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“How much do you care about pleasing God? Let’s see you prove it.”
This is what Christians will say to you in the Church. This is what the New Testament writers will tell believers in their letters. But there’s a major problem with this little challenge, and it comes with those last five words:
“Let’s SEE you prove it.”
What can humans see? Can they see your soul longing for God? No. God has blinded other people from seeing the real you because He considers your soul’s response to Him to be none of their business. On this earth, He has you hidden from view inside this physical earthsuit that you drive about in. As a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit riding along in that earthsuit with you and He knows exactly how you feel about Him. But other people don’t, and it bugs them. Other Christians think that you should find their approval of your spirituality desperately important. Other Christians think they are qualified to stand in for the Holy Spirit and assess your spiritual progress for you. So when other Christians see you getting drunk again or waking up in bed with someone else’s spouse, other Christians are going to say that you obviously don’t care about God. When they see you getting that divorce or abusing your kids or beating up your wife in a fit of blind rage, they’re going to start questioning the validity of your salvation. If you listen to other people’s assessment of you, you’re going to end up drowning in shame and self-loathing and brainstorming ways to end your life. You’re going to end up turning away from the only three Beings who stay by your side when your flesh is dragging you through the moral muck: Jesus, Yahweh, and the magnificent Holy Spirit.
At what point does a Christian become too repulsive for God to embrace? NEVER. At what point does your inability to control your flesh shock and dismay the One who created it? NEVER. God has known this whole time that you can’t control your flesh. You’re the one who is coming late to that party, and if Satan has his way, you’ll never arrive. Satan doesn’t want you to grasp that when Jesus said “You can’t do anything good without ME”, He was talking about your soul’s ability to control your flesh. Good works are something your flesh does. Good works are behaviors, not soul choices. Good works aren’t what impresses God, because He’s the One doing them through you. It’s your soul’s choices that God is really interested in, because your soul’s choices are something you have control over. Of course God is still initiating—you never considered pursuing Him until He started calling you. But when you heard Him calling you, you responded to Him of your own free will, and your response was so important to God that He changed your eternal destination from Hell to Heaven. Your soul’s responses continue to be of the utmost importance to God, and they are the only things that are defining His view of you at this moment.
So then, how much do you care about pleasing God? When you’re confronted with this question, don’t start thinking back on your recent behaviors because behavior has nothing to do with it. Look at your soul, because your soul is what Jesus died to save and your soul is who the Holy Spirit has a personal relationship with. Do you build friendships and fall in love with sets of clothing or with the people who are wearing them? Your earthsuit is just the vehicle you are currently riding around in. Yes, God has laid down an ideal plan for how your earthsuit should behave in this world: treating others with respect, acting polite, kind, patient, and loving. We want to look at God’s picture of the ideal earthsuit behavior and agree that it is beautiful thing. But then we need to deal with real life. Our earthsuits are always falling short of God’s ideal plan, and we just can’t locate that magic switch that will flood our bodies and brains with continuous Christlike perfection. Though our souls desperately want to drive around in perfect earthsuits, we find ourselves trapped in suits that continue to think and do wrong things. In the middle of praising God, some raunchy joke invades our physical brain and our souls feel repulsed. In the middle of some season of glorious self-control, we lose our tempers over some ridiculous detail and go into a bratty snit. Is this the best we’ll ever be down here? Do we have to live our lives feeling like pathetic failures? No, we don’t. But the key to experiencing peace and joy in life doesn’t come through mastering our flesh but through aligning our judgment system with God’s. God cares about our soul’s response to Him. He cares about the depth of our submission, and the sincerity of our desire for Him. He doesn’t measure either of these things by the actions of our flesh.
When your behavior is making you lose all confidence in your walk with God, it is because you have fallen for Satan’s rotten system of assessing the soul by the actions of the body. It’s impossible not to fall into this trap when the Church is constantly shoving you into it and guys like Paul, John, James, and Peter are insisting that perfect control over your earthsuit is well within your grasp. But as we grow, the Holy Spirit is going to open our eyes to see that He does not judge us like the world judges us. God looks on the heart and He knows that we have no chance of controlling our earthsuits without Him.
What would you say if your best human friend came up to you in great distress and said, “This friendship means the world to me but I understand that you don’t want to continue it because you’re so offended by the color of the shirt I’m wearing.” What kind of sense does this make? Yet this is what we say to God when we say, “I know You can’t love me anymore after what my earthsuit just did.” God isn’t in love with your suit, He’s in love with YOU, and He wants you to stop judging the quality of your relationship with Him by what your earthsuit does and doesn’t do. Your earthsuit is a fallen, immoral yuck. Your earthsuit is filled with disgusting desires and lusts. Everyone’s is, and by now this is very old news to God. He doesn’t want to spend your entire life on earth focusing on the fact that your earthsuit leaves much to be desired. Your earthsuit is a temporary thing which you will be leaving behind when you die. You won’t have an earthsuit in Heaven, but your experience of Heaven is going to be determined by how your soul responded to God on earth. You really need to fight against the Christian obsession with our flesh and turn your mind onto what really matters: your soul’s response to God. This is what is shaping your eternal future, and that is why Satan is so desperate to keep you distracted from it.
The next time you fall headlong into some loathsome sin, instead of hyper-focusing on what a worm you were to do such a thing, turn your mind onto God and remember that your earthsuit is powerless to separate you from Him. Pull up a mental image of you clinging tightly to Him and Him embracing you in His loving arms. This is reality, regardless of what your emotions are telling you. God is with you and He is never going to leave you, look away from you, or confuse you with your earthsuit. God’s pleasure with you has nothing to do with what shenanigans your earthsuit is currently up to—only with how your soul is responding to Him. When we sincerely care about pleasing God, we want to act righteously at all times, but this is a dream which we must be willing to surrender to Him. Perfect behavior just isn’t God’s priority for you on this earth. He is far more interested in developing your personal relationship with Him, and your pesky earthsuit can be quite helpful in making that happen. It comes down to trust—it always comes down to trust. Are we going to trust in God’s love for us and believe that He is going to fulfill our desire to please Him—a desire which came from Him? If God is not faithful to us, we have no hope at all. By our own striving, we can accomplish NOTHING. The sooner we understand this, the sooner we stop fighting battles that we cannot win. We need God to fight all of our battles for us, and we need to throw ourselves entirely into His hands and ask Him to make us all that He wants us to be. Then we need to TRUST that no matter how bad things look, He is answering the prayers that He put in our hearts to pray. God loves us and He is for us. Asking Him to have His total way in our lives is the most we can ever contribute to our growth process, and yet He says it is enough. If you sincerely want God to be pleased with you, then He is—it’s always been this simple.