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What Displeases You

Why does God dislike sin?

I think a lot of us walk around with an idea that sin is sin because those are the things that offend God or make Him angry.

I grew up learning that “sin” is derived from an archery term meaning to miss the mark. Meaning, God’s will is the bull’s-eye and anything that misses the bull’s-eye is sin.

But my heart at times responds to a definition like this and asks, “Well sure, but why?”

Why is good that instead of something else? Why is the bull’s-eye there instead of there? Why not two inches to the left, or in an entirely different neighborhood, for that matter?

Bringing this into the relational-sexual realm, some would ask:

  • If I love him, why shouldn’t I sleep with my boyfriend?
  • Why would God give me these desires and then tell me not to act on them?
  • What’s the matter with a sexually monogamous gay relationship?
  • As long as I’m not hurting anyone, what’s so bad about looking at porn or hooking up on a Saturday night if we both enjoy it?

Another way of thinking about all this is by asking, did God arbitrarily select some behaviors and call them bad, while other behaviors he pulled randomly from a hat and called them good?

If we consciously or unconsciously believe that sometimes God’s yes or God’s no is arbitrary, then we end up with an image of God that’s inconsistent with Christianity. He becomes like a stressed-out dad who wants his kids to behave so he can have some peace and quiet. Or He becomes like an insecure tyrant who likes to be obeyed because it strokes His ego. We obey for His sake. We obey or He’s not okay. And if He’s not okay, we’re not okay.

Here’s an idea I want to offer for your consideration: What if sin is sin not because it displeases God, but because, in an ultimate sense, it displeases us?

In other words, when God tells us how to live and how not to live, it’s because as the Creator, He knows what will bring us to ultimate joy or ultimate sorrow.

Think of Genesis 1 and 2: He tells the first man and woman to have lots of sex and lots of children and grandchildren, to be rulers on the earth over every living thing, and that everything is their’s as a gift from Him (see Genesis 1:28-31). Of the one thing He forbids them to do, he warns them it will kill them (2:17).

Does this sound like an insecure tyrant, a glory-seeking boss, or a stressed out dad?

Read on in the story and we find that even before the fall, man and woman couldn’t see the truth about the destructiveness of disobedience on their own (see Genesis 3:4-7). And then after the fall, after “their eyes were opened” (3:7), they were even more twisted up about what was good for them and what wasn’t.

We experience this today in a thousand ways. In this fallen world, doing good doesn’t always bring us pleasure. In fact, sometimes doing good hurts like hell and doing bad “feels so right.”

In the beginning, God wasn’t protecting Himself, He was trying to protect us. He wasn’t trying to keep all the pleasure or glory for Himself, He was trying to keep us with Him, to share in His pleasure and glory forever.

And even when we strayed far, He didn’t yell at us to clean up the mess, He didn’t stand aloof to protect Himself. He came for us. He came into our disobedient, destructive, death-oriented world for our sake. And for our sake, He resisted every “feels so right” wrong and walked through the ultimate “hurts like hell” good. Even now if we’ll let Him, He shares His obedience with us and bears away our disobedience from us.

God’s not an insecure tyrant who wants to be obeyed from a distance, but a loving Father who want us to enjoy what He made us for, what we truly long for—His joy, His favor, His love, Himself—forever.

I’d love to hear from you: How might practicing these truths change the way you think of those sins that look so good and feel so right? Leave a comment here.

For you,
Josh

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9 thoughts on “What Displeases You”

  1. I’m going to see if my son will allow me to read this to him (he can’t see to read it himself). I think it addresses an attitude toward God that I simply did not have an answer to that satisfied him.

  2. I spent many decades believing God’s laws were arbitrary especially why only heterosexual marriage is the only context in which He TOLD us we could have sex with His blessing. It’s only in the past few years, as I’ve realized the many lies I believed about God, myself, my parents, etc. that I can begin to not only see but belief the truth Josh is sharing…”He knows what will bring us to ultimate joy or ultimate sorrow.” Thank You, God, for your incredible patience!

  3. Hello Josh,

    First big thanks to you for all the work you do at ReGen i know that i have been blessed by it. I praise God for you and your ministry. I have found many of your posts to be helpful. I wanted to put that out there before i say i disagree with the idea for consideration.

