FOCUSING OUR LIVES TO FIT HIS PLEASURE (Part 2 of 9)
I was gathered with some friends in a house church in Detroit. We were heartbroken over the news reports coming in from Ferguson, MO. The death of an African American man at the hands of police had sparked days of unrest that only seemed to be getting worse with time.
Many of my friends who were praying in the room with me were people who had carried racial reconciliation on their hearts in a way that had cost them something. They had left the comfort of their homes and turned their backs on “better opportunities” in order to follow Jesus into a rough neighborhood. They had come to invest their lives into a place that many had moved away from, believing that God could somehow breathe on their simple lives and bring His life to those they would come into contact with.
I was humbled as I listened to the authority that flowed from the broken and contrite hearts in the room that night. I had the sense that the choices many of my friends had made meant that they had bought oil and were ready to engage this situation in prayer. They were also ready to go do whatever they could to see the peace of God poured out.
“God, send us to the next Ferguson before it happens…” Then the thought ran through my mind: maybe He already has.
WHAT PLEASES GOD
At the end of the introduction to this series of articles, I pointed out how stunning and ridiculous it is that Jesus, the One whose face shines like the sun, appears to John in Revelation 1 in the midst of seven candles. I say it seems ridiculous because how could you even see seven lampstands in the light of the sun? But that is really the point. Jesus isn’t showing up in the midst of the church because He needs us, but because that is His best plan.
If we journey back through time, all the way to Eden, we will discover that our all-powerful, all-knowing God purposefully delegated authority on this earth to those who were made in His image. While that does not seem like the best plan to me, Scripture tells us that it is what pleased God (Psalm 115). In His perfect wisdom, before the foundation of the world, He made a provision to redeem Adam’s fall by sending the One who came to restore us back into right relationship with God. Jesus came as a son and said that He came to bring us to His Father. Remember this—it is vital.
If you ask me, when Jesus came and walked the earth, it would have been a great time to switch to a different plan and take back the authority that had been delegated to man. I mean, obviously we did not do so well with it the first time around. But when Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected, He did take back the authority that had been yielded in the garden. It’s what He does with it I’m still trying to wrap my mind around.
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…”
Even though we seem to fumble things a lot, there is something about God’s heart that is pleased to give responsibility to mankind. This is significant, because knowing what pleases God is vitally important and absolutely necessary if we are going to fulfill His purpose for us.
In recent years, there has been an emphasis placed on the importance of understanding our identity in Christ spreading throughout much of the Church. I believe that this emphasis has been necessary for many reasons, but especially because understanding what the scriptures teach about who we are as sons and daughters brings dimension to knowing the nature of God as a perfect Father.
I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit has been bringing focus on this important aspect of who God is across so many different parts of the Body. We need to embrace this message, but as we do, we must resist making this message about us. It is still His story to tell! We receive the purposeful, intentional outpouring of His love, but even that is ultimately for His glory.
He is a good Father and has a plan to reconcile the world to Himself as He pours out His Spirit on His children. But seeing ourselves as His children comes with a clear call to grow up into and become responsible sons and daughters. It is what pleases Him and it is what all creation is eagerly waiting and groaning for.
It is time for those of us who have embraced and championed the identity message, to press beyond how that message benefits us and call the children of God to take their place as humble stewards of Hi(s)tory.
What does this have to do with the seeming chaos that is breaking out all over Facebook and around the world? Everything, I think. Let’s take a look at what it means for us to operate as responsible sons and daughters of God, and imagine what impact living that out would have on our surroundings.
LET HEAVEN COME
When Jesus walked this earth, He invested a big part of His life into a handful of men who shared the journey of the last three years of His life. Scripture reveals that Jesus had a lifestyle of spending time in prayer with His Father. At some point, the culture of His life led to a hunger in the hearts of those He walked with.
Master, teach us how to pray.
What Jesus teaches His friends about prayer is grounded in what pleases God. Listen to these words from what we call The Lord’s Prayer.
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
The purpose of this article is not to do a teaching on prayer, but I cannot address the subject of becoming responsible sons and daughters without touching on what is clearly laid out here. The very basis of what Jesus is modeling deals with His Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven.
I can almost feel some of you begin to back away from this article. Really? Prayer is what you are talking about?
Believe me, I understand your objections—but hear me out. I understand that it is often easy to say, "Let’s pray about it," as a way of passively dismissing important issues when we don’t know or care what to do. I am not talking about that kind of prayer.
