How's your relationship with God? Don't get me wrong, I don't want to go from preaching to meddling. And I hope it's not too personal but it's absolutely crucial to your life and to mine. Let's establish something right up front. Christianity is really not a religion. It's a relationship with Christ. It's not a system of beliefs, or a commitment to a body of teaching. It's a commitment to a person. So it's easy to understand that in this relationship we could be pleasing to the Lord God or displeasing. We could actually please or displease God. Have you thought about that lately? Probably you are looking at your life like I look at mine. We say to ourselves, golly, it's so hard to please everyone. We are trying certainly to be pleasing to the Lord in His sight. We want to have some self-fulfillment so we need to be pleasing to ourselves and how about others.
Do you find yourself in a real bind? Whom do you serve and whom do I serve and how does it work? Oh, the scripture deals with this very powerfully, and I'm looking at the twenty second chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, picking it up at verse thirty-seven: Jesus replied, "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment and the second is like it ~ "love your neighbor as yourself". Oh, yes, love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Think about that. It's hard to love God and hard to love your neighbor if you don't love yourself. Oh, that doesn't mean it is exaggerated self-love, some ego deal. What it really means is a reconciliation with your self and understanding through the power of the Holy Spirit that you may be pleasing to the Lord God.
Oh, there are things that plague us and things that bind us to keep from loving ourselves. Paul puts it in the Seventh Chapter of Romans this way. I like it very much because it is kind of the way I feel from time to time: "We know that the law is spiritual, but I am unspiritual sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do, for what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate... I do." There's some of that in all of our lives.
I am thinking about a poll that I read recently it said that 38.5 percent of all Americans say that their weight is out of control. 32.3 percent say that their spending is out of control. There's compulsive shoppers. You know they love to go 'Malling at the Mall'. And that's their prime thrill of the week. 10.8 percent of the people polled said that their anger was out of control. And 16.9 percent of the people responding said that their fears were out of control. One of the numbers that I have a little trouble with is that only 1.5 percent said that substance abuse, their personal substance abuse, was out of control. I think it could be higher.
No matter what I think, here's the poll. But let's look at what some of the sources of temptation really are. We are flesh, but as the scripture says... we are made of dust. And the evil one, the devil. We can be tempted beyond our stamina to resist. Oh, yes, there are those sources that derail us.
Talking about pleasing and displeasing God, turn with me to the sixth chapter of Proverbs, picking it up at verse 16: "There are seven things that God detests." Oh, that's pretty strong... I agree with you. But it says that there are seven things that are detestable to the Lord.
Haughty eyes. I'm sure you are saying to yourself, "What does Haughty eye mean?" It means a proud and arrogant way of going.
God hates a lying tongue. He detests it. It doesn't say that he doesn't mind little white lies and hates big lies. He hates all of them.
Hands that shed innocent blood, God hates. Well you say I haven't murdered anyone lately, but how about have you murdered them with your tongue? He hates that.
A heart that devises wicked schemes spelled out in modem day terms, manipulation.
Feet that are quick to rush to evil. You know when I grew up it was good to be good, now it is good to be bad. Yes, the more evil things are, and the more R rated that come out, the more attractive they are, and God hates it.
A false witness who pours out lies. One who is starting trouble by his lips, by his witness.
And finally, the man who stirs up dissension among brothers/sisters.
Yes, there are seven things that God hates. Now a word for the clergy. I find this absolutely mind boggling and when I ran across this text many years ago it really bothered me and it continues to haunt me. I am in the second chapter of Malachi. That's the last book of the Old Testament. Verses one and two: "Now this admonition is for you O priest. If you do not listen and you do not set your heart to honor my name, says the Lord Almighty, I will send a curse upon you and I will curse your blessings." Can you imagine those of us who are clergy and are leading congregations being a curse to the people we serve. 0h yes, if we displease God our ministry can be an expression of his displeasure. What a thought. What a challenge to us to come to a Holy life and to lead that life which is pleasing to the Lord.
Now one final text on this subject, because I know that you love the scripture as I do and I am turning to Matthew 26:42. In 42 it says this: "He went away a second time and prayed 'My Father if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.'" You see it is a matter of being willing to serve. A will to choose to be pleasing or displeasing to the Lord. That's your choice. You do man's will, or God's will.
The more we love the Lord Jesus, the more we are drawn by His Holy Spirit and by His Grace, to love what He loves, the more pleasing we will be. It's almost like two gardens. The Garden of Eden, which is the Garden of Temptation, and the Garden of Gethsemane, the Garden of Obedience.
Finally there's one last passage. And you say to yourself by now, as I am thinking to myself, what must we do? How does this all work out? And I am turning to the Sixth Chapter of the Old Testament book of Isaiah. And it reads here in the Sixth Chapter: "In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord seated on a throne high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphims, each with six wings with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. The whole earth is full of his glory. At the sound of the voices the door posts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God."
Oh, yes, what must this mean? To be in the presence of God is to be in His holiness and, as that verse says, and the whole earth is full of His Glory. And the response when you are in the presence of God is: "Woe to me, I cry, I am ruined for I'm a man of unclean lips and I live among the people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the king, the Lord Almighty."
Oh, yes, unholiness comes forth when we are in the presence of the Lord. When we are spending time with the Lord the things that are displeasing to Him become very obvious to us and we are able to change them by God's Grace.
Oh, yes once again, catch a vision of the Lord. His presence, come to a self-understanding, receive a cleansing.
Verse six of the sixth chapter of Isaiah: "Then one of the seraphims flew to me with a live coal in his hand which he had taken with the tongs from the altar; and with this he touched my mouth and said, 'See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.' And then I heard the voice of the Lord say, 'whom shall I send and who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I send me.'"
Are we commissioned? Today is the day of opportunity, today is the day of blessing, today is the day of truth, today is the day that you can become pleasing unto the Lord. More pleasing than you have ever been.
Yes, God can be pleased, God can be displeased. You see we have to come to a quick summation. Jesus is either Lord of all or not Lord at all. We are either pleasing him or we are a pain. Amen.