Most people recognise themselves as sinners. They admit they do some things that are morally wrong and acknowledge it with the saying ‘nobody’s perfect’. But can sinners do anything that pleases God?
The Bible tells us that no person by their own strength can do anything that pleases God. Without Christ everyone sins all the time and when they are not committing great sin, all they are doing is committing splendid sins. The apostle Paul tells us plainly: ‘Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God’ (Romans 8:8). Meanwhile in the Old Testament Isaiah said, ‘all our righteous acts are like filthy rags’ (Isaiah 64:6).
But if you are a Christian, you are a sinner who can please God. Jesus says ‘If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). Once you become a Christian and are with Christ, you are able to bear good and pleasing fruit despite being a sinner.
Now this may sound harsh. I have friends who are not Christians but appear to be lovely people. They have a genuine interest in others and try to help those who are suffering. Does that mean that they are always sinning and never pleasing God. The Bible says, ‘Yes’. How is a non-Christian sinning when they are being kind to the poor or helping the sick? It is their motive that is the problem. They are doing it not to serve the God who made them, but to serve another god. That god may be themselves or it may be a particular charity organisation for which they do volunteer work. Yes, they might be doing something that is declared by Scripture to be a righteous thing, but their motivation is wrong and a bad motivation makes a righteous act unrighteous. Everything we do should glorify God, not someone or something else.
So if someone genuinely wants to please God, they need to start with faith in him and that means faith in Christ. If they don’t start there they won’t get anywhere. Hebrews tells us this: ‘And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him’ (Hebrews 11:6). First, believe in God through Jesus Christ. Only then can you begin to please him by your actions.
Do you please God because you are in Christ, or do you displease God because you are outside of Christ?