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Can I Really Do Nothing To Bring God More Pleasure In Me?

Father Son from Microsoft PublisherPuzzled

I love the truth that salvation is by God’s grace alone, purchased by Christ alone, and gained through faith alone.

That message is the unshakable, life-giving foundation of my life.

But recently I’ve heard statements about God’s grace that puzzle me.  Statements like —

You can’t do anything to make God more pleased with you.

And —

Because of what Jesus did for you at the Cross, God is as pleased with you as he is ever going to be.


Those statements just didn’t sound right.  So I looked up Scriptures which talk about us pleasing God, to see if there are things we can do that will bring God more or less pleasure.

Here is Colossians 1:9-10 —

[I pray that you would] walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him.

Paul prays that these believers would be fully pleasing to the Lord by walking in a way that is worthy of him.  So if they walk worthily of him, God will be more pleased with them than if they do not.  So the way they walk will give God more or less pleasure in them.

Then there is 2 Corinthians 5:9 —

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Pleasing God was not something Paul had already attained.  It was something at which he aimed.  He wanted to live in such a way that God had more pleasure in him.

There is also Ephesians 5:8-10 —

Walk as children of light, and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

Paul wants us to ask — what can I do that will please the Lord?  Which means there are some actions that would please God more, and some that would please God less.

The same ideas are found in Colossians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 1 Timothy 2:3; and 1 Timothy 5:4.

Can God Feel Greater Or Lesser Pleasure In Me?

When I read the above Scriptures, the answer seems to be Yes.

So even though I am completely forgiven and clothed with Jesus’ perfect righteousness by faith alone — when I do obey I am more pleasing to God, and when I don’t obey I am less pleasing to God.

So, for example —

  • When I fight to forgive someone for Jesus’ sake — God feels more pleasure in me.  But if I harbor a grudge against someone — God feels less pleasure.
  • When I boast in God — God feels more pleasure in me.  But if I boast in myself — God feels less pleasure.
  • When I fight against lust for Jesus’ sake — God feels more pleasure in me.  But if I entertain lustful thoughts — God feels less pleasure.

So it’s not accurate to say that saved people can’t do anything to make God more pleased with them.

What Will Never Change

When people say that God can’t feel any more pleasure in us, they are trying to say something important.

So what is it?  And is there a way to say it that’s more helpful?

To get at this, I asked — when God saves us, what is it that will never change?

What will never change is —

  • God’s passionate love and care for us (Rom 8:38-39).
  • God’s complete forgiveness of us (Rom 8:1).
  • God’s merciful, helping presence with us (Heb 13:5).
  • God’s commitment to keep us persevering to the end (Jude 1:24-25).

Maybe that’s what people are trying to say — when they say we can’t do anything to increase God’s pleasure in us.

But Can God’s Pleasure In Us Change?

The answer seems to be Yes.  God’s love, forgiveness, and care for us never change.  But his pleasure in us can change.

I asked my wife about this, and she said it’s like parenting.  Every parent should have unchanging love for their child — caring for them and being committed to them no matter what they do.  But their pleasure and delight in their child will rise or fall depending on what the child does.

When the child obeys the first time you ask — that brings pleasure.  But if your child ignores you or says No — that brings pain.

Isn’t that part of what Paul means in Ephesians 4:30 where he says that we can grieve the Holy Spirit?

So my conclusion is that we can do nothing to increase God’s loving care for us, but that we can do things to increase God’s pleasure in us.

Why This Is Important

The more I trust, love, and obey Christ — the more God is pleased with me.

Not — the more He forgives me, cares about me, loves me.  No.  Because of the Cross those are UNCHANGING.

But — the more I trust, love, and obey Jesus Christ, the more He is pleased with me, the more joy I bring Him, the more delight He feels in me.

This is important to understand, because it will motivate our obedience.

Doesn’t the thought of pleasing Christ Jesus fill you with joy?  Don’t you long to do whatever would delight him?

Paul knows this, and uses it to motivate our obedience.

But if we think we can’t do anything to make God more pleased with us — then we’ve pulled the plug on this motivation.  It will have no power to motivate us.  Which means we will have less motivation.

