Pleasing God by R.C. Sproul

A war is raging within us, a deadly triad of enemies battling our spirit to keep us from pleasing God. We want to do what is right, but at the same time our deep self-rooted desires pull us away from what is pure, wholesome, and altogether pleasing to our Heavenly Father. Over time we may find ourselves discouraged and distraught over our inability to live as God called us to live. If this war rages on, ignored, we will never live up to our full potential honoring God through our lives.

Pleasing God by R.C. Sproul is a worthy spiritual resource for anyone who desires to align their life with the Word of God. Readers will walk away with a clear understanding of what is expected from those who would claim to be a Christian.

“True living flows out of right thinking…how we think about God is the most vital influence to how we respond to God.” (pg. 185)

What does right thinking look like? What does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit? What enemies are at war within us? What evidence can we look for in our lives to show we are, indeed, pleasing God in all we do?

These questions are answered along with many more. Sproul also touches on various issues such as conversion, forgiveness, pride, integrity, laziness, carnal Christianity, doctrines of faith and many more key subjects. Simply stated, Pleasing God is an all-inclusive guide through the process of sanctification in the believer’s life.

Of considerable interest is Sproul’s extensive work on the subject of guilt scattered throughout the text. He discusses false guilt, guilt from sin, as well guilt that results in physical and psychological disease. Many people struggle with guilt, and anyone could benefit from the application of truth concerning guilt presented in this manuscript.

Pleasing God consistently points readers to the Word of God—knowing it as well as believing it. Without knowledge of the Bible, a person cannot understand how to please God.

“Consciousness involves knowledge. Before we can willfully do what God commands and what pleases Him, we must first understand what God requires. From the law comes a knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20). But from the law also comes the knowledge of righteousness (Rom. 7:12; Psalm 119).” (pg. 186)

Pleasing God is not overly-complicated or lengthy. It masterfully presents truth in an easy-to-understand manner. Readers will walk away from this book with a renewed motivation to actively pursue God, put Him first, know His Word more, and persevere in pleasing God in every aspect of life.

Pleasing God is published by David C. Cook and available for purchase on September 1, 2012.

R.C. Sproul is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries and serves as the senior minister at Saint Andrew’s, a Reformed congregation in Sanford, Florida.  Sproul has written dozens of books including The Prayer of the Lord, The Reformation Study Bible, Chosen by God, and The Truth of the Cross.

(I received this book for review purposes and was not required to give a good review.)

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Have You Seen ME?

Suggested Reading: Job 42:1-7

Thought for the Day: “I have seen you, and I loathe myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5

 

I admit it; sometimes I don’t approach the throne of God with fear. Sometimes I get complacent. Sometimes I get indifferent. Sometimes my prayers begin with a “Hey, God” or “Jesus, I really need you to do…” and it’s not long before I’m getting nothing but silence. My prayers seem to bounce off the rubber ceiling.

Familiarity can produce a casual attitude. I see this in my human relationships. The more comfortable I am with someone, the more likely I am to approach them with a “Hey there” or “Can you do this for me?” But a human relationship is far different then a divine relationship.

As I read through the latter chapters of Job, I am reminded of God’s power, sovereignty, control, and awesomeness in relation to me, the creation. Who am I to approach the throne of God with such callousness? Is God my friend? Yes. Is God my companion? Yes. But he is still God.

When I’m faced with the reality of God versus the reality of myself, I have no choice but to fall on my face, loathe my state of sin, and repent. It’s so unbelievably tempting to walk through the day with pride. It’s so easy to think I’m doing okay, and God can be proud of me, His good little child. But that is a deception of the highest form.

God is proud of me as his creation, not because of anything I have done.

Job was about as righteous as they come, but after three chapters of verbal chastisement from the Holiest of Holies (see Job 38-41), Job was left on his face in repentance. He had seen God.

Today, I am humbled as God gives me a glimpse of His righteousness. Who am I but a lowly servant of the greatest King! God owes me nothing—I owe Him everything.

“I owe no one anything. Everything under the heaven is Mine.”—God (Job 41:11)

Lessons From the Vacuum Cleaner

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5

Jesus and I don’t usually talk when I’m cleaning, but today was different. Monday has been my “cleaning day”, with few exceptions, since we moved to our new home last October.

