‘For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can it be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:5-8).’
I’ll state the obvious: Only those born of the Holy Spirit will want to please God, because Scripture states that only those who are born of the Spirit (John 3:3-8) are able to please God (Romans 8:5-8). If you are not born again of the Spirit you are not at all interested in the real and only true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Most likely the person you will want to please is yourself. However, I personally know people who do not believe in God, and yet they have an altruistic spirit. They are really interested in the welfare of their relatives, friends and neighbours, and will go out of their way to help and please them. They want to please people, not God.
This brings me to consider the differences between the pleasers of men and the pleasers of God. What motivates them and what is at the core of their hearts?
Paul the Apostle made it abundantly clear that he preached the gospel to please God, not men. In his letter to the Galatians he told them: ‘But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. …… For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ (Galatians 1:8-10).’
Paul’s motivation came from his desire to please God by preaching the gospel.
When writing to the Thessalonians he reiterated his desire to please God: ‘But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts (1 Thessalonians 2:4).’
This matter of pleasing God came from Paul’s heart. He, Silvanus and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1) laboured and toiled night and day so as not to be a burden (2: 9) to the Thessalonians as they expounded and shared the gospel of their salvation.
The writer of Hebrews had this to say about pleasing God: ‘But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).’ He exhorted them: ‘Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased (13:15, 16).’
God is pleased with His people who are ‘fruitful in every good work (Colossians 1:10),’ because they walk in holiness, pleasing Him.They cannot at the same time walk as those who do not know Him (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7).
Pleasing people is admirable, but God didn’t send His Son to please men; rather He sent His Son so that they may please Him. He wants them to love Him and to please Him by living holy lives to His glory. He wants them to love and to worship Him (Mark 12:29, 30).
He loves (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:4; 1 John 4:9, 10) people who please Him (1 Thessalonians 4:1). Amazingly He also loves the unlovable, even those who may reject Him, e.g., the Gentiles spoken of in verse 5. He loves them to the extent ‘that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:16, 17).’
The crux of the matter is that only God’s people (1 Peter 2:9, 10) love Him and want to please Him and are capable of pleasing Him. They have this great privilege of being able to please Him. They give Him pleasure. How amazing and wonderful is that! God created us for His pleasure and for ours.
‘I have set the LORD always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presences is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:8-11).’