The Care and Feeding of the Born-Again Heart: In Remembrance of Our Spiritual Forebears… To Recall, Recognize, Repent, Renew, Rejoin
Each short, pithy, and sweetmeat for the race-runner’s heart will be followed by a very brief offering under the banners of “The 5-R’s”: Recall (Dt 8:2; Rev 2:5), Recognize (John 8:32; 17:17), Repent (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9), Renew (Isa 40:31; Romans 12:1-2), Rejoin (Ezk 11:19-20; 1 Peter 4:9-11).
Our “Principle from a Puritan Forbearer” for today’s feast of the heart at The Training Table [The Benefits of Seeking to Please God, by Puritan Richard Baxter] speaks for itself. Please read it carefully, over-and-over, pouring over each word, truth, and principle until it sinks deep into the spiritual tummy—to pervade all of you!
The very first line, of the very first point… alone… should suffice to have us drop to our knees in praise of God for His forgiveness of our sin and making available to us a relationship with Him, in Christ, and by the Holy Spirit, “The pleasing of God is your happiness itself…”
I wonder if you, or anyone you know, have ever said, “I just want to be happy.”
Here’s the “math”:
Pleasing God = happiness. Happiness = pleasing God.
Displeasing God = unhappiness. Unhappiness = displeasing God.
It isn’t that God is merely mean-spirited and likes to whack folks who don’t please Him; God knows better than anyone what actually makes His creatures HAPPIEST! And that is what He wants more than anything for us.
Even a proven and dismal failure at math like me can grasp this equation for a happy life—which no amount of unhappiness can take away! But there’s much more…
The Benefits of Seeking to Please God
“Consider the benefits of taking up with the pleasing of God.
1. The pleasing of God is your happiness itself; it’s a matter of pure, and full, and constant comfort, which you may have continually at hand, and no man can take from you. Get this and you have the end and purpose of man; nothing can be added to it, except for the perfection and culmination of the same—which is heaven itself.
2. [If you aim to please God and only God] What abundance of disappointments and vexations will you escape—which tear the very hearts of man-pleasers, and fill their lives with unprofitable sorrows!
3. [Pleasing God] will guide and order your cares, and desires, and thoughts, and labors to their right and proper end, and prevent the perverting of them and spending them in sin and vanity on the creature.
4. [Pleasing God] will make your lives not only to be divine but this divine life to be sweet and easy, while not live for pleasing man—which would create in you prejudice and difficulties. When others glory in wit, and wealth, and strength, you would glory in this: That you know the Lord and aim to please only Him (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
5. As God is above man, thy heart and life is highly ennobled by having so much respect for God—while rejecting inordinate respect to man: This is indeed to walk with God.
6. The sum of all graces is contained in this sincere desire to please thy God; contentedness is secure as this is attained. [Pleasing God] is faith, and humility, and love, and holy desire, and trust, and the fear of God… all joined together. You “sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and make him your fear, and dread, and sanctuary” (Isaiah 8:13-14)
7. If human approval be good for you and worth your having, first pleasing God is the best way to it—for God hath the disposal of it. “If a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him,” (Proverbs 16:7).
Pleasing God is SO Good… When We Know What’s Pleasing to God!
Recall: My Faith is First—“And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit thank you for the very day my faith in you began at my conversion in that you led me to know “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)! Thank you for my faith in you, caused by you… the very beginning and means to a life that consists in what pleases you.
Recognize: My God-Love is Leading—“And to love God with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:33).
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit since my faith in you was begun by you in eternity past, and by your grace I was saved from my sin by your Son’s propitiating sacrifice on the cross for me and all who believe, I will commit to the priority and pleasure of sacrificially loving you, and my neighbor, as myself.
Repent: My Spirit is Superseding—“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5).
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit I repent when the flesh, my sin, supersedes over pleasing you… as it often does. This is surely not pleasing to you; and even though it does not take me out of your hand, it does take me out of fellowship with the Holy Spirit—and render me incapable of setting my mind on the things of the Spirit. Forgive me when I am displeasing to you by setting my mind on the things of the flesh.
Renew: My Gratitude is in Giving—“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16).
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Use the renewal of the benefits of pleasing you, and my God-pleasing heart and Spirit you raised from the dead with-in me, to compel me to sacrificially please you with-out.
Rejoin: My Doing is Discerning—“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit animate me to present my heart, spirit, and life to be a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship”… and most pleasing to you God. Help my deepest desire and calling to please you to inspire me to renew my mind… as the means too the end of serving others just as Jesus did and does!
Baxter’s benefits of seeking to please God… are well-worth our meditating on, raising up in prayer, giving daily, unceasing thanks for, and sharing with a small fellowship in the faith so that the Holy Spirit might grow within our own heart anything and everything… that is pleasing to God—our happiness itself.
Please join us at The Training Table next week as we look at an excerpt from John Newton’s, Conviction of Sin: An Awakening as an occasion to not only be reminded of the great Gospel-benefits of seeing our heart more as God does [“There is a petition which I have heard in public prayer, “Lord, show us the evil of our hearts.”], but also to celebrate the 30th anniversary this month of my own awakening and conversion by means of a conviction of my sin.
Thank you so very much for joining us at the table this week. I think you’ll heartily agree, this reminder of The Benefits of Seeking to Please God has been a sumptuous and supremely satisfying Feast of the Heart!
‘Till we sup together again,