Today was no different. Lucky for me, my husband had just bought a new vacuum cleaner (Why do you do that to us, husbands?) It had been sitting nicely in the corner for a week and he complained yesterday that I hadn’t used it yet. Today was the day!( Now, our previous vacuum had been out of commission for a few months, and I had spent several weeks on my hands and knees picking up the noticeable pieces of garbage.)

For some reason God decided to make His presence evident in the mundane task of vacuuming. In fact, during my 5 hour clean-fest, He revealed countless spiritual illustrations.

The most striking one revolved around the dirt in my carpet. As I vacuumed room after room, making several trips to the garbage bag dumping the vacuum canister, I was brought back to that day in April. The day my life changed. The day I spent 4 hours repenting.

For 4 years I had been on my hands and knees picking up the big pieces of sin from my spiritual carpet until that day in April where God ran His vacuum cleaner over my soul. I hadn’t been off the deep end running amok in all sorts of depravities. No, I had spent the last few years reading, studying and soaking in every bit of God’s word that I could. I served in my church, and was learning how to serve my husband. I was growing. You would never have thought I needed to spend a day repenting of much. I know I didn’t.

When that new vacuum rolls over the dirty carpet, so much is revealed that was invisible to the naked eye.

Just like my living room carpet, I was unable to pick up the finite pieces of dust with my hands. And so it is for most of us. We walk through our lives with our 15 minute devotions in the morning and ten minutes of prayer at night (twenty minutes if there’s a crisis) picking up the big things leaving the particles behind.

Like he did with Isaiah, God desires to sear our hearts with the hot coals of his presence. The problem is we take Him for granted. We take his truth for granted. We take his holiness for granted. We think we’re so much better than we are. Meanwhile, our spiritual carpet collects bags of filth until one day we have an encounter we’ll never forget. God brings us to our knees, rolling over us with His vacuum, sucking out all the junk. He won’t let His children rest comfortably with dirty hearts.

And then it’s done, right? One painful day of brutal honesty and we’re good.

You’d think after 5 hours of cleaning I’d be satisfied with the state of my home, but as I walked through the rooms admiring my labor, I noticed the base-boards. Oh yes, still more work to be done, and by the time I get around to the base-boards, the piano will need dusting, more laundry will need to be cleaned, and I’ll probably be vacuuming again.

Just like our carpets continue to collect dust and dirt, our spiritual lives do the same. He reveals only what we can handle at the moment. The more he purges, the more we notice new areas that need cleansing.

If Jesus walked into your spiritual house today, would you be embarrassed? Well I’ve got news for you. He’s already there, he is present with you at all times whether you “feel” it or not. Does his holiness astound and confound you? Could you claim to be as holy as the prophet Isaiah? Even as righteous as he was, when in the presence of Almighty God, he couldn’t stand his spiritual state.

Today, the lesson from the vacuum cleaner reminds me to stand amazed at the person of Christ and to seek His cleansing frequently, remembering what I am without Him.

“All our righteous acts are like filthy rags…Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the Potter; we are all the work of your hands.” Isaiah 64:6&8

I’m Hearing Voices…

“Every negative thought about yourself or another person is not from God. It cannot be from God. It is either from the Enemy, the World, or the Flesh,” Steve told me after I asked him about the negative thoughts that had possessed my mind for two decades.

Such a simple statement and yet the truth is profound, even life-changing for someone like me. I started hearing that “voice” at a young age, maybe 6 or 7. The voice said, “You’re not good enough” and “They don’t care about you.” I also heard voices like, “He’s such a jerk” and “She is always using you, wiping her feet on you like a doormat.” I’d venture to say I am not the only one who has experienced such mental interference. Even in prayer the voice interrupts. “God doesn’t want to hear from you” and “Isn’t it selfish to pray for yourself?” What would my life look like if I believed these lies and behaved accordingly? Well, until recently, my life took on the form of these lies through my behaviors. It required honesty, confession, repentance, and spiritual warfare to break free from those chains of bondage.

Any voice of condemnation, shame, or slander could not come from my Holy Heavenly God. When I look at my husband and think, “He is so mean”, I can acknowledge this voice for what it is: a liar. I can acknowledge where the voice came from: the Accuser. I can renounce the enemy and his lies, and choose the way of truth: “God so loved the world” (Jn. 3:16) and “He first loved us”. (1 Jn. 4:19) All of us were created in His image (Gen. 1:26) and I am to think and act blamelessly towards my fellow creations, regardless of how I’ve been treated.

