One key to experiencing the Higher Christian Life is the understanding that we live, not for the applause of man or for our own self-gratification (no matter how noble our pursuits may seem), but solely for the pleasure and approval of God. Because quite honestly, everything else is temporal. Our single desire should be like that of Jesus, who said, “I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29). Jesus lived His life for the pleasure of the Father. And to experience the Higher Christian life, so should we.
Oswald Chambers says it this way in the March 17th offering in My Utmost for His Highest:
It is arduous (difficult, demanding great effort) work to keep the master ambition in front. It means holding one’s self to the high ideal year in and year out, not being ambitious to win souls or to establish churches or to have revivals, but being ambitious only to be “accepted of Him.” It is not a lack of spiritual experience that leads to failure, but a lack of laboring to keep the ideal right.
And this is hard. I know in my own life I often get sidetracked with the “good” things in my relationship with Him, such as being a pastor, leading my family, preaching and teaching the Word of God, ministering to others, praying, studying the Word, witnessing to others, etc. Note, all of these things are good and expected and encouraged of someone who claims to be a believer. But it is these “good” things that can, and will, demand most of our time and strength and be seen by others as desirable and praiseworthy— on this side of eternity. Yet they are not necessarily the “best” things in life that have eternal consequences today and forever. Let me explain.
The key to a deeper Christian life is to understand how we are to emulate Jesus in everything. He is our model, our example, and our guide. If we want to know how to respond in a certain situation, we look to Jesus and see what He did and commit to doing the same. And if we struggle with our flesh, we need to remember that Jesus has left us Himself (“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” – John 14:18) in the person of the Holy Spirit who abides with us forever (John 14:16). Hence, we have Him living in us to empower us to do the will of the Father (John 5:19). Just like Jesus had.
So why do we still struggle?
How do we Learn to Live for God’s Pleasure Alone?
One of the highest praises ever given by the Father was said of His Son, before Jesus had even begun His earthly ministry. His affirming words were publically recorded not only at the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:7, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22), but also at the transfiguration experience that was more private in nature (Matt. 17:5). Remember what God said about His Son on multiple occasions:
“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” – Matthew 3:17.
It is a wonderous thing to have the Father, the Creator of all, the Sovereign One, be well-pleased with someone or something. Especially if that someone is you. And if it is possible to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21), then to place your desire for His approval as the top priority of your life would be an extremely wise thing to do. Actually, it would be the only way to live the abundant life Jesus promised
So where do we find guidance in how to live a life pleasing to Him alone? How do we learn how to live for the applause of an audience of One? Consider the following passages as an introduction, Lesson 101, on the importance of being well-pleasing to Him and Him alone.
Romans 12:1-2 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that (our task) you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable (or well-pleasing) to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that (1) good and (2) acceptable and (3) perfect will of God.
2 Corinthians 5:9 – Therefore we make it our aim (ambition, purpose), whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.
Ephesians 5:8-10 – For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable (well-pleasing) to the Lord.
But there is so much more we can, and will, discover about the Higher Christian Life as we strive to experience a deeper relationship with Him that comes from obedience, surrender, and a desire to be found well-pleasing in His sight. But we will speak more about this when we gather together this Sunday.