Do you ever feel like you have to try to please God? Or that you must act in a certain way or perform a certain task in order to ensure your salvation? That you must attend church regularly or read Scripture or serve your local community as if your ticket to heaven was dependent upon it?
I believe that we Christians can often fall into this type of incorrect thinking. We are all susceptible of falling into the trap of serving God out of fear instead of love.
Now I’m not saying that regular church attendance, the reading of Scripture, and serving are not important aspects of the Christian life. What I am saying is that our motivation behind these disciplines must come from the right source. They should never be performed for the sake of performance, in the attempt to please God. So, what is the right source?
The source of our motivation to obey God should be his abundant grace.
I was reading out of the Old Testament recently and stumbled upon Micah 6:7-8. It’s a dialogue between the nation of Israel and one of God’s prophets, Micah.
7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:7-8 (ESV)
I read this passage and realized that this dialogue is a demonstration of how we Christians often think.
In this passage, the Israelites were asking one thing: “What must I do to please God?” And God responds by saying “Live the life that I’ve called you to, and receive and grace that I freely offer.”
Too many times do I miss this. Too many times do I fail to simply receive the grace of God. Instead I sometimes become the victim of a critical spirit, and find myself feeling as though I must act a certain way in order to please God.
But just think about this for a moment: Why is it that when Jesus pursued the will of God with all of His heart, and did only what the Father told Him to do, and fulfilled the entirety of God’s law and was without sin, all that He received was the ultimate wrath of God and the punishment of crucifixion? Yet when we do not even seek God, and we turn to our own ways, and we are full of sin and fail to pursue God with our whole heart, that we receive the ultimate grace of God?
It’s because God doesn’t focus his attention on condemnation, he focuses it on forgiveness.
Which is why he has sent his only begotten son into the world to become our hope for everlasting life.
Micah 7:18-19 (HCSB) says “Who is a God like you, forgiving iniquity and passing over rebellion for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not hold on to his anger forever because he delights in faithful love. He will again have compassion on us; he will vanquish our iniquities. You cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
God does remain wrathful because of our sin, but instead delights in his steadfast love for us. Despite what we have done, he chooses to show compassion on us again and again.
God’s grace is never rare. God has been offering his grace for all of eternity. It is by his grace that he “upholds the universe” (Heb. 1:3). It is by his grace that infinite provisions are made for the entirety of the earth’s inhabitants. It is by his grace that the “sun rises on the evil and on the good” (Mt. 5:45). And it is by his grace that he is so quick to forgive us for our trespasses. Everything about God’s nature is shouting how graceful and merciful he truly is.
Think back to the book of Exodus and you will notice that God saved the Israelites from the bondage of the Egyptians, not based on their merit, but because of his infinite grace.
Just as God saved the Israelites from the Egyptians, he has saved us from the penalty of sin. Just as God paved the way for the Israelites to pass through the Red Sea into the Promised Land, he has paved the way for us to pass through the gates of heaven through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And just as God saved the Israelites from the power of the Egyptians by casting them dead into the sea (Ex. 14:30), he has saved us from the power of sin, and has casted our sins into the depth of the sea (Mi. 7:19).
As one worship song has said “He is mighty to save.”
It’s not about pleasing God, it’s about responding to grace.
God has never once failed to demonstrate the grace that he has for us. One author has pointed out that “grace is God telling us in Jesus Christ that he was literally dying to love us.” So, how do we respond to God’s grace? We respond with faith, for “faith is our way of saying ‘I love you too.’”
Faith is the manifestation of our trust in God.
Notice it is the grace that comes first. God’s grace always comes first. We do not demonstrate our faith in order to receive the grace of God, instead we simply respond to God’s grace with faith. Therefore, you should never feel as though you need to perform for God to be pleased with you.
In fact, God is already pleased with us.
God is already pleased with us because we are covered in the blood of the son “in whom he is well pleased” (Mt. 3:17). When God looks at us, all he sees is the purity and holiness of Jesus Christ (Is. 43:25; Heb. 10:17).
However, we are still to have faith. And as we know, “a faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). C.S. Lewis has pointed out that “there would be no point in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice.”
Faith is trusting in God. It is trusting in his commandments, his provision, and his promises. It looks like obedience, it is the practice of submission, and the discipline of “denying himself” (Lk. 9:23). It is allowing God to be the King of our hearts, and not only our hearts but our eyes, our hands, our lips, and our mind.
To have faith is to trust, and to trust is to result in obedience. But it is not the type of obedience that is focused on pleasing, it is an obedience that is simply responsive to grace. It is obeying in a “less worried way.” It’s not the attempt to obey “in order to be saved,” it is the obedience that comes “because He has begun to save you already.” It’s “not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”
We do not obey God in order to be saved, we obey because we are already saved.
Last of all, know that condemnation is a lie from the enemy. He wants to constantly remind us of our sins and to steal our focus from God. Because if we’re focused on our sin, and not God, then we’re less capable of making an impact on the Kingdom.
We must not identify as a sinner, for that identity has been cast into the bottom of the sea. We now have a new identity. We are recipients of grace. We are a new creation. We are children of the King; sons and daughters of God.
Therefore, rejoice always! Rejoice in God’s grace, and rejoice that you have already been saved. Live in your salvation and walk humbly with your God. Always remember that God “was literally dying to love you.” Live your life in response to that love. Receive grace and live in faith.
 Hillsong Worship. “Mighty to Save.”
 Barnes, M. Craig. Body & Soul: Reclaiming the Heidelberg Catechism. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2011), 57.
 Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity (Great Britain, Harper Collins Publishers, 2012), pg. 147-148.
Drew Campbell recently finished his service with the Marines and moved back to his home state of Illinois to pursue further study. He’s been involved in the youth and men’s ministries during his time at Hertiage. Check out more of Drew’s thoughts on his blog ‘God’s POV’!