God's Pleasure in Imperfect Obedience

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. (1 Thessalonians 4:1)

The freedom of the Christian life is not an antinomian freedom. That is, it is not a freedom to sin, or freedom from God's commands. There is a way we ought to live. Paul says to the Thessalonians, “you received from us how you ought to live…” And the ‘ought’ of the Christian life is a very high ought. The standard of behavior God calls us to is extremely high.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:14-16) 
And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.Matthew (22:37-39)

These commands highlight our failure. Even at our very best moments, we fall woefully short. Who has truly loved God with all of their being, even for a moment? Our good actions are always tainted with mixed motives. This reality ought to drive us time and time again to the cross, where God’s grace and mercy are to be found. It should remind us that our acceptance with God can never be based on our actions. The gracious gift of Jesus’ perfect righteousness is our only hope, and it is ours through faith alone.

With such a high standard, it would be easy for us to imagine God being continually displeased with us. Have you ever had such thoughts? We can fall into the trap of thinking of Him as an all or nothing kind of God; that anything short of perfection turns His smile into a frown. Yet 1 Thessalonians 4:1 shows us God's pleasure in imperfect obedience. ‘We ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.’

The Thessalonians hadn’t yet reached the standard of perfection God demands. There was still room for growth, which was the point of Paul’s appeal. Yet they were on the road of obedience, and their walk did in fact please God. The little insert, ‘just as you are doing,’ shows us that much. Paul is saying to them, “you are doing it guys. You are living as you ought. You are pleasing God with your lives. Now come on guys, let’s do it better. Let’s do so more and more.”

God’s perfect standard beckons us on. We are not yet living totally as we ought. We frequently fall short due to pride and selfishness. Idolatrous desires often compete in our hearts with Godly ones. But let us remember, to the degree we are genuinely seeking to please God through living as we ought, to that degree God is pleased, even though it is less than perfect. So come on brothers and sisters. Let us seek to please Him more and more. Let us grow in our obedience ever closer to God’s high standard. Be encouraged as you stumble up the mountain of sanctification. God is even now pleased with you.

1 comment:

  1. God's pleasure in imperfect obedience.... An encouraging read. Peace!


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