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14 February 2021 (Pastoral Page) RESPONDING TO GOD’S LOVE

By Dr Peter Lim

Valentine’s Day is celebrated all over the world on February 14. It was initially instituted as a Catholic festival in AD 496 in honour of St. Valentine. The current practice of giving flowers, confectionery and greeting cards (known as valentines) to loved ones, dates back to 18th century England. On the subject of love, the Bible tells us that we love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). Thus, it is apt for us to reflect on our response to God’s love for us. Acceptance of the sacrificial death of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is but only the first step. Beyond this, the apostle Paul encourages us to make it our purpose to “find out what pleases God” (Ephesians 5:10). Having done so we will want to “live in order to please God” (1 Thessalonians 4:1). To do this takes a conscious and determined will and effort. What’s more, like sanctification, this is an ongoing process and is not once-for-all. Do we persist in continuing to live a life that is self-pleasing or will we determine to be God-pleasing?

Ever since the Garden of Eden where Eve was tempted by the allure of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because “. . . it was pleasing to the eye. . .” (Genesis 3:6), humankind has been vulnerable to the desire for self-gratification. The aged apostle John puts it very succinctly when he warns his readers about the three-pronged avenues of temptation – “. . . the desire of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life. . .” (1 John 2:16 ESV). Most of us have been dogged by these three areas of self-pleasing at one time or another. The apostle Paul also reminds us that in our pre-Christian state we lived “. . . gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature . . .” (Ephesians 2:3).

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). This then is the starting point of the path that pleases God. To ensure that we remain on this track, our focus should be to make it our goal to please God (2 Corinthians 5:9). In his letter to the Colossians the apostle Paul urges his readers to “. . . live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way . . .” (Colossians 1:10). But this is no walk in the park. So long as we are on this side of heaven, we will have to face up to the almost daily struggles between the “old self” and the “new man” that Paul so vividly describes in his letter to the Romans (Romans 7:14-25). However, Paul asserts that God has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ who gives us strength (Romans 7:25; Philippians 4:13). Yet it is critical to remind ourselves constantly that “those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). In our secular dealings we are told that dishonest transactions do not please Him (Proverbs 20:23). Likewise, we cannot hope to please God through our sacrifices (Jeremiah 6:20) unless these are accompanied by obedience to His will (Psalms 40:6-8).

The apostle Paul elaborates on the various aspects of the life that is pleasing to God – “. . . bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have endurance and patience . . .” (Colossians 1:10,11). Family relationships are also to be governed by the need to please God. For example, children are urged to “obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). Likewise, caring for one’s family is also pleasing to God. (1 Timothy 5:4). But the ultimate act of pleasing God is “. . . in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Living a life that is pleasing to God has its rewards even while on earth. As the Preacher says “To the man who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness” (Ecclesiastes 2:26).

Our Lord Jesus Christ has set us the supreme example through His perfect obedience even to death on the cross. On two occasions during His earthly ministry God exalted Him. Following His baptism and after His transfiguration a voice from heaven announced “This is my beloved Son, whom I loved, with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17; 17:5).

To live a life that is pleasing to God is challenging to say the least. Though the process of doing so is daunting, we can succeed through our Lord Jesus Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13).

May the God of peace . . . equip you with every 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” (Hebrews 13:20,21).

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