Andrew Fountain - A Different Take on How to Please God


Full sermon notes - A Different Take on How to Please God

1. Joe becomes a Christian

  1. Joe becomes a Christian and learns that all his sins are forgiven


  • He is full of joy, his burden is light and his life is happy!

2. Keeping the Commandments

  1. Then he is told that to please God he needs to keep the commandments


  • Every day he examines himself and goes through a checklist of how well he is doing
  • He is told that he has the Spirit to help him, but it is still a great burden

3. Great burden

  1. He is told that he has the Spirit to help him, but it is still a great burden


4. Not under Moses

  1. Then one day he meets some people that explain to him that he is not under Moses but under Christ!


  • It is not the old external law he is under, but Jesus’ “law of love”
  • For a while he is happy again

5. Jesus is harder!

  1. Then he realizes that Jesus’ laws are far harder to keep than those of Moses,

law NT burden

  • Jesus sets much higher standards

6. Grace

  1. Then he goes to a new church where they teach “grace”


  • He learns that he is now under grace, not law
  • He’s told that there is nothing he can do to make God love him more!
  • He is so happy and relaxed

7. Confused

  1. But after a while he is confused


  • What should he be doing if there is nothing he needs to do?
  • What about all those commands of Jesus?

8. Motivation of love

  1. He is told that now he is free to obey Jesus, motivated by love, not law


  • So he tried to do this
  • Constantly reminding himself that he was not earning God’s love
  • But doing it simply because he loved God

9. Uneasy

  1. But he still felt a vague sense of unease


  • He never felt he was doing enough
  • He knew that:
    • It was all of grace, a free gift
    • He was loved by the Father
    • That there was nothing he could do to earn God’s favour
  • But there was still a vague feeling that
    • God wasn’t happy with him
    • He had disappointed God
  • If I were to ask each of you, “When God looks at you right now, is he pleased with your life?”
    • You might answer, “it doesn’t matter because I have Jesus’ righteousness”
      • But that is avoiding the question
    • I suspect that most of you feel that you are letting God down to a certain extent
      • You are not the Christians you should be
      • even though we teach grace and you know that God’s love is not dependent on your performance

10. Finally…

  1. Then one day Joe was reading Romans and Galatians…


  • and suddenly he GOT IT!
  • It was so obvious, why hadn’t he seen it before?

Romans 4

  1. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
  2. …faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.
  3. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. 24It will be counted to us who believe in him…
  • Gal 3:6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”
    • (the quote is from Gen 15:6)

Romans 4:3

  • This is how he had always been taught how to read it:
  • “Abraham had faith and on the basis of that faith God transferred the righteousness of Christ to Abraham, and Abraham’s sin to Christ, who paid for it on the cross.”
  • Now of course, Jesus did die for our sins, and Abrahams, and that is how God could forgive him
  • And this is a free gift that we receive by faith (Rom 4:25 & Gal 3:13 go on to say this)
    • And Abraham did receive this free gift by faith
  • But that is not what the text is saying

So what does Rom 4:9 “faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness” mean?

I want to define some of the words

faith=trust, (same word in the Greek), but faith has become almost meaningless today

  • Religions are called “faith communities” whether they be Moslem or Hindu or Christian
  • faith is nebulous, trust is concrete—you have to trust something or someone
  • “Abraham’s trust was counted to him as righteousness”

Romans 4:9

  • “Abraham’s trust was counted to him as righteousness”
  • Righteousness:
    • You can’t be righteous unless there is a standard of righteousness, i.e. a law
    • In the Old Testament, this legal framework was called a covenant
    • If I make a covenant with someone, then if I fulfill all my obligations with repect to the covenant, then I am righteous
    • If I agree to look after Martin’s appartment while he is away, and I do that faithfully, then I am righteous within that covenant
      • This is why Paul spends the first three chapters of Romans establishing what covenant frameworks Jews and Gentiles are operating under, because without law or covenant there is no concept of righteousness
    • So let’s define righteousness as “having met the obligations of the covenant”
    • So now let’s put this understanding into the verse.
    • We get

