Christianity 201

May 16, 2017

Seeking God’s Approval

Today we’re paying a return visit to Mark McIntyre at the blog Attempts at Honesty. Click the title below to read at source.

A difficult transition

One of the things about the Christian life that I have had the most difficulty with is fully appreciating my identity in Christ and the implications of that identity.

I have nearly completed my sixth decade of life, all but five years of it as a believer, yet I find myself trying to earn the approval of both God and the people around me. I need to transition from trying to earn God’s approval to responding to the love and acceptance that I already have. Rather than trying to be an initiator, I need to be a responder.

In the case of God, my head knows that he already approves of me. I do not need to earn his love. By doing so, I am trying to earn what I already possess.

In the case of the people around me, it is a fools errand to try to please them due to a combination of my propensity to failure and their own similar struggles. My experience is (John Lydgate not withstanding) that I can’t please some of the people all of the time. I can’t even please myself all of the time.

Yet, I am reminded that while I do not need to earn God’s approval, my life goes better when I am obedient to what he calls me to do. While I cannot earn God’s love, nor earn my salvation, I can act in such a way that brings pleasure to God. In the parable of the talents, Jesus enjoins us to faithfulness so that in the end we hear “Well done, good and faithful slave . . .” (Matthew 25:21).

But I find this complicated by the distractions both within and around me. My life has been a process of transitioning from being a man-pleaser to being first and foremost a God-pleaser. I feel that I should be so much farther along than I am in making this transition.

I am very good at making excuses for my lack of progress. I might blame it on personality (indirectly blaming it on God who made me), I might blame the way I was brought up or I might blame it on the people in my life. While these often make it more difficult, they are not the reason for my lack of progress.

My lack of progress in making this transition is due to my pride. I want to be in charge. I want to earn what I am given. I want to be admired for what I have done. I want to finally conquer the lingering feelings of inadequacy through hard work and determination. I. I. I. I ad infinitum.

My only hope is what Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:4-7:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

I should follow God’s advice and cease striving and know that he is God (Psalm 46:10) and let him do the work that only he can do.

August 12, 2014

God’s Will for Your Life

decision making in God's willIf you’re at a crossroads in life, but hesitate to make a move because you’re afraid of doing something that not “God’s perfect will” for your life, consider this quotation:

A whole boatload of anxieties is tied up with this notion of “finding God’s will.”

The good news is that the will of God is not really like that. It’s not the kind of thing you have to look for and find, and therefore it’s not the kind of thing you can miss. What you can do is disobey God’s will. That’s easy to do – it’s called sin. But in another sense (quite a different sense) you can never miss God’s will, no matter how badly you sin or disobey God. For in addition to God’s will revealed in his word, there’s also his hidden will, as it’s called, which means his providence governing the universe and all of history. His word we can disobey, but his providence is sovereign over heaven and earth and we cannot overcome it or even escape it. It’s not something we are capable of disobeying, much less missing.

So the “will of God” that my students are trying to find is some third thing: not God’s revealed will (because it’s something they have to “find”) and not his providential will (because it’s something they might “miss”). It’s an extra kind of “will of God” that is not found in the Bible. That is to say, it doesn’t really exist. And that’s good news. It means – if they only knew it – that they are allowed to make their own decisions like responsible moral agents – like adults seeking to grow in wisdom and understanding or stewards learning how to invest their talents. They don’t have to find what God has hidden.

~ Cary, Phillip (2010-10-01). Good News for Anxious Christians: Ten Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do (Kindle Locations 1188-1200). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition; as sourced at Strengthened By Grace blog.  (I’ve added emphasis.)

So when the Psalmist writes,

 I delight to do your will, O my God;
    your law is within my heart.”  (40:8 ESV)

he is saying that he wants to do the thing that pleases God, the thing God wants; but not some specific direction that one must spend days, weeks, or months seeking. He is simply saying that he wants what God wants.

An earlier Psalm (37:4) talks about the thing you want, as opposed to the thing you think God might want. You probably know it by heart in the KJV, here’s the NKJV:

Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

I remember being taught that the desires of the righteous are righteous desires. If you’re following closely after Jesus, if you’re moving toward the cross, then the thing you want won’t be in conflict with the thing that is his best for you.

Perhaps the key if you’re at a crossroads is to simply take great joy in (Voice Bible) or keep company with (Message) and enjoy serving (NCV) your savior and Lord.


We have a bonus item today at Thinking out Loud; if you have 32-minutes, enjoy an excellent video teaching by David Platt.