So stop trying.
I know – that goes against all the things you think you’ve been taught.
And the implied message at the end of all those directives is, “so you make (or keep) God happy with you.”
The trouble is – it’s all wrong. It’s a big fat lie that we actually seem to like telling ourselves and one another.
One of the most helpful pieces of advice I’ve ever received was this: “You can’t make God any happier with you than He already is…”
If you are a believer – a follower of Jesus who knows for certain that you’ve been forgiven – lifted out of a filthy ocean of disgusting sin that you not only dug for yourself but filled bucket by bucket and were hopelessly flailing about in with no hope of getting yourself out of much less cleaned up from – then God is already as happy with you as he can possibly be.
If you are a disciple of the Son of God – a sinner who has repented and hates not only the sinful storehouse you built but also the fact that you are prone to building it again – then God is already as happy with you as he can possibly be.
If you are aching to know God better and love Him more because he put the desire into your heart of stone-turned-to-flesh – then God is already as happy with you as he can possibly be.
Did you catch that? God is already as happy with you as he can possibly be!
The real question each of us must face when considering our mortality is not, “Am I at peace with God?” Rather, it is this: “Is God at peace with me?”
And if you’ve seen your hopeless condition and run to Jesus for rescue, because you know that his life and his death and his resurrection have satisfied all the demands God has made on us that we couldn’t satisfy – and that it has been offered to you freely – then God is at peace with you. He is happy with you and cannot be made happier.
His delight has been made free to you – though it was enormously costly to Him – and He is happy to offer it to you.
And the glorious irony is that God is happy with us precisely because of the offer. For when he sees you and me – sinners rescued from the miry pits of our own making, saved from destruction and an endless eternity of heartache and despair – he sees his beloved Jesus. Period.
The exchange was so utterly complete that when Jesus became sin for us, he filled us up with himself – and that is all God sees. Perfect, complete, clean, pure.
God is already as happy with you as He can be, because when he sees you, if you belong to him, he sees his Son in you perfectly reflected and shining in beautiful glory.
You can’t make God any happier with you than He already is, because when He sees you, He sees His Son.
But there was more to the advice.
“You cannot make God any happier with you than He already is. And indeed, you must not try.”
I can hear you now (because, truthfully, I’ve said the same things).
What?!? What about following the 10 Commandments? What about all the Old Testament Commandments – or the New Testament ones?? What about all the places in the Bible that tell us to do this or not do that? What about all the RULES?!?
Being good is good, and it can reflect that you’ve had your heart changed – but it will not make God any happier with you than He already is.
Being kind is good, and it can be an indication of Who you belong to – but it will not make God any happier with you than He already is.
Giving generously, being compassionate, showing mercy – all good, and definitely character traits of someone who loves well, but… you got it. They will not make God any happier with you than He already is.
In fact, if that is your motive, you are believing a false Gospel. You are, in effect, saying, “Thanks Jesus for the death on the cross and all, but I’ve got it from here. Really. I’m good.”
For some ridiculous reason we would rather bear the terrible burden of trying to satisfy God ourselves than trust in the freedom that Christ has provided. How does that make sense? And yet, I talk with more people than not who claim to know and follow Jesus who are running around trying to make God happy!
Think about it. If you’re still having to work hard to earn God’s favor – what exactly did you get freed from? If you really believe that Jesus saved you, why aren’t you living like you’re saved from the crushing burden of trying to do all that God requires?
I’m asking you the same questions I had to ask myself once. I realized I wasn’t living like I really believed what I said I believed. I was running around working hard to make God happy. But you know what – I knew in my heart nothing I did could ever be good enough. There was always something I could have – should have – done better. There was always work left undone. I got lazy or sloppy in my pursuit of perfection and that really messes with this whole happy God thing! Unbelievably, I had even convinced myself that I could keep starting over with a clean slate – but that’s not true!
If Jesus’ work wasn’t enough, what hope did I have of making God happy? If Jesus’ death and resurrection was just a starting point, what could I possibly conjure up that was better than what He had already done?
And that, my friends, is precisely the point. I can’t. You can’t. No one can. We really were hopelessly lost in our own foolish, stupid, selfish, lazy, mean-spirited, ugly, swiftly-filling, ocean-sized pit of sin. But the rescue has already been completed, and it is spectacularly sufficient and good. Trying to add anything to it to somehow gain God’s approval would be like doing your laundry in that cess-pool you created and offering it back to God with the hopes that He will somehow like it better than the radiant robes of righteousness that Jesus has already provided. Just stop.
You cannot make God any happier with you than He already is. And indeed, you must not try. For when He sees you He sees His beloved Son, and His work is beautifully sufficient and good. Jesus has freed you – now go and live in the joy of knowing you are free indeed!