WHAT MAKES GOD SMILE?
AUGUST 6, 1995
This past Sunday afternoon I was playing outside in the front yard with my two oldest children—LeeBeth, who is eight, and EJ, who is three. Suddenly I heard a tap, tap on the window and from inside I saw Lisa, my wife, motioning us to come inside. So we walk inside and she points to our one year old twins. They were dressed in matching outfits, and, at that moment, involved in a toe-to-toe, WWF wrestling match. It was hilarious. They were laughing and giggling at each other. One would get the other in a head lock, a full body slam, it was all going on and we had a great laugh last Sunday afternoon.
This Tuesday evening my wife and I had dinner with a friend of mine who is closer to me than a brother. We had a wonderful experience with he and his wife. My friend recently has been diagnosed as having cancer. To watch him interact with his wife and his two babies, to think about the implications of cancer, to hear discussed the chemotherapy treatment really saddened me. It kind of broke my heart to be with him.
This Thursday morning I decided to get up real early and finish my message. So I gather up my sermon notes and the Bible and leave the house before anyone gets up. I decide to stop at a local coffee shop, I order a giant, heaping, scalding hot cup of flavored coffee with a bagel, no fat cream cheese added. I put this stuff in my car and am thinking that I will eat and drink when I get to the office. I was wearing a shirt that I wanted to stay pressed and nice because I had an appointment to have my picture taken later on that day. I arrive at the office and as I am trying to open the outer office door with my key, coffee balanced on the Bible, you guessed it, it tilted. The scalding, hot coffee hit my chest, ruined my shirt, soaked my pants, and even went in my shoes. Didn’t a woman recently sue McDonald’s for that? I’m kidding!
When that coffee hit me, I was angry and just to be blunt, I had my set of car keys with me that had the alarm mechanism on it which I threw down with all of my strength. I said a few unintelligible words. Since no one was there, no one can help me remember those garbled words. I did kind of break the alarm mechanism. So, I had a very interesting week. It is amazing to think about the range of emotions that we go through over a seven day time period, isn’t it?
I don’t have to spend very much time in this message trying to convince you that we human beings are emotional creatures. We have feelings. Today, though, I want you to grasp the fact that our God has feelings too. Our God is an emotional being. His emotions are perfectly balanced. The Bible says God experiences jealousy at certain times. God experiences anger. God experiences delight. All of those emotions in a perfect balance. We have the capacity for feeling because we are created in the image of a God who has feelings. For some of you that is a shocking statement because you think of God as some bold, old, cold, immovable, unflappable, stone-like stoic who is oblivious to the emotional needs of your life and mine. However, God’s word says on page after page after page, our God is concerned about us. And He is concerned about our emotions.
To illustrate this fact I want to ask you a question. How many of you are parents? If you are a parent, raise your hand. We have a lot of hands going up. Parents, would you say that you are emotionally connected to your children? If so, lift your hand. I think that is pretty obvious. Now we have a lot of singles here. If you are single, lift your hand. Wow. Singles, what I want you to do this week to see how emotionally connected parents are with their children, you jump in your cars and you drive around the Metroplex. For instance, next Saturday morning, drive by some soccer fields and baseball diamonds and watch the moms and dads cheering their kids on, and you will see the emotional involvement that I am talking about. The Bible says that God is as emotionally involved in the lives of His children as we parents are emotionally involved in the lives of our children. And sometimes the compassion that I have for my children just takes me off-guard.
Recently EJ runs up to me and I was busy and I said, “EJ, I’ve got to go, I don’t have time.” “Daddy, please let me tell you something.” “EJ, I don’t want to talk about the Power Rangers any more, I’ve got to leave.” And then he looked up at me with those big, brown eyes and said, “Daddy, I love you.” And talk about being devastated, I was smitten with emotion and compassion and other tender feelings. Multiply that exponentially and you still don’t scratch the surface regarding how much God loves you.
David says these words in Psalm 103:13: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” In the book of Hosea 11, God’s children were disobedient to Him and God knew that He had to bring discipline on His children. And one would think that God would be sterile about it, kind of take out the heavenly slugger and say, “You have been wrong.” Bop. Hosea says, figuratively speaking, the stomach of God kind of churns, it gets in knots when He thinks about having to bring discipline on those who matter to him. God does discipline us. He disciplined His children in Hosea, but He goes through this as He is thinking about us because He loves us so dearly.
The extent of God’s emotions is great. It still amazes me how evolutionists claim that we get our emotions from just a bunch of gases exploding together. To me it takes more faith to believe in that than to believe that we are created in the image of a God who put this makeup into our lives.