*Recognize the Enemy’s influence in my thought life:

“How is it that Satan has filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 5:3)

*Recognize the World’s influence in my thought life:

“We know…that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 Jn. 5:19)

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” (Rom. 12:2)

*Recognize the Flesh’s influence in my thoughts.

“For the sinful nature [flesh] desires what is contrary to the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:17)

The next time I hear the negative voices, I can identify where it is coming from and renounce it in the name of Jesus. “We also know that the Son of God has come to give us understanding, so that we may know him who is TRUE.” (1 Jn. 5:20)

I cannot think on what is pure, lovely, good and wholesome (Phil. 4:8) if my mind is filled with lies and slander towards God’s creation, people. I’m determined to make a daily trade in my stocks of beliefs. I’m trading the lies for the truth; what is ugly for purity; what is demoralizing for what restores. If my gaping wounds of lies are left open, they will quickly fester into infection of more lies. The only way the wounds heal is if they are soothed with the balm of truth.

Lies steal; truth heals.

“[I] demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and [I] take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5)

“By faith I choose to be filled with the Spirit so I can be guided into all truth. I choose to walk by the Spirit so that I will not carry out the desires of the flesh. I choose to renew my mind by the living word of God in order that I may prove that the will of God is good, acceptable, and perfect. I put off the old self with its evil practices and I put on the new self. I declare myself to be a new creation in Christ.”Statements of Truth, (The Steps to Freedom in Christ -Neil Anderson)

Effective

Effective

“I pray with all my heart.” Psalm 119:145 NLT

It’s impossible to talk about the word of God and not mention prayer. The Psalmist says that he will not only obey with all his heart, seek with all his heart, but also pray with all his heart. This, of course, implies that we could pray with less than our whole heart. What would that look like?

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men….But when you pray, go into your room and close the door and pray to your father, who is unseen.” Matthew 6:5-6

Jesus knew there were many people who loved to give lip service and be seen and admired by men. He strongly urged his disciples to avoid this kind of prayer at all costs. While there is nothing wrong with praying in public, we do it every Sunday in churches all over the world, there is something wrong with praying to impress others. It shows a division of heart. The intellect is involved with fancy words and long elegant speeches, but the rest of the heart (acting out the truth with the will, for example) is not on board or backing up the prayer. Jesus also warned us:

“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

Prayer is a form of worship, just as much as singing songs, Bible study, or tithing. We are told that no gift should be offered when we are not right with our brothers and sisters in Christ. How many times have we persisted in prayer, study, and singing while knowing we were bitter against someone else or they were bitter against us? We are admonished to do all we can to keep peace and unity in order for our offerings to be accepted. We cannot change how people feel about us, but we can make every effort to make things right. 12 step programs often refer to this as “making amends”. While the person we seek to restore fellowship with may not accept our offer, we must make the effort in sincerity of heart in order for God to be honored and our gift to be accepted.  Perhaps when we pray and God is silent, it is because He is waiting for us to act in obedience to his revealed will.

“The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them.” Psalm 34:17

The word righteous in this passage comes from the Hebrew root word meaning “cleanse”, “clear”, or “morally right”. Thus, the believer who is pure in heart or cleansed is the just believer whose prayers are heard. I don’t know about you, but I want my prayers to be heard! This is a powerful motivation for keeping my conscience clean before God, and others. What good does it do to spend an hour in elaborate prayer when my prayers are not being heard?

A few years ago my brother in law was diagnosed with leukemia. There was a sinking feeling that it wasn’t going to turn out well, and deep down in my spirit, I knew the outcome, though I certainly believed that God could bring healing if it was His will to do so. This was a life-changing event for me. I knew God could heal, I knew God had a plan, but I also knew I was called to pray over the situation in earnest. God brought me to James 5:16b over and over again.

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

The word righteous here is translated “holy”, “just”, or “innocent”. I realized that if I wanted God to hear me, I needed to have a clean heart before Him. Realizing that there are so many needs today for health, healing, freedom, truth, enlightenment, and wisdom (among many other things) was also a realization that praying for these things was a useless endeavor if my heart was not right with God. I was wasting my breath. I clearly remember this time of my life because God used it to motivate me to holiness, and being sold out to Him in living my faith.  Many times my prayers begin with confession as I come into the presence of a holy God and am reminded of my own ungodliness.

