There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. – Romans 8:1-11
Imagine that you have two children. One is very compliant, kind, obedient, helpful, respectful and loving. The other is a combination of Dennis the Menace and Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes fame). He’s mischievous, willful, rebellious, and disrespectful. He endears himself to you, but there are scars on your heart because of his rebellious attitude. Who do you love more?
Before you answer, consider what love actually is. Love is a from-the-heart kindness, good will, attitude and posture that works itself out in acts of kindness, mercy, goodness, and grace. It might be that such a child is inwardly bitter, and hiding a far more insidious and unholy heart.
If you think of love as a feeling, and emotional response to someone, you will say you love the former child more than the other. But if you understand love as a from-the-heart desire for the good of another and actions that flow from that heart, you might even say you love the latter one more. It’s as though the more rebellious one needs more love.
When it comes to pleasing God you might think the former child would please God more. And that might well be true. But it might not. For what pleases God is not mere outward obedience. A person who is always doing the right thing may be hiding an unbelieving heart. Such a person may be anything but faith-full. He may think God must be appeased by his good works and disbelieving God’s grace. He may not trust God to love his real self so he portrays an obedient life but a hard heart. Check out Matthew 25:24-25 where the unfaithful servant denies his master’s goodness, and presumes him to be hard and judgmental.
Such is the mind set on the flesh. A person with such a mind cannot please God. But we have the Spirit, and with the Holy Spirit comes life and peace. That person will live a godly life to be sure. She will love, forgive, be gracious and kind. She will sometimes surely sin. But coming again and again to God in humble repentance and faith, recognizing God as supremely good, gracious, loving, and kind, she will surely please God.
God is pleased with faithful hearts. Those hearts are humble, compassionate, repentant and merciful. They are formed by the Spirit and are life and peace.