Today, though, because we have time limitations I want to take a snapshot of one aspect of God’s emotional nature. And this aspect is what brings God delight? What brings God joy? What makes Him smile? What can I do today, what can you do today to really bring delight to the face of God? The Bible says God smiles. In fact when He created the heaven and the earth, the plants and the animals, God stepped back and He said, “It is good.” On the sixth day when he made man in His image, He stepped back and He said, “It is very good.” The children of Israel claimed The Promised Land and God was happy. He was joyful. When His Son was baptized in the icy waters of the Jordan River, God said from heaven, “This is My Son in whom I am well pleased.” God shows delight.
But before I tell you what you can do to delight God, I want to clear up some confusion that you might have regarding this subject matter. There are basically two camps of confusion that large masses of humanity live in concerning pleasing God. They think if I stay in this camp then I am pleasing God or if I stay in the other camp I am pleasing God. Really you aren’t.
The first camp that is confusing and muddy is called the Rules, Rituals, and Regulations Camp. That is the person who says, “If I go to church now and then, if I sort of stay faithful to my spouse, if I give to the United Way, if I vote Republican, if I coach Little League, report almost all of my income, God will smile at me, He will wink at me, He will pat me on the head. While messing up my hair, He will say that He is thrilled with me, delighted with me, that I am great and make Him smile.” And you say, “Ed, I am just a company man. I cover my bases. I kind of throw God a bone now and then to appease Him, pacify Him. God and I have a special deal worked out, you see.”
One day Jesus ran into a group of people who were in this camp. Jesus looked at these individuals and they kept all of these rules, rituals, and regulations. Hundreds of rules, rituals, and regulations. One of their rules detailed how long the fringe should be on their garments. These people were called the Pharisees. And Jesus said, “Guys, you are like whitewashed tombs. You look good on the outside, you are painted up, you have your regalia on and you are nodding at the right time and you are carrying your scrolls around and being so pious and spiritual, but on the inside there is some decay going on. There is some rotting taking place that you are not dealing with.” Rules, rituals, and regulations.
Later on Jesus talked to this same group of people and He said, “See this cup right here? This cup is a dirty cup. You don’t just clean the outside, you clean the inside too. Pharisees, you have got some ugliness, some dirt, some grime, called moral foul-ups and mistakes and sins you need to deal with. You see knowing God happens on the inside, then it comes from the inside out, not the outside in.” They missed the boat. In the Old Testament we see a group of people going religiously to a house of worship and the Bible says they were dressed nice, they looked nice, they were just nice folks. They heard different messages, they sang songs, and then they would leave but there was no change in their lives whatsoever. And God said, “I hate your solemn assemblies. You go to church, you go to this house of worship, but there is no real meat to it. You are not putting the word into action.”
You think rules, rituals, and regulations will do it? It is a forum for frustration. You see external compliance won’t do it, it happens when you internally cooperate with the spirit of God. The moment you open up the lid of your heart and ask Jesus Christ to infiltrate you life, the first thing He does, He places the person of the Holy Spirit into your life. The Holy Spirit will nudge you, He will remind you, He will guide you and it is your choice, it is my choice, to either internally cooperate with Him or not. That brings delight to the heart of God. Are you in this camp of confusion?
The other camp of confusion is called the Information Super Highway Camp. A member of this camp will reason, “I know how to delight God, I’ll accumulate vast amounts of knowledge about God, I’ll go from conference to conference, bible study to bible study, church to church. I’ll have sheepskins and certificates on my walls giving evidence to the fact that I know a great deal about God.” And these people, as they are traveling from place to place, kind of stick their hand out of the window and shout, “God, I am delighting You, aren’t I? I learned more about eschatology today. I am delighting You. I know a lot about You.” And the Bible says God is just shaking His head knowing they are missing the boat. Because people like this, and we meet some here, go from this church to that church to another church because no single human pastor can satiate their quest for knowledge, especially this one as I am routinely reminded. They would rather talk about theology than about life change.
To delight the heart of God you have got to move head knowledge into heart knowledge and begin to live it out. Once we live that knowledge out we are delighting God. I am not saying we should run around being spiritually ignorant. I am not saying that at all, nor is the Bible saying that. But the Bible is saying that true life change takes place when we take the word and live it out. Jesus said this to the Pharisees in John 5:39, “You diligently study the scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.” You refuse to come to Me to have life.
