What are the things that please you? What are the things that really make you happy or gives you pleasure? For me there are many things: spending time with my family gives me great pleasure. I just enjoy those moments when the family come home and we’re all together again; I enjoy good food with good friends where I can laugh out loud; I enjoy quiet moments by the sea; I take great pleasure in listening to and making music. The list could go on and on but here’s my thought: what are the things that please God?
It was a cold autumn morning, the kind that is sunny, dry and crisp with the temperature hovering just above freezing. My wife and I were walking in the Forest and the following verse came to mind:
Luke 3:22 — … “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
I began to think about Jesus and how, in Luke 3, His ministry hadn’t really started yet. There had been no great miracles (that we know about), no recorded healings, or powerful preaching. Jesus, for around 30 years prior to Luke 3, had been a builder in his step dad’s building firm, in the back-end of Israel in a town called Nazareth (known for it’s “back-endedness” (John 1:46)). This is what makes this statement so extraordinary to me. Jesus hadn’t “done” anything and yet God says to Him “I am well-pleased”. Why was God already well pleased with Jesus? Well I think the text says it all .. “You are my beloved Son”. In other words, before Jesus had performed His first miracle, healed His first sickness, cast out His first demon or preached His first sermon, He was already pleasing to his Father precisely because God was His father and He was His Son.
Now, think with me for a moment about how this monumental truth impacts us. In his book, “Knowing God”, J.I. Packer asks the question: “What is a Christian?”
The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father…Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption…The truth of our adoption gives us the deepest insights that the New Testament affords into the greatness of God’s love. Were I asked to focus the New Testament message in three words, my proposal would be adoption through propitiation, and I do not expect ever to meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the the gospel than that.
In other words: the Christian faith isn’t based on what you can do for God but precisely on your identity as a Son. How do you become a Son? Paul put it this way:
Galatians 3:26 – For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Paul says that it is through faith in Christ Jesus. That’s another way of saying “believing on the the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:31). Believing what? Well, believing that you were once a “son of disobedience” (Colossians 3:6) and in need of salvation. That means trusting that what Jesus did (dying on the cross to take away your sins and in their place giving you life in Him) is actually true and enough to save you. The visible, tangible result of believing this is to have a change of mind about your condition, status and identity – and you’re now living that as if it were true (a.k.a. “repentance”).
Adoption means that as a Christian, you’re loved, you’re forgiven, you’re cared for, you’re accepted, you’ve found favour in the sight of God, you don’t have to impress anyone you don’t have to do anything.
Ephesians 1:5 (ESV) — 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
Because of adoption, Christians are introduced into and given the privileges of God’s family. Because of adoption I open my Bible to hear from Him, not because I’ll impress Him, but because I need to hear my Father wisdom. I pray and seek His face, not because I’ll please Him (although i think I do), but I am reminded of weaknesses and just how impossible it is for me to please Him. THe write of Hebrews prayers this prayer:
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20–21)
Notice the two things that the writer prayers for:
- Good things – That God would give us every good thing so that we may do God’s will. Everything good is another way of saying “JESUS!”. It’s referring to all that God has completed for us in Him. Look at what He had previously said about good things:
Hebrews 10:1 – “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.”
So the author of Hebrews prays that God would equip us with all good things – namely, the benefits of the gospel.
- Work in us – God does not primarily equip us by giving us tools and gifts to go work for him.The way in which God equips us is by taking residence in us and Himself working his will in us. In the context of adoption and God’s work in us Paul makes it clear that it is the Holy Spirit who is doing this work:
Galatians 4:6 (ESV) — 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Romans 8:14 – For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God
So in conclusion my thoughts are these: rest. Rest in the knowledge that your trust and faith in Him, The Holy Spirit’s work in you, will bring about every good work in you so that you are called a Son of God .. and more … that the Father will say to you “with you I am well pleased.”