Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses Hebrews 13:10-21, 2 Timothy 4:2-5, 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 Downloads & Resources Pleasing God Dr. Jon Morrissette - 6/29/2003 I was enjoying a meal at a Cracker Barrel restaurant when a large sign in the back of their kitchen caught my eye. "Our mission is to please people." On their website is a similar statement. "Our mission is to please people. Nothing more, nothing less. And if we do that, we will have a fair chance of success." That is a great mission statement for a restaurant which has a limited scope of selling knickknacks, merchandise, and food. But I started thinking about how impossible and even destructive their mission statement would be if we used it to measure spiritual success. What if we measured spiritual success by the number of smiles or the absence of criticism? What if making everyone comfortable and keeping everyone happy became the sole purpose of our congregation? What if we only gave people what they wanted, nothing more and nothing less? What is the mission of our church? What if we tried to accommodate everyone’s personal schedule, their music style, learning style, temperature level, preferred Bible translation, and dress code? What if we catered our spiritual menu and moral teaching to the preferences of everyone who walked through our front doors or who placed their membership with us? I think it is fair to say that this church would cease being a church. We would become a country club or something along that order. We would quickly lose our distinctiveness and become altogether worthless to the world. There are many who lead the Church based on how many people will be satisfied. This is the essence of politics. Politics is doing what pleases the most people. It is doing whatever is necessary to secure majority favor. Is abortion right or wrong? Should the State sodomy laws be repealed? Should gay marriage be instituted? Is stem-cell research out of bounds? Is adultery an acceptable life choice? Should marijuana be legalized? In politics you can change the moral code by persuading the moral majority. Politicians, in their desire to secure majority favor, will always rewrite or reinterpret the laws to please the people and get reelected. This is the essence of church politics as well. Many church leaders lead out of a desire to please men rather than to please God. Paul warns Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2-5 (NIV) about the realities of Church politics. "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage— with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." Are we successful if we please a lot of people? But let’s set aside church for a moment and talk about personal spiritual success. What if we measured personal spiritual success by the number of people we pleased? For example, what if we primarily did the things spiritually that pleased our spouses? We see this dynamic at work in the Church all the time. Often a husband and wife are operating at two different spiritual planes. The wife believes that their household should tithe, but the husband sees it as a waste. The husband wants to get involved in a Bible Study, or leadership, or a ministry, but the wife discourages him. The wife wants the entire family in worship every Sunday, but the husband sees it as the best day to sleep in, or go fishing, or golf, or plan an outing. In 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 (NIV) gives this advice and admonition to single men and women. To single men he says, "I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs— how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world— how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided." To single women Paul says, "An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world— how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord." Paul is not prohibiting marriage. He is not suggesting that married people cannot be spiritual or cannot become fully devoted to the Lord. He is making a statement about the powerful influence a spouse has over his or her mate. The one can easily dissuade the other from pleasing God, with the result that people find themselves choosing between pleasing God and pleasing men. This explains why Paul elsewhere prohibits a believer from becoming unequally yoked with an unbeliever. That combination often hinders spiritual progress. When I was in college Lara had a neighbor girl of just ten years of age who whenever she saw us would say, "I’m going to remain single for the Lord." I couldn’t tell if she was ultra-spiritual or just got discouraged about the married life when she saw who Lara was dating and bringing home each night. The point is that we must always be careful to please God, even if it displeases a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife. We should please God even if it means remaining single. We cannot allow our devotion to become divided, no matter what the cost. When you are younger it may mean breaking up with your boyfriend. When you are married it may result in tension in your household. We must live a holy life in order to please God in all of our relationships. Our obligation is to live a holy life and to have a clear conscience before God. Our obligation is to please God. It is far better to suffer by pleasing God than to disobey God while living to please men and women. Beyond the marriage relationship, there are dozens of relationships to consider. In 2 Timothy 2:4 Paul speaks of the soldier who wants to please his commanding officer. In today's society this passage has relevance to the athlete who wants to please his coach. In Titus 2:9 Paul speaks of slaves pleasing their masters. It would be advantageous for you to list those relationships that you value so much that you might be tempted to displease God in some way. When I was in high school I only had one or two friends at school who were Christians. At the store where I worked there were no Christians that I knew of. If there were any Christians they were flying beneath the radar. This means that with the exception of the godly influence of my parents, most everyone I associated was antagonistic to my Christian faith. I had one neighborhood friend who pushed me to sneak out at night in order to puff on mini cigars with him. Another neighborhood friend persuaded me to soap all the windows at our school, throw toilet paper in the trees, and to do a sundry of other dark activities. Of course we got caught and had to spend time in detention and pay for cleanup. At school my friends encouraged promiscuity, bullying, and name-calling. They pushed me to go out on weekends to party, to take drugs, and even to steal. They scoffed at the Christian values my family and church had instilled in me. They got angry if I didn’t join them or if I hesitated to do