My last post was about a decisive question that can help us say no without guilt. That question was,
“Who are you willing to disappoint?”
I ended the post with a look at Mary and Martha through that clarifying lens and quoted Jon Bloom. Bloom drove the point home with this statement, Mary was more willing to disappoint Martha than to disappoint Jesus.
Whoa dere, boy! We can disappoint Jesus?- the Son of God, and the second member of the Holy Trinity? Little old me can disappoint Almighty God?
Maybe this is as clear to you as it was for my friend Peg. “Well,” she simply said, “if it’s possible to please God, it must be possible to displease him. So, yeah, we can disappoint God.”
Scripture makes that plain- that we definitely 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 for examples.)
In a nutshell, whenever we trust and obey God, he is pleased.
Can you make God sad?
But for many of us that line from Bloom about disappointing Jesus begs the question: Can we make God sad?
After all, Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. And we know with Job that he can do all things; no purpose of his can be thwarted. He makes known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.
To those who would argue that God can’t be grieved because he knew what was coming, I would say, Really? Just because I know a dear friend is losing a battle with cancer means I won’t grieve when I see her body wracked with pain and losing the fight? Really?
Knowing it’s coming doesn’t make it any less sad when it comes.
So is it possible to grieve an all-knowing, all-powerful, sovereign God?
I think so. Here’s why.
1. “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.”
And I agree with DeYoung: We need to clear up the confusion about whether or not a forgiven, justified, reconciled, adopted, born-again believer can displease God.
DeYoung breaks it down,
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 his face from us.
Discountenanced was born one sad night. But discountenanced does not mean unloved.
2. Discipline goes with displeasure and love.
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.
My sons have heard this more than once: I discipline you because I love you. That’s why I don’t make them eat their veggies and brush their teeth and practice piano. I don’t discipline them because I don’t love them like I love you.
So with God. If he didn’t love us, he wouldn’t notice our sin and he’d never discipline us. But Hebrews 12:8, If you are not disciplined you are illegitimate children and not true sons.
No, love does not equal unconditional affirmation.
3. His “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).
Is that confusing? 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 the giver and the receiver of “for us” frowns and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that behind that frown is love.
The Westminster Confession of Faith (11.5) 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 Delight
Here’s one huge reason. 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 and know he is delighting in us. Amen.
What Grieves God
In his sermon on Ephesians 4:30, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,” 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.
…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 grieves because he knows what misery our sin will cost us, because he knows the sweet communion that we lose.
What a God. What a merciful, loving God.
“Grieve is a Love Word.”
In Jeremiah 2:13, this loving God, says, They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. When we forsake God and look for satisfaction elsewhere, I think God grieves.
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 acknowledge that we can disappoint, displease or grieve God is to realize at least some of his great 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
For more on “The Two Wills Of God” – the one that will never be broken and the one we break when we grieve him- check out John Piper’s sermon “What is the Will of God and How do We Know It?”