July 9, 2017
In just 3 weeks, during August, we are doing an “All in.” All in means everyone is going to do it. We are going to do a series of messages called, “Making Change” and all of our Go Groups will be taking the material we learn on Sunday morning and taking it to a whole ‘nutha level. So we want you to be involved ‘cause we want to do this all together. If you are not involved in a Go Group this is a great time to do it. You only have to commit to this month. If you are not part of one all you have to do is use the connection card on your flyer, write your name and contact info on it, say you are interested in a Go Group, and drop it off in the offering box. Then we will be in touch with you. Here is a little promotional video about what we will be looking at together. Here is a little promotional video…
Ok! Today I want to talk about what it takes to please God. What does it take to please God?
No matter your worldview, political beliefs, family, church background, you cannot please God without some kind of faith element. If you are going to please God first off you have to believe in a supernatural being that you cannot see or touch, who lives in everlasting light, that in itself requires some faith.
That being said, the way we view faith impacts how we please God. All of us are trying to figure out life. All of us, especially as you get older, would like to see everything work together for some kind of good. When you are young you worry about doing something meaningful. Will you do something good with your life? When you have children you want a safe and orderly world they can explore and learn. You might wonder why terrorism, violence, and hate seem to disrupt everything, and the chaos disturbs you. Perhaps you are at a stage of life where you have a lot self-doubts, why your faith isn’t deeper, why your body is increasingly becoming more unreliable, or how to stay a significant influence on others, or why a loved one suffers. We like to think there is some explanation for the randomness in life we experience.
Often, it’s when life seems inconsistent, or when a relationship or something breaks down, or when we want the world to cooperate with us, or God for that matter, is when we want faith to be our hero. In America, we believe in believing in our self and getting a lot accomplished. We believe if you have great faith then you can have all this great stuff. Often, in our culture, faith in God doesn’t begin until our faith in our self ends, and that’s not Biblical faith.
What we are going to discover about pleasing God today is it isn’t a crutch, something to get you through your day. Faith is a reality you live in, like sunshine.
What a lot of people do when it comes to pleasing God is they rip out a few verses from the Bible and say that’s it. That’s the formula. That’s the cause and effect. Now life makes sense. I got this verse from the Bible. We just use the Bible to prove our point. We think when Jesus lines up to how we think then it’s faith.
Let me be clear, faith isn’t something you use to get a theory on everything. It isn’t positive thinking or self-help. Too often we are suckers for anyone who says faith will make you richer, skinnier, wealthier, happier, or faster. If faith is so good then why aren’t we all at our dream house, skinny, on our personal island in the Bahamas? Why do we still have a mortgage or student loan debt?
If you want to please God then you will need faith. And your faith should not be set of ideas, or platitudes, thoughts, or perspectives, or trying to make life work for you. That kind of faith short-sheets your connection with God.
Today I want to show you a verse of scripture that tells you how to please God, and then we are going to look at one man who did please God.
I want to take you to the letter of Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 6. We don’t know who the actual author is of Hebrews. The letter itself does not tells us. Traditional sources say it was Paul who wrote it. Other sources say his friend Barnabus wrote it. The letter is written to Jewish converts to Christianity, thus the letter is full of references to Jewish theology, religious symbols, and rituals. The letter over and over again points to how Jesus is better. Jesus is better than the angels, Jesus is better than Moses, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sin is better than the sacrifice of animals. Jesus is taking us to a better country.
In Hebrews chapter 11 the author turns his attention the subject of faith and he lists all these heroes of the faith. Buried in this chapter of heroes is this plain and simple verse on how to please God, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (NIV 84)
How do you please God? You please God by faith. So what is faith? Back in verse 1 here in chapter 11 the author defines faith. He wrote, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
Faith is not hope. Faith is one step beyond hope. Hope is maybe it will work out. Faith is confident it will work out. Faith is knowing it will happen. Faith is like our belief in gravity (hold up book). We cannot see gravity but we have faith that when I let go of this book it will fall to the floor. (Boom!) It’s the difference between “I hope they will have lunch with me” to “I have faith they will have lunch with me.”
“Certain of what we do not see.” Faith is certain that something that hasn’t happened will happen. How can you be sure the book will fall? How can you be certain about having lunch? That’s faith. Hebrews talks about the unseen all the time. The writer talks about a city yet to come, a heavenly country, events yet to come, and our heavenly reward.
He then adds, “This is what the ancients were commended for.” They pleased God with their faith. If you want to see what faith really looks like then you need to read all the stories of faith heroes in the Bible. We are going to look at one of them today. Hebrews 11 lists hero after hero to show you what true faith is.. Moses, Abraham, Noah, the martyrs, Isaac, Rahab, among many others.
Without faith, without being believing God is God, and certain he will do what he said he would, you cannot please God.
The hero that sets the stage for verse 6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” is a guy named Enoch. In verse 5 we read, “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away.” Enoch illustrates how the writer describes faith in verse 6. He believed God is real and lived his life in that reality, and God rewarded him by taking him away. Enoch pleased God by faith.
Who is Enoch? We find Enoch in chapter 5 of Genesis, verse 18. He’s in a genealogy list. It reads, “When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch.” Then in verse 21, “When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah (which, according the Bible is the oldest man who ever lived, 969 years). And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God for 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” Genesis 5:18, 21-24. (NIV)
This is all we know about Enoch. He pleased God by his faith. How? What did his faith look like? He simply walked with God day in and day out.
