Total Depravity: 6. Can a person please God?

How to Please God

Pleasing God. The root issue here in total depravity is whether a person or a thing please God. It would behoove us to search the Scriptures to see if there are verses that speak of something pleasing God, and note the circumstances.

I will note an aspect of this. 1) We are sinners. That displeases God. 2) Being sinners, the Bible commends certain people who “tried” to please God. 3) Although we do note that some people “pleased God” this in no way is to say that God accepted them into heaven and as having salvation simply because they pleased God in some aspect of their lives. 4) Pleasing God with your life is not the same as gaining heaven through good works. We need to separate the two ideas as being totally separate and apart. We should not let one “bleed over into the other”. 5) God, in general, instructs all men in how to live morally, and when they follow these moral principles, whether saved or not, God blesses those obedient to his commands and curses those who are disobedient. In general, all thieves have the curse of God on them, and all people who work honestly have a certain “blessing” of God on them. This is not because God has “elected them from eternity past” to be blessed, but God has blessed his moral principles, and by following these principles, one receives a benefit here in this world, but not necessarily entrance into heaven for obeying these other moral principles (the key point then is faith in the work of Christ on the cross as being THE THING that one has to “do” in order to be saved).

1Sam 12:22

1Sam 12:22 For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people.

What we see here is that it pleased God to make Israel “his people.”

2Sam 7:28-29

2Sam 7:28 And now, O Lord GOD, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant: 29 Therefore now let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue for ever before thee: for thou, O Lord GOD, hast spoken it: and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed for ever.

1Kgs 3:10-12

1Kgs 3:10And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. 11 And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; 12 Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.

To take up the position that no human has ever or will ever please God is to say that God is so extreme in his standards that no human can ever enter into a state of blessing by God. While in Calvinism, this is their point, no man has ever pleased God nor ever will. Therefore, according to their thinking, salvation HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING WE ARE OR DO, it is all a divine lottery, God totally.

This point is exactly total depravity, not that we are bad, but that we do not have the ability to ever please God or do anything pleasing in his sight. Scripture does not support this, because some in the Bible did please God with their lives and conduct.

While we want to be “extremely biblical” we must observe the Genesis Rule. Satan twisted God’s words to make them more extreme. God said thou shalt not eat, and Satan twisted that into thou shalt not touch. Without a doubt, Eve was passing by the tree, touched it, and nothing happened. She did not die. Satan declares null and void God’s statement. Look, you didn’t die! But in reality, even after they ate the fruit of the tree, they still did not die until years later. So Satan twists things by driving things to an extreme and then throwing it back into the face of God.

Ps 51:19

Ps 51:19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

The Calvinist says “nothing man can do pleases God”. This is just not so. If God is pleased WITH man’s righteousness, and the Calvinist denies that wholeheartedly, the Calvinist teaches others false teaching that works directly against God. The core of Total Depravity is nothing can please God. Righteousness, or doing and being righteous, is what pleases God. Do you see how Calvinism teaches to the opposite of the Bible? Rather than teaching people that there is nothing a person can do to please God (Total Depravity), why not teach that when a person is righteous, this pleases God? (the biblical position)

Eccl 7:26; Prov 16:7

When we teach that unilaterally there is nothing man can do that pleases God, we presume that God is displeased WITH EVERYTHING WE DO. This is just not so.

Eccl 7:26 And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.

Prov 16:6 By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil. 7 When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.

These verses are predicated on the fact that a man’s ways or his life can be pleasing unto the Lord. Does every single man in the world fall prey to a harlot? No. I am sorry but that is just not the reality we all live. Many men do fall, but in reality, the godly Christian usually does not fall. The reason he doesn’t fall is that God is pleased with his life and God protects that man from wicked women (in a general sense, not in every particular case).

Does every single person in the world have his enemies at war with him? No. Again, a good Christian will show that this is not true, because he is not contentious, and God preserves him from constant fighting with his neighbor.

These verses take for granted the fact that the state of a “man’s ways are pleasing” in God’s sight is possible. Otherwise, the verse would simply be impossible for any person to attempt much less actually accomplish.

John the Baptist Mat 12:18 “in whom my soul is well pleased”

Matt 12:18 Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. 

It is difficult to corroborate the Calvinist position when there are many verses that speak of men pleasing God. But beyond these causal mentions, there are very special servants of God that dedicated their lives to serving God, and in whom, God was “well pleased”. How do you as a Calvinist explain God’s commentary on John the Baptist’ life and ministry in light of total depravity.

By saying that what is in man (his will, actions, desires) is TOTALLY unacceptable before God in any given case, you work against clear Scripture that states exactly the opposite. Does it not shame a Calvinist to read these verses and realize that some man in the Bible did something that pleased God?

The Calvinist argument or counter to this is that what is in man is totally displeasing to God, but God’s Holy Spirit works something that is pleasing in man. Okay. Let’s run with that one for a bit. If that is true, and it is true that God works in man through his Holy Spirit, who is credited? Man or God? God is the end source of all goodness, I can accept that. But God gives man the credit and glory when he acts righteously because he decided to follow God’s leading into righteousness. It is unbiblical to speak of this in any way except as God speaks of it.

Again, the ability to please God is possible. When the Calvinist downplays this, surely nobody “really pleases God with their life”, and they say it is a biblical metaphor or some other nonsense, but here John “greatly pleased God”. The adverb, “well-pleased” would seem to force this example into an example of greatly pleasing God. It is possible. Not easy but any means, but not impossible.

