The modern evangelist, in his zeal to convert souls to a better way, to the Christian way, will by his smooth marketing of this better way, convince souls that God will not fail to please, if only they buy into his product. Any human being, without exception, who comes to God through Jesus Christ on these grounds, will discover the disappointing truth that God does indeed fail to please. Some will go on proclaiming the virtues of Jesus, and in a sort of stupor of denial, refuse to admit their disappointment in Him, while others will turn away in anger at having been gypped, ripped off by the religious hucksters who sell Jesus as the ultimate bargain.
Learn it early or learn it late, but learn it, and learn it now, if possible; God can only fail to please you, dear devotee, as long as you believe that God pleasing you is His eternal purpose. If, however, you are one of the blessed few who came to Christ on the basis of a different understanding, then for you, God can never fail to please, for that was never a stipulation in the contract, that was never a selling point in the bargain, and that was never a term in the treaty.
For those blessed few who came to Jesus on the grounds of a different contract, a most blessed and wonderful, as well as costly contract, that I won’t seek to define at this time, the deep desire and driving passion of their heart and the preoccupation of their mind is to please Him who paid the ultimate price with that very end in mind. For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross.
In our quest for the means by which we might please Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light, we may unwittingly return to grope in darkness for the means by believing that He who dwells in unapproachable light is like us, and is therefore pleased by results and by numbers. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is not like us, for we, as men, look on the outward appearance, but He looks on the heart. That being the case, statistics are no indicator of either God’s pleasure or pain, for He is supremely interested in what statistics can never convey, and that is the condition of the heart of man. Some of the greatest failures in the eyes of men have been the greatest successes in God’s eyes, and vise versa, and statistics wielded by man in regard to spiritual matters have often proven to be a colossal misrepresentation of truth when viewed from the perspective of Him to whom we must give account, and Him who weighs the motives of the heart.
The mighty prophet Elijah once pursued success in pleasing his God, but with a preconceived idea of how that success should look. He prepared a burnt offering for God, but did so believing that his offering should, and therefore would, turn a nation from idolatry to the God he loved. When it failed to do so, he saw it as such a dismal failure that it plunged him into a suicidal discouragement. And yet, what burnt offering could ever be more pleasing to God, than one that could draw from heaven the very fire of God? Elijah pleased God and viewed it as a failure because of his error in wielding stats in regard to the spiritual. He later failed again as he confidently declared, “I am the only one.” God then turned statistics on him and declared heaven’s perspective: “I have seven thousand others.”
Someone once told me, “Lots of people are spiritual giants in their own minds, but if you want to know if you’re really a giant, just ask others. They’ll tell you how great you are.” I suppose there’s a measure of truth in that, for we should let another praise us and not our own lips. However, to look to man for either affirmation or negation in regard to the spiritual, is to trust the fickle whims of fallen man with a judgment that God reserves for Christ alone. We could just as well do away with the judgment seat of Christ where motives are weighed and secret things brought to light, and simply take a poll of popular opinion. Only God sees the heart, and because He sees what we cannot, He is not only supremely interested in its condition, but is supremely disinterested in what man can see as outward indicators of spiritual success. Many a spiritual king on Earth will be a popper on the other side of the judgment seat. God will both affirm and negate us if we are willing to stand before His judgment seat now. Though His opinion must be sought and craved for much more diligently than that of man’s, it is infinitely more valuable. “How can you believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that comes from God alone?” (Jo 5:44).
Make no mistake, there are books and spread sheets, statistics and records, for Jesus employs accounting, and He is The Judge. However, the only books that are accurate, and therefore of any import at all, are all on the other side. That’s why statistics and claims of success by man impress me little, when recited as evidence of God’s approval of either man or ministry.
How then do we please Him whom we love, if not by laboring for outward success, chasing the statistics printed on the ticker tape of modern ministry? To discover the answer, first and foremost, keep in mind that the things that please God most are most often done in secret. Paul wrote that we should present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is our reasonable act of worship. The many and varied ways in which the flesh of the whole burnt offering is carved up, here a piece and there a piece, to be laid upon the wood and then set aflame, are most often done in secret. It is pain, bleeding, loss, separation, exacted in the hidden realm of the holy of holies within the man or woman, and it is there that victories are won by King Jesus who goes forth as conquering and to conquer, colonizing all of the soil of the human personality that is to be brought under Christ’s rule. Some things God holds as too sacred for public view, and the surrender of love to the will of God that rises as the smoke of the whole burnt offering, a sweet smelling aroma, is often just such a thing.
Jesus gave us an outline for carving up the beast of Adam’s nature within, as well as a sketch of what Kingdom life should look like, when He gave us the Sermon On The Mount. Give, lend, turn the cheek, don’t resist evil, love your enemies, etc. When the circumstances of life touch the old man that is crucified with Christ, wherever there is not total unresponsiveness, but instead the twitch of muscular reflex, that’s where we make another cut, laying another piece on the altar. Our desire for gain and fear of loss, our personal identity, ego, dreams, and our “rights”; all must be individually faced and surrendered to the fire. Everything of this life to which our hearts attach themselves, though they be morally neutral, and not at all of the unclean things of iniquity, must and will pass through the fire. On this side of the judgment seat, they are a sweet smelling aroma. On the other side, they are the stench of regret and wasted affections.
Ah, the judgment seat… the place where every man’s work will be tested by the fire to determine its value. That place of judgment will be the place of great reversals, where the last will be first and the first last. It will be the place where motives behind the actions will be weighed and where things done in secret will at last be fully revealed, and those whose works were wrought in God will receive praise of the same. How different His record books will be from ours!
For those poor souls who believed in a Jesus that is here to please, and especially for the many hucksters that have tried to sell us that bill of goods, preaching Christ as the fulfiller, not the killer of dreams, the giver, not the taker of pleasure and ease, or the promoter rather than the executioner of selfish ambition and vain glory, the accounting of that day will be unspeakably painful. However, for those who, from a heart of surrender to the Lover of their souls, have surrendered their lives to the flames a thousand times and in a thousand ways, those flames will not be the final sad consumption of a wasted life, but rather, the glorious revealing of the grace of God that worked for His pleasure in the secret recesses of a lowly human’s heart, and He will enjoy and rejoice over that work for all of eternity. With such sacrifices He is well pleased.