Pleasing God

Romans 8:7-8 (NRSV)  For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

“Cannot please God” is not a way of saying: “If you are going around doing these naughty things, you cannot please God.” That is undoubtedly true but that is not what this verse is saying. It is saying that the person who is locked into only his natural human abilities (the flesh) and does not have the word of God spoken into his heart to give him the new vision and way, will be unable to please God. He doesn’t have the ability to do the things that would please Him. It is a matter of the condition of his heart. Pleasing God is not something that one just goes out and does one day. Pleasing God is a matter of being more than doing.1

People whose minds are set on God and not the flesh are caught up in something much larger than themselves, which they find inexpressible. Romans 8:26 is a good example of this: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” We know that something, which is bigger than we could even call prayer, is going on. It goes beyond prayer and even beyond action, it is a way of being, a state. It is a way of living which is just a continual prayer; unutterable.

Something deeper than conscious actions or thoughts is needed. As long as our religion is a matter of effort alone we are caught up in what Paul called “will worship” (Col. 2:23 KJV). Conformity to the law in that sense is not the fulfilling of the law. The fulfilling of the law comes when the principles of the law naturally guide the heart into pleasing the Lord by being just, loving kindness and walking humbly with Him (Micah 6:8).

1Session 6. Page 9


Legalism: Can we do anything to make God love us more?

Galatians 3

Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?

On his first missionary journey, Paul learns to his surprise that non-Jews seem more receptive than Jews to the news about Jesus. He begins a policy that he comes to follow throughout his ministry career. He goes first to the synagogue and preaches among the Jews; if they reject him, he turns to the Gentiles.

Before his conversion Paul was a loyal and strict Jew, proud to be a “legalist.” If a person could reach God by obeying the law, then he, a strict Pharisee, would have done it. In a twist of history, he gains a new reputation as “the Apostle to the Gentiles.” As he sees God working among non-Jews, Paul becomes their champion.

This letter to the churches in Galatia (located in modern-day Turkey) dates from the time of the early Jew-Gentile controversy. Paul is emotionally worked up. In fact, he is downright furious at misguided attempts to shackle the church with Jewish legalism. Paul has felt the gust of freedom that comes after liberation from a set of confining laws, and he is not about to let that freedom slip away.

No Strings Attached

In the first paragraph of Galatians 3, Paul explodes with the full force of his passionate beliefs. He then proceeds to give a “Christian,” rather than Jewish, interpretation of the Old Testament covenants with Abraham and Moses.

Galatians 3—4 draw sharp contrasts: a prisoner and a free man, a sheltered child and an adult. Don’t act like a slave or a child, Paul says. Act like a privileged son, an heir to a great fortune! Galatians shatters the idea that God’s love is conditioned upon how many rules we obey. Legalism is like a cage: It can only condemn people and lock them behind bars. As Paul points out, no one has perfectly kept all of God’s laws, and all who try to do so ultimately fail (see Galatians 3:10–11).

Martin Luther said, “[Galatians is] my own little epistle. I have betrothed myself to it; it is my Katie von Bora [Luther’s wife].” This little book proclaims that God has freely given his love to us with no strings attached. We should never get over the awesome shock of that truth, Galatians says.

Life Questions

Some early Christians, like the people in Galatia, became obsessed with legalism. Others took their Christian freedom too far by refusing to follow anyone’s rules. Which is the greater danger in your circle?


Jennie Allen March 12, 2019

You Were Made for This

“The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.” Genesis 39:2-3 (ESV)

It’s easy to wonder if we’re missing some mystical, great, noble purpose that’s supposed to squeeze into our ordinary lives. We might feel numb. Or bored. We ask questions like: I’m in. I am all surrendered to God. But now what? What does He wants me to do?

God’s goal for our lives is that we live in complete and utter surrender to and dependence on Him. He built us to need Him. And it’s always His mercy to show us that need, whatever the cost. Living on mission with the Creator of the Universe is the most beautiful, purposeful thing we could do with our short time on earth. This is your purpose: to know God and make Him known. As we read the story of God through Scripture, we know we are to love, without hesitation, every person God puts in our paths. And we are to love God more than anything.

Are you searching for your calling in life? If you’re reading this, you have the opportunity for ministry right under your nose, never needing to move or change a thing. Life is too short to spend time worrying about where on this planet you should be. As Jim Elliott, the great missionary-then-martyr said, “Wherever you are, be all there.”

Rather than becoming paralyzed with fear that you might move when you should stay or stay when you should move, pray and commit your ways to the Lord. And then go do something!

God invites us into His will like a loving dad in a swimming pool, asking his little child to jump. Whether that child jumps really far or barely scoots into the pool, that dad will move to catch him. So don’t be afraid. God’s will is moving, and if we will just jump, His will is going to catch us.

Joseph did this so beautifully. God had shown him that He would do awesome things, and rather than worry about being stuck in prison or as a slave in Potiphar’s house, Joseph did great things with God wherever he was. You can do great works wherever you are. Likewise, don’t be afraid to go — or be afraid to stay.

In heaven, even the most adventurous missionaries among us won’t be rewarded because of an earthly location; they’ll be rewarded for their obedience and faithfulness. Those who spent most of their lives in cubicles and driving in carpool lines will stand beside them receiving similar crowns. It’s not our place of ministry that matters most; it’s what we do in our places.

For Joseph, his calling and God’s purpose for his life took determination and a conscious choice to surrender. He gave everything he had to serve well, even as a slave and a falsely accused inmate. Genesis 39:2-4 reminds us, “The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.”

If we know that no place, no job, no marriage, no child is going to perfectly fulfill us, we can choose to quit fighting for happiness and start fighting for God’s glory instead. It takes determination to trust Him while you’re still in your place, doing the seemingly mundane tasks of life. Let’s assume that if we’re breathing, then we have a purpose for being here. Every one of us with breath in our lungs still has something left to do.

Dear God, thank You for letting me participate in Your good work of redeeming all things. Give me eyes to see the people all around me and the opportunities You’ve prepared in advance for me to do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV)

Mark 12:30-31, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (NIV)

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why am I here?” Made for This: 40 Days to Living Your Purpose by Jennie Allen is a 40-day interactive journey taking you through a step-by-step process to see how God can use your dreams and passions for a greater purpose.

To connect with Jennie, share your story and be equipped to disciple others, visit You’ll also find her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Enter to WIN a copy of Made for This by Jennie Allen. To celebrate this book, Jennie’s publisher is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and notify each one in the comments section by Monday, March 18, 2019.}

What are your places, and how are you seeing God work in them through you?

What’s your view of “purpose,” and how is it shaped by culture? How does it need to change to align to God’s view?

© 2019 by Jennie Allen. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Thomas Nelson Publishers for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

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Today’s Reading

On faith

[The demon Screwtape writes:] Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

From The Screwtape Letters
Compiled in Words to Live By

The Screwtape Letters. Copyright © 1942, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.


March 12

Sex within the context for which it was intended—lifelong, monogamous marriage—is always safe. This is the message our kids need to hear from the earliest days of childhood! Anything less is worse than third-rate! – Solid Answers

And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Genesis 2:18 NKJV)