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What God Wants

By William R. Cunningham
December 12, 1999

INTRODUCTION

There are so many standards both in the world and in the religious community that one begins to wonder what God really wants of us. Just considering the Christian community is enough to make you wonder what God really wants of us. There are so many denominations and factions within Christianity alone that it can become very confusing as to how to govern your life and what standard to use to do so. A pastor says this, an evangelist says that, and the Bible seems to say something else. What should we do and above all what does God really wants of us? What pleases God—really? What is really important for me to do relative to what God wants? Should I do what my church tells me to do or should I follow the Bible the best I know how? Well these and similar questions is the subject of this week’s lesson. We are going to look at God’s expectation of us. What does God want of us? How should my life really be above all of the rules and regulations, religious practices, and self-imposed standards? This lesson I hope will help to liberate us as we look to please God and not people. I pray that you will come away with a sense of knowing what God wants of you and pursue that for real fulfillment and liberation.

OVERALL PURPOSE

Before we can really answer the question of what God wants, we must first try to understand what God had in mind when he created us. What was and perhaps is the purpose of humans? Why did God create humans in the first place? The following are some possible answers.

  1. To have someone serve and worship him

  2. Because he wanted to for some other purpose

  3. For some reason that we don’t know

  4. To fulfill a desire that he has

The first possible answer isn’t very likely since we know that there are many people that do not server or worship him. As a matter of fact, there are many people that do not believe in God at all. If God wanted everyone to serve and worship him, assuming that he is all powerful, then all people would indeed serve and worship him because we would have no choice. We would in effect be programmed to serve and worship God. We wouldn’t have a choice to serve or worship him or not. So that answer doesn’t seem very likely considering the way things really are.

The second possible answer seems likely because no one can claim to know the mind of God and therefore we can never know what his intentions are or were completely. Perhaps he just wanted someone to manually take care of the Earth or perhaps he wanted to have some pets that he could watch, similar to the way we watch fish or our pet bird. Though this is possible it doesn’t seem likely in light of the evidence that we have from others who were inspired by God.

The third possible answer is similar to the last except that it highlights the possibility that there may not have been a particular reason and that we may not have a clue as to why God created humans. However, this would make life pointless and it would make God out to be an observer rather than a Father. If there was no particular reason for God to create humans then God would be a very distant observer indeed and the affairs of humans would not matter to him. This contradicts the doctrine of Christ in all respects. We assume that we have a purpose but we also recognize the fact that we still may not know why God created us or why we have the purpose we do.

The last answer seems more fitting in light of the writings that we have to date. The universe and everything in it appears to have been created by an intelligent being, which implies purpose. It is unreasonable to think that God would organize so much for no reason at all. It is unlikely to think that God would go through so much effort (by our standards) to organize the universe, galaxies, planets, and us for no reason except just because. Therefore, we can confidently conclude that God has a purpose for humans and if we can fulfill that purpose then we could please God.

Therefore, I submit to you that God overall wants us to please him by fulfilling the purpose that he has for us. This seems to be very consistent with the Christian doctrine of Jesus Christ in that the purpose of Jesus Christ was to help us to fulfill God’s purpose for us. In order to do that, we must first be reconciled to God since sin nature and God cannot commune.

The purpose of humans is to please God by fulfilling our purpose

Consider the following Bible scripture.

Revelation 4:11 (KJV) Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

The word pleasure in this verse is derived from a Greek word that means something that was determined, a choice that was made for a specific purpose, a decree. In other words it says that for God’s purpose everything was created. Other versions of the Bible don’t use the word pleasure. Instead they simply state that God made everything because he wanted it to and they were created by his will. This too implies purpose because it seems to imply that God had a reason for creating everything. If he had a reason then I believe that suggests that all of creation could fulfill this desire—Give God pleasure (gratification knowing that his purpose is fulfilled). Consider another verse that also suggests this idea of pleasure or fulfillment.

Genesis 1:26 through Genesis 1:28 (NIV) Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

This verse seems to give us many clues as to God’s purpose for us. Also consider Genesis 1:1-25, which periodically states that what God did was good. This strongly implies purpose and fulfillment otherwise there would be no sense in making a statement of the creation being good or bad. It would just be if there was no purpose. So let’s again look at Genesis 1:26-28 to get an idea of what our purpose or mode of fulfillment is.

  1. Be in the image and likeness of God

  2. Have dominion over other creation of God

It still is not apparent at this point what the purpose of humans is. How can being in the image and likeness of God bring God pleasure and how can having dominion over his creation please him? The answer does not lie necessarily in the purpose itself, rather in the accomplishment of that purpose. In other words, we may not know exactly what our purpose is but we do have a wealth of information on how to live according to God’s system. Perhaps living according to the way that God instructs us would bringing us to a point of accomplishing our purpose and thus pleasing God. So we don’t have to concentrate on knowing the purpose. We can concentrate on being on the right path to that purpose. It’s like knowing that you are on the right road but not sure where the road ends. The important thing is to know what road you are on. An indication of this is given in Matthew 7:13-14. What would it matter if we knew exactly what God wanted? How important would such information really be? What is more important is to know that we are fulfilling our purpose and that we are pleasing God. That transcends our knowledge of the end (God’s purpose for us). Therefore, the emphasis is on activity and not knowledge. The crucial aspect of life is to live a particular way (being on the right path) and not knowing a particular thing. This does not discredit knowledge because knowledge does have its place. It does seem to imply that knowledge is only a means to an end and not the end itself. I really believe that.