In other words, some people use the Bible, they dissect God like some biological experiment, they use the Bible as a kind of facade, as a spiritual force field, because they don’t want to deal with the real issues. They would rather talk about all of these subjects instead of talking about the things that they need to remove from their lives, like maybe that destructive, lustful thought life or that materialistic attitude or that critical spirit or that temper that is out of control all of the time. “Well I don’t want to talk about that, let’s go ahead and dissect the weak verb in the Hebrew. That’s what I want to talk about. Don’t talk to me about lust.” But they believe they are delighting God because they know more and more about Him. Does that sound vaguely familiar?
The reason I know about some of these camps is because I have been in these camps before. And I though I was really maturing. But I have discovered that activity for God does not delight God as much as fellowship with God. It is just humbly walking with Him day after day after day.
Let’s now get to the fun stuff. How do I translate head knowledge into heart knowledge? You think it would be easy, wouldn’t you. Here’s the head, there’s the heart—whoop, there you go, I’ve got it. Well it is a tough process. I know a lot more than I live out, don’t you? I know a lot, I’ve been a pastor for a long time, I’ve gone to seminary, studied Greek and Hebrew and I know a lot. But the tough part is living it out. That is the tough part.
There are four things we can all do right now, I’m talking about today, that will delight the heart of God. And when I say these things, they will sound a little bit different to you, so be ready.
DO A 180
Number one: Do a 180. Do a 180. That is going to delight God, when you do a 180. The Bible calls a 180 “repentance.” A 180 means that you are going this direction and then you turn directly around and walk the opposite direction. In Luke 15:10, Jesus speaking, “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” That means if it is just a tiny, little white lie and you say “Lord, forgive me for this, I’m going to turn from that sin and turn to You,” a heavenly hoe-down breaks out. Isn’t that exciting? I can’t really do the two-step very well to demonstrate, especially in these shoes, but a heavenly hoe-down breaks out.
Rejoicing. There is a giant cake in heaven, figuratively speaking, with your name on it, invitations have gone out and they are waiting for you to repent. And there are two groups of people here who need to repent. The first group would be those who need to come to know Christ personally. Today, needs to be your day to become a Christ follower. This is not something I can do for you; you have to do it for yourself. Maybe you have been kind of testing the waters spiritually for awhile and it is time to jump in. And maybe today is your day to say, “Jesus, I want to tell the truth about where I am before you and I realize all of these mistakes and foul-ups and I want to turn from them.” The moment you turn from them and receive what God did for you through Jesus Christ, you receive eternal life, you receive forgiveness, you have a home in heaven, and you are part of the family of God.
Once you say, “Jesus Christ, take control of my life,” you, at that moment, are a Christ follower and that is a 180 and it is the most important 180 you will ever take in your life. I don’t care what the sin is, what you have done, Jesus wants to meet you right where you are. Maybe you need to do that right now if you consider yourself a seeker.
Maybe some seekers here are not ready to make this step today and that’s fine. That is cool; that is OK. Continue to investigate the claims of Christ. Talk to a believer about it. Talk to one of us about it. Maybe talk to someone who brought you here today. It is worth six months of your life to see if Jesus really is who He said He is.
Now the second group of people who need to do that 180 are those of us who have been believers for awhile and we have something in our lives that is kind of holding us back from really soaring and really delighting the heart of God. It is that sin, and you know what it is. I know what it is that I have to work on, that I have to deal with more than any other. The problem is a lot of believers take these sins and make them pet sins. This is my pet over here. It is just between me and the sin. Yeah, God knows about it, but I’m not really going to deal with it because I have a good time. And you see, sinning is fun. If it wasn’t fun to sin then we wouldn’t want to do it.
Now there are some major league, eternal consequences for sin and also some humanistic consequences for sin, but it is fun. Don’t say, “Well, it is terrible to do this or that.” No, it is just fun. And we make a pet of sin. And I kind of relate it to this. One day as a child I did something that my parents told me not to do, I got a snake as a pet. My parents hate snakes, I happen to really like snakes. I had this snake and I wasn’t sure if it was poisonous or not. This lack of information was not very wise. I took this snake out and showed it to all the neighborhood kids, like I was Marlon Perkins from the Discovery Channel. “Look, see I can hold this shake.” I had yard gloves on and I was really brave. Then I thought I would show them how tame the snake was. I had one of the other children take the glove off of one of my hands and right when I put my bare hand next to the snake’s face, that pet of mine turned and bit me. The snake hung on my finger. So I shake and shake my hand and finally it falls off. I just freak out. I am thinking, “Oh no, it could have been a coral snake or a pit viper.” However, it was not poisonous. My parents were not pleased that I had the snake and that it nearly torn my finger off. In fact I still have a little scar there where the snake got me.
