2011 Ligonier National Conference - Session 12 (Robert Godfrey)
The conference continued today with a message by Ligonier teaching fellow Dr. Robert Godfrey on the topic “Pleasing God.” Dr. Godfrey explained that when he saw his message title, his first though was “Can we please God?” He reminded us that Scripture says God is pleased with His people. It’s amazing that as powerfully as Scripture speaks about the continuing sinfulness of even the regenerated, it also speaks about how God does delight in His people. How can both be true at the same time? Dr. Godfrey noted that after the Heidelberg Catechism discusses the Ten Commandments, it asks whether we can keep these things perfectly. The answer given is “No.” In this life even the holiest Christians have only a small beginning of the obedience to which they are called. The holiest of us not only have small beginnings of the obedience to which we are called, we also have small beginnings to understanding how sinful we really are.
Dr. Godfrey continued by reminding us that Jesus is powerfully at work in His people to lead us to become more holy and that He delights in that. We may often be overwhelmed by a sense of our sinfulness, but Jesus is accomplishing His purpose in us, and when He returns, He will be glorified in us. So how are we to think about what God is doing in us? How are we to think about pleasing God? One of the sad things we see is how frequently people who set out to please God run amuck. They run amuck by really pleasing themselves. King Henry VIII, for example, couldn’t distinguish between what he wanted and what is right. We have to remember that God doesn’t want us to make up ways to please Him. He wants us to please Him in the way He has revealed.
Dr. Godfrey then turned to Matthew 26:1–13, the story of Jesus anointing at Bethany). According to Jesus, the woman who anointed him with costly oil pleased God. But what did she do that pleased God? Why does Jesus focus on her? Jesus commends her because she has been listening and believing. She has realized that He is shortly going to be crucified. She wants to prepare his body for burial. She is the only one who has understood and believed His word. Mary is a listener to Jesus. That’s why she should never be forgotten.
Mary also recognizes Jesus’ supreme importance. She recognizes that He is the Messiah, the Son of God, who is giving His life for many. Not only is she anointing Him for burial, she’s anointing Him for resurrection. She believes His word and she recognizes His importance. That’s something we can do to please God. We can look to His word to point us to Him and His importance.
Not just individuals, but congregations, please God. Christianity is a communal endeavor. We can see this in the letter to the church of Smyrna in Revelation 2. How is this church pleasing to God? In the same way that Mary was pleasing to God. They listened to the word of Christ, believed the word, and lived the word. They also saw and understood the importance of Jesus. We too can please God by listening to His Son, by believing His Son, and by living in light of who He is.