what they said. Whenever I would come home from a week of church camp all pumped up and full of resolve to live the Christian life, I would just fail. I failed because I wanted to fit in and please these friends and be cool. You would think things change when you get older, but they really do not. Let's talk about your family. A lot of parents face tremendous antagonism from an unexpected source; their kids. In a desire to please their kids and make them happy, many parents let their children set the spiritual course for the family. Some parents withdraw from church altogether. Parents are also a surprising source of antagonism. Some of you have parents who belittle your faith. Maybe you have a father or mother who doesn't believe in God. Instead they enjoy pointing out your inconsistencies. They scoff at your attempts to change. If you're older they undermine the moral and spiritual foundation you are laying for your children by encouraging your kids to engage in unwholesome activities. The workplace can be a source of antagonism. A lot of you are working in jobs where your employer has no tolerance for your Christian faith. The employer becomes antagonistic to the needs of your family, your responsibilities as a parent, and your desire to have Sunday available for worship. He may ask you to be dishonest or put you in situations in which you are pressured to compromise your beliefs. Your boss may soak you with negativity and criticism all day long. We are just scratching the surface of our relationships, but every day we are surrounded by people we feel compelled to please for one reason or another. It is a simple fact that the cost of pleasing men often means displeasing God. This is true of the closest relationships we have as well as the most superficial relationships we have. In Hebrews 13 the writer encourages us to adopt a new value. That new value is to be a God-pleaser above everything else, before pleasing men and women. The writer encourages us to be God-pleasers in two critical areas. In Hebrews 13:15-16 (NIV) he says, "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise— the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." Be a God-pleaser in your speech. Hebrews 13:15 (NIV) says, "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise— the fruit of lips that confess his name." Whenever it comes to pleasing God over pleasing people, sacrifice comes into play. The writer of Hebrews tells us to continually offer a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess his name. At times it can be a tremendous sacrifice to verbally confess Christ in the workplace, in the public school system, in the college classroom, or even at family reunions. In all of these environments there are people who attempt to suppress knowledge of God. When you confess Christ you are likely to forego a promotion, to be labeled a fanatic or something worse, andto invite skepticism and mild insults. It can be a huge step of faith to put a scripture verse on your screen saver, to tell people you have plans on Sunday morning, to read your Bible on break, to have Christian music playing on your radio or laying in your car, to have scripture memory cards at your desk, to share your testimony, to stand on a Christian principle, to refuse gossip, and to bow your head for prayer in public. God is inviting us to pay the price and to make a sacrifice. He is asking us to not be so concerned about the opinion of our peers that our lips become silent. Who are you afraid to confess your faith in Christ around? And why? And is it too great a price to pay? I have always been challenged by Jesus' words in Matthew 10:32-33 (NIV). "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven." On the other hand, I have always been encouraged by Jesus' words in Matthew 5:10-12 (NIV). "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Which side of the equation do you typically fall on? Do you find it difficult to make a sacrifice of praise? Or do you gladly confess Christ’s name? Are you ashamed or proud of the name of Jesus Christ? Be a God-pleaser in your actions. In Hebrews 13:16 (NIV) the writer adds, "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." In Hebrews 13:18-21 (NIV) he actually asks for prayer, "Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon. May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Just as it can be a sacrifice to praise God, it can be a sacrifice to live for God. Part of the miracle God does in our lives through prayer is that he brings us to a place where we would be willing to pay whatever price necessary to please God. Last week Jeff Wilhoit visited our congregation. We support Jeff and his family in their Bible translation work with Pioneer Bible Translators. We would all agree that the world needs to hear the message of Jesus Christ. We would all agree that Christians should go to the ends of the earth, proclaiming that message in the tongue of every people group. In order to do that kind of work, Jeff and Laura have made sacrifices that most of us, including myself, would find unthinkable. Jeff loves golfing, but there are no golf courses in Guinea. They would love to raise their daughter in a safe environment, but they are hours away from the nearest hospital and telephone. There is no public school for their daughter. There is barely any electricity. The law enforcement and judicial system is corrupt, the government is in turmoil, and bands of robbers frequently hold up travelers and foreigners. Rebels ravage the land and impale people on stakes at the edge of communities in order to send messages. At times Jeff has been held up at gunpoint. He has been shot at with real bullets. Jeff and Laura are literally putting their lives on the line in order to do God’s work. They are working to please God in a hostile, Muslim-dominated culture. When I think of Jeff and Laura I have to ask myself, "What’s my problem? What’s my biggest excuse? What is the worst that could happen by my living for God?" You and I might be laughed at, but Jeff and Laura could lose their lives. The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:13-15 (NIV), "Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord...." In Hebrews 13 God is calling us to reorient our lives. We are to live away from pleasing men and toward pleasing God. He is calling us to make a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess his name. He is calling us to do good and give to others, to live honorable and holy lives, and to measure spiritual success by the degree in which we live to please God. And the crown jewel of Hebrews is in Hebrews 13:20-21 (NIV) where the writer tells us that we can pray for God to equip us in every way to do his will, to work in us that which is pleasing, and to bring glory to himself through our lives. "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."