How to Win God’s Favor
When I was a child, I heard the term “people pleaser” for the first time. It was presented to me in a negative light, and I vowed in my heart to never be one of those people. Some of the things we learn as children make life difficult for us as adults. People pleasers are generally nicer people, and they have more friends, or maybe we should say “acquaintances.” Childhood wisdom can also impact our relationship or non-relationship with God. At the end of the day, we are either known or inconnu.
Fear is a natural condition for children because they are physically smaller and not as knowledgeable as the giants around them. Children learn obedience to God, by learning obedience to their parents. Good parents speak to their children about God. Parenting is a tension between love and discipline, which are intertwined. As children learn God, they are made aware of love and discipline from God (Heb 12:4–11).
Obedient children win favor with their parents. Obedient people win favor with God. This is where our problem resides. There has only been one obedient person in the history of the world. This is crucial to our understanding how to win favor with God. Jesus Christ is the obedient Son of God, and there is no other. There never will be another. So how do disobedient children win favor with their parents? They don’t. So how do disobedient people win favor with God? The answer to this mystery is only found in Christianity.
Man is disobedient to God. When children practice bad behavior, most retain a distorted notion of their own goodness. People judge other people by their actions, but how often do we hear the voice of the mass murderer’s mother say, “He is good boy.” The excuses fly, “He was bullied at school.” People have deceitful hearts (Jer 17:9). All people have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Try to convince anyone they deserve hell, and one finds himself engaged in a task ending in frequent futility.
Sin is made worse by the introduction of God’s Law (Rom 5:20). People resist constraint. The Law of God appears a first to be a divine constraint on human sinfulness, but the wording of this text indicates otherwise, “Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound (Rom 5:20a).” There is nothing in the Apostle Paul’s statement to the Romans about the Law’s purpose, other than for the Law to stir up sin. God gave the Law to man so man could see and understand his total depravity.
When people sometimes lean toward fearing the judgment and wrath of God they almost always turn to the Law for salvation. This is the error of world religions. They offer one of their own branded derivations of God’s moral law to humanity. The simple way of salvation is to do good works to win favor with God.
A wealthy young man approached Jesus (Mt 19:16) with the formidable question, “What must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus listed a few of the Ten Commandments. The strategic teaching of Jesus was to put points of the Law in front of the man to convict him of his sins, but the young man rationalized in his own mind that he had kept all of the commandments, all of the time, from his youth up. The man went away sad when Jesus raised the standard of the man’s interpretation of his own performance. He should have stayed, accepted his failures in light of the Law, and heard Jesus tell of God’s grace unto salvation.
If favor with God demands perfect performance of perfect obedience, there must be another way to win God’s favor. There is, but before we present the solution, we must establish the truth about sin and the Law one more time with the help of C.H. Spurgeon, “The Law never came to save men. It never was its intention at all. It came on purpose to make the evidence complete that salvation by works is impossible and thus to drive the elect of God to rely wholly on the finished salvation of the Gospel (August 26, 1855).”
Jesus’ interpretation of the Law always raised the standard of the Law much higher than men were interpreting for themselves. Sinful people dilute the sinfulness of their own actions. Jesus affirmed the people’s understanding of murder being murder, but when he said murder is already a done deal when it is hatred in the heart (1 Jn 3:15), our understanding improves for the need for right interpretation. God wants us to see the Law, not as the Black Hills of South Dakota but as the highest peaks of the Himalayas. The point is, in a word, we cannot keep the Law. Our good works do not comply with the high standards of the Law. Lawbreakers find perfect justice with God, which means perfect judgment. The judgment of God against sinners is eternal damnation in hell and the lake of fire. Men water this idea down and discard it altogether. Instead, we find within the Bible, God’s solution to our inability to win favor with Him.
The solution is Christ’s perfect obedience to the Law of God. He alone has merited favor. “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased (Mt 3:17; 17:5),” is God’s assessment of Jesus. It is blasphemous that men have so low a view of the Son of God, but the Bible informs us why men are so hostile toward Jesus Christ. First, He makes us all look bad. He is perfect and sinless, and we are not (Rom 3:23; Heb 4:15). Second, He tells us that our deeds are evil (Jn 7:7). Third, He claims that He Himself is the only way to God (Jn 14:6). Fourth, He tells us there is nothing we can do to win God’s favor except to trust Him (Jn 11:25; 12:46; 16:9).
