Pleasing God

IT WAS A COOL, CLEAR MORNING. BUT WESLEY COULDN'T TELL IT WAS COOL AND HE DIDN'T PARTICULARLY WANT IT TO BE CLEAR.

YOU SAY, WHY COULDN'T HE TELL IT WAS COOL? EVERYONE CAN FEEL THE TEMPERATURE. THE PRESS USED TO SAY THAT PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH WAS WOODEN. GEORGE WASN'T, BUT WESLEY WAS. YOU SEE, WESLEY WAS A WEMMICK. AND WEMMICKS ARE SMALL WOODEN PEOPLE.

WESLEY AND EVERY OTHER WEMMICK WAS CARVED BY A WOODWORKER NAMED ELI. ELI LIVED IN A WORKSHOP THAT SAT ON THE HILL OVERLOOKING THE VILLAGE.

EVERYONE OF THE WEMMICKS THAT ELI CARVED WAS DIFFERENT. [USE WOODEN FIGURES TO ILLUSTRATE]

SOME HAD BIG NOSES THAT YOU CAN SEE FROM THE BACK OF THE AUDITORIUM, AS THIS WOMAN HERE. SOME HAD TALL HATS AND PROTRUDING STOMACHS (LIKE SOME OF US HERE). SOME WERE OLD WITH SLOPED SHOULDERS LIKE THIS FELLOW. SOME WERE SHORT LIKE THIS WOMAN. SOME HAD SMOOTH SURFACES LIKE THIS FELLOW. OTHERS WERE ROUGH LIKE THIS FELLOW. SOME WORE FUNNY POINTED COWBOY SHOES AND COWBOY HATS LIKE THIS FELLOW.

BUT THEY ALL LIVED IN THE SAME VILLAGE, AND THEY ALL COULDN'T FEEL TEMPERATURE, AND THEY WERE ALL MADE BY ELI.

EVERY DAY, ALL DAY, THE WEMMICKS DID THE SAME THING: THEY GAVE EACH OTHER STICKERS. EACH WEMMICK HAD A BOX OF GOLDEN STAR STICKERS AND A BOX OF GREY DOT STICKERS. UP AND DOWN THE STREETS ALL OVER THE CITY, PEOPLE COULD BE SEEN STICKING STARS OR DOTS ON ONE ANOTHER.

THE PRETTY ONES, THOSE WITH SMOOTH WOOD AND FINE FINISH, ALWAYS GOT STARS. YOU GOT STARS IF YOU COULD LIFT BIG ACORNS HIGH ABOVE YOUR HEAD. STARS IF YOU COULD JUMP OVER HIGH BOXES. STARS FOR USING BIG WORDS, SINGING PRETTY SONGS OR STARTING SERMONS OUT WITH A "COOL, CLEAR MORNING."

SOME WEMMICKS, LIKE WEEBOLD HERE, HAD STARS ALL OVER THEM. EVERY TIME WEEBOLD GOT A STAR, IT MADE HIM FEEL SO GOOD THAT HE DID SOMETHING ELSE AND GOT A ANOTHER STAR!

OTHER WEMMICKS, LIKE WESLEY HERE, HAVE ROUGH WOOD OR A CHIPPED SURFACE. THE WEMMICKS GIVE THEM DOTS. GREY DOTS IF YOU CAN'T DO MUCH -- YOU GET GREY DOTS.

IT WASN'T FOR LACK OF TRYING THAT WESLEY GOT DOTS. HE TRIED TO JUMP HIGH, BUT HE FELL. AND WHEN HE DID, THE WEMMICKS WOULD GATHER AROUND AND GIVE HIM DOTS.

SOMETIMES WHEN HE FELL, IT WOULD SCAR HIS WOOD AND THE WEMMICKS WOULD GIVE HIM MORE DOTS.

WHEN WES TRIED TO EXPLAIN WHY HE FELL, HE WOULD SAY SOMETHING SILLY, AND THE WEMMICKS WOULD GIVE HIM MORE DOTS.

YOU REMEMBER WHEN I STARTED OUT I SAID THAT WESLEY DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS COOL AND DIDN'T CARE WHETHER IT WAS CLEAR -- NOW YOU KNOW WHY WESLEY DIDN'T PARTICULARLY CARE IF IT WAS A CLEAR MORNING. IN CLEAR MORNINGS YOU COULD MORE CLEARLY SEE HIS DOTS AND HE HAD SO MANY OF THEM HE DIDN'T REALLY WANT TO GO OUTSIDE. HE WAS AFRAID THAT HE WOULD DO SOMETHING DUMB LIKE FORGET HIS HAT OR STEP IN THE WATER, AND THEN PEOPLE WOULD GIVE HIM ANOTHER DOT.