But if we have less motivation — won’t we obey less?  Won’t our lives bring less glory to Christ, less good to each other, less Gospel to the world?

That’s why this is so important.

So let’s live to please God.

Comments?  Pushback?  Feedback?

I’d love to hear them — leave a reply below.  Thanks.

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Category: Motivation for Obedience


51 Responses

  1. Steve,

    This is really good stuff! Do you have any thoughts on Piper’s concept of “gutsy guilt” and how that would fit in with what you wrote? Here is Piper:

    I guess I’m specifically wondering about his use of Micah 7:8-9. Is it right to talk about God having “indignation” towards His children?


    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Garrett,

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I remember some time ago reading Piper on gutsy guilt — but will have to read the post you linked and think about it again.

      And thank you for your encouragement about this post — I really appreciate it.


  2. Paul Walton says:

    Hey Steve,

    I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of God’s pleasure in us. We as a product of our culture want to make the gospel about us, God loves ME, and while that’s true, the gospel is much bigger than us. That is why the prosperity gospel is so appealing to people, it makes being self-serving a way to say God loves ME, so I can have all that I want.

    The gospel is all about God, and His grace, He loves us not because we are lovely, because the truth is quite the opposite. I think what God finds the most pleasurable aspect of our lives, is when we find our highest pleasure in glorifying Him.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      It’s always a joy to hear from you, Paul. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      And I’m glad we are of the same mind on this topic of pleasing God. I know that thinking about it has deepened my obedience in specific ways.

      And it’s also helpful what you said about how what God finds most pleasurable about us is our finding our pleasure in glorifying Him. That’s a good way to put it.



  3. Bill Schuler says:

    Hi everybody. (warning controversial material ahead:) Great topic! Here is my 2 cents.
    I agree with the motivation for obediance springing from the desire to please God. I have a slightly different take on Gods end however, that hopefully you won’t find merely semantic. I believe that we may have a tendency to think of pleasure or displeasure in human terms as oposed to devine. Often if not always,when I get mad at someone it is because what they did inconvenienced me in some way, and so my sinful response can easily be disguised as “justified anger”, when it is really motivated by the self.God’s displeasure or pleasure is motivated by His intense love for us, not “His” Glory. It is not “self” focused. That is why you can be disiplined by God and experience more love in that moment than from any loving moment you’ve ever known. I say all this because I have always struggled with what God must think of me.He loves me yeah, but does he like me? Then I had a super natural experience of His presence that superceded any cognative approach to anything I’ve ever pondered spiritually. The result was UNCONDITIONAL LOVE AND NO JUDGEMENT! That was more than enough to convince me about how he views me, past, present and future. Now to please Him means, I know that he is happy for mysake, and because we are one, for our sake. And not just Me and Him but for all of us who are one in Christ. This brings Him glory! (I have a better explination inside my head that I can’t get out! lol ) Anyway Bless you all!

    • Steve Fuller says:

      I love it when you stop by and share your thoughts, Bill. Thanks for taking the time.

      So do you think I am understanding Paul rightly — where he says there are things we can do that make God more pleased with us — and other things that make Him less pleased?

      That was the new thought for me — and then trying to figure out how that fits with the fact that God’s love for those He saves never, ever changes.

      Anyway — may you today experience God’s everlasting, never-failing, ever-faithful love, brother.


  4. Bill Schuler says:

    Thank you for the blessing.
    To be honest I think my approach to this is influenced by my insecurity. A healthy person might interpret Pauls quote in a more positive way, especially in context. An insecure and fearful perspective seeks to find the point of grace and cling. In doing so however I find that Gods love and grace are so overwhelming, that I find it hard to believe that God could ever be displeased with me,in the way that I have experienced displeasure, or in the way others have expressed thier displeasure to me. Its like what Jan said, except for the difference between a human parent and an infinately deminsional being whose essence is love. Besides how can you disapoint someone who knows everything you will do or think, before you do or think it. I do believe that this life is important, but 300 billion years from now(if that were possible) what difference will it all make except for salvation? God knows who we really are. Shall we sin all the more? NO! Should we do the things that we know are right, good, just and fair, yes. And I have to admit that I can see how that would bring pleasure to God. The subtle difference is huge however in the interpretation of pleasure and displeasure as we know it, and the devine. (My uneducated asumeptions are hard to disprove no?:)

    • Steve Fuller says:

      I appreciate your honesty and thoughts, Bill.