In order to get a better understanding of how this kind of prayer connects with what it means for us to walk in our God given responsibilities, let me point you back to a Psalm that has stood out to me over the past six months, Psalm 115.
Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth. Why should the Gentiles say, “So where is their God?”
But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
This Psalm is indicates that there is something that pleases God, and that is what He is doing in Heaven. There are times when we may not know exactly what that looks like, but that is why we must lean into the Father's invitation to seek His face. I have especially felt drawn to this scripture as I have witnessed the cry for justice surrounding the deaths of African American men at the hands of police. Amidst the hurt, confusion and questions that surround these situations, there is a need to know what it looks like for heaven to come. This passage gives a place to start.
It is stunning to read this entire Psalm, but for the sake of time, I will just highlight a few things from these first three verses. First of all, this life is not about us, it is about God receiving glory. It can be so easy for us to forget this, but it will be impossible for us to fulfill His purpose for our lives if we forget the plot of the story He is telling.
Secondly, there is a need for mercy and truth to flow together. Historically, the enemy has drawn the church away from this important union. Very rarely are those who are known for standing for truth known as champions of mercy. It can be easy for the Church to become divided here, identifying along the lines of right and left instead of striving together to be of one mind and one spirit.
The enemy has offered the counterfeits of mercy and truth in compassionate compromise and conservative condemnation. This reveals a place where we need to grow up. The apostle Paul addresses this in Ephesians 4 when he says: ...but [you], speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ… The capacity to walk in mercy and truth is a mark of the church growing up. The world is waiting on us!
When we are not walking out our responsibilities, it leaves the world wondering where our God is in the midst of all of the brokenness. And this leads us back to what Jesus taught His disciples about prayer. Watch the connection between Psalm 115:3 and what Jesus told His friends.
But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Where is your God? In heaven. What Is He doing? Whatever He pleases.
Wait, how could a good God be in heaven doing what He pleases while it seems like all hell is breaking loose on earth? In order to answer that question, I want to point to the rest of Psalm 115. The middle section outlines how the idols of man are lifeless. They have eyes, mouths and ears, but they are blind, mute and deaf. The Psalmist says that those who make the idols are just like them, in fact all those who trust in them are like them.
He concludes the Psalm with this thought:
The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; But the earth He has given to the children of men.
WOW. Our God is in heaven doing what He pleases. The gods of this world are deaf, blind and mute, and everyone who follows them are as well… But it was pleasing to God to give responsibility for this realm to those made in His image.
Let’s go back to the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus wasn’t saying that it would be nice if His friends prayed a pretty prayer for the kingdom to come. He was speaking to those who had been given a responsibility to see what pleases the Father happen on earth the same way it does in heaven.
In Psalm 16:11, David says In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. What would it look like if we, as responsible sons and daughters of God, were confident of what pleased God in every circumstance?
What David says is true when you are trying to learn how to discipline your toddler and when you are seeking God for provision for next month’s bills. It also applies to what we are dealing with on the macro level. Whether we are talking about avoiding Killary, surviving Trumpagedon, navigating the growing confusion of a cultural sexual identity crisis, or knowing how to respond to #BLACKLIVESMATTER, there is something that pleases God.
I believe that it is on us to discern what that is, not according to what fits our own perspectives—but according to what truly pleases Him. While I don’t claim to know the fullness of what this looks like, I do know that humility is a big part of it. I imagine that we will touch on 2 Chronicles 7:14 in a later post, but I can’t pass up this chance to relay the invitation of God.
[If] My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
God is not waiting on the world to get their act together. He is not waiting on Trump to be less or Hillary to be more. He is looking for responsible sons and daughters to know who they are and step humbly into their place as history makers and future shapers.
The cost of silence is too high. We can’t afford to leave this world listening to only those who are blind, deaf and mute. It is time for us to go low in humility and step into the responsibility of living out what pleases Him. It is time for our obedience to echo our prayers. This is one way we buy oil so that we are prepared to shine as bright lights in the midst of darkness.
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Brad and his wife, Adriane, have spent over two decades pastoring churches in the United States with a focus on reaching the “un-churched”. In 2011, they moved to Grove City, PA with their daughter Abigail to pioneer Antioch Overflow Experiment (AOX), a community of simple churches with a mission to “disciple, equip, and release sons and daughters of the King to transform every sphere of society for the glory of God.” Follow him on social media@bradmckoy to stay connected to him and his family.