Acceptable to Lord
The Heidelberg Catechism contains a section on prayer in which the question is asked, What belongs to such prayer which is acceptable to God and which He will hear (Q/A 117)? This question may offend some who assume that God accepts all prayer. In today’s pluralistic environment it is often assumed that there is very little that God does not accept. Nearly nothing displeases Him. However, this cultural god is not the true God of the Bible. It is an idol, a counterfeit of God. God does in fact take sinners are we are. He justifies the ungodly and he forgives all sin. He accepts as we are but He doesn’t us as we were. Indeed, doesn’t the very concept of forgiveness assume that there is conduct that is disapproved, that need to be forgiven? However, this cultural idol, doesn’t need to forgive much, because very little constitutes a transgression. Such a god is not holy. Our society needs more than anything else a recovery of a true knowledge of the Holy One.
The catechisms’ language reflects the terms for worships in Scripture. For instance, ‘Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it shall not be acceptable on your behalf (Lev. 22:20). The New Testament draws from this language. For example in Romans 12:1, Paul says: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Here the grace of God in the gospel of Christ is meant to make us true worshippers of the Triune God. Whether it is worshipping God in the congregation or bringing up our covenant children in the Lord, or fulfilling our calling in the work place, we are to render worship that is “holy” and “acceptable” to the Lord.
We can look at our salvation in Christ from the standpoint of acceptability. That is, there is a sense in which the whole point of salvation is to render the believer acceptable to God. This is borne out in passages like (Hebrews 13:20-21): 20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
It is not only that we have gained acceptable standing with God, but also that he is renewing the church to for acceptable living. Our entire live should be a pleasing aroma to God.
No man in and of himself can please God (Rom. 8:8). We are by nature unacceptable to Him (Eph. 2:1-3). But God who is rich in mercy has sent His Son to render us acceptable. His unblemished sacrifice atones for our sin. His perfect life is imputed (credited) to the believer. The Holy Spirit gives life to our dead souls and the process of renewal begins in us, so that over time we more and more render to works that our acceptable and pleasing the Lord.
This applies to every area of our lives down to the details. For instance, I am writing this article with a view to pleasing my heavenly Father. It must be acceptable to him, otherwise it will not be a pleasing aroma to Him, and thus be wasted work. To be acceptable it must meet the conditions required of every good work. Here again the catechism is helpful. It inform us that a there are three requirements necessary for a work to be truly good. It says that good works are those “only which proceed from true faith, and are done according to the law of God, unto His glory, and not such as rest on own opinion or the commandments of men” (Q/A 91). If this article fulfills these requirements then the Lord is pleased. What goes for an article goes also for prayer, giving, public worship, meditation and thinking and so much more.
In future articles I will address several areas of our lives and how we can in them give God acceptable service. Not everything goes with God. This requirement of acceptable service is a call to be wise and careful in how we live so as to please Him.