      It does seem that Paul wants us to desire to please God more and more — this should be a large part of our motivation.

      And it sounds like Ryan’s comment below is helpful in placing that in a solid foundation of God’s grace.

      This is a very helpful discussion — thanks for your part in it!

      (I think the Father is pleased.)

  5. Ryan says:


    Thanks for this post. Just wanted to let you know that it has stirred up some God-honoring motivation for obedience among at least a few people here!

    Also wanted to share a thought that might help others who struggle with feeling like this contradicts the gospel message. A few days ago I read this line in your dad’s book “Unity of the Bible”: “…God desires our humility so we will be in the place where he can have the joy of doing beneficial things for us” (p. 294). He says this regarding Jeremiah 13:15-17, which powerfully portrays God’s grief over His people’s sin and rebellion.

    When I realize that 1) God actually rejoices and delights in doing good to me (Jer. 32:41) and 2) faith puts me in position to receive His favor, then it makes sense that faith (and the obedience/fruit that flows from it) pleases Him (Heb. 11:6) and unbelief (and all sin) displeases Him.

    So it’s not that my obedience is a service to God that pleases Him because it meets a need He has. Rather, obedience (that comes from faith!) pleases God because it displays Him as our superior satisfaction and gives Him “the joy of doing beneficial things for us.”

    That has helped me see that “pleasing God” is completely consistent with justification by faith alone.


    • Steve Fuller says:

      Wow, Ryan. The quote from “Unity of the Bible” and your crystal-clear explanation and elaboration are really helpful. Thank you so much.

      And I am deeply grateful that some more God-honoring motivation for obedience is being stirred up. Thank you for letting me know.


  6. Bill Schuler says:

    Rather, obedience (that comes from faith!) pleases God because it displays Him as our superior satisfaction and gives Him “the joy of doing beneficial things for us.”
    Thats some good stuff right there. Thats helpful. What an interesting topic!

  7. Ash says:

    The scripture from Jeremiah 13 helps a lot. I find that this concept of “pleasing God” (which I was initially skeptical of) is easier to understand if I simply come at it from the negative side. A holy, righteous God, is DISPLEASED when His redeemed people (who were purchased by the blood of Jesus for the very purpose of breaking the dominion of sin Romans 6:6-7) take their attention off of His beauty & relapse to the pleasures of their flesh. From that perspective, all this makes a lot more sense for me.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Good to meet you, Ash.

      I’m glad that Ryan’s sharing from Jer 13 was helpful. And what you say about approaching the question from the negative side is helpful as well.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  8. Julie says:

    I am someone who has said and believes both of the statements you cited today. I do believe that “You can’t do anything to make God more pleased with you.” And, “Because of what Jesus did for you at the Cross, God is as pleased with you as He is ever going to be.” I believe these are positional truths and as you said they are unchangeable.
    Here are my thoughts, please feel free to add to my understanding!
    Because of who Christ is, and because God’s pleasure only rests upon me because of Christ in me, He is always pleased with who I am in Christ.
    He does not condone the sin I commit but that does not change how He sees me.
    I spent some time looking up all the verses you cited in context and in Greek.
    They all (Col 1:9-10;2Cor 5:9;Eph 5:8-10) carry the idea of making much of Him and glorifying Him by how we live our lives. These: Col 3:20; 1Thess 2:4; 1Thess 4:1; 1Tim 2:3; 1Tim 5:4 essentially instruct us to consider others before ourselves (to please), because this glorifies God through (Phil 2) modeling Christ-likeness in our lives. Perhaps another way to look at this is, the more I trust, love, and obey Jesus Christ — the more God is glorified in me.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Thank you so much for your feedback, Julie.

