In this series, we’re considering some of our Christian “sayings” that aren’t necessarily in the Bible. So far, we’ve looked at the following:
“Ask Jesus into your heart”
“All sins are equal in God’s sight”
The saying we’ll focus on today is: “God is always pleased with you.”
What is Helpful about This Phrase?
Most significantly, this phrase is often shorthand for the doctrine of imputation. This doctrine maintains that, as part of our salvation, God imputes (attributes or assigns) to us the righteousness of Christ, so that HIS righteousness becomes our own. Thus, when God looks at us, He sees the perfect righteousness of His Son.
This is one of the most beautiful doctrines of the Christian faith!
The phrase is also offered as an antidote for persons who have grown up hearing or believing that God is perpetually ticked-off with them; that He’s constantly disappointed or irritated with their behavior, attitude, or whatever. Unfortunately, that’s how God is presented in many homes & churches, and “no, God is always pleased with you” can be a way to correct that.
What is Problematic about This Phrase?
There are three main problems with this phrase:
1. The phrase flatly contradicts the Bible. God most certainly is NOT always pleased with His children. After David’s sin with Bathsheba, the Bible tells us: “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (II Samuel 11:27).
2. The phrase can be used to downplay legitimate guilt & sorrow over sin. We naturally want to comfort someone who confesses their sin, but not by suggesting their sin is no big deal.
3. The phrase confuses justification and sanctification.
This 3rd problem requires a bit more explanation . . .
Justification occurs at the moment of salvation and is God’s declaration that the sinner is now and forever righteous in His sight (due to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness).
Sanctification, on the other hand, is the continuing work of God in the life of the believer, making him or her actually holy. The word “holy” here means bearing an actual likeness to Christ in terms of our behavior, speech, attitude, etc.
As to God being pleased with us, this is how one theologian puts it:
God is pleased with us in justification (because of the righteousness of Christ), but He is not necessarily pleased with us in terms of our sanctification.
The theologian writes:
“It is analogous to the way parents think of their children. No matter what my son does, he will always be my son and I will love him (justification), but I am still concerned with his behavior and will give him loving discipline (sanctification).”
A Better Way?
I think this is a phrase we need to avoid. Instead, we need to do the harder work of making a proper distinction between justification & sanctification.
For a fellow believer overwhelmed with sin, we ought not downplay the sin, but assure him or her of God’s forgiveness through Christ.
Source: Article adapted from an article on the Canon Fodder website.