We Christians naturally want to please God and make Him happy. But what exactly makes God happy?
To please God, we first need to know what He wants. Otherwise, we can spend a lot of time doing things we think He wants, but end up not pleasing Him. Let’s take a look at what we think God wants, and what God actually wants for our Christian life.
What we think God wants
Some of our ideas about a life that pleases God include things like good behavior, helping others, and endeavoring to live in a way that sets an example for people.
All these aren’t bad. But are they what God wants from us? Actually, we shouldn’t assume our own ideas match what God really wants.
What God wants
To really understand what God wants, we have to go all the way back to creation. In a previous post, we saw that God created human beings to share His divine life with them so He could be their life, and they could be His expression. This is why He created us not as instruments or tools to use, but as vessels to fill with Himself. And even after mankind fell into sin, this desire in God’s heart didn’t change.
But it’s impossible for fallen human beings to have God’s divine life since God can never fill a vessel contaminated by sin. Instead of giving up, however, God became a man named Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfect human life on earth and was crucified on the cross to take away our sins. Through His sacrifice, our sins can be washed away. When we believe in Jesus Christ and receive Him as our Savior, we receive forgiveness of sins. But that isn’t all.
After three days, Jesus resurrected from the dead, and 1 Corinthians 15:45 tells us that in resurrection, He “became a life-giving Spirit.” As the Spirit, He enters into us cleansed vessels that believe in Him. God—in Christ, as the Spirit—comes to live us. How incredible! But He doesn’t just want to exist in us; He comes into us to be our life so He can be expressed through us. This is why God created us and why God saved us.
Coming into our spirit and spreading into our soul
When we were saved, Christ came into our spirit, the deepest, innermost part of our being. This was the beginning of God’s filling us. Our spirit is where Christ now dwells in us and where we fellowship with God. It has the unique ability to contain God, contact God, and receive God.
But God also made us with a soul. Our soul experiences emotions, thinks and considers, and makes all kinds of decisions. Our outward actions spring from our soul, and our soul is the means by which God expresses Himself through us.
So if Christ remains confined in our spirit and doesn’t fill our soul—our mind, emotion, and will—He’ll never be expressed through us. Instead, our living will only express our own thoughts, feelings, and decisions, not His.
What’s the problem that hinders God from getting what He wants?
The problem is that our default mode is to live by our strong willpower and good intentions, striving to attain excellent virtues. And if we aren’t clear about what God wants, we’ll be satisfied to live this way. But God won’t be satisfied because He isn’t interested in a goodness that’s apart from Him. If He were, we wouldn’t need to be reborn with His life.
We may attempt to emulate the actions and demeanor of Christ, but what’s expressed won’t be Christ, but ourselves. The source is our natural life, not the life of Christ within us. Imitation isn’t the same as expression.
For instance, we realize we need to love people, so we’ll strain to love a particular person at work or in our class who irritates us. We might even muster a little love for the person, but what comes out is our natural love. It’s not the love of Christ in us expressed through us. Instead, our love is like an artificial flower. It kind of looks like the real thing, but it doesn’t have the same feel, scent, color, and overall expression of the real thing because it doesn’t have the life of a flower. If we are to express Christ, the life of Christ must spread into our soul. Only Christ living in us and through us can express Christ.
Christ making His home in our hearts
Christ wants to spread from our spirit into our soul, but He needs our cooperation. We need to open up every part—every thought, every consideration, every feeling, every decision—to Christ and give Him a free way to spread there.
This is the very thing the apostle Paul prayed for in Ephesians 3:17:
“That Christ may make His home in your hearts through faith.”
Note 1 on “hearts” in the Recovery Version explains what this means:
“Our heart is composed of all the parts of our soul—mind, emotion, and will—plus our conscience, the main part of our spirit. These parts are the inward parts of our being. Through regeneration Christ came into our spirit (2 Tim. 4:22). After this, we should allow Him to spread into every part of our heart. Since our heart is the totality of all our inward parts and the center of our inward being, when Christ makes His home in our heart, He controls our entire inward being and supplies and strengthens every inward part with Himself.”
It’s a great thing for Christ to make His home in more parts of our heart. But He won’t force His way in. To allow Him in and cooperate with Him, we can pray every day, “Lord Jesus, make Your home in all my heart. I don’t want to keep any area off-limits to You. Lord, I give you the freedom to move into every bit of my mind, emotion, and will.”
The more we allow Christ to fill us day by day, the more our words, actions, and demeanor will express Him. When He lives in us and through us, our compassion, our kindness, all our virtues, will be His. This is what God really wants.