Living a life that pleases God should be the goal of every Christian, but what can we possibly do to make God happy? One of the most common responses would be “to be a morally good person.” Sadly, however, being a moral person isn’t enough to put a smile on God’s face.
A story in the Bible best illustrates this problem for us. A young rich ruler approaches Jesus in search for a criteria list for people qualified for Heaven (Matthew 19:16–26). The man asks Jesus, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16) As early as the first question, Jesus already saw the error in the man’s thinking.
Today’s church is mostly populated by people that act as if their way to heaven, to God’s blessing and God’s favour is to follow rules, be generous, serve in the ministry, or get involved in missions. At some point, many of us may have had that mindsets. It’s just in our nature to try to earn God’s approval through our good works.
Sadly, even our best is not good enough for God. That’s because we are all sinners unworthy even of God’s grace and presence. Romans 3:10 reminds us, “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one.'”
That said, no matter how moral we would try to be, we would nowhere be close to the level that God requires for His pleasure. He wants complete perfection, holiness and blamelessness. No one makes the cut.
No one except one man: Jesus Christ. The Son of God came down to become man and live the life we are to live and in the end traded His righteousness for our sinfulness. He took our imperfection and inability to be good and exchanged it with His goodness.
The only way we can be pure is also the simplest way. There’s no need to work for God’s favour. As Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
So how then can we please God if not through moral living? Hebrews 11:6 says it best: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Faith leads us to believe in Christ and that His work was more than enough for us. It causes us to humbly admit that we cannot earn God’s favour and cannot please God on our own. But God’s pleasure is in seeing Christ through us as we believe that His work was more than enough to make us right before God. God is delighted not in what we can do for Him, but in seeing us gladly and openly receive what He has already done for us.