”
Tozer was just about to take the man to the police station when another man nearby let out a sudden shout and rushed over to the man and called him by name. “Where have you been and what have you been doing?”
The lost man looked at him strangely and said, “Do we know each other?”
“What? You don’t know me? We came to Toronto together three days ago. Don’t you know that we are members of the Philharmonic and that you are first violinist? We have filled our engagement without you and we have been searching everywhere for you!”
“Ah,” said the man, “so that’s who I am and that is why I am here!”
Tozer went on to say that the poor man in the story is emblematic of the human race. Many years ago, our forefather Adam had a fall and received a terrible bump. And ever since then, men and women on this planet have been walking around in a fog, not knowing who they are and why they are here. That’s why there is so much confusion in life, so much despair, so many addictions, so much entertainment, amusement, and diversions. But to be healthy and whole in life, we must have a clear sense of who we are and why we are here.
According to Rick Warren, we have five purposes, and today we’re going to look at the first and foremost purpose for which we are made: To bring pleasure to God—to worship Him.
The Westminster Catechism begins with the question: “What is the chief and highest end of man?” And the answer is: “Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.”
John Calvin wrote a catechism in 1537 and the first article said: “We are all created for this end, that we should know the majesty of our Creator and that, having known him, we should hold him above all things in esteem and honor him with all fear, love, and reverence.”
The Apostle Paul put it this way in Philippians 2: Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).
In other words, God wants to work in you and me, giving us the desire to bring Him pleasure and the ability to bring Him pleasure. He works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure. There is a sense in which worship can be defined as doing that which brings God pleasure. We are made to will and to do His good pleasure. How do we do that? Well, there are many ways, but I want to mention four of them this morning.
Experience His Pardon
First, to bring God pleasure we must experience His pardon. We must receive His forgiveness. Suppose that my wife and I wanted to adopt a youngster who had been abandoned by his mother. Suppose we had visited with him, we had fallen in love with him, and our hearts had gone out to him. Suppose we were ready to open our home to him. Suppose we fixed up the spare bedroom, processed through all the paperwork, and suppose we were prepared to love him just as much or more than we could love our own flesh-and-blood children. This would be a child whom we could please and who, in turn, could bring us great pleasure. But what if, at the last moment, the young man turned on us and said, “I don’t want to bring you pleasure. I want to break your heart. I don’t want your love or your home or your bedroom. You can keep your adoption papers. I’d rather live on the streets and in the gutter than to be adopted by you.” Well, we would be hurt and heartbroken. If, on the other hand, he received our invitation and came into our home and hearts, he would become a source of great pleasure.
I want to show you something in the first chapter of Ephesians: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will….
God wants to adopt us, as it were, into His family according to the good pleasure of His will!
And down in verses 7ff: In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure….
See those two phrases? We are orphaned by sin, but God wants to adopt us as His children. He wants to bring us into His family. He wants to do it according to the good pleasure of His will… according to His good pleasure. It breaks the heart of God when we reject His offer of adoption and forgiveness and grace. But it brings Him great pleasure when we receive it and enter the joys of His home. He saves us according to His good pleasure.
Jesus said: “Fear not, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”
Sing His Praises
It also brings pleasure to God when, as His adopted children, we sing His praises. Let’s go to Psalm 149. The writer here says:
Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise in the assembly of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise His name with dance; let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp. For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation.
Let the saints be joyful in glory; Let them sing aloud on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute on them the written judgment—this honor have all His saints.
Praise the Lord!
Do you see that phrase? The Lord takes pleasure in His people; He gains great pleasure when we sing and praise Him in the great assemblies of worship.
The Psalmist tells us to sing to the Lord a new song. What does that mean? The Bible tells us on nine different occasions to sing to the Lord a new song. That phrase occurs six times in the Psalms, once in Isaiah, and two times in the book of Revelation.
It seems to me there are two ways to sing to the Lord a new song. One is to keep writing and singing new music. I get a lot of letters and e-mails because of my book Then Sings My Soul, and the other day a man wrote to thank me for writing the stories of the great old hymns. He said, “I just can’t stand all this new music with the drums and everything. I just want to sing the old songs.” I wrote back to him and told him that I love the old hymns, too, but that he should think about this. If there ever comes a generation of believers that doesn’t write its own music to the Lord, Christianity is dead. Every generation of Christians—if their faith is living—expresses their faith with original songs that flow from their hearts. We need to sing the old songs, but we also need to sing the new ones. Sing a new song to the Lord.
I think it also means that every time we sing to the Lord, our song should be fresh and new and real. We should never just repeat words out of routine, but every song should be special. Years ago my friend Vernon Whaley was scheduled to sing a solo here. I think it was on a Sunday night. He began the solo, but about a verse into the song he stopped. “I want to start this song again,” he said. “I realize I was just singing through the words without thinking about them, and I don’t want to do that. I want to sing from my mind and heart, not just with my voice.”