What or how to please God

Psa 40:13 Delivering people.

Ps 51:19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar. 

Again we ask, is God so extreme and austere that nothing we can do would ever please Him? And the answer is that the Bible presents us with things that we can do that do really please God.

Ps 69:30 I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. 31 This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs. 32 The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God.

The things that please God have to do with our spirit and our moral nature more than with physical things.

Isa 53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 

It was the pleasure of God to bruise Christ. Christ’s righteous suffering without complaining or fighting against it is the example of Isaiah 53 and the Cross. But we need to understand that this moral character in Christ that led him to endure suffering without reacting ill towards God or his persecutors IS EXACTLY WHAT WE ARE TO BE DOING WHEN WE IMITATE CHRIST.

Ezek 18:23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live

Ezek 33:11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Another interesting verse. Is God pleased with unsaved men and women dying and going to hell? No. His pleasure is that they are saved. This forces the Calvinist into one of two positions: (1) Universalism, all people will eventually be saved. (2) God does not always do his pleasure. This last point knocks up against irresistible Grace, one of the pillars of Calvinism.

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. 

The key to understanding Scripture and salvation then is to understand that there are things that we can “do” to please God, and these all focus on our faith in God. When we believe God, that pleases God. It is an action within our range of abilities in our own will. The Calvinist wishes to remove all our abilities to do anything that would please God.

I agree 100% that good works do not provide the person with salvation, only faith, and that faith which is never called work, or human work, or good work. Faith that saves falls into another category. We do it but it is not a work.

Note that believing in God as a rewarder of good and evil is also something that pleases God. In general, this reinforces what we are seeing elsewhere in this study. When a person corrects and strictly holds the conduct of his life to the moral principles that God gives, that pleases God. There are blessings for aligning your life like this, and curses for not. While God is pleased or displeased, this does not always translate into a salvation experience involved in the thing. Simply a blessing or a curse.

When we survey the nations of the earth, and God’s great hatred for certain habits that they did and their subsequent chastisement by God, we understand that their morality or rather the lack thereof is the cause of the wrath of God falling on them. In the flood, this is exactly the point. While many nations over time have not had the wrath of God on them, that is not to say they were all saved either. It is only to say that they didn’t make God as mad as they could have made Him. In other cases, God commanded forces to judge immediately those sinful people, such as Sodom and Gomorrah.

We see Job praying and making sacrifices daily for his children because he understood the wrath of God falling on people who walk away from God’s morality rules, and he wished to prevent this wrath of God from coming on his family, even if they did it through ignorance.

To sum up, the Bible presents the need for us to be greatly concerned over our own morality that we do everything we can to please God. It would seem the Calvinist lightly brushes this concern and position off from himself, because “nobody can please God.” Methodism focuses on this (although Methodism takes the approach that outward steps would bring one holiness, which is a false premise in itself). Of the two positions, Calvinism or Methodism, it is better to lean towards an all-out effort to be holy than a “tongue in cheek” holiness that is not sincere, which I see often in Calvinists.

1Cor 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe

If preaching salvation pleases God, then you do Calvinists work against this? We must differentiate between teaching and preaching here. Teaching is the laying forth of foundations that are later used to make decisions and understand life. This is necessary.

But preaching is like Nathan the prophet before King David. Thou are the man! It takes these moral principles in the Bible and presses them home the individual so that the individual decides and makes a moral change. This is an act of his depraved will, and it is totally possible and it is the direct focus of scriptural preaching. If a Calvinist tip-toes around the moral issues, not pressing them home, but letting God do it later in the individual’s home, then that preacher does not please God.

1Cor 7:32 But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord:

If we follow the Calvinist’s logic, then there is no reason to expend energy towards pleasing God because no matter how you try, nothing you do will please God. This seems so out of place and foreign in this passage. An unmarried person is a person (who if he so desires) can dedicate his whole life to pleasing God. The two positions (Paul’s view in 1Cor 7:32 and Total Depravity) are totally exclusive one of the other. Which do you want to believe? Consider another similar verse.

Gal 1:10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ

What we see here is again, Paul set his whole life and career to be pleasing to God. If Paul thought that nothing, absolutely nothing he would do would please God, why would he dedicate his life to that? It doesn’t make sense if you look at these verses from the Calvinist position.

1Thess 2:4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. 

Eph 6:6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 

 

How much evidence needs to be heaped up before a person understands that some particular conduct DOES PLEASE GOD?

1Thess 4:1Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. 

2Tim 2:4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier

1Thess 2:12 ​That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. 

Col 1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 

Paul taught his people “how to please God” by teaching them “how they ought to walk” in this life. According to Paul’s understanding, there was a “walk worthy of God” (acceptable and pleasing in his sight) and it was fully possible for Paul’s followers to achieve. So why the assault (total depravity) on this walk and on even its existence? This is the work of the enemy, Satan.

What becomes abundantly clear when I read Calvinist’s teaching on Total Depravity is that they constantly repeat over and over again that nothing we do can ever please God. Of course, they don’t come right out and say the conclusion, “SO DON’T WORRY ABOUT PLEASING GOD”, but they might as well.

I contrast this highly with the Apostle Paul. He put forth before his people the goal of pleasing God. Does the Calvinist do this when he teaches 7 ways from Sunday that everybody is totally depraved? Can you really accept Total Depravity as being biblical?

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