IN FACT, HE HAD SO MANY GREY DOTS THAT SOME PEOPLE WOULD COME UP TO HIM AND GIVE HIM ONE WITHOUT REASON.

"HE DESIRES A LOT OF DOTS," THE WOODEN PEOPLE WOULD AGREE, "HE'S NOT A GOOD WOODEN PERSON."

AFTER A WHILE, WES AGREED. "I'M NOT A GOOD WEMMICK," HE THOUGHT.

WHEN WES WENT OUT HE HUNG AROUND WITH OTHER WEMMICKS WHO HAD A LOT OF GREY DOTS. HE FELT BETTER WITH THEM.

TURN WITH ME TO LUKE 18. LET'S READ VERSES 10-13.

WE HAVE TWO PEOPLE IN THIS STORY: A PHARISEE AND A TAX COLLECTOR. THE PHARISEE HAS A GREAT OPINION OF HIMSELF AND THE TAX COLLECTOR DOES NOT.

WHERE DO YOU THINK THEY GOT THIS OPINION? WAS THIS SOMETHING THAT THEY KNEW AT BIRTH? SOMETHING THEY FIGURED OUT FOR THEMSELVES, INDEPENDENT OF ANYONE ELSE? OR SOMETHING THAT OTHERS TOLD THEM?

MY BET IS THAT THE PHARISEE WAS A STAR PERSON. PLENTY OF PEOPLE TOLD HIM HE WAS A STAR.

AND I SUSPECT THAT PLENTY OF PEOPLE TOLD THE TAX COLLECTOR HE WAS NO STAR.

I THINK THAT WESLEY IS MUCH LIKE THIS TAX COLLECTOR. ONE DAY WESLEY MET A WEMMICK UNLIKE ANY HE HAD EVER SEEN. HER NAME WAS WANDA AND SHE HAD NO DOTS OR STARS. SHE WAS JUST WOODEN.

IT WASN'T THAT PEOPLE DID NOT TRY TO GIVE HER STICKERS, IT'S JUST THAT THEY DID NOT STICK.

SOME ADMIRED WANDA BECAUSE SHE HAD NO DOTS AND WOULD RUN UP TO GIVE HER A STAR, BUT IT WOULD FALL OFF.

SOME WOULD LOOK DOWN ON HER FOR HAVING NO STARS AND THEY WOULD TRY TO STICK A DOT ON HER, BUT IT WOULDN'T STAY.

WESLEY CONSIDERED THIS AND DECIDED THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HE WANTED: HE DID NOT WANT ANYONE'S MARKS.

SO HE ASKED WANDA HOW SHE DID IT. "ITS EASY," WANDA TOLD HIM, "EVERY DAY I GO SEE ELI." "ELI?" "YES. ELI THE WOODCARVER. I SIT IN HIS WORKSHOP WITH HIM. LET'S GO."

WESLEY FIGURED THAT HE WAS SO FILLED WITH DOTS THAT ELI WOULD NOT WANT TO SEE HIM. SO HE WENT HOME.

BUT AFTER THINKING ABOUT IT SOME MORE, THE NEXT TIME HE SAW WANDA, HE WALKED UP THE NARROW PATH TO THE TOP OF THE HILL WITH HER TO SEE ELI.

AS WES ENTERED THE SHOP HE BECAME AFRAID AND TURNED TO LEAVE, BUT THEN HE HEARD SOMEONE CALL HIS NAME IN A BIG BOOMING VOICE. "WESLEY, LET ME HAVE A LOOK AT YOU." "HOW DO YOU KNOW MY NAME?" "OF COURSE I KNOW YOUR NAME, I MADE YOU."

ELI STOOPED DOWN, PICKED UP WESLEY AND PUT HIM ON THE BENCH. "HMM, LOOKS LIKE YOU HAVE GOTTEN SOME BAD MARKS."

"I DIDN'T MEAN TO, ELI. I REALLY TRIED HARD."

