“…whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear…” Hebrews 12:28
Acceptably. It means to be well pleasing or so as to please. This is to be the attitude with which we serve our Lord. All our service is to be done with the goal of pleasing Him.
Contrariwise, we can serve unacceptably and Scripture reveals this to us when it admonishes us not to serve with eye-service as men pleasers, but remembering that all our works will be tried with fire. God can see straight through a false or shallow motivation.
I also think the word is a bit deeper than simply pleasing the Lord. I think of it as meaning worthy of God’s stamp of approval, or, of a certain quality that would bring glory to His name. I imagine God looking at the service I have performed and giving me a smile of approval. It’s that “Well done my good and faithful servant” that I am longing to hear and the standard I want to maintain.
Acceptance comes with a couple of qualifiers – reverence and godly fear. Reverence means with caution, to beware, or respect. Godly fear is like apprehension, a mingling of fear and love that produces piety of man toward God and keeps him humble.
This tells me that there is no place for pride in my service. It is a privilege to be a servant of the King and I should remember my place and serve humbly and acceptably with due respect.
“…having received…the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.” Philippians 4:18
Nothing is so precious as a gift at just the right time. We were really struggling one Christmas on the mission field. We were trying to put on a brave face for the children and had managed to get a few gifts under the tree, but it was slim by any estimation. We hadn’t told anyone, but were just going on by faith.
It was Christmas week and the evening of our mid-week service when we got a call from a fellow missionary. We invited him to come, but he declined saying that he would like to drop in for a visit after services. It was a strange request, but of course we welcomed him. That evening we hurried home to prepare for our visitor. We got the kids to bed and shortly thereafter he and his wife knocked at the door. After a short chat they said they had something for us in the car and would be right back.
After six or seven trips to the car our kitchen was filled with food and there were gifts for all the children. Our hearts were simply overwhelmed. Our benefactors then handed us a simple white envelope and said their goodbyes without even accepting a cup of tea.
As we opened the envelope, the card contained a large sum of cash. This proved to be one of the biggest Christmases we have ever had, and one of the sweetest and the least forgotten.
The blessing of God was upon us truly, but the odour of a sweet smelling sacrifice was accounted to the giver whose generosity and joyful giving was without doubt well pleasing and acceptable before God.
“Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” Ephesians 5:10
The instruction to “prove” here means that we should take time to examine, consider or test our actions with the expectation of being approved. Matthew Henry said that we should “search diligently what God has revealed to be his will…to enquire and consider what will be acceptable to him.”
This tells us that we need to consider our actions - to weigh them against God’s Word.
The verse is sandwiched between many verses of admonition about the need for a Christian to be a shining example and warning about the evils of this world. We need to be wary of seeking our own approval. Our judgment might not be exact when it comes to what is acceptable to the Lord, so we need to check ourselves, to prove what is truly acceptable.
The Psalmist David many times asked the Lord to examine his heart and motivations. Psalm 139: 23, 24 is a great example. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thought: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” David is known as a man after God’s own heart. Surely we would think that what he did was acceptable to the Lord, but we also read of David’s stumbles and unwise decisions when he failed to test his choices before acting upon them. If David needed this proof, then we most assuredly do as well.
There are always choices before us. We would do well to stop and consider which are the best choices; which ones stand the test of God’s Word and which ones are truly acceptable to the Lord.
“For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” I Peter 2:20
Is this verse saying that our suffering is acceptable to God? Not really. The subject of the verse is the basic cause of the suffering and our attitude toward it. To paraphrase it might read – So, if you are in the wrong and receiving what is due to you, then what praise can you expect? Even if you manage to endure it, it is still only what you justly deserve. There is nothing special in that. However, if you are not in the wrong and are still being attacked or punished and you manage to endure without retaliation or a bad attitude, then that is the attitude that is pleasing to the Lord.
Christ is our example here. When he was reviled (criticized in an abusing manner), he did not revile again. When he suffered physical abuse, he did not threaten others with the same but committed himself to God for judgment of his right attitude. This is truly a high standard!
To keep our mouth shut and our attitude adjusted when we believe we are being falsely accused or taken advantage of is not easy for most of us. We want to be right and to be recognized as good people, but sometimes it doesn’t come out that way. To be acceptable with God means that we allow Him to do the judging and to delve out the justice. We are to accept it patiently.
“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” I Peter 2:5
We are living stones of a spiritual house. We are holy and are to be acting as priests of old offering up spiritual sacrifices. Maybe we should stop and define what these might be? These might be divided into four basic sacrifices.
First, offer ourselves as Romans 12:1 gives direction “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
Second, offer our praise, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Hebrews 13:15.
Third, offer our service as Hebrews 13:16 tells us, “But to do good and to communicate (share or give) forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased”.
And, fourth, our possessions as Philippians 4:18 records, “having received…the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.”
It is interesting to note that God is not talking about works of our own self will, but sacrifices given to Jesus Christ and because of his work in our lives. They spawn from a grateful heart that has been redeemed and this is the reason they are acceptable. They are fruit of the Spirit in action.