Trusting Christ is the only way to win God’s favor. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). We can survey His person. We can survey His work. We can listen to the terms of His covenant salvation. What we believe about Jesus Christ is the manifestation of His Spirit’s presence or absence (Rom 8:9).
The Bible is very clear that Jesus has favor with God His Father, and it is very clear we do not have favor (Rom 3:10–12). We cannot win favor with our so called “good works (Is 64:6).” We must be honest about ourselves. We are totally depraved. There is nothing good in us. We need to confess our need for a Savior, and we need to acknowledge the one and only Savior of sinners, Jesus Christ.
Honesty, about God’s assessment of us, opens the door to our hearing about God’s assessment of Jesus Christ. He is the one and only favored One, and He extends His state of right standing with God (righteousness), to those who humbly come to Him as their personal Savior. God approves those who are “in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:25).” Christ’s righteousness is their righteousness by imputation. Christ’s favor is their favor. All that belongs to Christ belongs to those in Him (1 Cor 1:30; 3:23; Eph 1:3). His inheritance is their inheritance (Rom 8:17).
The grace of God is the means by which we receive faith (Eph 2:8–9). It is put into our hearts and minds by the seed of the Word (Mt 13; Jas 1:21). Faith comes by hearing God’s Word, which gives us ears to hear (Rom 10:17). God’s Word reveals God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:19). Separation from God is disfavor, but reconciliation with God comes with His favor. His assessment is not of your good works, but of Christ’s good works. We are merely beneficiaries of all the spiritual blessings of heaven (Eph 1:3). God’s blessings pour out on His favored One, and upon those favored “in Him.”
We are bench sitters on the championship team. Christ is the only player, and He has secured the champions’ crowns for the rest of the team. Our lives are a parade of telling others of the morning star of our championship team. He deserves all the honor. The praise is all about Him and His works. We gladly give Him the glory, for doing all the work. We claim nothing for ourselves in the realm of work, but we rejoice all day long in our position on the winning team.
Hell is intensified by Christ’s Gospel call, which is not for the reprobate (Jn 8:47; 10:26; Rom 9:22), to join His team. “Come to Me” He beckons in Matthew 11:28, but the reprobate scoff (Ps 2). They will gnash their teeth at their stupid pride in fiery, eternal torment. Satan deceived them into believing they were good, while they hated God, for telling them they were sinners. Satan deceived them into believing their works added up to favor with God, while they detested God’s rejection of their filthy works. Satan deceived them into thinking God’s extension of salvation was a joke, and they laughed at God’s servants, who told them the good news about Jesus.
Eternal damnation is about you paying for your sins yourself, and it comes with much weeping for your rejection of the free gift of salvation. If you see your future in this, then repent of your sins, while it is yet called, “Today.” Trust Christ, so that today may be the day of your salvation.
The message has not changed, and it will not change until He comes again. Jesus Christ in the only One in favor with God, we must be in favor with Christ, to be in favor with God. This fight is not for the strong man. This race is not for the swift. It is for those who receive God’s favor, as a gift of His grace, and not by any merit of their own.
Today, examine yourself. If one were to ask you how you have won favor with God, what would be your reply? Would you claim to be a good person? Would you claim to have a resume of good works to show God on the judgment day? Or can you joyfully claim that all of your righteousness with God is only Christ. You gladly denounce anything or anyone else, even yourself, as the one who has secured favor with God. Can you say, “In Christ alone, my hope is found. He is my favor with God, won at the Cross of Calvary, where He loved me and gave Himself over to death for me.” God has accepted His sacrifice, but He will never accept your sacrifices. You must wholly trust in the blood of Christ for favor and acceptance with God.
The fire storm of eternity is fast approaching. It is time to seek shelter in the refuge provided by God. It is a favorable place, and it will be your favorite place for the rest of your life and into eternity. Come, now. Come, quickly. Seek shelter and find rest. Christ Jesus has 100% of God’s favor toward mankind, and there is plenty of favor for those who find themselves in Him. Come to Jesus for God’s favor.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
January 11, 2021