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  • Henry Omotayo

Trying to Please God? Quit Trying

Galatians 2:19-21

Message No. 0614 | Twitter @GodandUs |

Watching movies and listening to followers, I know of some traditional religions where you couldn’t please their deities without following the rules. Not only could you not please them, the consequences of not pleasing them are often grave. This could range from villagers dying without apparent illnesses or causes, to the local king’s children dying and the deity needing sacrifices that are today considered barbaric. However, even modern-day religions are often rule-based, including praying a certain number of times daily and facing a certain direction and others teaching that if you engage in certain level of bad behavior, you could reincarnate in future as a goat, a rat, or some other undesirable animal. These rules are either kept by followers or you are labelled or ostracized from the religion, or you feel so much guilt that you have to do much more in order to remedy your errors or lapses.

Coming from this type of background, the Galatians, who were traditionally worshipers of idols, could not quite grasp the kind of freedom-based faith that Paul preached to them, so when some other preachers came to them to dole out rules (you must be circumcised, you must be this and must be that) that they needed to follow in order to please God, they quickly moved over so they could continue their rule-based practices, relying totally on their own efforts to please God. Of course, Paul was quite mad when he heard what happened, such that he used very harsh words when he wrote to them to bring them back on track.

Giving his own life example, Paul told the Galatians how he tried to keep rules and failed. In Galatians 2:19-20 (MSG), Paul wrote:

What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

Today, many people are still boxed up in trying to please God. We still want those rules that we can check off on daily basis to satisfy ourselves that we are in good standing with God, whereas pleasing God has moved on from following rules (as in the Old Testament) to living a life of freedom and grace (as in the New Testament). Can you believe that those who have suffered for long durations have accepted suffering as normal and when they are freed from the suffering they feel like freedom is fake life and they want to go back to their old ways of life? If you don’t believe it, look at the story of Israel when they were freed from 430 years of slavery in Egypt. They nagged Moses daily, asking to go back to Egypt because they missed the cucumbers.

A life of freedom does not mean that we are free to do anything we want. It does not mean that we can continue in our sins or indulge in reckless living. Even Paul, the grace preacher, made it clear that we cannot continue in sin and expect the grace of God to continue. God forbid, he says in Romans 6:1-2. What a life of freedom implies is that we do not live any longer by relying on our efforts to please God, because our efforts will take us nowhere. We do not need to check those boxes and clap for ourselves that we have kept the law. We do not need to beat ourselves up when we are unable to meet a target or when we omit something or accidentally do something we didn’t want to do. When we live in the grace of God, the Holy Spirit will guide us into making the right choices on daily basis, something our efforts will always fail to achieve.

Paul was a Pharisee and he knew that rule-keeping will lead God’s children nowhere. In Galatians 2:21 (MSG), he wrote:

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

Are you still trying to please God through your efforts? Please stop trying and rely completely on the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though we might be strangers to freedom and grace, we need to try these not only because it’s much easier, but because our efforts are a direct rejection of what Christ has done and an acceptance of a yoke that was destroyed more than 2,000 years ago. Going back to Egypt was a path that God forbade for the children of Israel. Going back to relying on our own efforts and righteousness is a path that we must all forbid for ourselves.

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 If you are yet to give your life to Christ, you do not have a covenant with God and His promises do not apply to you. To come under these promises, please surrender your life to Christ today, by praying this prayer:
 Lord I know that I am a sinner and I am unable to save myself. I am sorry for my sins and I pray that you please forgive me. I am aware that Your Son Jesus died for my sins and I accept Him as my Lord and savior. I surrender my life unto you from this moment. Please take control of my entire being and help me to be obedient to your Word, going forward. Thank you, Lord, for hearing me. I have prayed in Jesus’ name. Amen.
 If you prayed the foregoing prayer, you have just been born again. Please find a Bible believing church in your area and ask to see the pastor. Let him or her know that you have just given your life to Christ and s/he will guide you on next steps in your journey as a child of God. The Lord bless you!
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