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Fully Pleasing to God

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Fully Pleasing to God

Fully Pleasing to God

Colossians 1:10C

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

Galatians 2 goes: “Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up by revelation; and I laid before them (but privately before those who were of repute) the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, lest somehow I should be running or had run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. But because of false brethren secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage — to them we did not yield submission even for a moment, that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And for those who were reputed to be something (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) — those, I say, who were of repute added nothing to me; but on the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted to the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for the mission to circumcised worked through me also for the Gentiles), and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave me to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised; only they would have us to remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do.”

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’ We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we ourselves were found to be sinners, is Christ then an agent of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.”

Obviously they had quite a disagreement over it, where he had to be very strong in what he said. In most things the truth has to be fought for, has to be established, and repeated again and again.

It seems to me that’s the situation we have. We can be “nicey-nicey” little people doing our little bit for Jesus, or we can deal with the world as it is and face the fact that there is tremendous confusion and chaos in everyone’s understanding of all things. The abortion issue is a small part of it. But there’s dreadful misunderstanding of ALL the truths of the gospel.

So we have to choose for ourselves: are we going ourselves to go on just as if our place is just to do our little bit? Or, are we going to take hold of this thing, and make clear what God has made

clear to us?

I think however much we all know in detail of the heart of what we’re saying over these years – you all are aware – it’s very different from what people are normally saying is the gospel. Normally they’re giving out tickets to this religious club: “If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ – thou shalt be saved.”

The wee souls have NO idea of what they’re talking about – except the world has managed to confuse the whole thing into: believe in Jesus and not Mohammad. So the pre-occupation has been in WHO you believe in. Of course that’s not the issue.

The issue is not believing in this one or that one. It is in fact: we are made inside the Son of the Creator of the universe. We are made inside him! That’s the issue! Preach that, and then you’ll find what opposition is.

So we need to be very clear in our own minds. It’s very easy for us in our vagueness, and our — dare I say it – dunderheadedness. Is that an Irish term? You’re dunderheaded! It means you have an empty, hollow head up there that has few thoughts in it.

It seems to me we have to decide, “No, we are not dunderheaded. We are not going to babble away here, knowing that they’re interpreting it in the same way that they’re misinterpreting the rest of Christianity.”

We need to decide, “Are we going to make this clear? This is what we have given our lives for. This is why we live together. This is truth. Are we going to make this clear, however inadequate we may feel we are? However much we may say to ourselves, ‘Oh, we’re poor little souls. Never been to seminary. We don’t know this and we don’t know that.’” No – but we’ve talked and listened to this for twenty, thirty, or forty years. So we do know what we’re about.

What we’re saying clearly is, “You – you dear Muslim that you are – dear Buddhist that you are – you were made inside this dear man that we’re talking about!” That’s what we have to say. “You are inside him! And even now you are inside him, and he feels what you do. He senses what you’re like, and he and his Father feel the pain of that.”

Now that’s news! That’s something different. But I think it will be increasingly important when this idiot {referring to himself} leaves and goes {dies}. OK — are you being faithful to the gospel that God has made real to us, the gospel that has made life real and meaningful for us? Or are you padding along with the rest of the Christians, repeating the same mumbo-jumbo that is not worth fighting over? Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ will do you no good. Even the demons believe – and tremble! {Paraphrase of James 2:19}

So it’s not that. It’s that you yourself have been made in Christ. You are part of him. You are part of the Son of our Maker. Everything that you do – he feels! You are what this word says: you are his body. You are the body of Christ, and you’re individually members of that body. That means you individually are a part of Jesus that nobody else is. That’s news! That news that they have no notion of – none at all!

So all the dear hearts that you saw over the past week in different situations, dying in rubber dinghies or plastic boats trying to get over to the Greek island, others who are dying in the midst

of the stampede of the Muslims, because they’re the ones that we’re responsible also. Those thousands that you saw lying on the ground that other people had trampled over. No! We cannot say, “Oh, that’s them. That’s what they get for their stupid religion.”

No – they are our responsibility. They were made in the Savior. Each one of them brought pain to him. He lay there in each one of them. Yes. That’s not poetry! We were made in Christ. We are all a part of Christ. That is our hope of living forever, that we are part of Christ.

But that’s news. They have no idea – none at all! The little beggar in India – the little person who has just had a baby out of wedlock and doesn’t know what to do because the stupid theaters are closed and they can’t do anything. All those dear hearts are in our Savior.

So we have quite a job. I started the sermon early. We need to see that it’s a very different gospel. It’s not a variation on the Christian gospel that everybody else is preaching. It’s very different. It is that you who are not a Christian at this moment, you who actually hate gospel and religion and hate the West, you were created inside this dear person, this man.

He came as Jesus of Nazareth 2000 years ago. He had you inside himself, and HAS you inside him at this moment. You are part of him, and he wants to be himself in you. That’s why you’re here on this earth.

Now that’s news. THAT will cause them to laugh at you! That will cause them to rebel against you – in pride and indignation. THAT’LL get you persecuted!