      I agree that there are unchanging, positional truths about those God has saved, including God’s care, forgiveness, merciful presence, and commitment to their perseverance. These never change for those He has saved.

      But I don’t include God’s pleasure in me as one of these positional, unchanging truths, because too many verses show that God’s pleasure in me can change depending on what I do.

      For example, when I read that I should aim “to please Him” (2Cor 5:9), that clearly implies that there are things I could do that would please Him, and that would not please Him. So how could we say He is as pleased with us as He is ever going to be?

      I agree with you that the more I trust, love, and obey Christ — the most God is glorified in me. But the New Testament would also say that then God will be more pleased with me.

      I’m puzzled about what causes you to conclude that God can’t be more pleased with us — when so many Scriptures seem to say the opposite.

      I hope this helps clarify what I am saying. And again, thank you for your feedback. These are crucial topics to think through.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  9. Anonymous says:

    Coming out of a very Legalistic movement,not knowing His true Grace till 4 years ago. I know one thing, we can do nothing as far as Salvation, that said, now that I am growing in His Grace all I want to do is please Him, but not in a legalistic check the list sense, so Jesus loving me, leads me to seek Him more and all I can tell you is I am happier and more content for it.


    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Joe,

      I love how you describe that Jesus, loving you, leads you to seek Him more — and that you are happier for it. Isn’t His grace beautiful!

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  10. Christianboy101 says:

    Thank-you so much now I have more fight to please God

  11. Daniel says:

    I was just wondering if God is proud of some of our accomplishments as man in general. I mean Adam and eve started from scratch, is God proud or happy to see us use our gifts as he equipped us? Like we are proud of our children learning and doing things. Do you think he’s happy at some of our doings?

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Good question, Daniel. First of all, everything we have and do is a gracious gift to us from God. I see that in passages like 1 Cor 4:7 and John 3:27.

      God gives us such loving merciful gifts in order to show us his glory, because seeing his glory is what most fills us with joy.

      So God is pleased when we accomplish various things and recognize his glory in all we’ve done. What brings God the most pleasure is when we see and love his glory, because his greatest passion is for us to have the joy of beholding his glory.

      Does that help? And again — thanks for asking this question!

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  12. Matt Belanger says:

    This is like parental love vs. judicial love. God is pleased with us in Christ – once with continuous effects – at salvation. And God’s pleasure is also exhibited toward us through daily blessing and honor as a consequence of our temporal obedience to Him (His Word).

    • Staffaction says:

      But Matt, judges don’t “love”. They declare. Guilty or not guilty. In this case, we are “not guilty” and forgiven, i.e. not only innocent, but righteous.

      Am I being too nitpicky?

      So God will act pleased towards us when we are good and displeased when we are bad? Is it not his kindness that draws us to repentance?

      I’m starting to think that the love of God is just too big for us to systematize or imagine…we try to, in posts and comments, but we can’t do it. We just can’t understand it. That’s how big and beyond comprehension it is. That just isn’t a fun way to describe it. God’s love truly is incomprehensible. He is committed to your good (the essence of love), not daily showing you how he feels about you.

      • Steve Fuller says:

        Hi Staffaction,

        Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

        I’m not comfortable saying that God ACTS pleased towards us when we are good or ACTS displeased when we are bad.

        His actions towards those he has saved are ALWAYS perfectly good and loving and kind.

        But I do believe he FEELS more or less pleasure in us depending on what we do, since so many verses teach that.

        And I’m with you that God’s love is beyond our comprehension. But at the same time, he has given us his Word which he calls us to ponder and seek to understand.

        So this is my best attempt at trying to put together what it is in God that’s unchanging towards the elect, and how that’s different from his pleasure, which can change.

        In Christ,

        Steve Fuller

        • Staffaction says:

          good distinction, Steve. Just because we as humans often let our feelings determine our actions, doesn’t mean we should assume God does that too, as you point out.

  13. Staffaction says:

    The only trouble I have with this is that it is either 1) from the perspective that it is “all about us” or 2) pushes us to the perspective that it is all about us. Why worry about or wonder about if God is pleased or not pleased?

