15 Nov 2022
We are familiar with the commandments to love God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.
It may be helpful to ponder over what this means in actual outworking in our lives – what is involved in pleasing and loving God?
The first area we must take note of is to deal with what is displeasing to God.
By the Spirit, we need to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:13). This would invariably involve pain and grief as we deal with the negative inclinations, habits and cravings that have been in our lives for a long time. The Lord Jesus told us vividly that mortifying a sin (killing our sin) could feel like plucking out an eye or cutting off a hand or foot – but it is necessary in the quest for holiness. It is very painful to put off something that is very much a part of us, that without it, we feel we cannot live. Self-denial and saying ‘no’ to the self and ‘yes’ to God is part and parcel of this process.
Outward acts of sin (which include sinful words and anger) come from inner sinful urges and desires; we must learn to starve these urges, including what stimulates them, and to put them to death.
When these urges come upon us, we must cry out to God for help, asking Him to deepen our sense of His holy presence and redeeming love, and to strengthen us to reject what displeases Him. It is the Holy Spirit who moves us to act this way, and who actually drains the life out of the sins we starve.
But we need to realise that there are also besetting sins – dispositional sins to which our temperament inclines us, and habitual sins that have become addictive and defiant. To deal with them means a long drawn-out, bruising struggle and battle. We need to continually put off the ‘old man’ and put on the ‘new man’ – sow a deed, it becomes a habit, sow a habit, and it becomes our character.
The second area involves the word ‘zeal’; we see in the gospel the zeal of our Lord Jesus as he cleansed the temple with a ‘whip’ – “zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:14-17).
Bishop J.C. Ryle defines zeal as “a burning desire to please God, to do His will, and to advance His glory in the world in every possible way”. He describes powerfully a person of zeal as “one who only sees one thing…cares for one thing…lives for one thing… is swallowed up in one thing..he burns for one thing, and that one thing is to please God, and to advance His glory…”. Such a one feels like a lamp, made to burn for God, and if consumed in burning, he has but done the work for which God appointed him.
We are called to be zealous for God as an expression of our love for Him, and we do not please Him unless we are zealous for HIm in this way.
The path of discipleship and the transformation of our lives into the holy image of Jesus invariably involves pleasing Him and loving Him. If we struggle even to say ‘no’ to a little wrong urging in our lives, and if we complain about the little difficulty and inconvenience in serving God and ministering to others for His sake, we have not understood what it involves in pleasing and loving God. The Lord needs to bring us nearer to a deeper appreciation and willingness, in gratitude to Him, of the privilege we have as His children to love Him, to please Him and in turn to love others, for His glory!