    You ask, “(what if sin is sin not because it displeases God, but because, in an ultimate sense, it displeases us.”

    So that you see that I’m not just criticizing because i disagree allow me to address my reasoning, briefly.

    1. I don’t know how such a view is established biblically, as far as i can see there is no evidence for it. Regarding sin we find passages like this: I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.
    Jeremiah 33:8 ESV

    Notice the action of sin is against God not man. And in the many passages like these there is no mention of there being a displeasure to the sinner. Indeed we find the reason sinners sin is because they take pleasure in it. And the reason sin is sinful is not because it hurts us (primarily) but because it hurts and offends God as we see in the text above.
    Our displeasure and harm is secondary.

    Since you mentioned Gen 1 in your text i would mention in passing that the very act of sin is an abuse of the image of God which we see a clear picture of that on the cross.

    2. If we are talking about anything in the “ultimate sense” we are always going back to God. So to say in the ulimate sense sin is sin because it displeases us is to, in my estimation, put us in the place of God. I’m sure you didn’t intended this but that is how it comes off. To add, an ultimate being can not be arbitrary so i wouldn’t assume that God’s commands were arbitrary. Rather scripture demonstrates that they extend from his character.

    In short we shouldn’t sin because we image our creator and he is not a sinner.
    Indeed sin will not bring about our greatest pleasure and i agree God wants our greatest pleasure. I am sure we both agree that is found ultimately in the Godhead.

    Thank you again.

    Christian

    1. Hi Christian, thanks so much for your honest response. I take your concerns to heart and very much appreciate your willingness to let me know your disagreements. I also appreciate how you’ve expressed them. Thank you!

      I share your concern that what I’ve written could come off as putting us in the place of God. I saw how that connection could be made and so I tried to make clear in this piece that one of our limitations as human beings (before the fall and even more so after) is that our feelings are unreliable indicators of what is right or wrong.

      I also tried to convey that by “displeases” I wasn’t speaking of pleasure in the fleeting sense (as in, “[Moses] chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25), but rather of pleasure in the sense of ultimate fulfillment of our senses (e.g. Ps. 16:11). The idea that at the end of time, we will either enjoy eternal pleasure with God or eternal displeasure apart from God.

      To add some clarity to the blog, neither a momentary feeling of pleasure or displeasure (nor what we think, believe, or do), has the authority to define something as sin or not. God alone determines right from wrong, good from evil. He is the Creator and we are His creation, forever dependent upon Him, and subject to the natural laws and moral realities He has set in place. All good finds its orientation in relation to God, not to us.

      In this way, you are certainly correct that when we sin it is God we sin against. So David could write even after committing adultery with Uriah’s wife and then having him murdered, “Against You and You only have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4a). When we sin, we act against God.

      However, what I am trying to get after in this piece is that nagging doubt many have about God’s character when it comes to why He commands what He does. When obedience brings suffering, loneliness, or unmet longing, we can be tempted to see God’s commands as unfair and arbitrary, and God as unconcerned about us. In contrast, biblical passages like Dt. 30:15-20 and Joshua 1:6-8 support the concept that God’s commands are given not out of God’s self-concern but out of His concern for us. And this view is more fully revealed in the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:14), who fulfilled all the Law and the prophets (Mt. 5:17) by giving Himself up for our sake.

      With this said, I do take your concerns seriously, Christian. By suggesting that perhaps “sin is sin not because it displeases God, but because, in an ultimate sense, it displeases us,” I was trying to be provocative to stir us to take a good look at God’s character behind God’s commands. And as you point out, this suggestion leaves out much of what God’s Word has to say about sin.

      I hope this reply comes across as collegial and clarifying, not defensive. If you want to discuss further, shoot me an email.

      Humbly,
      Josh Glaser
      Regeneration

      1. Josh,

        Thank you for the clarification it seemed that our issue was somewhat semantic. I do appreciate you taking the time to respond. Indeed sin does not lead to our ultimate pleasure.

        I thank God that you are writing about the realities of obedience and causing us to look to reality that God cares for us, even when suffering for his sake makes us feel like he doesn’t.

        Love you bro,
        Christian

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