Pleasure is a universal desire. One which we all seek and search for. It is the impetus of the soul. It’s why we experiment sexually, seek out various relationships, try chemical substances, or pursue success. There is a certain amount of pleasure those things offer. But as most can tell you, they are fleeting. Pornography is a big seller because the pleasure of sex quickly dissolves and we return to recapture the moment of ecstasy that allured us in the first place. We are perennial daters and promiscuous lovers because the feeling of being loved by another human being fills a void of interpersonal relationships that we were created to need, even if that means we distort what those relationships look and feel like. We drink and inoculate ourselves with chemicals until our brain buzzes with a pleasure, that while powerful, is doomed to plummet into depression until we get our next fix. We kill ourselves and over-schedule our lives, using others and resources to become someone of great prosperity and austerity, only to look around and see we have alienated those closest to us to accumulate stuff which will eventually belong to someone else. We all seek pleasure, even if it means we seek it in inferior ways. We were made to seek it. We were made to seek it because our Creator also seeks it.
Is it difficult to think of God as seeking pleasure? For me, it sounds weird because the human experience of pleasure often seems so petty. Yet, God is consistently seeking His own pleasure.
Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:3)
Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. (Psalm 135:6)
Both of these psalms use the word “pleases” to show that God does whatever He wants. Nothing holds him back. He is limitless and unfiltered. This is the essence of pleasure, to desire something and be able to follow through with obtaining it. The difference is where we are limited and are often thwarted; God is not.
So, what does God do with all of His power to do whatever He wants?
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. (Isaiah 53:10, NKJV)
Isaiah 53 gives a despondent description of an innocent man who is beaten, ridiculed, and slaughtered in the place of guilty and vile people. Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, says that this description is a prophecy of Jesus and the people he died for are those in the church. (2 Peter 2:21-24) One of the major accusations laid against the church is that it is filled with hypocrites. It’s not too far from the truth. The church indeed has its share of hypocrites who do not love or honor Jesus as their Savior and Lord. The rest are simply sinners saved by grace. This is the prerequisite to being a Christian; admitting we are sinners and we can’t change ourselves. We understand we need someone to take the blame or we’re doomed. We believe that Jesus is the one who took our blame. That his soul was the offering for our sin. And we believed the Lord was pleased to take his life for ours. And it was a joyous thing for Jesus to give it.
…Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:2)
Why did God do this?
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Because God loved me, it pleased Him to have His Son die in my place. Because Jesus loved me, he found joy in enduring the cross and the shame that comes with it. God does all that He pleases and with that power He chose to die for my sin and give me new life. This speaks of a volume and depth of love I can’t ascertain. How should I respond? How should I live my life now?
Pleasure is a funny thing, especially when it sprouts from our views of God. Some of us flee to pleasure because we don’t believe in a higher power or believe if he’s there then the thing he wants most is for me to be happy. We take hold of life and live seeking quick fixes and immediate joy because: what else is there to do? We don’t know when our lives will end so why not make the most of it now? Others shun pleasure because it makes us feel dirty or guilty or shameful. We take good things, like sex, and vilify them. Instead of seeing sex as the good and gracious gift God has given a husband and wife, we swing the opposite way of our sexually free society and take the joy out of the marriage bed. We do this with alcohol, marriage, friendships, money, material possessions, and on and on. We either loosen up or tighten up. Both of these responses have nothing to do with the God of the Bible, who loves us and is pleased with us.
I imagine my response to God’s love and pleasure much like my response to my wife. I have known my wife now for over 5 years and have given her several gifts during this time. Some of them have come from when I know I have messed up and wanted to make amends, others because I wanted something. But the best gifts I have given her have come from a heart that is overwhelmed by her love for me. The days when I am taken aback by her role as the mother to my child or the way she selflessly cares for me or how she places the needs of others above her own; so I decide to buy her flowers, to write her a letter, or to bring home her favorite ice cream or coffee drink. Though small, these are the purest gifts. The gifts that I am pleased to give because of her staggering pleasure and love for me. It is the joy born from love and affection of her to me, not out of obligation or means to another end. This is the proper response to God’s pleasure and love for you.
He is pleased with you because He is pleased with Jesus, who stands in your place. He is pleased with you because before you ever had a cell in your body that appreciated Him, He loved you enough to give His immortal life for you. He is pleased with you and though you have rejected Him, he has accepted you in Jesus. He is pleased with you and though you fail, He has given you a new life empowered by the Spirit to please Him. He is pleased with you and there is nothing you can do fall out of His grace once you are in it.
This pleasure and love, as unattainable in knowledge as it is, motivates the heart to love back selflessly and fully in the truest, purest ways. Ways that please the One who does all the He pleases, like loving sinners like you and me.