What Pleases God?

If you are in Christ, God accepts and loves you unconditionally. However, pleasing Him is conditional. Here’s what the New Testament teaches on the subject.

The Example

John 8:29

And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.

John 5:44

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

John 12:43

For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

Matthew 3:17 

And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

The Specifics

Hebrews 13:16

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Hebrews 11:6

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.

Romans 8:8

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Galatians 1:10 

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

1 Thessalonians 2:4 

But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

2 Corinthians 5:9 

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Ephesians 5:8-10 

For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 

Colossians 3:20 

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 

1 Thessalonians 4:1, 5 

Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God just as you actually do walk, that you may excel still more . . . not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God. 

1 Timothy 2:1-3 

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior. 

1 Timothy 5:4 

But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 

Philippians 4:18 

I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 

Hebrews 13:20-21 

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Colossians 1:9-10

And so, from the day we heard, 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, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Hebrews 11:5 

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.

Colossians 3:23-24

Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

Romans 12:1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.

1 Thessalonians 2:15

Who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men.

Romans 15:1-6 

Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached Thee fell upon Me.” For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 2:4

No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.

1 Corinthians 7:32-35

But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is seemly, and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.

1 John 3:22

And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.

The secret to all of the above is to live by Christ . . . for only Christ pleases God. That’s what my online course, Living by the Indwelling Life of Christ is all about.

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Comments

  1. Derek says

    Hi Frank

    Great post brother. This brings great clarity to what should be fundamental/foundational truths in the body of Christ.

    I thank the Lord that we are being brought into a time that will give all new believers, that are exposed to truths of this glorious Gospel, a real foundation for living, Christs Life in us.

    The highlights in this post bring distinction between unconditional love and acceptance from God over our natural tendencies to live out what we believe is pleasing to God and His great mercy and love in times of failure and to guide us toward a higher way of living through illuminated understanding into that which is genuinely pleasing to God, as you have pointed out, learning to live by His Life, Christs Life in us which and in whom the Father is well pleased.

    Love you brother

  2. Pastor Mark says

    Frank,

    A great list. All of them are applications of the basic commands: 1. Love God with everthing you are and have, 2.Love your neighbor, as exampled by Jesus, 3. Love the world as God Loves, being sent like the Son into the lost world.

    Isn’t the New Testament after the Gospels the Church’s application of Jesus’ commands, that is, living out his Love. So Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:3 “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (NIV)

    Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:9-13 NIV)

    Perhaps this is what Jesus means in Matthew 7:21ff (NIV) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” God’s will = His love expressed.

    If my actions are not rooted and powered by Jesus’ Love, they are of no value to the Kingdom, to Jesus’ or to me.

    Love is that which is the best, the ultimate good, for the loved one. We are saved (a good biblical term) so that we can be restored to that for which we are created: to Love, reflecting the image of the God who is Love.

    Thanks for making me think and reminding me of what showing my Love to our God and Savior looks like.

  3. Bob Green says

    I loved your summary. I just want to comment on the linkage of “doing His will” and “pleasing Him” as mentioned in the Hebrews 13 passage above. The KJV for Rev 4:11 says “and for thy pleasure, the NASB says “because of your will” and the NLT says “they exist because you created what you pleased.” Some times I am tempted to think only about the works that I do that please Him and need to be reminded that when I make an inner change, like forgiving someone, that also is pleasing to him.

  4. says

    Frank

    Thank you for this wonderful post. So many times we lose sight of Christ in the scriptures and turn them into WMDs for our own agendas and wish dream. Your simplification on this topic is great. This post could almost be turned into a book like your “When the pages are blank”. Thanks and peace.

    Jim Gregg

  5. Teague says

    Cool. In your mind, does this correlate with “You in I & I in you”? We are accepted & loved because we are in Christ but we please God as Christ lives in us?

  6. Dave Lindsay says

    Frank:

    A great topic today and a good reminder of the truth from Scripture.

    I once attended a church that applied the words of the Father for his Son to all believers. This resulted in an absurd statement by the pastor who gave a sermon example of when he went to the police station to pick up his teenage son where the pastor said, “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” I can agree that the wayward son should still be loved but there is no way I would be “well pleased” with a child in trouble with the law !

