Written by Dave Urbanski
In our continuing study through Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church, we find the apostle in chapter 4 getting down to the nitty gritty of what it means to live the Christian life — particularly for those who are brand-new believers, as those in the Thessalonian church were.
The first phrase to notice in verse 1 is “how you ought to walk.” And the Greek word for “walk” here and throughout the Bible means how we live — our conduct. For Christians our walks aren’t about lists of dos and don’ts that we live by legalistically and then cross off to determine how well we’re living; it’s about freeing ourselves up — leaving our sin behind — to be completely on the cutting edge of availability in service to God.
There’s a sense of mission in how we walk — how we live — as Christians. And Paul reminds his brothers and sisters in that he’s already gotten them started on exactly how since they “received” (verse 1) such instruction from him already. Much like the Israelites who “received” the Law and the Ten Commandments from the Lord in the Old Testament, when we “received” Christ into our lives — as the Thessalonians did — it signaled the beginning of forward movement. The start of a walk. The opening up of our hearts to Jesus and trusting him — as verse 1 says, “more and more” each day. And that pleases God.
And on that note, exactly how else do we please God? On Sunday we discussed several examples in the Scriptures outside Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians: First, we must have faith (Hebrews 11:6). Second, we must be spiritually minded (Romans 8:6-8). Third, we must fear God (Psalm 147:11). Fourth, we must follow Christ’s example (Matthew 17:5). Fifth, we must obey God (1 Samuel 15:22). Sixth, we must give God the sacrifices he wants (Hebrews 13:15-16).
Now here comes Paul’s first point in our passage: Our sanctification is God’s will for us (verse 3). And what does sanctification mean? Well, as you might expect, it’s literally the essence of our Christian walk. It’s the process of becoming holy. It’s not having reached it or mastered it — it’s about the journey, the movement forward. And while that certainly means change, it’s something all of us can do and should embrace.
What’s Paul’s next point in verse 3? “That you abstain from sexual immorality.” Pretty straightforward. When it comes to sexual purity, God wants to be right in the midst of our efforts in this area. In other words, since sexuality and purity are big and powerful issues in all of our lives, the Lord wants all the more to help us. And part of that happens when we’re being sensitive to God’s leading and instruction — because if we’re not, and we blow off God’s voice, we very well may veer into the carnal, the worldly ways of “anything goes” sexuality. But if we’re listening for God’s leading and desiring to follow him, God will empower us to grow and become strong in the area of sexuality.
Holiness sometimes can be a difficult concept to completely understand. Of course, walking in holiness pleases God — and that’s always a good enough reason to keep our steps going in that direction. However, the Lord himself says that walking in holiness also is “for our own good.” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13) Holiness is also for you and for me. What a gift!
So, as we journey on our walks, remember that even when we trip and fall, we can get up. If we become out of step with God, we can listen to his voice, make an adjustment, and get back in rhythm with the Lord. Because the Christian life lived to the hilt, to ultimate, is an epic journey, an adventure to end all adventures — but if we’re not seeking after holiness on our walks, we miss the most amazing stuff the Lord has for us. And by all means, don’t miss it.
“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.”—1 Thessalonians 4:7-8
Written by Dave Urbanski
At this point in our study of 1 Thessalonians, we know Paul has been alone for a long time. He only got to spend about three weeks with the church he established in Thessalonica — so he sent Timothy back to find out how his brothers and sisters were doing in their faith. And when Timothy brought back an encouraging report — that the Thessalonian church was strong and vibrant — Paul was very excited.
That’s what’s on Paul’s mind and heart in verse 6 of chapter 3 when he shares how much he longs to be with them in person. And isn’t that something all of us at Calvary Chapel Living Hope can relate to? The coronavirus has socially distanced and separated us physically — and indeed we all long to be together again.
And why is that? Well, Paul answers that in verse 7: “for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.” For Paul — and for us, too — it’s not merely that we miss an emotional connection in friendship after not being together in person for so long; even more it’s being able to experience each other’s faith up close and personal because that actually comforts us! Learning more about each other’s faith stories inspires and spurs us on to greater heights of our own faith.
In verse 8, Paul writes, “For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.” To live — that’s our vitality and empowerment. Knowing that someone else is growing in their faith or that someone has come to know Jesus — how exciting! Knowing that God is at work in others’ lives inspires us and helps us to flourish in our own faith
Can you tell Paul is pretty much overflowing with joy right about here in his letter? So much so that in verse 9 he asks his Thessalonian church what thanksgiving he and his companions can return to God for having the privilege of witnessing the faith they’ve grown in! But that’s not all — he also reveals an important truth, revealing to his readers that part of their being together also will include Paul and his companions supplying what is lacking in the Thessalonians’ faith. (Can you imagine being visited by Paul and him supplying what is lacking in your faith? How amazing is that prospect?)
But of course, it’s a mutual thing. And Paul already acknowledges that the Thessalonians — so very young in their faith — have nevertheless helped him grown in his faith! (Can you imagine Paul confessing to you that your growing faith has inspired his own faith? Can you see a pattern here?) Indeed, that principle applies to us at Calvary Chapel Living Hope, too.
As we come to verse 11 Paul prays, “Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you.” I think we can apply such a prayer to our own situation — that when it’s time for us to resume gathering together in person as a body of believers, it will be through the power of the Lord that it comes to pass. And not through the power of earthly authorities. In fact, if perhaps we’re doubting that elected officials will never change their way of thinking — just watch and wait: God has more than enough power to change the minds of mayors, governors, and presidents!
Verse 12 reveals the idea of being in the state of “abounding in love.” Now if you were to picture what that might look like, consider a “love tank” that’s so full it begins overflowing. Can you imagine? Love pouring out everywhere like a flood. And you know what happens during a flood: Water invades every space we can think of, and even nooks and crannies we forgot existed — or never knew existed! On earth such a force of nature is a disaster for sure — but spiritually speaking, an overflowing tank of love filled by God is a cause for celebration!
That’s what Paul is talking about in verse 13: “so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”
When we’ve experienced this kind of love from God, it develops and increases our holiness. And what do we mean by that? No, holiness isn’t about following a list of rules. It’s about living our lives demonstrating the love God has given us. And how do we do that?
Well, in the second-ever book Paul composed — his letter to the Galatians — he talks about that. Holiness, in fact, leads to more of nine awesome things. Namely, to more love, more joy, more peace, more patience, more kindness, more goodness, more faithfulness, more gentleness, and more self-control. When we’re in that state, we’re in a very exciting place of being finely in tune with the Holy Spirit, letting him guide and direct us — even if that means just sitting in God’s presence and letting him fill us.
May we all strive to this point in our spiritual lives. Because that will unlock the door on the path toward even greater things happening in our walks with the Lord.
Join us for this special testimony of Don Brien. One year ago his son Caleb took is life. Today Don will share how God has worked in and continues to work in his heart. Watch Don on Facebook live by clicking on the image above.