When we sing like that, every song is new. It’s fresh every time; and it can make a powerful statement. I received a wonderful letter last week from a woman in Minnesota who wrote something that delighted me. She said, “My mother tells me that when she was nursing me, she sang all the way through the Lutheran hymnal, start to finish.” Not surprisingly, the woman went on to describe how the great hymns and songs of the church have been a strength and comfort to her through the years, from her childhood. I think God is delighted with that. He takes pleasure in his people.
The Psalmist says: Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise in the assembly of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise His name with dance; let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp. For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation.
Obey His Precepts
Third, we worship God and bring Him pleasure when we obey His precepts. I’d like to show you something that King David said in 1 Chronicles 29. He was an old man when he rose for the last time and, with aged voice, gave his last public speech. It was on the occasion of the great freewill offering given by the people of Israel for the building of the First Temple. David said: “O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own. I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness.”
God has pleasure in uprightness. In other words, when you’re tempted to sin, but by His grace you resist—that brings Him pleasure. When you have the opportunity of doing something in obedience to Him and you do it, that brings Him pleasure. That’s an act of worship.
Psalm 5:4 says: “You are not a god who takes pleasure in wickedness.” But Psalm 147:11 says: “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.”
Hebrews 10 says that the Lord takes no pleasure in sacrifices and burnt offerings, but in those who come to do His will.
Practice His Presence
Finally, the Lord takes pleasure when we practice His presence. Zephaniah 3:17 says: The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing.
God is delighted when we practice His presence and walk with Him in daily fellowship. Too often we build a wall between the secular and the sacred. We talk about our secular lives and about our religious lives. When we work at the gym or mow the lawn or go to work, that’s secular. When we come to church, that’s sacred. But in God’s sight, there is no such wall. As Christians, we constantly live in His presence, and we’re always on holy ground. Everything we do is sacred. Everything we do is an act of worship. Everything we do should be designed for His glory.
This is what “Brother Lawrence” discovered. His real name was Nicholas Herman (pronounced är-män'), and he was born in Lorraine, France, in 1605. Little is known of his early life, but he was converted at age 18 and he went to work as a footman for a local official in the treasury. Years passed, and at age fifty Nicholas joined a Carmelite monastery in Paris where he was dubbed Brother Lawrence and assigned to the kitchen, a task that struck him as insulting and humbling. For the next several years, he went about his chores, miserable but dutifully, until gradually recognizing his unhealthy attitude.
He then began reminding himself frequently that God's presence continually hovered about him, and his disposition changed. Even the most menial tasks, Lawrence realized, if undertaken for God's glory, are holy; and wherever the Christian stands--even in a hot, thankless kitchen--is holy ground, for the Lord is there, too. Many more years passed, and Brother Lawrence's countenance and demeanor gradually changed until others began asking him a reason for his radiance. He was sought out and his advice valued.
Here’s what Brother Lawrence said: “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”
In other words, every moment of the day and every duty of our lives are holy and sacred when we’re living for the Lord and practicing His presence.
It reminds me of a lady I know who has a plaque over her kitchen sink that says, “Divine Service Conducted Here Three Times a Day.”
Colossians 3:23 says: And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. Rick Warren points out that when we really understand that verse, it will revolutionize our lives. It says: and whatever you do….
In other words, if you want to worship the Lord more you don’t have to enter a monastery like Brother Lawrence. It isn’t just a matter of having your quiet times and coming to church, though those are important things to do. There really is only one thing we have to do. We must change who we are working for. Too many of us are working for someone else or we’re working for ourselves, but Colossians 3:23 says: And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. In other words, in this life it isn’t what you do that matters, but who you do it for. It doesn’t matter if you are a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker. You might be a factory worker, a school teacher, or an executive. Whatever you do, do it for the Lord. We must say, “God, I’m going to teach these children for you. God, I’m going to file these papers for you. God, I’m going to drive this truck for you. God, I’m going to post these accounts for you.”
Romans 12:2 says in the Message: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, your eating, your going to work, your walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.
Isn’t that wonderful? Tomorrow you can go back to that same old job that you’ve had for ten years, but you’ll have a different boss. You’ll have a different perspective. You’ll be working for the Lord and not for men. And all of life becomes a doxology. All of life is an act of worship. All of life is a means of bringing pleasure to God.
That’s our first great purpose in life. Jesus said, “The greatest commandment is the love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”
Are you doing what you were made to do? We worship God by bringing Him pleasure, and we bring Him pleasure by…
· Experiencing His pardon
· Singing His praises
· Obeying His precepts, and
· Practicing His presence.
So work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works within us, both to will and to do His good pleasure.
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