My last post was about a decisive question that can help us say no- without guilt.
“Who are you willing to disappoint?”
I ended that post with a quick look at Mary and Martha through this “lens.” I quoted Jon Bloom, who drove the point home when he wrote, Mary was more willing to disappoint Martha than to disappoint Jesus.
To disappoint Jesus; the Son of God, and the second member of the Holy Trinity.
Begging the Question: Can you make God sad?
Which begs at least one question: Can we- God’s dear, redeemed children- disappoint Him? Did that line about disappointing Jesus did it give you pause?
But maybe it’s as clear-cut as it was for one of my friends.
“Well,” she simply said when I brought this up, “if it’s possible to please God, it must be possible to displease or disappoint him.”
And Scripture makes that plain, we can please God. (See Col. 1:10, Rom. 12:1, 14:18, Col. 3:20, 1 Thess. 2:4, 1 Tim. 2:1-3, 5:4, Heb. 13:16, 1 John 3:22.) Basically, whenever we trust and obey God, he is pleased.
But maybe this is a novel concept: that our choices could possibly disappoint and grieve our God.
After all, Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. We echo Job and know that he can do all things; no purpose of his can be thwarted. We “amen” Isaiah’s God, who makes known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.
And I’m suggesting that it is possible to displease and grieve this all-knowing, all-powerful, sovereign God?
I am. Here’s why.
“Love does not equal unconditional affirmation.”
That’s what Kevin DeYoung says. It’s in the context of The Hole in our Holiness, in a chapter called “The Pleasure of God and the Possibility of Godliness.”
We need to clear up the confusion about whether or not a forgiven, justified, reconciled, adopted, born-again believer can displease God.
The logic seems sound: “I am clothed in Christ’s righteousness. Nothing can separate me from the love of God. So no matter what I do, God sees me as his pure, spotless child.” It’s true there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1), but this does not mean God will condone all our thoughts and behaviors.
Though in Christ he overlooks our sins in a judicial sense, he is not blind to them.
For the record, affirmation means approval or validation. So, to paraphrase, God’s love for us does not mean that he approves or validates everything we do. Even believers can displease God. Scripture is clear about that. Our sins hide hide his face from us.
Discountenanced was born one sad night.
When displeasure brings discipline.
We can “grieve” the Holy Spirit of God (Eph. 4:30). Though God is always for us in Christ (Rom. 8:31-34), Christ can still have things against us (Rev. 2:4). The fact that God disciplines his children (Heb. 12:7) means that he can sometimes be displeased with them.
We already know that God gives consequence. Moses struck the rock and couldn’t enter the Promised Land. God didn’t affirm that choice. Even though Moses was his servant and talked with his servant Moses as to a friend.
My sons have heard this more than once: I discipline you because I love you. I don’t discipline your friends because I don’t care as much about them. I don’t make them eat their veggies and brush their teeth and practice piano and get good sleep. I don’t because I don’t love them like love you.
Love means we grieve and can be displeased,
So with God. If he never noted our sin, he’d never discipline us. But you know what Hebrews 12:8 says about that, “If you are not disciplined you are illegitimate children and not true sons.
Love does not equal unconditional affirmation.
A “For-us” Frown
Instead, DeYoung writes (p. 74),
Love entails the relentless pursuit of what is for our good. And our good is always growth in godliness. “Those whom I love,’ Jesus said to the church at Laodicea, “I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19).
Confused? Maybe this will help. DeYoung explains,
Through faith we are joined to Christ and have union with him. That bond is unbreakable. Our union with Christ is an established fact, guaranteed for all eternity by the indwelling of the Spirit. When we sin, our union with Christ is not in jeopardy. But our communion is.
It is possible for believer to have more or less of God’s favor. It is possible for us to have sweet fellowship with God, and it’s possible to experience his frown- not a frown of judgment, but a “for us” frown that should spur us on to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24).
I’ve been on both ends of “for-us” frowns. And on both sides, I know, is love.
John Calvin explained that God can be “wondrously angry” toward the children he loves. Not that he ever hates us, but he shakes us so that we will shake ourselves awake. So that we will repent and the light of his countenance will be restored.
The Westminster Confession of Faith (11.4) puts it this way,
Although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.
I hope this makes sense.
But why does it matter?
No Choke on our Full-throttle drive to Holiness
DeYoung concludes it up this way (p. 74),
One of the main motivations for obedience is the pleasure of God. If we, in a well-intentioned effort to celebrate the unimpeachable nature of our justification, make it sound as though God no longer concerns himself with our sins, we’ll put a choke on our full-throttle drive to holiness.
God is our heavenly Father…He will always love his true children. But of we are his true children we will also love to please him. It will be our delight to delight in him and know that he is delighting in us.
Our delight to delight in him– Amen.
What Grieves God
In his sermon on grieving the Holy Spirit, C.H. Spurgeon writes,
I think I now see the Spirit of God grieving, when you are sitting down to read a novel and there is your Bible unread…You have no time for prayer, but the Spirit sees you very active about worldly things, and having many hours to spare for relaxation and amusement. And then he is grieved because he sees that you love worldly things better than you love him.
Although the word ‘grieve’ is a painful one, yet there is honey in the rock; for it is an inexpressibly delightful thought, that he who rules heaven and earth, and is the creator of all things, and the infinite and ever blessed God, condescends to enter into such infinite relationships with his people that his divine mind may be affected by their actions.
…He will not hate his people, but he does hate their sins, and hates them all the more because they nestle in his children’s bosoms. The Spirit would not be the Spirit of truth if he could approve of that which is false in us: he would not be pure if that which is impure in us did not grieve him.
He is grieved with us mainly for our own sakes, for he knows what misery sin will cost us; he reads our sorrows in our sins . . . He grieves over us because he sees how much chastisement we incur, and how much communion we lose.”
God is grieved because he knows what misery sin will cost us. He grieves over us because of the communion with him that we lose.
What a God. What a merciful, gracious, loving God.
“Grieve is a Love Word.”
So what makes makes Jesus grieve? Two great sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water (Jer. 2:13). When we won’t know Him and look to him to full us we sin. And we sin again when we look for satisfaction elsewhere.
This grieves our loving God.
I close with a quote from S. Lewis Johnson,
Grieve is a love word.You don’t grieve people who don’t love you. To truly grieve a person, what is necessary is that the other person must have high regard for you. So that grieve is a word of love. That is the word that is used here: grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.
He is grieved, because we are the objects of the love of the triune God.
To say we can disappoint, displease or grieve God is to acknowledge his love for us.
Because grieve is a love word, we make it our goal to please God.
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
2 Corinthians 5:9