But “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”? It’ll get you into an argument. But they will be able to see it doesn’t necessarily mean anything for their life.

“But you say I am part of this gentle person that we read about in the first century? This person that was crucified on a cross – that I am part of him? That he knows me? No – I don’t believe it.” Then your work begins.

But it does seem to me that it’s a very different gospel. I’m sure you’re like me. I’m sure you’ve never thought, “Oh, there’s no discussion about this. There’s no debate about it.” But Galatians 2 sets it forth very clearly.

There was quite an argument in the early days about what you had to preach. It seems to me that’s what we face today. We’re missing something if we think the things we share, the things we talk about, and the things the majority of these books {pointing to the library books} write about again and again – if we think that all that is what the churches are preaching and that is what people are thinking of as Christianity – you’ve missed it. No. It’s very different.

Because truth is a unit, I can slip right into today’s verse, because it brings up a whole different attitude to God by us. It’s Colossians 1:10. The statement is one we started some weeks ago. Colossians 1:3: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and for the love which you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing — so among yourselves, from the day you heard and understood the grace of God in truth, as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on our

behalf, and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.”

“And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him.”

That’s the heart of it. “To lead a life worthy of the Lord.” Why “worthy of the Lord”? Because you’re a bit of the Lord. “I’m a bit of the Lord?” Yes. That’s why he prays that you’ll lead a life worthy of the Lord – because who could lead his life, except the Lord himself?

So if he’s saying that you lead a life worthy of the Lord, it can only be because the Lord is in you and you are in the Lord. That’s why he says to you you’re called to lead a life worthy of the Lord.

Of course they have no idea of that – none at all. If you say to them, “live a life worthy of the Lord,” they say, “I have to try harder. That’s what you’re saying to me. I have to live and do the kind of things that Jesus would do, so I have to try harder. I have to be like that person who is the only perfect human being in the whole world. I have to be like him. I have to try harder.”

No – he’s saying “live a life worthy of the Lord” because that’s who you are. You’re in the Lord and the Lord is in you. So you’ve to let that out. You’ve been made in Jesus, and here you are in this earth to allow his uncreated life to flow through you, and to do the things that he intended to do through you. That’s why you’re here.

That’s what he means to live a life worthy of the Lord. To live the kind of life that Jesus himself lives – because he’s in you. So he says that to everybody. That’s everybody’s calling – to live a life like Jesus, because in fact that’s the reality of their situation. To live a life worthy of the Lord – and this is the phrase for today – “fully pleasing to him.”

I submit to you that even people like ourselves who have listened to the gospel for so many years rarely think in those terms.

If I’m in conversation with Peggy, I would not dream of saying, “Your mother is one of those dumb Presbyterians that really don’t know what’s what.” Why? Because I love her. Of course the statement isn’t true any way. But I wouldn’t dream of saying that, because I love her.

If you say to me, “Oh you want to do everything she wants done. So you want to please her?” No. I don’t want to be in that kind of unreal relationship with her. But yes, I do want to please her. But not because I want her favor or I want her approval. I want to please her because I love her. As far as I am able, I wouldn’t dream of saying something that will cut her.

When I say a thing that does cut her and is unfair, then when I become aware of it, as you with me I think, when we become aware of it, we’re not long before we’re back to each other and saying, “I’m sorry. I did not mean that. I hope you didn’t misunderstand me.”

In that way, when you love each other, you would please them. That’s the thing you think of. If you say to me, “Oh no. You do it just because she’s giving you the rules that you have to follow in relationship with her.” No. Or, “You’re doing it just because you’re afraid of what she might do, or the advantage she might take of you.” No! Or, “You’re doing it because everybody else is kind of nice to her.” No. I want to please her because I have a relationship with her, I love her, and I

care about her.

I don’t want to hurt her. That’s why I do everything that I can to please her, and things that I know she likes, and that she doesn’t dislike — to do things pleasing to her. That’s it.

You’re to live in such a way that you are pleasing God. That’s it. You are part of his Son, and he is in you, and his Son has that attitude to his Father. His Son loves his Father, and wants to please his Father.

Then you think of it with your own parents and with others that you love. You know you don’t need to be told, “Do this, because this person believes it’s right.” It’s something that comes from inside you. You want to please them! You want to do everything that’s pleasing to them – because you want them to be happy and at peace. So you do everything that is pleasing to them.

But do you see that so often we’re not thinking in those terms. We’re not thinking, “This dear Father – he’s given me this life and he keeps on giving it to me whether I’m doing what pleases him or doesn’t please him. And there isn’t a thing that I do in this life that he doesn’t know and feel. He knows a word even before it’s on my lips, so he knows every movement of my mind.”

“He knows all my failings and he has certainly had to put up with a lot of my misdoings. Yet he keeps on giving me life. How dear can you be? How kind can you be? How gracious and loving can a person be to another?”

There rises up therefore in your heart a desire not to do a thing just because he tells you to do it, or not to do a thing just because other people say, “This is what God wants.” But you do it because you have a dear Father who you know loves you, has taken care of you all through the years, puts up with all the things that you do, and overlooks them and forgives them — and yet still all the time continues to give you life and breath. What else can you do but want him to be happy, and want him to be pleased?

