Pleasing God: How to Obey God Not Man

Pleasing God: How to Obey God Not ManToday I’d like to discuss a topic that has somehow acquired very blurry lines within Christian circles. Pleasing God has somehow lost it’s value, especially if it seems like “other Christians are doing it”. But the Bible is clear that we are to obey God not man. And that includes those who are our brethren in Christ.

What Does The Bible Say About Pleasing Man instead of Pleasing God?

As Christians, we are to do things with the intention to obey God not man. But sometimes, it seems like we forget that. If something in Christian circles becomes “the norm” then we become a little bit numb to what God has said about it vs. everyone else.

The Bible says that if we seek to please man, instead of pleasing God, we’re no longer servants of Christ:

“For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” – Galatians 1:10

The danger of seeking to please man instead of God is that we run the risk of actually choosing our fellow man over God. And therefore forsaking God in the process:

“Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” – John 12:42-43

So what are we to do? We are to obey God not man in everything we do, as servants of Christ. Even when we are servants to other men, we are ultimately to keep our service to God at the forefront of our minds over our service to them. We are obedient to them for Christ, and not for them:

“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;” – Ephesians 6:5-6

Doing What is Right in Your Own Eyes

If you’re a “good person” can’t you discern for yourself if what you’re doing is pleasing God or not? The problem here is that, even though our spirits are made perfect in Christ, we are still bound to an imperfect flesh. It can be very hard to discern between what our flesh wants and what our spirit is telling us is the right thing to do.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” – Jeremiah 17:9

When we begin to trust ourselves rather than what God tells us, we are also trying to please ourselves over pleasing God. We find ways to justify our actions which sound perfectly legitimate. The enemy absolutely loves to provide input here as well. Lots of half truths and lies which are hard to discern.

But this is why we have the Word of God, to test all things to see if they are from God.

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1

If you need more convincing, try reading through the book of Judges. Over and over again the people turn to doing what is right in their own eyes. And it always leads to their destruction before they finally cry out to God again.

“In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” – Judges 17:6, 21:25

So even when it comes to ourselves we need to obey God not man (ourselves) and this can be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome, so much so that it’s a lifelong process! Thankfully we have God to help us through it.

The Problem With Following Men and Not God

As we’ve discussed in the last two sections, it’s so important to obey God not man. Seeing something as okay to do just because other people say it is can lead us so far from pleasing God. But, let’s have a look at why that is exactly. Why can’t other men determine what is good and what isn’t?

People are Inconsistent and Change Frequently

The first thing to note about people is that they are extremely inconsistent and change frequently. Just have a look at our society, for example. Fifty years ago homosexuality was seen as a bad thing. Now it is embraced as a good thing to the point that people are encouraging their children from a young age to make such a choice.

What people view as good or bad changes with the shifting of the wind. They are unreliable. There is no solid foundation to stay grounded in when you rely on man for your morals.

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;” – Ephesians 4:14

Because of man’s inconsistency we can’t rely on him to make the decision between good and evil. Doing so would be a grave mistake, because we could end up stepping so far outside of God’s will that we don’t even see where we entered in:

“Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” – Jeremiah 17:5

But, there is a better alternative, of course, when we seek to obey God not man:

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” – Psalm 118:8

People Have a Limited Understanding

The next reason why trusting in other people for our morals is dangerous is because they have a limited understanding. Let’s use an example. Let’s say you are watching a bug follow another bug crawling across the floor. You see this huge pile of tar five feet ahead of the bugs. You are looking down from above and can see the whole perspective of what’s going to happen. Whereas the leader bug on the ground can’t see what’s coming. So they’re both going to get stuck in the tar.

“Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” – Matthew 15:14

So when we try pleasing God based on what He’s already told us we should and shouldn’t do in the Bible, we are following someone who can see and know much more than we can. Rather than following someone who can only see such a small portion of the bigger picture.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LordFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

People Are Imperfect and Fallen

Then there’s the main reason why we shouldn’t gather our moral ground from people and why we should obey God not man. We’re still in an imperfect fallen state. Even if you’re reborn through Christ, you haven’t received your glorified body yet. So we’re all still struggling against the desires of the flesh:

We know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand, for I do not practice what I will to do, but I do the very thing I hate. But if I practice what I do not will to do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing, for the will to do what is right is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good I desire to do, I do not do, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who does it, but sin that lives in me. 

