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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Scripture Sunday, Week 9

This is the ninth part of an ongoing series going through 1 Thessalonians. The first part can be
found here.

"As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit." -1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

"As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living." I find the first verse here really moving. The phrase "live in order to please God" is really something we all need to keep in mind everyday. That's the goal. Not to please man, certainly not to please ourselves, but to please God. There is so much freedom in that! Paul and the other apostles have clearly felt in their earlier discipleship work with the Thessalonians they helped teach them how to do that, and affirm that the Thessalonians are indeed doing it.

"Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more." Yes, I know that I want to learn to live to please God more and more. And what this verse says is that this is accomplished in the Lord Jesus. That is we don't please Him through ourselves but through the power of the mysterious unity that happens between the believer, with the Spirit in dwelling, and the Lord Jesus who takes us in Himself. We need to be more and more in Jesus, aware of our oneness and dwelling with Him, and in this we will please Him more and more.

"For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified" The apostles are referring to earlier teachings as "instructions [given] by the authority of the Lord Jesus" that is to say that those teachings are from God. Then they say something very promising, that it is God's will the Thessalonians (and we can infer all Christians) be sanctified. What a glorious promise! So how does that happen?

"that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister." The Greco-Roman empire of the time was very sexually corrupt, much like modern society. Therefore Paul and the other apostles know that they must urge quite openly that sexual immorality be avoided, and that is not something that has passed away. We are to learn to control our bodies, something I think most of us can attest that our bodies resist. But as a Spirit led people, and not a worldly people, we are called to be holy and honorable. Paul quite blatantly calls the 'pagans' a people with 'passionate lust.' We don't have talk about anything graphic to see that the world hasn't changed, we can just looked at the cover of magazines! I know my own struggles in this area, as does God and Ryan (who as my husband I do trust to openly discuss this with, though yes, it can get awkward.) I think the world that we are in is always at odds with this, feeding our lust with not only the images that most Christians acknowledge are making this world a hard place, but also the stories and mindsets of so much around us. Why is it like that? Well as Paul says these people who promote sexual immorality are those "who do not God." I think we should pause and dwell on that for a second. So often I see Christians struggling with sexual immorality lashing out at those who do not know God for the sin of tempting them instead of taking responsibility that they, who do know God, were not strong enough to walk away and repenting.

The next statement in the above passage "and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister" really shows the true corruption of sexual immorality. That is, acting in lust generally de-humanizes and always causes harm, both to the person at fault and the other. In sexual immorality we can really harm not only ourselves but also others, and Paul apparently is concerned the Thessalonians might harm each other by taking sexual advantage. We see that kind of sin playing out in the pastor and priest sex scandals that are brought too light far too often. We also see it less publicly when it's not a pastor or other in authority but it still happens in the church amongst the congregation.

"The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit."  These verses make no mistake about it, these sins are grave indeed. The Lord promises punishment upon the sexually immoral, because as I said before they cause harm on themselves and on others. In addition, it is a total act of disobedience, reason enough for punishment. Paul says "God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." This is truth, and it is also a reason to rejoice. For God would not call us without providing a way. So if you're struggling with sexual immorality, repent and ask the Spirit to lead you to His holy life He's planned for you. In the act of repentence you're not "reject[ing] this instruction" and therefore aren't rejecting God. But if you're a Christian who knows you're guilty and don't pray for help from God to change your path you're rejecting God, as Paul says "the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit." Let those not guilty of this sin stay that way, and those are struggling with it choose the path of repentance.

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