That’s one of the differences in what God has shown us – that we live a life that pleases God. That is, we are concerned: does he like what I’m doing? “Lord, is this OK? Father, is this the right way to go about this?” That’s it.

I think I’m a dreadful husband; dreadful in all kinds of other ways too. But I can see that when you love another person, you’re thought is not, “Do they agree with this or do they not agree with that?” Your thought is not, “What will they do to me if I don’t do this?” Your thought is not, “How can I manage to maintain this relationship in some way?”

Your thought is, “They’re heart of my heart. They’re eye of my eye. They’re head of my head. They’re part of me.” Why would you ever destroy your own body? You think of the other person as part of yourself, and you want to please them. You don’t want to displease them.

The result is, you kind of keep an eye out for it. Do I know when this lady {referring to his wife} is not happy or disagrees? Sure I do — in a flash! So I don’t need to do too much looking to see, does she or does she not? I know. Let’s say it’s a bit of a crisis for me to act against that — in my own heart. She’d put up with it anyway, so I’m not concerned with that side – but in my own heart. Why would you do it? You wouldn’t do it – not if you love a person.

Would I go down a path that I know she disagrees with? Not without saying to her, “Love, I know you don’t agree with this. I know you differ on this. But I do think that this is the right thing for me to do.” But I wouldn’t dream of bouldering down any direction when I know that she is not for it.

That’s the relationship we have with our Father. We want to do everything that pleases him. We don’t want to do anything that displeases him. That’s the attitude our heart has to its Father.

Why I even bother to outline that is, that’s not the normal attitude of Christianity today. After they’ve said, “Would Jesus do this?” the normal attitude of Christianity today is, “How can I keep myself pretty safe here? Is this a no-no, or is this something I can do without any repercussions from the ‘man upstairs’? Is this something that God does not forbid? Is this something, not quite what I could get away with, but is this something kind of neutral?” Of course this attitude expressed in this verse is entirely different.

“That you might live a life worthy of Christ, and pleasing in all things.” That’s what the Greek is. It’s “in everything” — “pan” — such as in “pandemic;” and “pantheist” is the world — everything. The Greek word means “all.” So: “live a life pleasing in every way.” In other words, because Christ is in your heart, what rises in your heart is, “Lord, is this OK? Do you like this? Would this please you? Is this what is right?” It’s a natural desire to please our Father.

I would go further than this. I would go back to the relationship I used here. I don’t need a telegraph from my wife that she disagrees. I’m not that dumb. I know it pretty fast. Indeed you might almost say there comes a time when you know it – in actual fact we have our experience ourselves – I know when you’re not with me, and I think you know when I’m not with you. We know it in our hearts. We have a sense of each other.

You can say it’s miraculous. Maybe it is. It’s certainly a bond of love that you have for each other that enables you to sense what the other would want. It’s as if both your hearts are tuned to the same heart. It’s as if both want the same thing, and know what the other heart wants. It’s a little bit of a strain not to do it, because it’s almost schizophrenic.

But when there’s a relationship between you, then there’s a oneness of heart, and there’s desire to be pleasing to each other. It’s quite interesting, because you can see it brings a deeper level of oneness. It’s not simply, “Am I avoiding doing anything I know they don’t like?” It’s more than that. It’s at a deep level, heart beating together with heart – an intuitive natural sense of what the other person wants.

That’s what it is with our Father. It’s almost as if as you go along – “I wonder if he’s smiling?” “Well, our Father would smile at that.” Or, “Is he not smiling?” That’s the relationship that God has given us in his Son.

It’s that kind of intimate relationship between us and our Father. It’s at that level that God has made things real for us. That’s the level that Paul is talking about here – that you’d live a life worthy of the Lord – not just a life that nobody could say about you, “Oh, they’re not a Christian. Oh, that’s not a very Christian thing to do.”

It’s not just that. It’s that you live a life pleasing to him in everything — that your concern is, “I wonder if he’s pleased. Lord, I hope you’re enjoying this. Father, I hope you’re glad of the way I’ve lived this day.” So it’s a different level of life – a life that is pleasing in every way to


So you can see that rather than it being a test of our orthodoxy, or a checking out if we’re REALLY sanctified or if we REALLY live the life we preach – it’s far deeper than that. It’s a oneness between us, the child, and the dear Father whose arms are round about us and who suffers so much day by day on our behalf. It’s a loving relationship of a child to his father. That’s one of concern, heart with heart.

I suppose I could end it there by saying that’s really the central issue that we’re called here to bring to earth – the heart of God – to talk about life lived that is dear to God’s own heart, and our preoccupation with God’s heart ourselves. A concern of, “Is he pleased, or is he hurt by this? Is he glad of what we’re doing today, or is he not?” It’s a personal sense of oneness with our dear Father.

That for us is our faith and our Christianity — how does God feel about the way we are this day. Let us pray.