I’m so glad Enoch is included in this list of heroes. He seems normal to me. I can relate to him when it comes to my faith. When you look at all the other heroes listed in chapter 11 you see incredible sacrifice and deeds done. Noah built an Ark. Abraham founded a nation. Sarah gave birth to one. Joseph spoke into the future about the Exodus from Egypt. By faith Moses left Egypt and instituted the Passover. People passed through the Red Sea, Joshua the walls of Jericho fall, Samson brought the house down, David killed Goliath, people conquered kingdoms and brought justice on the wicked.
I myself don’t expect to do cross any seas, start a nation, or kill a giant. What can faith look like for me, and for you?
And Enoch, Enoch, what did he do? He walked with God. That’s it. No big feats, no giants slain, no walls falling down, or traveling to some distant country to start a nation, no martyr’s death. Enoch walked with God. I can walk with God.
Don’t you find that refreshing? Sometimes with faith we put so much pressure on ourselves that for to be a real faith it has to be something large and deep in your soul moving. The truth is to expect a faith like that every day is a little much- even disheartneing.
When we walk with God by faith, day in and day out, we demonstrate that we believe in him and we can be certain he will reward us. Walking by faith tells us that we are pleasing to God.
How can I please God? Walk by faith.
What does it look like to walk by faith? John, one of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples, a guy who literally walked with Jesus day in and day out, wrote to some Jesus’ followers, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6
Now to understand what John meant by this is to understand how John learned how to walk like Jesus’ himself. If you are a Jesus’ follower then you did what Jesus did, literally. You did every last thing Jesus’ did.
How many steps to Jesus’ take on the Sabbath? You take that many steps. How many hours did Jesus ponder meditate, ponder, memorize scripture each day. This is how many hours they would interact with the Bible.
How did the Jesus’ treat others? Then this is how they treated others. How did he treat children? Then they treated children in the same way.
When they saw Jesus praying early in the morning, then they prayed early in the morning.
Disciples in Jesus’ day were very detail oriented and precise, right down to length of hair, what they ate, and sleeping habits. In almost every way the life of Jesus was translated to the disciples. This is why you see the disciple asking questions or asking Jesus to teach them.
However, we do not have a physical Jesus like John, do we? We don’t the length of his hair or how many steps he took on a Sunday. What does it look like to follow Jesus for you and me?
John write in another letter the answer, “This is love: That we walk in obedience to his commands. As you heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” 2 John 2:6
To walk with Jesus each day in faith is each day be obedient to the commands of Jesus. To seriously walk in the commands of Jesus requires three components. These three components were the three fundamental pillars Jesus used with his disciples.
First, you need instruction. Jesus taught the scriptures. His Sermon on the Mount being one of his most famous teachings. Listen, to walk like Jesus you need to know his commands. You need to know what Jesus taught. Don’t assume you know either. In all my time preaching and learning from Jesus, I cannot assume I know anything. I need the repetition of instruction. I need to know this everyday.
This is why it is so important for you to get into this book and read it. Use the reading plans in your Bible App. We have little devotion books on our Welcome Table for this reason. They are free. Not only do we have the direct commands of Jesus in the Gospels, we also have how his early followers interpreted what they said. This is the letters you see in the back of the New Testament. We see where they messed up and got it right. It’s all in here for our benefit. You need to get into this book and let Jesus instruct you.
The second component is imitation, to practice it, or be an apprentice. Jesus just wouldn’t give intellectual instruction, but he would say do it like this. In Luke 11 the disciples came and asked Jesus how to pray. They said, “Teach us to pray like you do.” Jesus then didn’t set up a 13 part series on prayers of the patriarchs. He just said, “Pray like this.” And then he prayed. Imitate this prayer. Word for word even.
This is one big reason God gave us the church family. This is why we have Go Groups. Church is the safe place for you to start obeying Jesus. It should be the easiest place, right? It’s in our Go Groups where we really get to know each other and truly obey the command of love. It’s at church we get around more seasoned Christians and not only can we learn from them, we can imitate them and strengthen our faith. Paul would say, imitate me as I imitate Christ. It’s why Paul instructs the older Christians to help the younger ones.
The third component Jesus used is immersion. He would tell the disciples to go out in the towns and villages and say start doing this stuff I’ve been teaching you. Leave the safety of our little community and take it out, where you are uncomfortable, and learn how to do this on your won. This means you just don’t obey Jesus’ commands while you are at church. You seek to obey Jesus’ commands at work, at school, hanging out with friends, on vacation, with family members that disapprove of your faith lifestyle. When you choose to immerse yourself in Jesus’ commands you start to learn the finer points and nuances of faith. Paul talked about faith immersion to a fellow Christian named Philemon. He said, “I pray that you will be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” PH 1:6 How do you get a full understanding of Jesus? Get active in sharing your faith. And by the way- that takes faith!
Here is a simple way to put all three components in action: Ask, what did Jesus say about that? How am I responding to it?
How do you please God? You please God by faith! Faith is walking each day believing God is God and certain he will do what he said he will do. Like Enoch, we walk by faith when we obey the commands of Jesus.
How do you please God? Walk by faith!