Are you a people pleaser? Are you self-centered? Or do you seek to please the Lord? What is our motivation behind the decisions we make in life?
Some people want to look good in the eyes of their friends, their boss, their pastor, whomever. They decide what to wear according to what other people might think of them. They do their best when "important" people are watching them. Or maybe they are afraid to tell a friend "no" because they might lose a friend. They put on their best manners when others are around to impress. Ultimately, their motive is self-centeredness. They are more concerned about what others think about "them" than anything else.
Others are just plain selfish. If it feels good, do it. I have rights. I'll sue you if I don't get my way. I will eat whatever I want. I will wear whatever I want. I will listen to the music I like. I will spend my time my way. I know I have a problem with (anger, yelling, impatience, lying, sarcasm, etc.), but that's just me! Or maybe they're the type to complain. When asked how they are - "Oh, fine." or "All right, I guess." Maybe they don't like how much TV their husband watches or the sermon at church. What is the motivation? Does it put the focus on self?
Why are we here on this earth? What is our purpose? I believe we have a two-fold purpose: the first is our relationship with God, and the second is our relationship with people. "Love God; love your neighbor." I guess that doesn't leave much room for self, does it?
Part of our relationship with the Lord is spending time with Him, getting to know Him and developing our relationship together. Part of our relationship with Him is obedience. Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will obey Me." Is this a commandment? I think not.
Let's consider a husband/wife relationship first. I love my husband very much. Therefore, I take time to get to know him better. As I get to know him better, I find out what kinds of things please him. My husband has let me know how much he likes my homemade pizza every Friday night, so do I tell him, "I am not under the Law, I am under grace, so therefore I have the freedom to decide whether or not I want to make you pizza every Friday"? Of course not! But I choose to make pizza for him every Friday night because I desire to please him. I was shopping for clothes with my daughter today and she said didn't particularly like a certain outfit I tried on, so even though I liked it, I did not buy it because I wanted to please her. Some wives may wear a certain hairstyle because their husband likes it, or wear a favorite outfit that their husband admires. There are lots of things we were are willing to do just to please a loved one.
Now, granted, this pendulum can easily swing too far in the opposite direction where you become a people pleaser RATHER THAN doing the right thing. But if we remember that our second purpose here on earth is to love others, we will be delighted to find little ways of pleasing our loved ones and those God puts in our life, while still doing what pleases God also.
Should this be any different in our relationship with our Lord? I chose just one example from the many verses the Bible has to say on this subject: "Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him." II Cor 5:9 If I am willing to wear certain clothes to please my employer, to please my husband, to please my daughter, or whoever, then why is it any different for me to wear certain clothes to please my Lord? Shouldn't I desire to do that which is pleasing to the Lord? And how do I know what is pleasing to Him? By studying His Word and hearing His heart. And don't I please Him by obeying Him? Isn't obedience pleasing to Jesus? He tells us over and over again, in some way, "to obey is better than sacrifice," and "if you love Me, you will obey Me." Rather than being a commandment, it is what comes naturally out of our heart. When we love someone, we desire to please them. When we love Jesus, we desire to please Him. One concrete way of pleasing the Lord is to obey Him. Therefore, since I love Jesus so much, I desire to please Him, and what better way than to obey Him!
Does this put me back under the Law again? Not any more than I am under the law to fix homemade pizza every week. Will I be punished if don't please my husband by fixing his favorite meal? I hope not! Will God punish me if I get a pierced lip? Probably not. But will I put a wedge in our relationship? Probably. I have done something displeasing to my Lord.
Am I working my way to heaven? Am I living a "works"-based salvation? No. My salvation is secure in the person of Jesus Christ. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Eph 2:8-10 My salvation is a gift of God, by His grace and through faith. I can do nothing at all to earn salvation. We all know that verse. But notice what comes immediately after this incredible salvation verse: good works! We are created in Christ Jesus for good works! After salvation, God has prepared good works for us to do. God expects us to do good works - after salvation!
So why do I wear the clothes I do? First, because they please the Lord. Second, because they please my family. Why do I eat what I do? First, because I am not my own; I was bought at a price. Therefore I must glorify the Lord in my body, in His temple. That is pleasing to Him. Second, because I know He knows how my body works better than anyone else does! How do I style my hair? wear jewelry? make-up? shoes? ...
All these are outward manifestations of a heart that truly desires only to please the Lord. All of our character should fall into the same categories. Why am I patient with Alicia? First, to please the Lord. Second, to have a relationship with my daughter. Why do I tell the truth? First, because lying is an abomination to the Lord and I desire to please Him so I will obey Him. Second, because I care about my relationship with my fellow man.
Notice that nothing is about me. I am not patient or truthful to make myself look good. That would be doing the right thing with the wrong motive. I have seen many people try to do what they thought was the "right" thing because someone else told them to do it, because they wanted to be a people pleaser, or because it just seemed like the right thing to do. But their motivation came from the wrong place. It was ultimately based on self. Plain ol' self.
Is my desire to truly please the Lord first in all my life? Do I love Jesus? Then I will obey Him because obedience is pleasing to Him. But I guess I'd better get to know Him so I will understand His heart, His best, His ways. No rules. Just pleasing the Man that I love!