I find then a law that when I desire to do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God according to the inner man, but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 7:14-25

Our Flesh Is Not In Line with Our Spirit

So how can we trust our fellow man (or ourselves) if our spirits and our flesh are at war against each other?

“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. These are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” – Galatians 5:17

Instead, pleasing God first, by seeking to obey God not man, is what we must strive to do. And to do that, we must trust in His Word to guide us, rather than man.

The Importance of Pleasing God by Following Him

As you can see, choosing to obey God not man is so vital to our walks with God. This can be an easy statement to take until you find yourself in a situation where you have to make that choice. Perhaps there are several other Christian friends going to see a questionable movie. They say it’s okay but God says:

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” – Philippians 4:8

Who do you follow in this situation, the crowd or God?

In everything we need to turn to God’s revealed will through His Word, and through prayer and supplication to the Spirit to lead us into that which is good. We can’t just take other people’s word for it. But, let’s have a look at some of the reasons why you can rely on God to lead you instead of man.

God is Unchanging

Unlike the inconsistencies of man, God does not change. There are a lot of people out there who would lead you to believe that He does. That He changed His mind about His commandments or in some other thing. But this simply isn’t true, and the Word of God confirms it:

“For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” – Malachi 3:6

Why is this such a good thing? Because doing things for the sake of pleasing God doesn’t have to be confusing. What He does and doesn’t see as sin never changes. Because the fact is, that God doesn’t change. So if God says that adultery is a sin, it will always be a sin. Period.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” – James 1:17

God Knows More Than We Do

As we talked about above, people have a limited perspective, whereas God’s perspective is outside of our minute world. There may be times when God says something is a sin or that we should do something in particular, but we don’t understand why. That’s okay, because we can’t see the whole picture. There are things that God knows that we do not. Even so, we should always still choose pleasing God by obeying His will, even if it’s something we can’t understand.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LordFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

We simply do not know all that God knows. But, I can tell you that He doesn’t create laws just to make us miserable, but rather for our good, even if we can’t see it from our perspective.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Choosing to obey God not man can be very difficult because we don’t know everything, and we don’t have all the answers. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, when we choose to lean into God for the strength and wisdom to do it.

God is Holy and Perfect

Unlike man’s fallen state, God is Holy and perfect, which is another reason why seeking to please God not man is so important.

“He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” – Deuteronomy 32:4

We may like to think we know best on many topics. But just because we think something, doesn’t mean it’s true. How many times have you thought you were doing the right thing and actually made things even worse? Instead, we are to allow ourselves to be led by God, and He won’t lead us astray:

“Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.” – Psalm 25:8

But God doesn’t leave us wondering what His will is. He reveals His perfect will through His law and His Word:

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.” – Psalm 19:7-11

So we are called to follow Him and in turn we can strive to be holy because He is holy:

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15-16

Discernment: What it Takes to Obey God Not Man

So how can we make sure that we are pleasing God in all that we do? Here is where we need spiritual discernment.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” – Romans 12:2

In every situation we are to test our potential choices against the Word of God. Then, we are to seek to follow the choices that line up with God’s Word and turn from the ones that don’t.

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1

“Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” – Ephesians 5:10

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:21

But how do we do this? Well, thankfully we are always able to ask God for the wisdom and discernment we need to be able to obey God not man in everything we do. These are the types of things that God loves for us to pray for, because they are things that He wants us to desire.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” – James 1:5

Just remember that there will be those who think the choices you make are foolish. The world will not understand “why it’s such a big deal”. This is normal, but it’s definitely not comfortable.

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” – 1 Corinthians 2:14

So Will You Seek to Please God Not Man?

Now it’s up to you. God has given us free will and He desires for us to follow Him. Not as robots, but out of love towards Him. So you will always have a choice. That doesn’t mean that your choices won’t lead to consequences, of course. Just ask yourself, how does God want us to live our lives? Would God want us to live our lives seeking to obey God not man?

I pray that you will seriously consider why pleasing God over your friends, family, and even yourself, is so important. God will bless you considerably when you choose Him over the world:

“Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways.” – Psalm 128:1

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