    The prodigal son wondered about it and he was wrong in his conclusions. It’s not about if God pleased or not pleased. Sure, the father in that story wasn’t pleased with his son’s actions, but he loved the son. That is what matters. And it is God’s kindness (or forbearance) that calls us to repentance. It isn’t “hmmm, I feel God’s displeasure right now, I better repent.” Not at all. It is his kindness. Amazing. And when we realize it is indeed all about God we embrace him after he has come running to us.

    • Staffaction says:

      And the interesting thing about the prodigal is that he doesn’t come home seeking his father’s glory. He simply wanted to be *with* his father again. All about relationship.

      Did the father get the glory? You bet! Every last bit of it. The son was at the bottom of the barrel and knew he had nothing to give the father at all. He simply wanted to go back to the riches available to him – a relationship with his father and life in his house/domain.

      As glorifying to the father as that is…not an ounce of that thought of “glorifying and pleasing his father” like that passed through the prodigals mind.

      • Steve Fuller says:

        Thanks for these thoughts, too, Staffaction.

        My main pushback would be that many Scriptures teach that we SHOULD be concerned with whether or not we are pleasing God.

        And it’s not that we have to choose whether we focus on pleasing God, or whether we want relationship with God. I see God’s Word affirming both (and lots of other motivations, too).

        In Christ,

        Steve Fuller

        • Staffaction says:

          Fair enough, Steve. I now recall a good message on “multiple motivations” by DeYoung at DG last year. Perhaps in my mind, living out of “the relationship” is to be more of a focus than the other “trying to please”.

          When Jesus said, “if you love me you will keep my commandments” he wasn’t saying, “now go prove your love for me by keeping my commandments”. He was just pointing out something that would more or less automatically happen in the lives of those who truly love Jesus. Then when we see love lived out we know those who are his disciples.

          Perhaps in my attempts to steer clear of legalism, I do miss the point of some of the verses you mention above.

  14. Tim says:

    Interesting article. I’m a bit like you, the statements you’ve written here just don’t sound right. I think we’re missing something. I can’t put it into words yet but I will eventually because this will bug me until I have peace about it.

    I so know that ANYTHING that draws attention to ourselves and trespasses on God’s Glory ALONE isn’t right and this tip toes along the edge of that.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Tim,

      I love your passion that we do nothing to trespass on God’s glory. Right on the money.

      But I don’t see any conflict between passion for God’s glory, and desire to be pleasing to God.

      The reason is because what most pleases God is a life that displays his glory. Or to put it differently — what pleases God is his glory shining forth from me.

      So when he’s pleased with me, what he’s pleased with is my love for his glory, and the way that causes his glory to shine forth from me.

      For his glory alone,

      Steve Fuller

  15. StephVG says:

    I think I understand what Julie (1/4/2013) was trying to get at. As believers who are saved and are being saved (justification vs. sanctification), we live in the “already but not yet” (who said that again? I’d cite my source, but can’t remember who it is).

    I think that means that you are both right, Steve. Positionally, since we are in Christ and God sees us through that filter (He is faithful and just to look at us that way), He can’t be more pleased with us than He is with Christ, and because Christ perfectly obeys, He can’t ever be more pleased with Christ than He is.

    Positionally. This is the “already” part.

    Practically, though, we are to be conformed more and more to the image of the Son (Romans 8:29). We are not yet fully like Him (…but we will be one day – That Day! (1 John 3:2)). We are to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, worthy of the Lord Himself and what He’s done for us (as you noted). Obviously, we just don’t do that all the time. And some of us get tired and just give up for a time (this may or may not have applied to me recently…). Does this please God? Of course not.

    Steve, I like your distinction between positional and practical truths: that God’s forgiveness, love, and care for His children through Christ never change, but that His pleasure in our practical response to His Gospel does. That said, does God delight in us all the time? Yes, because we are IN CHRIST and He delights in His Son. Is He pleased when I walk in my (dead) sin nature? No, of course not — and so because I am in Christ, He is now free to be about the business of strengthening me, directing me, rebuking me, correcting me, training me to walk in His righteousness. And as I respond to Him in faith, as I deal with my sin in way that makes me blameless (not sinless, but dealing with sin in a way that worships God), He is pleased.