    Dave

  7. Nancy says

    Thank you for the reminder that His love is unconditional. We don’t always get it right, in fact, we can mess up royally thinking we are pleasing God by our actions. I don’t always know for sure when I’m making the right moves on issues that just pop up out of nowhere. I’m happy that God makes allowance for mistakes.

  8. says

    Thank you for clarifying the difference between unconditional love for the child (us) and displeasure or pleasure in out actions. Often times we think the unconditional love of God means we can do anything we want was long as we say we’re sorry. And while there is forgiveness and redemption for true repentance, it also involves reforming and living a life that is pleasing to God.

    Your list of Scriptures is much more extensive than I’ve seen before. Thank you.

  9. Jo Ellen says

    And yet, just the fact that we have skin on must be pleasing to him at some point. Does a father lose his pleasure in his child’s existence when the child behaves badly? No, he loses his hope and/or comfort in the child’s welfare.

    Yes, the life of Christ is the “all in all” and yet, to deny the Father’s delight in us is missing the “for God so loved” aspect of his nature. Its also missing the “he first loved us” part.

    God delights over us because we exist. Any discussion of what “pleases” him should build on that foundation.

    • says

      This is simply a repeat of God’s love and acceptance being unconditional, as stated in the beginning of the piece. But pleasing God is something different. These texts from the NT clearly show that pleasing God is not automatic for the believer, but conditional. This cannot be denied.

      To use a strong analogy: A father can have a child who becomes a rapist. The father still loves and accepts the child, but he is displeased with his behavior.

      Most my writing is on the acceptance, love, delight piece – http://frankviola.org/books. But this other aspect must be brought in. If not, people will move toward libertinism. I cover this extensively in “Revise Us Again” and in the new course. Thx. for the comment.

      • Mike says

        I think we sometimes forget that our God “is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb. 13:8) The God of the New Testament is the same as the God of the Old Testament. There is no doubt that he loved His Jewish people, but he allowed the households of Korah to be swallowed up by the earth and others burned when they questioned God’s authority through Moses. The Old Testament is replete with such examples of the consequences suffered from doubting or displeasing God.

        The death and resurrection of Jesus did not change God; it changed us and our ability live life in the presence of God.

  10. Mike says

    Thanks, Frank. I really appreciate the distinction between God’s unconditional love, but that He has conditions regarding what pleases Him. I left a denominational tradition that used God’s unconditional love as an excuse for all sorts of behavior that could not be justified as pleasing to God. I have moved to a tradition that seeks to please God through our behavior, but it probably focuses too much on eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

    I think I need an organic church in my town!

    • ron says

      Hey mike could you please elaborate on what kind of behavior they are trying to justify using unconditional love please????

      • Mike says

        Certainly. One instance was a sermon justifying abortion in some circumstances. The priest commented that sometimes the most “loving” thing we can do for pregnant welfare mother of eight is to allow her to have an abortion. It is not clear to me that God would find that to be the most loving choice.

        The second example requires some explanation before I receive a bunch of negative replies. I was a member of the Episcopal Church for most of my life, until the hierarchy “decided” to summarily changed centuries of church tradition and teaching regarding homosexuals as clergy. It was not so much the result that bothered me, but the way the end was achieved. The change was justified, in part, under the cover of “unconditional love,” but the reality was the end was achieved more from political maneuvering rather than any sort of scriptural or spiritual consensus. The result was a deep rift in the worldwide Anglican community. Thus, the action created deeper divisions in the Body of Christ than existed previously, and it is not clear to me that the end achieved was a victory for God’s people.

        Granted, after becoming familiar with Frank’s materials just last April, and after reading through five of his books since then, I realize that church hierarchy and the clergy/laity distinction is inherently problematic. I would be interested in seeing how an organic church dealt with a similar issue under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

  11. ron says

    I am so grateful for the Lord revealing himself to me first through experiential knowledge that leads to scripture showing itself to be true.It is a daily battle for me to live by the “indwelling of Christ” because of all I have heard over the years.I believe scripture shows plainly we can walk in ways that please God and ways that don’t.I find it so repulsive when I see or hear of Christians calling themselves watchman over the body of Christ and rip apart anyone who has opposing views of scripture.It angers me like never before.It also leads believers into certain bondage of striving to please God instead of “living by the indwelling”.I am in a place of growth and understanding like never before.Thanks for all you do Frank

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