"NO NEED TO DEFEND YOURSELF, WES, I DON'T CARE WHAT THE OTHER WEMMICKS THINK." "YOU DON'T?" "NO. AND YOU SHOULDN'T EITHER. THEY ARE WEMMICKS JUST LIKE YOU. WHAT THEY THINK DOESN'T MATTER. ALL THAT MATTERS IS WHAT I THINK. AND I THINK YOU ARE PRETTY SPECIAL."

"HOW CAN I BE SPECIAL?" WES ASKED.

ELI TOOK WES BY THE SHOULDERS AND SAID, "BECAUSE YOU ARE MINE. THAT'S WHY YOU MATTER TO ME."

"YOUR STICKERS ONLY STICK IF THEY MATTER TO YOU. THE MORE YOU TRUST MY LOVE, THE LESS YOU CARE ABOUT STICKERS."

WES STARTED TO THINK ABOUT THAT, AND WHEN HE DID, A DOT FELL OFF.

LUKE STARTS THE STORY IN LUKE 18 ABOUT THE PHARISEE AND THE TAX COLLECTOR BY SAYING THAT IT WAS FOR A CERTAIN AUDIENCE. LOOK AT VERSE 9: "TO THOSE WHO WERE CONFIDENT OF THEIR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS AND LOOKED DOWN ON EVERYONE ELSE."

I SEE TWO GROUPS HERE: THOSE WHO THOUGHT THEY WERE PRETTY GOOD AND EVERYBODY ELSE. JESUS' AUDIENCE NO DOUBT AGREED WITH THE PHARISEE THAT HE WAS A PRETTY GOOD GUY AND THAT THE TAX COLLECTOR WAS NO GOOD AT ALL.

THEY MIGHT NOT HAVE BEEN TOO SURE ABOUT THEIR OWN STANDING, BUT THEY KNEW THE BAD GUYS FROM THE GOOD GUYS.

THEY WERE CERTAIN PHARISEES WERE GOOD AND TAX COLLECTORS WERE BAD.

ACCORDING TO LUKE 18:13 EVEN THE TAX COLLECTOR AGREED THAT HE HAD SOME PROBLEMS.

MOST PEOPLE THINK THIS PARABLE IS ABOUT HUMILITY -- AND IT IS -- BUT CONSIDER WHAT v. 14 SAYS ABOUT GOD'S ATTITUDE TOWARD MAN.

"YOU THOUGHT THE PHARISEE WAS THE GOOD GUY," JESUS SAYS, "BUT IN , GOD'S SIGHT HE IS THE BAD GUY BECAUSE HE WAS NOT JUSTIFIED BY GOD."

PEOPLE HAD ONE ATTITUDE -- GOD HAD A DIFFERENT ATTITUDE. MY FRIENDS, THIS DISTINCTION BETWEEN WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK ABOUT YOU AND WHAT GOD THINKS ABOUT YOU IS CRITICAL!

IN MATTHEW CHAPT. 16, VERSE 19 JESUS SPEAKS OF KEYS TO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. THIS MORNING I WANT TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT SOMETHING THAT I BELIEVE IS ONE OF THE "KEYS" TO THE KINGDOM.

THAT KEY IS FOCUSSING ON PLEASING GOD. FOCUSSING ON WHAT GOD THINKS ABOUT YOU.

PLEASING GOD. BEING MORE CONCERNED ABOUT WHAT GOD THINKS THAN WHAT MAN THINKS. THE WEMMICK STORY, THE PHARISEE AND THE TAX COLLECTOR STORY I THINK ARE ABOUT PLEASING GOD.

IN PS 119:23 THE PSALMIST WRITES THAT THE PEOPLE IN POWER OVER HIM, THE RULERS, SLANDER HIM. HIS RESPONSE IS TO MEDITATE ON GOD'S COMMANDS -- THAT IS TO FOCUS ON PLEASING GOD AND NOT MAN.

ROMANS 8:6-10 SUGGESTS THAT IF WE PLEASE GOD WE WILL HAVE LIFE AND MORE THAN THAT: PEACE.

THIS MORNING I AM GOING TO SUGGEST THAT THIS CONCEPT OF PLEASING GOD WILL IMPROVE YOUR LIFE, RIGHT NOW, IN TWO DISTINCT WAYS--WAYS ALL DESIGNED TO GIVE YOU MORE PEACE.

FIRST, IT WILL MAKE YOUR JOB LESS STRESSFUL.