Romans 4:9

  • “Abraham’s trust was counted as having met the obligations of the covenant”
  • “Abraham, you’ve trusted me and that’s all I require of you, I’m pleased with you”
    • So what do we call this covenant God had with Abraham?
    • In Galatians Paul calls it the “covenant of promise” (3:17), or simply “the gospel to Abraham” (3:8)
  • Now this raises a problem: How is God fair to do this, to overlook the lies and other stuff?
    • God is a perfect judge.
    • This indeed is a problem, and Paul answers it in Rom 3:25-26 Gal 3:13,14
    • How can God be perfectly just, yet pronounce as righteous those like Abraham?
    • Jesus died to free Abraham and us from the curse of the law
    • Because Jesus has severed our obligations to the law, God is free to bring us under the same arrangement as Abraham

So to sum up

  • What Joe discovered:
  • He was loved by God whatever, because of what Jesus has done
  • To please God, day by day, all he had to do was to trust him
  • That is all God was asking
  • Then he remembered what gave Jesus the most pleasure??

It Jesus the most pleasure when

  • The Roman centurion who trusted in Jesus’ ability to heal his servant at a distance
    • Mat 8:10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.
  • The Woman who trusted Jesus for her daughter
    • Mat 15:28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
  • Little children who simply trusted

Then Joe remembered

  • Heb 11:6 Without trusting God it is impossible to please him
  • Rom 14:23 For whatever does not come from faith is sin.

So now Joe had an answer

  • An answer to his question “Is God pleased with me?”
  • He is pleased with me when I simply trust him
  • This is not a “work” because the very faith is a gift
  • So what does this look like on a Monday morning?

Monday Morning

  • Joe wakes up
    • slighly later than he should have due to forgetting to set the alarm
    • Quickly prays to God, “forgive me for negligence, please look after this problem”
    • He doesn’t feel guilty, because God is not much interested in his alarm-setting performance
      • compared with how he will deal with being late
      • when he trusts it to God, God is very pleased
    • He realized he can either
      1. be late for work
      2. call in sick (which would be lying)
      3. skip breakfast and be on time
    • He realizes that if you lie then obviously that is not trusting God
    • He decides he could do either of the other two in trust
      • but decides on skipping breakfast and trusting God he will be ok till lunch
    • As he is waiting for the subway, he notices he is right by a coffee and bagel stand, so ends up with breakfast anyway
  • He arrives at work and realizes instantly that his co-worker Mary is in a bad mood
    • He knows how easily they “put each other’s buttons” and realizes a row is about to happen
      • He knows in theory that the answer is to “show the love of Christ”
      • But no matter how hard he tries, it always seems to end in an argument
    • He prays “God, I can’t do this—you will have to, I trust you!”
      • Before every reply to Mary, he sends up a tiny prayer to God
      • Amazingly he never loses his temper and everyone calms down
    • Joe feel’s God’s pleasure, that he simply trusted
  • Later that day Joe gets called into the bosses office
    • He gets chewed out for something he didn’t do
    • He tries the same method of trusting God to love his boss
    • He still gets chewed out, and never gets the chance to show any love in return
    • After the meeting he feels a failure at first
      • But then he realizes that he did all God required of him—he simply trusted
      • God is actually very pleased with him
  • On the way home his mind is on other things and he has not thought about God for hours
    • He suddenly realized that he is doing something he shouldn’t be doing
    • He immediately stops and asks for forgiveness
    • He then trusts that he is forgiven and doesn’t start beating himself up about the sin
    • He realizes how pleased God is that he is trusting Jesus for forgiveness
      • Even though God hates sin, he is much more concerned about faith
      • He is much more concerned that when we do fall into sin and ask for forgiveness that we trust that we are forgiven

So what is faith/trust?

  • Primarily it is allegiance (God or idols)
  • A more vibrant alternative is abiding
  1. Rest/Dependence (Abraham rested in the promise of a son)
  2. Obedience is the fruit (Abraham left his home country “by faith”)
  3. Perseverance—not giving up on trusting God (Abraham waited 25 years)


  • God so loves it when you trust him!
  • It brings him great pleasure

Updated on 2015-03-03 by Andrew Fountain