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,
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.
The person who is living to please God will begin to see a change in their values and we will see a change in their behavior.
· those living together outside of marriage will get married
· those cheating others will begin dealing honestly
· those who have been abusive in their speech will move toward kindness
· those who were known for using others will begin serving others
· those who relished tearing down others in their whispering will now seek to build them up
· those who had hoarded their resources will begin investing their resources in the work of the Lord.
Listen to prescription of Jesus is: "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." Did you hear what He was saying? We don’t go out to bear more fruit . . . we seek to draw closer to Him and the fruit will come naturally. It’s not a matter of trying harder but drawing closer.