SECOND, IT WILL IMPROVE YOUR SELF-IMAGE.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT? IN THE NEXT 15 MINUTES YOU WILL BE ABLE TO BOOST YOUR SELF IMAGE AND LOWER YOUR JOB STRESS AND YOU WALKED IN HERE FOR FREE!

SO LETS GET TO IT AND FIND OUT IF THIS MESSAGE IS WORTH WHAT YOU PAID FOR IT!

LETS TALK ABOUT JOB STRESS.

TURN WITH ME TO PS 75:6-7. IN THE KJV IT SAYS, "FOR PROMOTION COMETH NEITHER FROM THE EAST NOR THE WEST NOR THE SOUTH. BUT GOD IS THE JUDGE; HE PUTTETH ONE DOWN AND SETTETH UP ANOTHER." THE NIV SAYS, "NO ONE FROM THE EAST OR THE WEST OR THE DESERT CAN EXALT A MAN. BUT IT IS GOD WHO JUDGES: HE BRINGS ONE DOWN, HE EXALTS ANOTHER."

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? GOD IS IN CHARGE OF YOUR NEXT PROMOTION! DID YOU KNOW THAT PROMOTION IN YOUR JOB DEPENDED UPON GOD AND NOT YOUR BOSS? THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT PS 75 SAYS! YOU MAY THINK THAT YOUR JOB IS IN THE HANDS OF YOUR BOSS, BUT IT IS NOT. IT IS IN GOD'S HANDS.

IF YOUR JOB IS IN GOD'S HANDS, WHO ARE YOU GOING TO BE TRYING TO PLEASE? IF WE HAVE ANY SENSE, WE WANT TO PLEASE THE ONE WHO REALLY CONTROLS OUR JOB!

PLEASE GOD.

DOES THAT MEAN WE SHOULD NOT BE CONCERNED ABOUT OUR EARTHLY BOSS? THAT WE CAN LOSE A LOT OF STRESS BY SLACKING OFF? IN EPH 6:5-7 PAUL TELLS US WHAT KIND OF WORKER GOD WANTS US TO BE. READ.

IN v.5 HE REPEATS THIS CONCEPT THAT WE ARE REALLY WORKING FOR GOD. AND IN v.6 PAUL TELLS US NOT TO SIMPLY BE GOOD EMPLOYEES WHEN THE BOSS IS LOOKING, BUT BE GOOD EMPLOYEES BECAUSE FROM THE HEART -- BECAUSE GOD IS YOUR BOSS -- AND HE IS LOOKING!

WHEN I WAS A KID THEY USED TO TELL ME THAT GOD SEES ME EVERYWHERE, AND THE ANGELS HAVE A NOTEPAD (MUST BE A NOTEBOOK COMPUTER, BUT MY TEACHERS MISSED THAT DETAIL WHEN I WAS A KID), AND THEY ARE WRITING DOWN EVERYTHING I DO.

IF YOUR BOSS WERE SITTING BY YOU EVERY MINUTE, WHAT KIND OF EMPLOYEE WOULD YOU BE? I'LL BET A LOT LESS HORSING AROUND WOULD OCCUR.

MY FRIENDS, YOU MAY WORK HARDER, BUT I THINK THAT IF YOU LOOK AT GOD AS YOUR BOSS, YOU WILL WORK WITH LESS STRESS.

EMPLOYERS ARE LOOKING FOR RELIABLE, FAITHFUL EMPLOYEES. WHEN THEY GET ONE, IF THEY HAVE ANY BRAINS, THEY WILL DO A LOT TO KEEP ONE.

LETS TALK NEXT ABOUT IMPROVING YOUR SELF-IMAGE. DID YOU EVER HEAR CHILDREN ATTACKING ONE ANOTHER? WHEN I WAS GROWING UP WE WOULD CALL EACH OTHER POLLACKS. WE WOULD ADD "SKI" TO EACH OTHER'S NAME. "CAMEROSKI" IS WHAT I WAS OCCASIONALLY CALLED. I DIDN'T KNOW ANYONE WHO WAS TRULY POLISH, UNTIL I WAS IN ACADEMY. A BEAUTIFUL, INTELLIGENT GIRL MOVED INTO OUR NEIGHBORHOOD. SHE REALLY HAD "SKI" ON THE END OF HER NAME AND REALLY WAS POLISH. IF SHE WAS WHAT POLISH PEOPLE WERE REALLY LIKE, WE HAD BEEN HANDING OUT COMPLIMENTS ALL THAT TIME AND DIDN'T KNOW IT.

