Wednesday, December 30, 2009

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 "Pleasing God through Sanctified Sexuality"

We  find ourselves  at the end of  2009  and on the verge of 2010. It is a time  when we  tend to evaluate our lives, and make  resolutions for the future. That is  a very good thing , for the unexamined life is not worth living .

The first thing that a Christian  man and woman would tend to ask is this : How can  my life speak more of the  glory of God ? How can I please the Lord in all that I do ?  No question is of greater importance   than this one  for the Christian man and woman . And it is an all encompassing , comprehensive discipline  .   In  1 Cor  10:31, Paul says “ whether you eat or drink , or whatever you do  , do all to the glory of God “.  


At the end  of 2009 and on the verge of 2010,   I want to  stir up  godly desires  in you with the help of the Holy Spirit,   through  the inspired Scriptures.
That was certainly Paul’s desire as the apostle and pastor who first brought the gospel  to the Thessalonians.  Paul knew that the end  to which  these Thessalonians were saved  was not that he might say,  “Look , these are my converts !”  No! They were saved  that they might glorify God. 
So, we are not surprised  at  Paul’s introductory statement : (4:1)  Finally, then, brothers,  we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.

Paul asks and urges  the Thessalonians   to please God  in  their walking ! This is a matter of urgency.
Why? We must walk what we talk !   We must  confess  with our lives  what we  profess with our lips. A life that pleases God is  a life that is truly grounded in God. And if  there  is an error  in the foundation of our  profession of faith, if our  life’s foundation is not laid  in grace in the heart , then we cannot truly live a life that pleases God. The house built on sand may stand for a while, but when the storm and the floods come, it will  quickly fall .
Paul is certain of the solid  foundation of the Thessalonian Christians,  for he sees the evidence (4:1)  … “ just as you are doing “ .
But there is always room  for growth,  “ We urge you … that you do so more and more…

The basis of Paul’s appeal  is the command of Christ.

He  is not some power hungry  control freak. No! He urges them in the Lord Jesus! (4:1) – and again in 4:2For you know  what instructions we gave you  through the Lord Jesus “ . And in 4:3:  “ This is the will of God” .
As we  too sit under  the authority of  the word of the Father and  of the Son , let us take care to  listen  very carefully  to  this exhortation  as it comes  to our attention  at this  time  by the providence  of God. “This is the will of God , your sanctification.”  God  wants you to grow in holiness.

‘Sanctification’   is  the process by which the believer is brought to greater spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness  in the course of their lives . This process begins at  conversion.  The old ways and the old habits are increasingly done away  with and replaced with new ways which please  and glorify God. 

Two areas  in which we  need to grow in  order that we may please God:

Although  there are many aspects in which we need to be sanctified, Paul, for reasons unstated in the text, specifically highlights  the subjects of 

(i) sexuality  (4:3-8)  and
(ii) brotherly love (4:9-12), the special  focus of God’s transforming work in the lives of  the Thessalonian Christians  and in our lives.
Note , that  in both these areas  Paul wants  them to do this more and more (4:1,10).

Today   we will focus  on the matter of  "sanctified sexuality." 

The Sanctification  of our Sexuality :

3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification:  that you abstain from sexual immorality; The word translated as "sexual immorality" (Gr. porneia)  is a wide term referring  to any illicit or forbidden sexual activity, including pre-marital , extra-marital sex and prostitution—sins which were probably rampant in the Thessalonian culture, as they are indeed in our own. This is  will of God  for every believer. Every believer  must avoid sexual sin. 
How  must we do that ?  4:4   gives the answer  : 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body  in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;
Self control ( a fruit of the Spirit)  is required  in controlling  one’s body.  Verse  4:5  shows us  that “the passion of lust”   (as opposed to sexuality that exists within the bonds of marriage)  is characteristic of “ Gentiles (unbelievers) who do not know God."   Remember that if Christ lives in you and the Holy Spirit  lives in you, you have power to overcome sin (2 Peter 1:3,4 ; 1 John  5: 1-5) – no matter how  much  you may have struggled  with sexual sin in the past . You are no longer a slave of sin. You are now a slave  of Christ and  therefore you are under the power of Christ.  

4:6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.
According to this verse, sexual immorality must be avoided not only because it violates God’s will, but also  because it has a devastating  effect  on other people – particularly  the relationships which  we share  as Christian brothers and sisters . These may be seriously damaged or even destroyed by sexual immorality. We have seen  this often in our own community.
The Scripture says  that  "the Lord is the avenger in all these things."  Please  note that sexual sins are not inconsequential. God  judges  these.

4:7  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
God’s will for each believer is that they should become more and more conformed to Christ’s moral character. Paul’s point here comes with a solemn warning .
4:8  warns us that the rejection of this exhortation is literally the rejection of "the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you."
Since the call to sexual purity finds its origin in the will of God, its rejection is tantamount  to disregarding and dishonoring of God Himself. That is very serious , and God says that He will not leave a sexual offender unpunished . ( see also Hebrews  13:4)   Paul expresses a similar point in 1 Corinthians 6:15-20 where he argues that the believer’s body is the "temple of the Holy Spirit."  You dare not defile God’s property. If you do , you insult God – and God is not mocked .


The Holy Spirit  warns  us today  that  we  must not  underestimate  the   effects  of  sexual sin . Tragically  our Namibian culture  does not view  sexual immorality  as  evil. We are currently bearing  huge  consequences  and scars  in the heart  of this nation. There is an anger  rising in this nation , and  God alone knows where it will end .
We have seen  firstly that  such sexual sin  is  a plain act of rebellion  against God  who warns us in His word,  and He plainly tells us that  He  is an avenger  in all these things.
But we have also seen , secondly that sexual sins (particularly  those within the confines  of the  church) hurt  our fellow believer . I must remind you then  that in your desire  to please God,  you must understand the serious nature of this particular sin.  Even though  every sin  has  serious consequences  when unrepented of, yet  sins like  adultery  or  fornication (and murder)   have  severe consequences .
Why?   They damage the name of God. They damage the character  and lives of the people involved and they damage  relationships in the church.
This is because adultery and fornication  are physical sins. Greed , lust, envy, pride, and hatred  are essentially sins of the heart  - and although these sins are very serious  if not repented of  yet  sexual sins  are more severe  than the heart sins that precede them. Sexual sin is an explicit sin.  "Heart sins" , damage  you and your relationship with God.  Sexual sin  damages you, your relationship with God and your relationship with others .

Why this reminder  at the end of the year  ?
  •  Everyone needs a regular reminder  of these things. 
  •  The Bible  believes in preventative counseling.  

 6 things  that will help you to  please God and resist sexual sin

  1. Purposely Walk to Please God (v.1)
  2. Remember the instructions given  ( v.2)
  3. Remember the will of God  (v.3)
  4. Control your body (v.4)
  5. The incentive of Christian love which seeks the good of others( v.6)
  6. Remember the wrath of God (vv. 6-8)

Knowing God is ultimately the path to sexual purity. We have bodies so that God might be gloried in them. That is why God gave you a body.  And if you are in bondage to pornography and fantasies or fornication or adultery the strategy is  to repent (turn away from your sin)  and  turn to God and get to know your God!  Lustful passion is the mark of the Gentiles who do not know God.
May God increase your joy as  you make your sexuality  a part of your worship of God.

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