Summary: The life that pleases God: 1. "Bear Fruits" 2. "Keeps on Growing" 3. "Endures Forever" 4. "Live Gratefully"
THE LIFE THAT PLEASES GOD
What does it mean to live a life that pleases God? If you are like most people, that simple question may leave you tongue-tied. It’s likely that you never thought about the question in such simple form. But, if you were pressed for an answer, you would probably list a number of external behaviors as those things necessary to please God:
· Certain experiences (manner of conversion, mode of baptism, secondary experiences)
· The absence of certain vices (don’t smoke, don’t dance, don’t watch "R" rated movies, don’t play cards)
· The affirmation of certain theological litmus test issues (abortion, view of the end times, stance on spiritual gifts, particular theological grid which is affirmed...even the version of the Bible you like best.)
These are all externals. In fact, if we listen closely to our list we are really saying: the one who pleases God is the one who is most like me! I believe the reason this is so is because we want to live lives that please God. So, we seek to define pleasing God by our experience and beliefs.
But this morning I suggest a better approach. I suggest we turn to the Apostle Paul to give us some ideas on what a life that pleases God looks like. We see four characteristics of a life pleasing to the Lord. They are revealed by four participles in verses 10-12. They are: "bearing fruit"; "growing in knowledge"; "being strengthened"; and "giving thanks". Let’s look at them more closely.
A. The Life That Pleases God BEARS FRUIT
The idea of "bearing fruit" is not that foreign to us. If we purchased a fruit tree, planted it, and took care of it we would expect to be getting fruit from that tree in a matter of years. If after many years the tree was not yielding fruit, we would feel that the tree was defective or really not a fruit tree at all. We might return to the Nursery where we purchased the tree and complain. The tree did not live up to the advertising.
Jesus says the same is true of people who profess faith. He says, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit." (Matt. 7:15-17)
How can we tell if someone is professing to be a believer, but isn’t a believer? We can tell by watching their lives. If there is not a change in their living then we can conclude there is no change in their soul. Our heart and our lives go together - they are not separate.
Now it is important that we remember that fruitfulness takes time. You don’t get any good fruit the first year you plant a fruit tree. It takes time for the tree to mature. The same is true for followers of Christ. The change might not be immediately discernable. However, over time we should be seeing a difference in the way people live.
Listen to these words of Paul to the Galatians. In this passage Paul contrasts the life of the sinful nature (the life that doesn’t please God) and the "fruit (or life) of the Spirit." Listen to the New Living Translation,