Sunday, April 12, 2015

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 “God Centredness through Sanctified Sexuality “


Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians  is a letter to a church  which is in good spiritual shape, and that is good to know. Thank God, that although the  battle against the enemy of our souls is relentless,  making us sometimes very discouraged, there   are also  times  in which we can see   the church of God surging ahead, gaining ground, leaving us very encouraged. I have seen this in  my  life on earth.
Paul was  very encouraged  by the testimony of  this  church which  had come into existence by the preaching of the gospel   on his second missionary journey [1].    All the marks of  a God-centered church  were found among them. There was  evidence  of faith,  hope and  love (1: 3 cf.  1 Cor.  13 ). Despite  much affliction   they were  full of the joy of the Holy Spirit (1:6) and they were a real example  to believers in the provinces of Achaia and Macedonia (1:8) . They were standing fast in the Lord (3:8) and that  was  wonderful  to see.
But then there is always the tendency  to rest upon our laurels  and so in In  4:1 the apostle Paul  writes to them  saying , “ 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.
He is asking them not to sit on their laurels. Paul ‘asks and urges’  the Thessalonians   to please God  in  their walking  more and more  i.e. progressively and increasingly ! In the Christian life there is always room for more growth. A God centered life – a   life that truly  pleases God is  a life  in which  progressive sanctification  is  observable. 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 always remains  room  for growth:  “We urge you … that you do so more and more…

The basis of Paul’s appeal  is  not a legalistic framework , but it is  the command of Christ. He  is not some   control freak pastor. 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 again  in 4:3 he says,   “ This is the will of God” .

As we  too sit under  the authority of  the Word of the Father and  of the Son, and inspired by the Holy Spirit[2], let us take care to  listen  very carefully  to  this exhortation  as it comes  to  us  at this  time  by the providence  of God.  
Paul says  : “This is the will of God , your sanctification” (4:3) . It is  God’s will that you should  grow continuously and progressively in our sanctification.

‘Sanctification’   is  the process by which the believer is progressively brought to greater spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness. This process begins at  conversion (justification)  and continues throughout the believer’s life. It is  the process  following our justification by which the old ways and the old habits of our lives  are increasingly done away  with and replaced with  by  new ways which please  and glorify God.  Those who   hear God’s Word and obey what it says  will grow faster in sanctification  than those  who   display   poor  spiritual discipline.  Those  who  make use  of the  means of grace  such as prayer (private and corporate), private   and public  reading and meditating upon the Word of God,   regular  worship patterns, and Christian fellowship,  using their spiritual gifts  to the glory of God  will  display  faster growth and Christian maturity and therefore will display  greater evidences of sanctification.   
 
Two specific  areas  in which believers   need to grow in  order that they  may please God :
Although  there are many aspects in which believers need  grow in their  sanctification, Paul, for reasons unstated in the text, specifically highlights  the matters  of  
(i) sexuality  (4:3-8)  and (ii) brotherly love (4:9-12) ...as the special  focus of God’s transforming  and sanctifying  work in the lives of  the Thessalonian Christians,   and therefore by way of application also  in our lives.
Note, that  in both these areas  Paul wants  them to do this  “more and more”  (see 4:1,10). Today   we will only   focus  on the matter of  "sanctified sexuality."

The Sanctification  of our Sexuality :

4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification:  that you abstain from sexual immorality…
The word translated as "sexual immorality" (Gr. porneia)  refers  to any forbidden sexual activity,  such as  pre-marital,  extra-marital sex and prostitution. Such sins  were  rampant in the Greek-  Thessalonian culture, as they are in our own modern culture. Paul   asks and urges them  to “abstain from sexual immorality…  this  is  will of God  for every believer.
 
How  must we do that ?  
4:4,5   gives the answer  - “that each one of you know how to control his own body  in holiness and honor,  not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;…
Everything begins  with self-control of   one’s body. The Bible teaches us  that we must be the master  of our bodies- controlled by  Him who rules in our lives . The governing principle here is  love (1 Cor.   13:4-7), which means  taking the other person into consideration. Porneia is  borne out of  selfishness. The  proper  expression of  our sexuality is in the context of  a covenant  of  marriage, and  in that context  it is important  that  we use   our   sexuality  not in a selfish way  but in a way that  serves  our spouses .  We are not to  do what is common among  the gentiles who do not know  God and  who  operate according to  their self -centered urges,  in  “the passion of lust[3]. They are not thinking about the other person ; they are merely thinking about gratifying themselves.  
If we come out of a self - gratifying culture, is it possible to  change  and live like this?  Yes! Remember that if  God dwells in you , you have  the power and ability  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. When you are in Christ you are no longer a slave of sin. You are now a slave  of Christ and  therefore you are under the power of Christ and  with your eyes on the Lord Jesus you  are  able to overcome  your self- centered  drives. It is possible for a believer to lose this perspective and to backslide , but no true believer will remain in sin . Like David when he sinned , the true  believer is  broken and repentant, and despite  the  sin , they  will return to the Shepherd , broken , bruised  and bleeding  and He will restore   them .

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 and  God  judges  these and the apostle Paul issues a strong warning  concerning  this.

4:7 – 8  “… For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 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  and  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 .

APPLICATION :

The Holy Spirit  warns  us today  that  we  must not  underestimate  the  effects  of  sexual sin. Tragically,  our Namibian culture has loose views on   sexual morality   and we  are  currently bearing  huge  consequences  and scars  in the heart  of this nation. Because of casual sex and lack of self control in this regard many children are born in anger, and God alone knows where it will end.

SUMMARY : 
1. sexual sin  is  a plain act of rebellion  against God  who warns us in His word,  and He plainly tells us that  He   will punish  such sin.
2. Sexual sins hurt  fellow believers. They damage the name of God ; they damage the character  and lives of the people involved and they damage  relationships in the church .
3. Even though  every sin   has   consequences  when unrepented of, yet  sins like  adultery  or  fornication (and murder)   have  severer consequences. Why ?   Because adultery and fornication  are physical sins. Greed , lust , envy , pride , hatred  are essentially sins of the heart  - and although these sins are very serious  if not repented of,   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 is this an important  reminder  ?
  •  Everyone needs a regular reminder  of these things . 
  •  The Bible  believes in preventative counseling .  
SUMMARY:   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  and fearing  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 this :  Repent and get to know  God!  Lustful passion is the mark of the Gentiles who do not know God.
May God increase your joy as  you make your sanctified  sexuality  a part of your worship of God . Amen!




[1] Acts 15:36-18:22 – approximately  AD 49-52
[2] 1 Peter  1:19-21
[3]  En pathei  epithumias   - in  passion of  strong desire or lust 

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