We’re diving into the difference between justification and sanctification with these questions. It’s also the difference between reading Romans and reading the book of James. Have you ever noticed how different those books are? They answer different questions. Romans is primarily concerned with our identity in Christ. We have been exposed to great teaching regarding the “big words” of Christianity such as justification, righteousness, and yes, propitiation. A book like James deals primarily with the life of thankfulness and service of others that flows from knowing our identity in Christ.
So, what about this whole idea of pleasing God? We do please God, but it’s probably not in the way we think. Being a parent has helped me with this concept of pleasing God: my young children are pleasing to me. It’s not really about what they do or don’t do. They please me because they are my children. When they do share with me something they have done for me (such as a sloppily colored picture), I rejoice in them! Not because they have created a beautiful work of art, but that they are my children and are responding to my love with an act of love. In a similar way, when we perform good works (and sloppily, I might add), God smiles with pleasure, knowing that though we are imperfect in our works, we are His children and at the end of the day He sees the perfection of His Son Jesus in us.