    So God is pleased with me as He sees me through Christ. And God’s displeasure in my practice motivates Him to conform me more to His Son. Positional and practical. Already, but not yet.

    In God’s economy, I think we do have it both ways.

    • julie says:

      YES! StephVG has hit the nail right on the head!

      • Steve Fuller says:

        Thanks for your detailed and helpful thoughts, StephVG.

        I agree with pretty much everything you said. But I would not say God’s pleasure in us is unchanging, because I don’t see any Scripture saying that (if you find one, please let me know).

        From all I have seen, when Scripture talks about God being pleased with us, it implies that his pleasure rises or falls depending on our actions.

        But you do raise the important already-not-yet question. So maybe it’s that now, in this life, God’s pleasure in us changes (while his love and much more towards us does NOT change). But maybe it’s that in the life to come his pleasure in us is perfect and complete.

        Looking forward to the life to come,

        Steve Fuller

  16. JT says:

    Thanks for this post Steve.

    This has been a topic my wife and I have been discussing lately as we look at how we parent our children. At times we find ourselves falling into a moralistic approach to teaching our kids that sounds something like “you should do ______ because that will make God happy (or pleased)” or “you shouldn’t do ______ because that will make God sad.” We’ve been convicted about the danger that is really beneath this.

    Are we teaching our children that their actions get to dictate the mood or pleasure of this amazing, creator, sustainer, God. Should we be surprised when they have a low view of this God when we are teaching them that their actions get to decide if God is pleased or not.

    Could it be that the issue is more about what we mean by pleased. When I hear that we can please God, I think of the emotion of being made happy, like I am happy when the Bears win a football game. This looks like how you define it as well. When I look up the Greek definition for some of the scriptures you reference, pleased is defined as “in agreement with” or “in accordance to”. When I read the passages that way it sounds much less like our current culture’s definition of pleasure and more like obedience to His will of desire that is laid out in Scripture.

    I agree that the first couple of comments you share sound troublesome, but I’m afraid that viewing a God that is emotionally moved to and from pleasure by His creation’s actions like a mother of children could end up elevating fallen creation as opposed to brining glory to a Holy God.

    I appreciate your thoughts, thanks again for your post.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, JT.

      I think there is a place for helping children understand that the way we act will or will not please God. But if that’s all we said to our children, they would misunderstand the Gospel and have a low and unbiblical view of God and his glorious grace. So — much, much would need to be said.

      So what about the Greek definition of the word “please”? The Greek dictionaries I use define those words as — being well-pleased, take delight in, approve of.

      So I think the Greek words themselves require an emotional element in the definition.

      But is there really a problem with seeing God’s emotional response change depending on how much we do or do not display his glory? Surely he feels differently toward those who persist in sin, than he does toward those who trust his Son.

      And to me, this does not detract from his glory, because it’s right and just for his emotional response to change depending on how much we humans reflect his glory.

      I hope that helps some. You ask really good questions!

      Loving his glory,

      Steve Fuller

  17. Kelty says:

    I was thinking of the parent metaphor until you mentioned that your wife had thought of it as well. I think it’s a very helpful way to think of this topic. (Probably one of the many reasons God made us parents, always pointing us to him.)

    Anyway, I found that so encouraging as I pondered the many ways my children bring me pleasure, in addition to being obedient. They bring me pleasure when they learn something new, when they work hard at something, when I am watching them as they sleep or just toddle around the house. When they create artwork. When they do funny or silly things. When they smile. When they enjoy a gift I’ve given them. When they want to spend time with me or say, “I love you!” Certainly there is pain when my babies disobey but there are so many ways that they bring me pleasure and joy, often without even realizing it. How much more with God and us?! What a joyful thought. Thanks for making me think about this today.

  18. Matt says:

    I don’t think that a desire to please God springs from myself but rather from the Spirit within that IS definitely interested in the glory of god – the trinity’s wholly concerned with the self-less glorification of the other two members of the godhead.