MY DAD WAS RAISED IN THE UPPER PENINSULA OF MICHIGAN. THERE THE FINNISH PEOPLE, "FINLANDERS" AS MY FATHER CALLED THEM, WERE THE SUBJECT OF RIDICULE.

WHEN I WAS IN NOVA SCOTIA LAST MONTH, A FELLOW FROM NEWFOUNDLAND WAS MAKING "NEWFIE" JOKES. HE TOLD ME THAT NEWFOUNDLAND WAS THE ONLY PLACE IN CANADA THAT THEY PAINTED THE NAME OF THE ROAD RIGHT ON THE ROAD ITSELF. PERSONALLY, I WISHED THEY WOULD PAINT THE NAME OF THE ROAD ON MORE ROADS. (SPEAKING OF ROADS, I WAS ALSO WISHING THEIR WERE MORE SINNERS IN CANADA. THEY SAY THE ROAD TO HELL IS BROAD AND EASY. I DIDN'T FIND VERY MANY OF THOSE KINDS OF ROADS IN CANADA. INSTEAD, I DECIDED THAT THE ENGINEERS FROM KING'S DOMINION RETIRED TO CANADA AND DESIGNED THE ROADS. MINI SKI JUMPS ARE CREATED TO LOOK LIKE PART OF THE ROAD. BLAKE ASKED ME MORE THAN ONCE IF I THOUGHT THAT THE WHEELS OF THE MOTORHOME HAD LEFT THE ROAD.)

JUST AFTER THE CAMPER NEXT TO ME WAS MAKING "NEWFIE" JOKES, I HEARD A NEWFIE JOKE ON THE CANADIAN MORNING TELEVISION PROGRAM. ONE FELLOW SAID THAT HIS TV CAREER WAS LAUNCHED WHEN HE FLUNKED OUT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NEWFOUNDLAND. THERE WAS LAUGHING ALL AROUND APPARENTLY BECAUSE IT SEEMED TO BE RIDICULOUS THAT ANYONE COULD FLUNK OUT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NEWFOUNDLAND.

MY FRIENDS, I'M AFRAID THAT WHAT WE DO AS CHILDREN, WE CONTINUE TO DO, PERHAPS IN A MORE SUBTLE WAY, AS ADULTS. CLEARLY THE PHARISEE OF LUKE 18 DID THIS -- AND HE WASN'T VERY SUBTLE ABOUT IT. IN VERSE 11 HE SAID THAT HE WAS THANKFUL HE WAS NOT LIKE THAT TAX COLLECTOR. I'M SURE THAT MANY OF YOU NODDED YOUR HEAD IN AGREEMENT WHEN YOU HEARD THE STORY OF WESLEY AND THE WEMMICKS.

WHEN YOU COME TO THE MASTER CARVER, THE ONE WHO MADE EACH OF US, YOU START TO LOOK AT THINGS DIFFERENTLY. YOU MAY REMEMBER THE STORY THAT I HAD US LOOK AT THE LAST TWO TIMES THAT I PREACHED -- THE STORY FOUND IN 2 SAMUEL 6 ABOUT DAVID DANCING BEFORE THE LORD IN JOY BECAUSE HE WAS ABLE TO FINALLY BRING THE ARK TO JERUSALEM. IN 2 SAMUEL 6:20 HIS WIFE MICHAL CRITICIZED HIM FOR THE WAY HE WAS BEHAVING BEFORE THE PEOPLE. SHE TOLD HIM THAT HE WOULD NOT BE PROPERLY RESPECTED EVEN BY SLAVE GIRLS.

DAVID RESPONDED IN v. 21 BY SAYING THAT GOD CHOSE HIM TO BE KING, AND THEREFORE IT ONLY MATTERED TO HIM WHAT GOD THOUGHT.

THE FLIP SIDE OF THIS IS IF YOU ARE COVERED WITH STARS BY MEN, YOU MAY, LIKE THE PHARISEE, HAVE A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY.

IF YOU MAKE PLEASING GOD YOUR FIRST PRIORITY, THEN YOU DO NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT WHAT THE OTHER PEOPLE THINK. LIKE JESUS' COMMENT ABOUT THE TAX COLLECTOR, YOU CAN BE ASSURED OF YOUR POSITION. THE GREY DOTS WILL SIMPLY FALL OFF.

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