Sermon April 7, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1392

April 7, 2019 Hebrews 13.1-21

Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


Pleasing to God”


  • Eleven Imperatives


Hebrews 13 gives eleven things for believers to do. After 12 chapters on Jesus Christ and who He is and what he has done, it’s like the author has been holding it all in and explodes with final imperatives. Don’t get me wrong, Hebrews has noted how we are to respond to Jesus throughout, but this is more intense, more condensed into a few verses. Here we have rapid fire commands.

1. Let brotherly love continued 13.1

2. Show hospitality 13.2

3. Remember those in prison (believers imprisoned for faith) 13.3

4. Honor marriage 13.4

5. Be content with what you have 13.5-6

6. Imitate the faith of your leaders 13.7

7. Maintain right teachings 13.9-14

8. Praise the Lord 13.15

9. Do good and share what you have 13.16

10. Practice obedience and submission 13.17

11. Pray 13.18-19


It looks almost like he was running out of time and space to get everything in he wanted to say.

One word that is repeated in this chapter is “pleasing”. In verse 16 it is the imperative to do good, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” And in verses 20-21, the benediction, “20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.


This is what I want to highlight today, that which pleases God. I’m sure that pleasing God is not limited to those verses, but that every item in the list above and everything commanded of us in Hebrews and throughout the Bible, when we are faithful to do those things, it is pleasing to God. But isn’t that always the case when people do what we ask of them are we not pleased? I watch The Voice sometimes and the judges will often say the contestants did everything asked of them and it pleases the judges.

When our children do what we ask, we are pleased. Then anyone does what we ask or hope, we are pleased. So it is with God; God is pleased with us when we do what He commands. But there is something more pleasing to God even before our obedience, that we are in Christ. God is pleased simply in the fact that we are believers, we trust God, we are a people in Jesus Christ. It is again like having a child, we are pleased to have our children, then pleased in their obedience beyond that first pleasure.



  • Doing What God Commands


Prior to being in Christ we are not pleasing, not willing to be obedient, not trusting in God. When we come to Christ, everything changes. Our goal no longer is to please ourselves or to please everyone around us, our goal is to please God. Our desire is to be a people pleasing to God.

I like the quote from Thomas Merton that says even our desire to please God is pleasing to God.

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Imagine our lives with the sole intent to please God. Could we pause before an action or a word to ask ourselves if this is pleasing to God? Not really. We aren’t able to stop all the time with each breath. So what we do is seek to be molded and transformed into a people who naturally do what God intends for us. There is a phrase from the novel Joshua where the character Joshua is said to “breathe God”. (It is a book about how Jesus might look to us if He came in modern times.) His actions and words and very life pleased God all the time.

Such pleasure with God means we are doing what God desires of us...things like, following Jesus, following commandments, finding our rest in Christ, seeking the kingdom of God, walking with God and in His word. It means faithful living, worshiping, praying, everything that the Bible reveals to us. It is not just fulfilling a list of do’s and do’nts, but it is participating in the loving relationship with God through Jesus in the Spirit. We don’t pursue simply keeping rules and regulations, but seek to rightly relate to God, to walk and talk and live with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior in an intimate vibrant growing relationship. In such a relationship we will grow to what to do nothing but keep the rules and statutes and worship and practice obedience. We will want to do everything we can to please God.


  • God Takes Pleasure In…


Of course to please God it helps us to know what pleases Him in accordance with Scripture. In the Old Testament the majority of pleasure comes from aromas! Many verses speak of burnt offerings and food offerings that were a pleasing aroma to the Lord (i.e. Lev 1.9; Num28.8). It’s like coming home and smelling the roast that has been cooking for hours in the crock pot. Or better yet, it’s like the chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven that gives the pleasing aroma. But I suspect it was not he aroma as much as what the aroma represented which was a sacrifice pleasing to God to being forgiveness of sins.


The Old Testament also reveals that God is pleased with our worship:

Psalm 104.31-35 May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works, 32 who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke! 33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. 34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord. 35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more! Bless the Lord, O my soul! Praise the Lord!


The Lord is pleased to have a people for Himself, 1 Sam 12.19-22

19 And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” 20 And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.


One of the more well known passages is from Micah 6.6-8

With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?


These are the kinds of things that please the Lord. And the New Testament also shows us many things.


The first thing we might remember is how God was pleased with Jesus (Matt 3.17). When Jesus was baptized and the Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, they heard God say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” In a similar way I think we can consider God pleased with all His children in Christ.


Jesus’ obedience was also pleasing to God,

John 8.28-30 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.


Other ways we please God are to not be deceived by empty words, walk in the light, and try to discern all that pleases God.

Eph 5.6-10 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.


We also can find certain things that make it impossible to please God. One is from Hebrews.

Heb 11.6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.


Another is from Romans 8.1-8

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 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. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.


While we indeed can simply be pleasing to God by being His own people, we also seek out those things that we can do to please Him.


  • Pleasing to God


What is pleasing to God? The Bible gives us plenty of answers to that question, but what I want us to also see is that, like everything else with God, we are not left to our own ability or power to find that which is pleasing. God is at work in us for His pleasure. That is what I see in the final benediction of Hebrews,

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

I think this is somewhat the meaning behind Paul’s word in Phil 1.6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” This is the work of God to sanctify us, to build us up in Christ, to make us more like Christ. God is working in us all the things necessary to please Him. Now, that does not mean that we have nothing to do. It does not mean that we just sit back and think about all the things God may be doing in us. What it does signify is that apart from God there is nothing we could do to please Him. What it means is that even as we do the things pleasing to God, we can give God thanks for that which He has done in us to enable us to please Him! It is God who has made it possible to please Him. Through His gift of Jesus, who died for us and rose again from the dead, we are enabled with every breath we take, every praise we give, every good work done, every kindness shown, enabled to please God. In Christ we are given the desire to want to please God, and God has given us this desire. So let us strive to let brotherly love continue, and show hospitality, and hold marriage in honor, along with all the things God finds pleasing in us by His grace. Let us live with the mindset that seeks to bring pleasure to the One who made us and saves us and loves us. Thanks be to God.




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