July 15, 2020
Dear Praying Believers,
Rachel and I appreciate your support in prayer for our prodigals and for revival. Henry Blackaby once said, “Prayer is designed to adjust you to God’s will, not to adjust God’s will to yours.” How true!
In First Thessalonians chapter four, Paul talks about God’s desire or will for His people. Notice the language,
Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more. For you remember what we taught you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor— not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. Never harm or cheat a fellow believer in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you (1 Thes. 4:1-8).
We learn from verse one that these Thessalonian Christians were living in a way that pleased God, and Paul encouraged them to do it even more and more. Doing God’s will pleases His heart. This is not blindly groping around trying to figure out what God desires of me. No, it is willingly submitting to the clear teaching of Scripture. God’s desires simple obedience to His Word, as Paul says in verse one. This is true, but we all have the tendency to wander from God’s revealed path of obedience and therefore we need to be encouraged to keep living consistent with the character of our God.
In verse three, Paul makes a clear statement about God’s will in our lives. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thes. 4:3). Doing God’s will necessitates holy living. God wants His people growing and developing in purity. The days of Paul were marked by moral corruption, with diverse sexual immorality that was offensive to God. For us in the twenty-first century, the need for complete commitment to holiness has never been greater. While the wickedness of sin has not changed over the years from the early days of Christian testimony, the access we have to it has. With computers, cell phones, and other devices, we have easy access to evil and we need daily vigilance in abstaining from these toxic sins. To abstain means, “to hold oneself off, or to refrain.” If we are going to avoid sexual immorality, it means staying away from what causes immorality. Sin has predictable patterns, and a distinctive cycle that leads you to places that God wants to protect you from, places that ultimately lead to grief and poverty of soul. It’s wise to discern what your personal temptations are so you can protect yourself. It’s essential to keep your thought processes in check and remember that small choices can have a ripple effect. No sin is small enough to be safe to toy with.
One might ask how it’s possible to do this? Where does the power to abstain come from? How can we grow in our sanctification before God? Paul reminds us in verse four that it requires control. We often call it self-control, but it is better termed “Spirit-control.” This control is described in Galatians five by Paul as a fruit of the Spirit. When you trust Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to live within you and He, as a divine person, seeks to have great control in your life so you can reach your full potential for God. Paul advised the Ephesian believers, “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). Being filled with the Holy Spirit means that you submit to Him and give Him control. The strength to live holy lives is found in our God, not in ourselves. And when try to do it ourselves and we fail, we go back to Him for renewed healing and help. By putting our dependence upon God, we are enabled to do God’s will.
God takes sexual sin very seriously. He says, “Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thes. 4:8). It is a solemn thing to disregard, to reject, to slight, to set aside the God who loves us. What we learn from these verses is that doing God’s will not only pleases His heart, leads to holy living, and involves Spirit-controlled dependence, but it also honors God. When we honor God, His name is magnified and we are blessed!
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel