What Pleases the Lord?

boy scoutScripture exhorts us to “find out what pleases the Lord” (Eph 5:10). Do you know what pleases the Lord? You do! You are his dearly-loved child and your heavenly Father is thrilled to bits with you.

You need to know this otherwise you will spend your life trying to earn what you already have. You’ll fall prey to those who say, “You need to improve yourself to please the Lord.” Or “You need to clean yourself up before God will be pleased with you.” Such messages will distract you from God’s grace. They will draw your attention to your sin instead of his Son. They will cause you to fall from grace into dead works.

This is no small issue. The following extract, which comes from pages 82-84 of The Hyper-Grace Gospel, reveals a huge division in the church as to what pleases the Lord. While some, like me, preach unconditional love and say things like “It’s impossible for you to disappoint God,” others, like Dr. Michael Brown, worry that we can displease the Lord and become unpleasing to him.

When God looks at you, does He love what He sees?

Is God always pleased when He looks at us? Is He ever disappointed with us? These are the sorts of questions that divide those who preach radical grace from those who oppose it.

Hyper-grace preacher: “We are totally pleasing in our Father’s sight.”
Dr. Brown: “It is absolutely false to claim that when God looks at us, He always ‘loves what He sees.’” (page 112)

The difference is the hyper-grace preacher is talking about you, while Dr. Brown is talking about the things that you do.

“Paul, isn’t this just splitting hairs?” No. It’s the difference between life and death! It’s the reason why so many believers are messed up, worn out, and confused.

The issue here is identity. The relevant question is, Who am I? Your answer to this question will shape your life. For instance, if you define yourself by what you do, then your identity will only be as secure as your behavior. You’ll think, “If I do good, God will smile at me, but if I don’t, He won’t.”

This is an inferior way to live. You are not what you do and your value to God is not defined by your productivity or performance. You may be a pastor or a professor or a prostitute or a pill-popping prodigal but that is not who you really are. You are much more than that. You are a beloved child of the Most High God. This is the stunning revelation of the gospel.

And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, NKJV)

Before Jesus had done a blessed thing—before He had preached the gospel or healed the sick or raised the dead—He received the loving affirmation and pleasure of His Father. How God relates to Jesus is how He relates to you. He loves you without any regard for your behavior. Your good deeds don’t make Him love you more, and your bad deeds don’t make Him love you less.

Identity vs behavior

This issue of identity is so important, that I wrote a whole book about it. I wrote The Gospel in Ten Words so that you might know that your Father loves you 100 percent and is thoroughly pleased with you. He never changes His mind. Just as your behavior does not alter the sunlight falling on the earth, your behavior cannot alter the white-hot love of your Father for you. This is the gospel that Jesus preached:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9)

The danger is not that God will change His unchangeable mind and start hating you. The danger is that you won’t remain in His love. If you’re constantly hearing that God’s approval of you goes up and down like the stock market you may begin to doubt His goodness. You may think, “I did good today, He loves me,” or “I did bad today, He loves me not.” You’ll become an insecure and unstable believer.

It is critically important that you draw a big fat line between who you are (your Father’s dearly loved child) and what you do. Dr. Brown appears not to make this distinction for he says “our heavenly Father … does not always take enormous pleasure in us” (page 120). This is not true. He may not take enormous pleasure in your choices, but you He loves.

You only need to look at your own children to know this is true. I look at my kids with 100 percent, undiluted pleasure. My kids are the greatest kids on earth. I almost feel embarrassed that God gave me such great kids because the rest of you are missing out. Does this mean I am 100 percent happy with the choices my children make? Not at all. Was I pleased yesterday when my young son disobeyed his mother’s command and ran onto the road? No, I was very displeased with his behavior. But with him I am and always will be well-pleased.

How is this not obvious to every father?

As much as we love and appreciate our own kids, God loves us even more—much, much more. He’s not coming second in any Father of the Year competition.

.

49 Comments on What Pleases the Lord?

  1. Good post Paul. I shared it on FB. If our behavior determined God’s love or blessings, no one could ever measure up, but Jesus. Thank God He did all the “measuring up” for us. Blessings!

  2. Well put bro Paul, unless we see God as our Father who loves us unconditionally, then we won’t enjoy the Christian journey.

  3. Well spoken, Paul!

  4. Marion Carter // October 22, 2014 at 2:07 am // Reply

    Very cool. But actually my kids are the greatest kids on earth so I don’t feel that I’m missing out at all🙂

  5. Good post,and right on time,I get very impatient with my self, hence forth carrying some of the load, “GOTTA MAKE THE FRUIT GROW” this brings me back to earth, its nice to be encouraged

  6. “The difference is the hyper-grace preacher is talking about you, while Dr. Brown is talking about the things that you do.” Amen. That’s it in one sentence.The New Testament seems pretty clear that our life is Christ’s life. Good stuff! Blessings.

  7. Once again brilliant, Paul! Well stated.

    It is because of the deception created in this world of who and what and how much we are supposed to be, that people get so messed-up. We should not be quiet to the lie and life-sucking teachings of those who have as their father the …

    Shoot! I almost typed something there …

    Bless every soul and may everyone so bound-up and snug-up in the deception of religion and works experience the warmth and desire of Father’s heart towards them. May they come to an awesome, breath-taking revelation and understanding of the true character of our Good Father, Who declared Himself: merciful and gracious, patient, and abundant in goodness and truth (Jesus), and not as any other!

  8. You say, “But with him I am and always will be well-pleased.” If this is true, then why does John tell us in 1 John 3:22
    “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and ‘do’ those things that are ‘pleasing’ in his sight.” I think there are reason’s our asking’s are not met!
    You say, “if you define yourself by what you do, then your identity will only be as secure as your behavior. You’ll think, “If I do good, God will smile at me, but if I don’t, He won’t.”

    Isn’t answer to prayer a “smile at me” situation?

    • In context, the pleasing things we do is what John is talking about – walking in Love towards others… which is summarized in the Precept that we keep (v23) “that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us”… which is what Jesus laid out for us back in John 13:34.

      An answered prayer brings the smile on US not Him, because His will is being done on earth as it is in Heaven… We are now simply enforcing what His will is! The problem comes when we don’t know what His will, even though He’s said it clearly: “look at Jesus, what He did is exactly what my will is” (Heb 1:1-3).

      • I am talking conversely. If we “do (not) those things that are pleasing in His sight, then we do not receive whatsoever we ask.” So, your saying, “An answered prayer brings the smile on US not Him,” is totally not what its saying! Of course we smile at answered prayer, but its talking about pleasing God by doing those things that please Him (or make Him smile). So thinking, “If I do good, God will smile at me, but if I don’t, He won’t”, is true according to 1 John 3:22.

      • Hi Tom, These things that we do to please God – are they things such as good works to add to the completed work of Jesus or are they things such as believing and receiving the completed work of Jesus?

  9. Very good points and clearly biblical. Being “accepted in the Beloved” is the only way God views His children. When He doesn’t like something I do, or don’t do, He lets me know it but doesn’t withdraw even an ounce of His love. Our identity in(is) Christ is a very important truth to be grasped.

    • Bonnie Lavonne // October 24, 2014 at 10:53 pm // Reply

      YES, MR.COLLINSGW,,IN A CERTAIN THING, I DISOBEYED THE LORD,,I FELT AWFUL, BUT, THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD,HIS GREAT LOVE SUSTAINED ME AS I TURNED AND WAS RESTORED. IT WAS HIS LOVE FOR ME THAT KEPT ME FROM BEING SWALLOWED UP IN THE SITUATION.

      • Yes, Bonnie in Romans 2:4 we read that it’s Gods kindness and goodness that leads us to repentance. The bible truly is a living document.
        Lords Blessings
        GW

  10. thanks so much paul for this …God is pleased with me because I am his beloved. I look at you as my grace dad rather the “apostle paul himself” explaining grace to its purest form .

    I do pray that people come to know of this website and hear the truth of what you say. You speak the truth that brings joy to peoples hearts and minds ..the world out there is full mixed grace and law preachers ,and that’s poison . I always escape to this blog for the purest form of grace

  11. Thank you, this really touched me this morning. I am still learning this truth…

  12. This is such a great post! This is the gospel! Saying, “I have to work to become what God wants me to be”, is a lie from the enemy and completely opposite of the gospel. In Jesus, perfection is the starting point, not the finish line. Jesus is my righteousness. Everything about Jesus is my identity. When I see Jesus as who I am, good behavior happens as a natural result of the resurrection power of the gospel. Jesus is the only way.

  13. Wow! Right to the very heart. As I was reading your post I received an epiphany. I believe what I’m about to say to be the very center of the salvation experience. As we hear the gospel and realize that our relationship with God has been about our doing and we shift from our center of doing to His center of doing and what He has done through Jesus, He creates us into a new person and now we can just be. Shifting from our doing to His doing and we become! Our identity… children of God! What do you think is this accurate?

  14. Paul, I know you hear this a lot but I would be remiss in not saying it again. I feel so alone in the joy of the Gospel. Finally I have found a place where the more I read the more I grow. Even though there’s not a lot of them, there are others proclaiming the real Gospel. You are the first that I have found with an oasis of answers and a wide open range to explore the questions and understanding that I haven’t even begun to ask myself yet! I feel like your site might begin to exemplify the description of the gospel that Paul gives in Ephesians 3:8,”…The boundless riches of Christ”. Thank you for doing this. If there’s anyway I can help you please let me know.

    • I hear you M&M, but you are not alone🙂 .. As you said, many of us are in that position; often aggressively opposed.

      But it’s kind of a lie.. I mean.. remember when the Israelites were complaining and told Moses that they had it better in Egypt? Really??!! You were slaves… You were forced to make bricks without straw.. You worked constantly … That was better !!!???

      It’s kinda like that for me … I was more alone when I was constantly trying to prove my righteousness to God … because proving to God and proving to others kind of goes hand in hand… and that is a miserable way to live. >> Hope they didn’t see me blow it. Hope they can’t read my mind. Hope they know how much I love Jesus. Hope they know how much I really want to change.. Hope they don’t misread this.. Hope they don’t see me when I am driving.. Hope they don’t know that I really don’t want to be here right now.. Hope they never know how much I fail.. etc…

      • Hey M&M,

        Like Elijah, you are not alone. Do not be troubled but find comfort in His rest. And I’d like to agree with you on E2R. I’ve been following it for more than two years now. What a breath of fresh air on the Truth, every time. Yeah on Eph 3:8! Thanks Paul!

      • Thank you guys! I think maybe there are hundreds of thousands of believers that it here to the gospel of Jesus without the mixture of law. But it is hard to find the vocal ones that seem to be able to articulate God and his goodness!

        Paul Ellis and Daniel. Is this the same Daniel that a couple of years ago stood bitterly opposed to the gospel without a mixture of law? If so God’s grace continues to exhibit it’s amazing ability and is a real encouragement to me about God being able to reach the people that I’ve had the privilege to speak Grace toward!

  15. Brian Midmore // October 22, 2014 at 7:40 am // Reply

    Just to stand up for Dr Brown. I am certain that nowhere he says that God withdraws his love from us when we sin. Dr Brown says that God is displeased/disappointed with us when we sin. Does God’s loving us preclude his being displeased with us? God loved Israel but was not always pleased with them (1 Cor10.5). Dr Browns complaint with hypergrace is not that it teaches that God loves his people whether they sin or not. His complaint is that hypergrace teaches that God never sees sin (because it is already forgiven) and consequently He is never displeased with Christians.

    • The following statement does not sound like unconditional love to me: “It is absolutely false to claim that when God looks at us, He always ‘loves what He sees.’” If you need to qualify it, it’s not unconditional. Dr. Brown actually has numerous complaints against the hyper-grace gospel.

      • Brian Midmore // October 22, 2014 at 7:44 pm //

        But what do we mean when we say ‘loves what He sees’. From your point of view you are focussing exclusively on the person. So you say ‘God always loves what he sees because he sees me in Christ and he loves me eternally’. OK that’s fine. But Dr Brown seems to focus on both me and what I do. So although God loves me eternally he does not love the sin that I am committing in the body temporally. God agapes me but hates the sin. He doesnt hate me but wants to bring me to a place of repentance by his grace because he loves me. I think this would be MB’s position. Isn’t this close to what you trying say yourself?

    • God sees our sin He just chooses to not hold it against us. We are pardoned, acquitted or free!! Isn’t that good news.

      • Then lamp of the body is the eye, we should forgive as God forgives.

      • It is good news Adam, but there’s more to it, considering the whole council of God. 1 John 1:9, ” If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
        Conversely, if we dont confess our sins, he is (still) faithful and just not to forgive us our sins, and cleans us from all unrighteousness.”
        1Cor 11:28,31 “But a man must examine himself… If we would judge ourselves, we sould not be judged.”
        2Cor 13:5, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves…”
        Ephesians 5:7-10, “Be not you therefore partakers with them. For you were sometimes darkness, but now are you light in the Lord: walk as children of light:” How do we do that? Galatians 5:25, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” Its a Spirit thing. “(For the fruit, end result of that walk, is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) thus, proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.”
        Thats why it say’s, 1 John 3:21, “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” 1 John 2:22. Thats confidence.
        Think this is what Dr. Brown had in mind. Sin is dealt with (praise God), but we have our part to play.

    • for God to see our sins, God has to step into our time, if that’s the case, then our sins are past. BUT God sees our sins outside time. therefore we are sinless. this is the reason why Abraham was righteous by faith before God long before the death of Jesus. because as far as God is concern, Abraham’s sin were already purged.

    • God will always see the believer in Christ. And see Christ in us. The sin issue has been settled once for all at the cross. That is the reason why God will never see sin in us. Yes we still have our flesh, but we live by faith not by sight. We live by God’s reality not what is natural and that is what will transform our behavior.
      And yes God love us that is why He sent Jesus in the first place. He hates sin but love the sinner. And because of the work of Jesus at the cross He will never see sin in and on us forever! And God’s reality is my reality.

      • Right, as what is natural is the flesh and it is contrary to the Spirit, Galatians 5:17.
        So, this reality you speak of is in the Spirit,
        “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 The emphasis is on the walk and we must not just “… live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” Galatians 5:25.
        The walk is the “reality.”

  16. AMEN Brother Paul!!! I totally agree with you. It is so liberating to finally get it thru our heads that GOD LOVES US SO MUCH!!! All we have to do to remind ourselves is to look outside at the birds and remember that if He sees even 1 little bird fall, how much MORE important are we to Him than 1 little bird??? WE are HIS treasure, His inheritance, and I’m pretty convinced that He knows very well how to take GREAT care of His inheritance!!! Being free to love Him back without fear of ANYTHING is what causes us to be able to come boldly into the throne of grace in a time of need. We don’t have to check ourselves to see if we have any sin before we come to Him because Jesus took care of all of that. THANK YOU JESUS!!! Be free people! It’s all in what our big brother did for us. Don’t let it go to waste! He gave too much for us to be free for us to waste it in fear and worry about if we’re really saved because we screwed up or not. I spent too many years doing that. God had to show me personally that I was His child, and there was NO POWER that could take me away from the palm of His hand. That’s reassuring! No more fear or doubt for me, thank you!

  17. Awesome! I have always loved that verse…”find out what pleases the Lord”.I love the freedom,the latitude,the individuality,and the affirmation it affords us who live by the Spirit.How we need to be reminded that we please the Lord!

  18. evelyn moore // October 22, 2014 at 10:35 am // Reply

    Hello Paul, Whilst I agree with you and the so-called “hyper grace” teachers,surely there is a difference between how God sees the believer and the unbeliever. All are His beloved CREATION,and the prostitute and pill popping prodigal must be in this category(unless they are a NEWLY born again child of God who hasn’t got rid of the old life yet). You seemed to put pastor(presumably born again),alongside prostitute who may or may not be born again…majority not, I would dare to say. When we are in Christ, then we are the beloved CHILDREN of The Most High God,as you know. I don’t think you made this clear and after all,most people are still unfortunately in the “lost” category on the “broad road”. I’m not finding fault,just wanting your message to be absolutely clear. Yours in Jesus’ Name Evelyn

  19. Nancy Crompton // October 25, 2014 at 9:20 am // Reply

    I will tell you all right now that after being unhappy for a good portion of my life I finally can see that I am an ingrate. I have not learned to be thankful in all things and right now I am going through a very difficult time. I see ingratitude as the worst sin ever. I am in a lot of pain and have been for years. But for the first time in my life I can sense that God in not angry with me. He is aching for me. He is aching for me as I have ached all of these years. It was about two years ago that I understood the Gospel of grace. ( Many thanks to the Lord for Paul and many thanks to you, Paul for all of your work) If I was even able to understand that I was an ingrate back then I would have just spun my wheels in the mud of trying harder and thenI would probably have just curled up in a ball. This is difficult but when I realize that God is aching for me and not angry or disgusted by me I know that I can move on from here. He loves me and it hurts him to see me hurt.

    • Hi Nancy, I appreciate your honest comment. You are absolutely right in saying God is not angry with you and He cares about every detail in your life. When it comes to gratitude, I think faith and gratitude are close cousins. Neither one can be worked up through our own efforts. Just continue to rest your heart in your Father’s love and He will produce good fruit in your life. Blessings

  20. They are things that please Him. John 8:29  “…; for I do always those things that please him.” relates to 1 John 3:22,“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and ‘do’ those things that are ‘pleasing’ in his sight.” Which relates (similar) to, John 9:31, “Now we know that God hears not sinners: but if any man be a worshiper of God, and ‘does’ his will, him he hears”. So, John, in 1 John 2:6, tells us “He that say’s he abides in him (Jesus) ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”
    How did He walk? “…; for I do always those things that are pleasing.”
    What ever they are, they are similar to what Jesus did before His Father and are required of us to “receive of Him”. I know for sure that, “keeping his commandments, and ‘doing’ those things that are ‘pleasing’ in his sight.” are far from sin! Maybe there is more to it than one thinks. Is it that automatic as some say, or is there a certain ‘do’-ing. about it. Paul tells Titus that we are taught by grace, about “denying ungodliness and worldly lust, that we ‘should’ live soberly, righteously and godly in this here present world”. For some reason or another, its learn able according to Gods word..

    • If we receive from God based on what we “do”, there is much more to it as you said… to the point of being unattainable. If you miss it on the smallest detail, you might as well have missed it on everything. 

      For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 
      James 2:10

      If we receive from God by what we believe, then we receive based on what Jesus did. It’s not all automatic, there is some right believing involved; trusting in His works instead of my own. Religion has told us good works are something you have to do, but Jesus defined good works as believing in Him.

      Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” 
      John 6:29

      If we do not think that believing in Jesus and His completed work is enough to receive from God, then we do not believe in the power of the gospel. If we can only receive from God by our “doing” right, what did the cross accomplish? Moses had a promise from God that he could be blessed by keeping all of God’s commandments. Did Jesus change anything?

    • Even the believing and the trusting is a work we allow Him to do in our life.

  21. Why does God chose to relate to us through Jesus as Father and Son?
    Because even a stupid sheep like me knows how much I love my kids and knows the way in which I relate to them (temporarily forgetting those times when I lose it with them)
    This powerful experience shows me that none of the lies religion “piously” propogates about the Father are true.
    It is so simple you would need to have a non-grace preacher help you to misunderstand the Father… but why would you want to do that?
    Blessings.

  22. This is amazing! Thank you so much Paul! God revealed this to me many years ago but I did not believe it 100%. I was always caught in-between Grace and Law. I cannot even explain to you how great it feels to have found other believers that believe in RADICAL GRACE! I am challenged all of the time by family and friends that do not believe in our beautiful Grace message. I would cry to the Lord to bring me believers that I can relate to; believers that I can sharpen my Iron Grace Sword with. I have yet to find any. As I would speak to family and friends about what God is doing in my life, they would tell me that they are concerned about what I have come to believe. It really hurts when it is someone you love and respect. The devil would use this against me, telling me that I was believing wrong and that false teachers go to hell. But the funny part about it (which is not so funny) is that he made it seem like it was God talking to me, tricky tricky. But thank you Jesus for people like you who He has risen up to preach Grace! More and more each day I do not feel alone. I am coming to realize that the Grace believers are out there, and are rising up. I am honored to be a part of your blogs. Your Blessed Brother!

  23. Serge Kulapa // January 8, 2015 at 5:23 am // Reply

    WOW….. ‘As the father has loved Jesus, Jesus has also loved me and i just need to remain in HIS Love for me…WOW. I’ve always read this verse but it resonate different just by reading the post.
    Thanks Paul, you’re a blessing for the body of Christ.

  24. Liberating! One question though. In your writing on God hates evildoer you said God sees the sins and evil doers as the same and inseparable. How is that He sees His children deeds, good or bad, as distinct from their selves? Is this grace of His. Before grace ones in our deeds are our undoing. But after adoption no acts, good or bad, committed or omitted will bring on condemnation? Please enlighten here.

    • Hi Andrew, I’m not sure if your comment is directed to me, but I would never say that God hates people. “For God so loved the world…”

    • “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit “ Only walking after the flesh and not after the Spirit brings this condemnation! Again Paul said “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1 and 4.
      We, that believe, have the Spirit, Romans 8:9, and thus are “not in the flesh, but in the Spirit”, but this does not preclude we are always walking in the Spirit. We should, as we are not debtors to the flesh, but to the Spirit, verse 12. That is why we mortify (kill) the deeds of the body through the walk (keeping in step) in the Spirit, verse 13. Paul brought this all into focus when he said, “If we live in the Spirit (Romans 8:9) let us also walk in the Spirit” Galatians 5:25.
      It is only by this, “That you might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;” Colossians 1:10.
      God loves man and sent his Son to prove it, but His wrath abides still on those that believe not, John 3:36.

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