Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things.
These words come from the song, “My Favorite Things” (The Sound of Music). We probably could all make a list of things that we delight in, but how often do people ask, “What makes God happy?” The Bible provides an answer to that question.
The first verse that comes to mind is John 3:16, which is amazing, and it prompts the question, “Why does God love us so much—especially when we are rebellious, disobedient, and sinful?” Deuteronomy 10:15 teaches that God “delighted only in your fathers, to love them….” Why? They all were imperfect. Perhaps He loves us for what we can become if we devote ourselves to Him. He demonstrated His love toward us, however, while we were yet sinners (Rom. 5:8). He made the first move toward reconciliation—sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.
While God loves (shown by His actions), nevertheless, all shall not be saved because all do not respond to His love and grace. While God offers salvation universally, only few return that love properly. These He especially loves and ultimately saves. Jesus confided to the apostles: “For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God” (John 16:27). This thought echoes what the psalmist wrote: “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name” (Ps. 91:14).
From these two verses, we must recognize that God loves those who love Him and believe in Him. Again, Jesus told His apostles, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10). Jesus included a condition there that the “once saved, always saved” crowd will never see or admit: Abiding in God’s love is conditional; it involves keeping God’s commandments.
Faith, love, and obedience have always been part of the requirements to receive God’s love and salvation. “Therefore know that the Lord God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deut. 7:9). When Nehemiah prayed to God about the rebuilding of the wall, he cited parts of this very verse (Neh. 1:5). Daniel also makes reference to it (9:4). God respected Daniel and his requests. He was told, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard…” (10:12). Faith, love, humility, and obedience are a few of God’s favorite things.
Yes, as Paul wrote, God “is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us” (Eph. 2:4). In the sense of doing what is best for every individual, God loves everyone and has shown it, but those He especially loves and will save are those who respond to Him in a positive way, who make an effort to be like Him. David wrote: “For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright” (Ps. 11:7; cf. Ps. 33:5).
An Old Testament passage that sums up much of what has been said is Deuteronomy 10:12-13:
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good.”
Not only are doing these things for our good, but they prompt God to love us in return. David expressed God’s love of humility in a negative way when he wrote: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51:17). The opposite of God not despising these things is embracing them. Humility impresses God; He loves it. Samuel had to make that point to the haughty King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22:
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”
Many have the idea that they can give offerings to God in place of their love and obedience. God is interested in what we give Him. The Scriptures tell us that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). But the higher priority is obeying Him in all things. Some even think that giving will atone for the evil deeds, but it does not. “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but He loves him who follows righteousness” (Pr. 15:9).
An inspired apostle states that the opposite is true in 1 John 3:10: “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” The second qualification is of equal consideration to the first. If one does not love his brother, he does not love God, either (1 John 4:20-21, also 4:7-8). God cannot love the one who remains in a state of hatred (prejudice), loves wickedness, maintains arrogance, or flouts the Law of God.
God’s love that made salvation available is permanent. However, God’s love that will forgive sins and take people to heaven is conditional. He loves the humble, the righteous, the loving, and the obedient.