    I think the problem with this kind of “argument” for pleasing god is that it can lead to a reliance on the flesh’s achievement of something that the flesh is completely opposed to (the glorification of God). That said, it seems that we ought only reckon ourselves dead to sin (condemnation) and alive to Christ. Our Spirit-revealed deadness is the only bridge-building effort that allows us not to please God but to share in The Son’s already achieved perfect obedience. Thus, any obedience we display is not ours but is instead a display of an inherited disposition toward the father’s glory.

    In the end we don’t ever please God. God is pleased to reveal the Spirit thru us to glorify himself and give us the good gift of joining in His blessed trinitarian self-satisfaction. His wholeness (shalom).

    The fire of Christ’s righteousness burns eternally – we are drawn by the Spirit to sit and enjoy it’s warmth/light/beauty. But we can nothing to diminish it. God has seen to that by sending the son to draw us into his all-consuming sovereign love.


    • Kevin Pipes says:

      Matt, Awesome. Friend me on facebook

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion. I really appreciate it.

      I agree that the desire to please God is itself ultimately a gift from God’s grace.

      I also agree that the pleasure I bring to God is not about anything intrinsic to me, but is about his own glory, and the way (by his grace alone) display his glory.

      And I also agree that the desire to please God *could* produce a self-reliant striving for obedience that ultimately dishonors God.

      But in that case, the problem is not that we are seeking to please God, but that we are not doing this by faith and in reliance on the Spirit.

      Maybe I’m misunderstanding you. But it sounds like you don’t think we should seek to please God. But doesn’t God’s Word clearly call us to seek to please God (2Cor 5:9; 1Th 4:1; Eph 5:8-10)?

      When you say that “in the end we don’t ever please God,” isn’t that an overstatement? Doesn’t God’s Word itself say that we can please God?

      Not that there’s anything that we can produce by ourselves that’s worthy of his pleasure. God’s pleasure in us is the way we, by his grace alone, display his glory as our all-satisfying Treasure.

      He gets all the glory for anything in us that pleases him.

      I hope that helps clarify what I am trying to say.

      And again, thanks for your thoughts.


  19. Kevin Pipes says:

    If Gods pleasure is based on my obedience. Then surely I can take credit for how well I am doing, for how obedient I am, for how pleasing I am to Him. This is a modern day Pharisee My experience is that when I measure myself up as a Christian I still fall short. The Holier I get, the more sin and self God reveals in me.( This is Paul in Romans 7 after he has explained justification and sanctification ) I must let the facts of my position (That he is pleased with me because I am in Christ)overwhelm the feelings of my condition (my sinful state).

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Kevin,

      I love your concern that we not take credit for anything good in us.

      And I don’t think I would say that God’s pleasure is based on my obedience, because that could be misunderstood in a legalistic way.

      What I would say is that God’s pleasure in me rises to the extent that I, by his grace alone, display his glory.

      Do you agree that the Scriptures I listed above call us to seek to please God? If not, help me see how I am misunderstanding the Scriptures.

      I also agree with you that the holier I become, the more clearly I see my sinfulness. But don’t the above Scriptures show that it’s also possible to see how, by God’s grace alone, I have pleased him?

      Thanks for pushing me to think these things through more deeply. I do appreciate it.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  20. paula says:

    Hello Kevin,
    isn’t it crazy that something you wrote the years ago is still encouraging people today? In a way it makes me think of why God wants or actions to be pleasing to Him and why He desires our obedience.
    Everything we say and do as Christians will have an effect positive or negative, on God’s children. He may not live us more or less and odd course or salvation will be secure as long as we trust Him but we will be judged for every careless word and it is also clear through many of the parables of Jesus that we can gain or lose statue and blessings both on this earth and in heaven by our obedience to Him, here and now.
    I don’t think it makes Him love us more but it does lose his hand to bless us.
    I just want to thank you fort your humble and simple article which clarified my question about the very thing you said.
    People who say ” there is nothing you can do to make God happier with you or more pleased with you”. I am a mother of two, and just like your wife, my thoughts go to my children. I love then both more than I can express but when they are disobedient and especially willfully, actively so, it brings me great distress and sorrow. When they listen quickly or even better, do something before they are asked my heart soars with pride and joy.
    that’s how I imagine God feels.
    Love your post and all the responses.
    God bless you mightily!!!