In order to have an undivided heart in prayer, we need to seek cleansing and purity before God. In order to be an effective prayer warrior, we need to ask God to convict us that we need a change of heart. God is the only One who can reveal to us faults we otherwise cannot see. I have experienced this truth time and again when asking God to cleanse my heart. There have been grievous sins committed on my part that I never even realized were sins until God opened my eyes to it! Once he did, I was horrified at my attitude! But unless I had asked him to search me and show me what needed fixing, I would have ignorantly gone on with an undivided heart probably wondering why my prayer life wasn’t as effective as it could be.

Just to be clear; I am not saying that the only way our prayers will be heard is if we are perfect. I am saying that God is clear in his word of what will hinder our prayers from being effective; willful disobedience, sin in ignorance, or a divided heart. I don’t want to be guilty of any of these things, and I pray you feel the same way! Let us obey, seek, and pray with a whole heart. Let us seek to be right before God in all we do, and keep a clear conscience in order to be the most effective prayer warriors that we can be!

Prayer

As I come into your presence, Lord, I ask that you reveal to me any secret sins I have hidden in my heart. I want to wholeheartedly serve you and I want to pray with a heart that is united to fear you. I want to be an effective prayer warrior; even more so I want to be right and have a clear conscience before you. Search me and cleanse me, give me a heart that understands your holiness and give me displeasure for the things that will divide my heart. Thank you for being merciful and loving to show me where I need cleansing!

Inward

Inward

“I pondered the direction of my life and I turned to follow your laws.” Psalm 119:59 NLT

Any type of conversion or repentant experience has to start with something. A person doesn’t just decide one day to change; there is usually some motivating factor. What leads a person to desire change for themselves? The Psalmist said, “I pondered the direction of my life.” He thought about it. Where was his life going, how was his attitude, what was the end result of his life going along the current path he was on? He pondered it and decided something had to change. This change required a decision to move or turn from his current course, and go along a new course, the course of God’s word.

The beginning of change within us starts with a time of self-examination. We ask God to search us, but we also look within ourselves to see if there is something wrong. If I keep going on the path I am on, where will that lead me? Is there anything about my choices that needs to change?

Is self-examination biblical? God designed us with a free will, and within that free will is the ability to choose our direction. It’s up to us to make the choice of whether or not to maintain our current heading or put in a new route.

“When you are on your beds search your hearts and be silent.” Psalm 4:4

Before we go to bed is the perfect time to reflect on the day. Take a good look inward and see if there was anything that didn’t line up with the person of Jesus that we seek to represent. Anything less than a perfect representation means turning from that action/thought/attitude and getting back on his path. It is most certainly biblical to examine ourselves.

Do we feel regret over the short-comings we committed? Is there remorse? This remorse is necessary to lead us into a genuine repentance that alters our current actions. Does this mean we won’t ever commit that “sin” again? Of course not! We are human and we fail, but the genuine repentance will put us on a new path moving closer to the character of Jesus. Ups and downs are sure, but a consistent pattern upward will be evident of the repentant heart.

There is a counterfeit remorse, however, and its name is “self-pity”. This destructive behavior appears to be regretful, sorrowful over sin, yet it dwells on the wrongs and the failures rather than moving on and up in Christ.  Self-pity will always distance us from the voice of God. We must not allow self-pity to destroy our fellowship with him. Confess, repent (turn), be restored and move on!

 Unless we are looking in the direction of Jesus (through his word), we cannot know what light and life even look like. The joyful life is the holy life. Anything less will lead to a false sense of “happiness”. This false “joy” is the type of feeling that is easily tossed about whenever circumstances are uncertain. A lasting deep abiding joy comes in the life that is on the path to holiness. Those who appear to be happy in their “sin” will fall at some point, and deep down they will always be searching for the next “thing” to satisfy when all along Jesus has already given the answer to fulfillment!

“These people have stubborn hearts; they have turned aside and gone away.” Jeremiah 5:23

In order to know true joy I must be walking upward in my relationship with Jesus, moving closer to becoming like him. The only way I can see him and know him to be transformed into his likeness is to spend time with him in his word and prayer.

“The Spirit searches all things.” 1 Corinthians 2:10

We ask the Spirit to turn us to the light of his face through his word. We cannot see him unless we turn to look at him!

We look inward then we turn and look upward.

Prayer

Jesus, help me to take an honest look into my heart. Lead me into a time of self-examination and speak to me through your Spirit. Open my eyes to the truth of what lies within me that I need to turn from. You are truth, and your word is truth, so I ask that your Spirit guide me into the truth no matter how much it hurts. I want to press on towards a life of holiness in becoming more like you, and I don’t want anything to hinder that.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)