Were you ever introduced to someone who expected you to be far more interested in them than you were? Maybe you bumped into them at a special function or a mutual friend introduced you. Surely you’d heard of them, or from know on you would be glad that you did.
I remember working on campus the summer after my first year in Bible College. It was a weekend afternoon and I had been practicing the piano in a common room. A young man I’d never seen before walked into the room and sat down nearby. After I finished playing he introduced himself and handed me his business card, where he was kind enough to point out the title under his name: “Prophet”. Apparently I was supposed to be impressed.
Many of us don’t really care who is impressed with us. We dress the way we want to, speak the way we want to, and do the things we want to. If some random person we’ve never met before doesn’t like it, “it’s their problem, not mine.” But there is one Person we should want to impress. And though some folks think they’re already doing it, they are actually failing miserably at impressing Him. There is only one way to impress God, and it isn’t what you think.
A lot of people in our churches think they are impressing God. They wear their “Sunday best” clothes to church services. Tucked in their arm you might find an extra-thick Bible. When the pastor is preaching about the realities of life and how no one really has a perfect life without trouble or pain, they tell people around them, “I do.” They arrive early for service so they can get to their special seat.
These people think the church should be glad they are there. They could be somewhere else. Instead, the church is graced with their presence. We should all be happy to see them there because they honestly believe God is so impressed with them.
The Bare Minimum
Somehow we have come to the conclusion that it is possible to please God with what we say and do, or even with what we wear or eat. In the Old Testament, God gave Moses and the people of Israel laws that dictated a lot of these things, from how far they could travel on the Sabbath to what they shouldn’t eat to how many tassels they should have on their robes. God didn’t give these regulations as a way to impress Him; they were the basic requirements of being His servant.
But Jesus tore all of that away. He reminded God’s people that God wanted their hearts, not a pile of completed to-do lists. Neither was that a new message. God spoke through the prophet Micah and told the people to stop wasting time trying to impress Him.
With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:6-8 NIV)
The people were trying to impress God with special offerings, with abundant giving numbers, and even by sacrificing their own children. None of these were impressive in His sight. When it came to child sacrifice, God told them in another place that He never commanded it, “nor did it enter my mind” (Jeremiah 32:35).
And those things He did tell them to do were, again, only basic requirements. To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly were not impressive to God. They were the minimum line, the first signs of life. If these firstfruits of relationship with Him were not present, they were not true followers of God.
We get it in our heads that we are doing God or our church a favor by showing up every Sunday, dropping our five dollar offering in the plate, and doing it over and again for decades. Even if we were to do it every day, and give thousands of dollars every time, that is not what God desires from us. He wants us to live in righteousness. And yet even that does not impress God.
When God Takes Notice
Amazingly, there is really only one way to impress God. It isn’t with long prayers, for Jesus told us not to do that. It isn’t with announcing the giving of extravagant gifts, for Jesus says we receive our reward in the praises of the people who know we’ve done it. It isn’t with achieving popularity, whether in a church, a city, a denomination, or a nation, for Jesus said, “the first will be last” and those who humble themselves like a child will be the greatest.
Paul reminds us in Romans what actually gets God’s attention.
Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. (Romans 3:27 NLT)
The Gospels tell us Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38 NKJV). He traveled from town to town, delivering the good news of the Kingdom of God. Some cities saw amazing works and miracles, while others didn’t. The difference was not how well people followed the Law or the customs of the Pharisees and scribes, but of faith.
We see also how Jesus did miracles for those who were not Jews. It wasn’t because they gave some enormous offering to the Temple or gave Jesus a generous gift or performed a much-need favor on His behalf. What made Jesus take note of these people was their faith. It was faith that impressed Jesus.
- When a woman with a bleeding problem pushed through the crowd to touch the hem of His garment, Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you” (Mark 5:34).
- As Jesus and the Disciples were walking on a road, a blind man heard He was there and shouted to get Jesus attention. When he wouldn’t stop, Jesus called him over. He told Jesus he wanted to see, and Jesus replied, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you” (Luke 18:42).
- A Canaanite woman, descended from those who should have been wiped out of the Promised Land because of the evil and idolatry, asked Jesus to help her demon-possessed daughter. When Jesus denied her, she asked for a scrap of the power of God. “Then Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted'” (Matthew 15:28).
- A Roman centurion came to Jesus as He entered the city of Capernaum, wanting Jesus to heal his servant. When Jesus offered to go and heal him, the centurion replied, “just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Scripture tells us Jesus was “amazed”. To everyone around Him Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” (Matthew 8:8-10).
Do you want to impress God? Don’t worry about the size of the Bible or the cost of the clothes that you wear. Don’t pretend to be generous or put on a smile to make believe you have a life of perfection. God isn’t pleased with what we think He wants, though He does have a bare minimum for us to live by. You aren’t doing God a favor by playing the part or fitting some mold that has been preached for far too long.
You can’t impress God with your efforts or knowledge. They won’t earn your salvation or any kind of lasting reward in Heaven. Don’t forget what God said when He was anointing the next king of Israel: “People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
If you want to impress God, be a man or woman of faith. Faith that pushes you through difficult situations to seek and honor Jesus Christ. Faith that trusts in His Word when everyone around you explains it away or ignores it. Faith that believes God “exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
* Unless otherwise noted, Scripture verses taken from the NIV