  21. Randi Jo says:

    I think this is such an important thing to ponder over. I agree with what everybody has said, really…. and believe it’s just a matter of semantics/word choice preference….word choice can make such a difference to our personal experiences!!!!

    When I surrendered my life to Jesus as an adult – the first question I pleaded to Him was, “God what does it even mean to please you”…. and 8 years later, He still reveals more depth to it. There’s been many things I’ve come to believe about what pleases God. But ultimately, Jesus is the answer to that question – every time.

    Now, when I am talking to the Lord about MY part, I don’t use the word “please”. To me personally – it has too much emotion and past wounds/issues attached.

    In the verses you mentioned, many of the times “pleased” is used, it really means, “good” or “acceptable”. (back to this in a minute) When I think of what pleases God – any answer other than Jesus directs the attention to me. Not good. So the answer to that question always must be Jesus. I have no righteousness apart from Him.

    However, God HAS shown us how He desires to be loved. And there are things that we can do that make Him feel SO loved. Glorifying Him is what He desires and what gives us joy. His commands and what He says is “good” are given to us through the Word & Spirit so that we can be all we were designed to be —- glorifying HIM. His rules & commands are a gift then so we could know Him more and know how to love Him.

    Some of our thoughts & actions glorify Him. Some of our thoughts & actions glorify self. Some of our thoughts & actions glorify idols.

    When we renew our minds by focusing on Jesus, always in all things —- we are transformed. God tells us to love Him is to obey Him. and His commands HE wants us to obey? “to believe in the name of Jesus and to love others”. Knowing Jesus and how He perfectly pleases the Father gives us life — and that life creates in us a desire to love Him and show Him love.

    The rules or commands we see in the Word are simply guideposts to help us know if we have wandered. If we read and discern that we are off step — the answer is not to try harder to please God. The answer is to turn our eyes on Jesus and how HE perfectly pleases the Father — when our eyes are back on Him – we can trust that He will fill us with love that wants to glorify God and not self/idol that we turned our attention to.

    “I must please God” — makes me personally think about SELF. THe focus is on what I can bring to the table.

    “I want to do all I can to show God love” — makes me personally think about GOD. The focus is on Him.

    Like I say… semantics…. but this wording has made all the difference for me to be able to be a slave to righteousness and not sin/self.

  22. Paula says:

    Hi Randi Jo,

    Very well put. Unfortunately many people who look for a way out of “doing God’s will” latch onto words. You may understand that ‘pleasing God’ is simply done by standing in HIS blood. ‘many people don’t get that once you do that it should change our hearts to want to be more acceptable to HIM. just as if we were in love and wanted to please our spouse or future spouse.
    Cooking, sewing, whatever form it takes we do things that we wouldn’t normally do because we choose to please him/her.
    Anyway, I was thinking of John 14:15 “5 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. ”

    God bless you!

  23. jeff says:

    I know this blog was posted a long time ago. But since I am preaching on God’s delight this week I thought I would throw my 2 cents in. The scripture you use for whether or not we please God is solid. We can live in a way that pleases God for sure. However, His pleasure and delight in me as an individual believer doesn’t change. Why? Because I am not what I do. There is a difference between me as a person and me in terms of what I do.
    It is true that we know people primarily based on what they do. However, those are only surface level relationships. True, intimate relationships are based less on what we do and more on who we are, and whose we are.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Jeff.

      But my question is, if God’s pleasure and delight in me doesn’t change, why do the Scriptures mentioned in the blog post talk about how we can be more or less pleasing to God?

      I think it’s more helpful to say that God’s passionate love, complete forgiveness, helping presence, and commitment to keeping us persevering never change.

      But His delight and pleasure in us does change, depending on our trust in Him and obedience to Him.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  24. Steve, this showed up on my Facebook feed. Thanks for addressing this. I wrote a series of blogs about the highly motivating biblical promises that God will praise us. Similar vein I think.

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