It is only necessary to be on the right path in order to accomplish our purpose

What Path?

OK. If it is more important for me to "do" instead of "know" then what should I do? Which way should I go? More precisely, which way should I follow? In general, in order to accomplish God’s purpose and please him, we must do things his way. Doing things that we consider to be good is not necessarily the right thing to do, relative to God’s "right." For example, how can we help someone except we know what that person needs done? Again, we may not know the overall task of the person but we can at least know what he or she wants done at that moment. We simply do what the person asks and we have helped him or her. It doesn’t matter how much we may think that we should do this or that in order to help him or her. It doesn’t matter what we believe the person needs help in. The fact is that in order to truly help someone then we must know what that person wants us to do and not necessarily what the final goal of the person is.

Likewise, with God it is only important that we do what we are supposed to do as part of the entire plan (in pleasing God and fulfilling our purpose). So we must know what God wants us to do as I said earlier. What should I do? What is the path that will lead me to fulfilling my purpose and thus pleasing God? Consider the following scripture.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NIV) Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

Respect and reverence of God and doing what he says is the practical purpose of man. Doing what God says is all that we can confidently do now in order to please God. Doing what God says puts us on the right path. However, this begs another question. What does God say? There is one traditional place that we know what God says and that place is the Bible. However, is this the only place that God speaks? No. He speaks to the hearts of people. How then could I know that the voice I hear is God? This seems to open Pandora’s box for anyone to come up with a doctrine and credit it to God. I believe that the truth lies in the idea of standards and implementation (interpretation). The standard is Jesus Christ and his teachings. The implementation is how we apply Jesus’ teaching of the Kingdom of God to our everyday life. This doesn’t discredit the Bible; rather it expands it to apply to all times and all people.

Take for example our illustration using the path. The path is simply a mode of operation that we use to govern our lives. Which path should you take is not dependent on the end per se’. The path is dependent on a standard. I believe that God in the Holy Scriptures reveals that standard to us. The path is dependent on a standard. Take any two points on a piece of land for example. There are many paths that can connect these two points. However, where you put that path will depend on certain ideas about landscaping, philosophies about animal rights, and construction methods. You have a standard by which to construct a path (road) between to points. You don’t just start digging anywhere. The standard that we use for governing our lives comes ultimately from God. Even the standards used in governments are ultimately from God.

The particular personal path that we follow is governed by that standard, personal circumstances, personal goals, and personal philosophies. The end result is that we do what God wants according to the way that he made us and thus we accomplish our purpose and therefore please God. I recommend the reading of the book of Ecclesiastes in regards to this idea. Again, what path should we take? If we do what God wants of us by following his standard of life then we should take the path that we are already on because we will already be where we are supposed to be. Consider the following scripture.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.106 I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments. (Psalm 119:105-106)

The word of God guides the writer of this passage and he is intent on doing what God says. The word of God can also guide us in the sense that we can have it as our foundation of all that we do.

The Source of the Standard

How can God’s standard be identified? I believe that the Bible is the primary source for understanding the basic "WAY" of God. Understanding the teachings in the Bible will help us to understand how God operates and what he wants of us. We can also have personal experiences with God but even these will be consistent with the Bible’s teaching. There has to be one standard from which all else grows else heresies and false teachings would flourish in the Christian community. I am not saying that the Bible deals with every conceivable situation that could arise in someone’s life. It does give us the foundation by which we can handle these situations and ultimately govern our life until finally we please God.

The Holy Spirit is very important at this stage. It is not the words on the pages of the Bible that give us our Christian standard. Rather, it is the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit) that teaches us and guides us to all truth. See John 16:13. I must admit that the ultimate source of the standard we are to use is really God himself. The Bible is simply the record of what others have learned and seen of God’s standard. For all practical purposes, we can say that the standard that we should use in knowing what to do so that we please God is revealed in the Bible.

This should not negate the fact that God will reveal himself to individuals. This is not to say that there exists a contradiction in the spoken word and the written word. The implementation of God’s WAY is not limited to the recordings of the Bible. The Bible gives us a picture of God’s WAY. However, God’s WAY simply is what it is.

The Basics

What are the basic concepts of God’s WAY? The Bible gives us some very important information in this regard. Consider the following scripture.

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)

This is an extremely important verse in understanding what God wants. This verse unlocks or reveals the true nature of God’s WAY. It is the foundation of all else and it is limitless in application or implementation. Consider the points that it makes.

  1. Love God with all that you have

  2. Love yourself

  3. Love others as you love yourself

Also notice that Jesus said that all else is based on these two commandments of love. Ultimately, we can say that God wants us to love. Why so? Remember that God created us to be in his image and likeness. Well God is a god of love. The Bible goes as far to say that God is love. See John 4:8, 16. The foundation of God’s WAY is the concept of love. Our love for God is the first stage to entering into fulfillment. We are not going to go into a discussion of what it means to love God and others since it is beyond the scope of this lesson. However, see my study on "To Love God" and "To Love Others" for more information about this.