You can make a pet of sin and it is fun for awhile. It really is, just like I said. One day, though, out of nowhere, one day, it could be ten years from now, twenty years from now, out of nowhere that sin will turn and bite you, and you will go, “Oh, no, what have I done?” So some believers here need to deal with some attitudes, some habits that are keeping you from being the kind of person that God wants you to be.
And we are so serious about this, for the next six weeks, I am delivering a series of sermons concerning things that need to be dealt with so that we can really soar. We are calling it “The Recovery Channel.” We all need to recover from something. We are going to talk about everything from gambling to overeating to anger to lust, you name it, we’ll talk about it. And if you have some guts—I hate to be so frank—please show up over the next six weeks because God is going to do some great things in all of our lives as we talk about dealing with sin and doing a 180.
WATCH WHAT YOU EAT
Number two: watch what you eat. If you want to delight the heart of God, you had better watch what you eat. People say that all the time. Watch what you eat. Check the fat. Check this. Check that. Jeremiah said it best. Jeremiah 15:16, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear Your name, O LORD God Almighty.”
How many of you are going to go out to lunch or brunch or whatever you want to call it after this service. I think we would all say, “Yeah, I am.” What if you were there eating with your friends and family and just put all the food into your mouth and kept it there? You never swallowed it. People would think, what is wrong with this human being. When you put food in your mouth, you eat it, you swallow it. We have a desire to eat food. It nourishes us; it gives us strength to live. As we dine on God’s word—humbly walking with Him, talking to Him, loving Him through singing songs to Him, through writing letters to Him, through reading His word—we can’t just keep the words in our mouths, in our heads, they must be swallowed. Head knowledge must be turned into heart knowledge. We must live out the great plan and purpose that God has for our lives.
LISTEN AND OBEY THE VOICE
Number three. The third step in delighting the heart of God: listen and obey the voice. Listen and obey the voice. I said earlier, when the Holy Spirit invades your life, you will have to internally cooperate with Him. The Bible says in 1 Samuel that obedience is better than sacrifice. Obeying the voice of God is better than all our external compliance to these rules, rituals, and regulations. And to kind of bring it down to where we live, here is how the Holy Spirit works. Here is how we obey His voice.
Let’s say I am with a group of people and I have a chance to slam someone, I mean to stab them in the back. My good friend, Bill Kaiser, is here. Bill raise your hand. There’s Bill. Let’s say I wanted to slam Bill Kaiser—now Bill doesn’t have anything that needs to be slammed—but let’s say we are with a group of people, and I think of something I can say that would really make fun of him. But while I am thinking about it, the Holy Spirit warns me that I don’t really want to do that. He reminds me that Bill is a human being that matters to God, that I am getting ready to slander him. He urges me not to do that just for a laugh or some other reason I haven’t thought through well. That little voice I am talking about, that is the Holy Spirit.
Now I have a choice at that moment, Bill. I can either say, “Hush,” and go right ahead with what I was going to do. I would then feel guilty afterward. Or I could acknowledge what the Spirit is urging and decide to cooperate. That is internal cooperation. That is listening to and obeying the voice of God. You see activity for God is not as important as fellowship with God. A humble walk with God is what delights the heart of God. We all have gifts and abilities and one of my gifts is to speak. And I love to speak. But that is not really what delights the heart of God in my life the most. I know it is not. What really delights the heart of God is when all the crowds have gone home, the lights are off, and I am by myself or I am with my family or with my friends or whoever. How am I walking then? How am I talking then? How am I thinking then? That is what delights the heart of God. A lot of you are following God and you think that you don’t do anything spectacular, that no one really sees. That is not true. God does. Obey the voice of God.
MOVE INTO A HOUSE
Number four: Move into a house. Move into a house—the house of God. The Bible talks about worship and it talks about gathering together in community, with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. And that is the ministry of the local church. Jesus said the manifold wisdom of Him would be made known through the church, not through the United Way, not through the Salvation Army, through the church. And all those organizations are fine and dandy; the church, though, is called the bride of Christ. The church is so important to God that He sent His only Son to die for her.
If you have ever gone to a wedding, the bride is the one. I mean, let’s get serious. The groom is there and that is fine and dandy, but the bride is the one. The church is the one and if you feel led to become a part of a church by the Holy Spirit of God, I want to welcome you to this church. God might want to put you in another church. There are some phenomenal churches all around us. There are many Christians who are living solo lives, who are not members of any church. So, if you want to delight the heart of God, you get involved with the church, the bride of Christ. Use your unique abilities within it and your life will soar, and you will have delight and you will feel the smile of God from heaven.
You have your assignment. Four steps. The head to the heart. We can do it because God will give us the power to do it.