Love is the cornerstone of doing what God wants. Love is the foundation to all that God wants us to do since God operates in love and we were made in his image and in his likeness. There are specific laws that were designed to govern God’s people and to ultimately keep the people until Christ came (Galatians 5:24). The WAY of love is the WAY of God. The WAY of love is the path that we should travel on and therefore the WAY that we should operate. What does God ultimately want of us? He wants us to love just like he loves. He wants his love to be manifest in us, which brings him pleasure.

The WAY of Love

The WAY of love is not a simple thing. It is very involved and very complex. Love may seem harsh and love may seem unfair. Love may appear as the enemy because of the pain that it seems to bring. However, above all, love covers all and sustains all because God is love. We have to understand that love is not the "Mr. Goody two shoes" type of mentality. Consider the following scripture.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

Here Paul’s gives us insight, in our language and understanding, of what love is. He paints a picture and says, "This is love." Paul doesn’t necessarily give us the definition of love. Instead he paints us a picture of what love is so that we can possibly grasp the idea of love. Living a life of love requires growth because we constantly grow more into the image of Christ and therefore God. Love is not defined by doing nice things. Love is not defined by a certain behavior. Rather, a behavior can be dependant on love and not seem nice at all, as I stated earlier. For example, God sent Jesus Christ, his one and only son that he loves to suffer and die for us. If love were defined by nice things than surely God would have spared Jesus Christ from suffering and dying and perhaps even come up with anther less painful way for us to be saved.

A parent disciplines a child because of love whereas to the child love seems to be nowhere in sight. So the way of love is much more and as a matter of fact has nothing to do with nice things, though nice things may be involved. A husband loves his wife but this too is far and removed from the love of God in that it is a completely different concept. To love your spouse, brother, friend, or self has little to do with the definition of loving God and therefore the experience of true love. These only describe a certain state of being (in a relationship) or an emotion at best. God’s love transcends all of these.

WHAT DOES GOD WANT?

Again we come to the basic question. What does God want of us? We can confidently say that God wants us to please him by fulfilling our purpose in creation. It is rather futile to know exactly what our individual or collective purpose is since we can never know, or so I believe. However, we can know what to do and knowing what to do will give us confidence of knowing we are on the right path. If we are on the right path then we can have confidence that we are in the process of fulfilling our God given purpose and therefore pleasing God.

We can base our doings on the WAY of love. Love is the foundation of all that God does and since we were created in his image then it would seem reasonable to expect that we should love as God loves. In other words, we should practice the same kind of love that God has and is in us (Christians). Doing that will ultimately bring pleasure to God because we would be doing what we were created to do. We can summarize the answer to the question of what God wants us to do as follows.

Do what God says and love.

That’s it. If we would put our energies on this basic concept then we are well on our way of both fulfilling our purpose and pleasing the Father. If we would pursue the way of love then this world would indeed be a better place to live. There wouldn’t be so much poverty due to selfish desires and greed. Do what God says. Consult the Bible and learn of his WAY and live according to it.

God wants us to live. He wants us to have life and have it more abundantly. This doesn’t mean that he wants us to have great wealth and prosperity though some will have that. It means that he wants us to have HIS life abundantly operating within us. This implies Jesus Christ since Jesus is the light that gives life to all (John 1:1-3).

RULES AND REGULATIONS

You may have noticed that I have not defined what God wants according to a set of rules and regulations. Though rules are sometimes good or helpful, they cannot encompass the entire scope of God’s WAY. The Christian life cannot and should not be defined by rules and regulations. Rules and regulations do have their place in our life and even in the life of a Christian. For example, a child is governed by a set of do’s and don’ts imposed by his or her parents. This is not to say that the child must live the rest of his or her life according to those rules. Those rules are necessary for instruction since the child does not have a sure way (mode of operation) to live by. A child doesn’t recognize danger, doesn’t have a necessary level of discernment for survival, and doesn’t have the necessary knowledge and experience to make effective decisions for him or herself. This is where the rules come in. A child, for example, may not realize the dangers of not being aware of where he or she is walking. However, an adult is naturally aware of such danger. This awareness is developed by first being told to, for example, "look both ways before crossing the street," and then it is realized by understanding the dangers that certain things may contain.

The Christian life is similar. A new Christian may need rules and regulations to get them to a place where they can stand on their own and think for themselves. A new Christian may be told to read the Bible once a day, pray once a day, go to church every Sunday and so forth. This is not to say that Christians in general are required to do these things or that God requires them. These rules are designed to help the new Christian grow. Soon the Christian will be able to operate as a Christian without the rules and regulations as the source of his or her governing method. Soon they will not feel guilty if they don’t go to church because their life is not dependent on the rules. They have the WAY and they know that they are on the road pleasing God if indeed he or she does what God says.

So again we can say that what we should do is to fear God and do what he says. This alone will ensure that we are on the road to pleasing God and fulfilling our purpose.

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