Bible Passage: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
Since the 1960’s the media has been creating a cultural ethos that having sex whenever and with whomever you want is how to truly experience life. The Bible teaches us the exact opposite. #ThisIsLiving #SexualPurity #1Thessalonians
This Is Living, Part 1
Related Content: An Honest Conversation About Sexual Temptation
Have you ever gotten a crazy awesome cool gift that got you really excited about receiving? It had the potential of fun and enjoyment, but then you had no idea how to use it and so it just sat there forever.
For many people, this is what happens with their Christian faith. They hear the gospel and their need to surrender to Christ as well as God’s love and salvation in Christ. So they give their life to Christ with extreme excitement; they get baptized and join the church; and they even attend the church services and enjoy the music and challenges in the preaching. However, beyond the encouraging experiences in church they are never able to really connect Christianity to living. That is at the end of the day they appreciate the good they are able to accomplish in the community through their church and they appreciate the emotional and spiritual uplift of the worship services; and if they’re real involved they appreciate the friendships they built through being involved in a life group or service team. However the deep sense of living eternal life seems to elude them. Minus the few hours a week they were involved in church nothing in their life really changed.
The reason for this reality is they have never stopped and considered that Christianity is not simply being adopted as God’s children, but that it is literally functioning as God’s children! True living is not going through this life as we did before, just with the encouragement that when it’s all over I’m going to go to heaven, but rather actually living life now.
Paul begins 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 with these words,
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. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus
Point is that Paul didn’t just tell them how to not go to hell, but he and his team also told them how to walk. That is how to live. Living is walking. It’s getting out of bed every day to make thousands of little choices, the size of one step at a time. This will at minimum define what living was like that day and potentially define what living will be like the rest of your life! So Paul begins this 2nd part of Thessalonians with a very important principle for living. For the 1,000’s of individual steps we make every day that truly define our experience of living, he says we need to walk to please God. That is, for your notes,
We were created to glorify God. Therefore living is only truly experienced in the continual effort to please God.
This is why Paul says that you need to make this effort more and more. Because living is all about pleasing God and not ourselves. Sanctification is the process of growing in our love of Christ so we will be more and more motivated and empowered to take less and less steps in life that are about trusting in my desires and the values of this world. We want to take more and more steps (walking!) that are about pleasing God! Obeying Him! Knowing Him!
This is completely contradictory to the values of this world. The world and Satan say to please yourself. As a matter fact the world and Satan say if you want to experience life you have to work really hard at making sure you are pleasing yourself. That you need to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to make sure you are happy. And happiness is pursuing whatever it is that you feel like you need or want right now. So that means whatever sexual desire, financial desires, relational desires, hobbies, etc., Whatever you desire is what you need to be pursuing in order to maximize your days on this earth and truly live. If you are going to take 1,000 steps today figure out how to make all 1,000 of them be towards fulfilling your desires.
However, the Bible paints a very different picture because the Bible says our flesh and our hearts are wicked and deceitful and by nature rebel against God who is eternal life. If God is life and our desires are in rebellion to Him then walking in those desires is fundamentally not living but rather dying! Those pleasures become death instead of life.
So Paul made it real clear while he and his team were in Thessalonica to not just teach them how to be saved, but also how to walk in that salvation. That is how to walk in life, that is how to literally live!
So today we begin our study of what God made living to actually be. It’s a study of life. It’s a study to set us free from sin, the wicked and deceitful counterfeit life this world offers us, and into the actual life we can have because we have been brought into fellowship with Jesus Christ and know the truth!
1Thessalonians 4:1-2 introduces the subject matter of the last two chapters. We are going to spend the next 7 weeks walking through those. Finding out how God made us to get everything out of life He created for us to experience! Today we begin with 4:3-8. Will you stand with me as I read God’s Word?
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 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; 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. 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. (4:3-8)
To teach us how to truly live, Paul gives 4 commands in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 about sexual purity.
The first command Paul gives us about sexual purity is,
Avoid the likelihood of sexual immorality. (4:3)
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;
The word “abstain” is a blunt and concrete term. It means to “stay away from” or avoid!
If I’m driving down the road and I want to avoid something I have to willfully (want to avoid it) then intentionally (do something) to avoid it. But understand this, avoiding things can be done ahead of time. Sometimes it has be done in the moment, but most of the time it can be avoided ahead of time!
For instance, I avoid interstate 85 at certain parts of the day! I don’t have to somehow figure out how to get off the interstate because I know from 6:30am until about 8:30am 85 north is going to be jammed up by a wreck at the Lowell, McAdenville or Belmont exit and from 4:00 to 6:00 pm I avoid 85 south because of the disaster at the 485 interchange. Now, that’s proactively avoiding a mess. But sometimes it happens right in front of you in an instant.
I’ve been in wrecks myself and I’ve witnessed quit a few. One time I was on 85 north and a guy in front of me had something break in one of the front wheels and suddenly his car just swerved left into the medium bounced off and went back across the interstate. He tried to correct it which caused him to swerve back into the barrier again and bounce off yet again and come all the way back across the interstate. All the cars in that part of the interstate were hitting brakes and dodging him and each other and somehow nobody hit each other! It looked like it was going to be the NASCAR big one but then it wasn’t because everybody avoided the wreck!
You and I need to take this attitude about sexual immorality. You know where the wrecks occur. So avoid that place all together! Stop justifying getting on a road that you know is going to have train wreck! It’s easier to say no ahead of time!
But as I said, life will bring things at you that you have to be prepared in advance to avoid. So how do we do that? Well that leads us to the 2nd command.
The 2nd command Paul gives us about sexual purity is…
Stop letting sexual passions lead you. (4:4-5)
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: … 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;
The Bible makes it clear that God is changing our hearts desires but until Jesus returns that process will not be complete. That means we will always have sinful desires within us! We are sinners, because we have sinful hearts. That is very different from “sinning” as an act. We sin when we submit to those desires. And remember sin is death. So what we do with those desires will either be steps into life or steps into death!
Therefore, Paul says it’s the will of God that each one of you know how to control his body in Holiness and Honor as opposed to sin and depravity. That is you have got to stop allowing your sexual desires to influence where and how you are going to walk.
Much like in today’s culture, in Thessalonica people were told to freely chase after whatever sexual desire they had!
But perhaps what’s more disturbing in our society is that we have moved from the danger of “free love” to being told to literally find your identity in your sexuality! So the most jacked up, unpredictable, unreliable, most self-centered desire we have, the world is saying make that who you are. Determine the pathway of your life and all that you say and do by that desire! No wonder we are so jacked up! And listen, I’m not just talking about the alphabet soup that has become the homosexual world. I’m talking about the heterosexual world where people are addicted to pornography. Where they are sleeping around with everybody and thus have intimacy with nobody. Where they have no relationship of substance because their relationships are nothing more than momentary pleasure of sex.
Paul says stop letting sex control you and instead, as a child of God, learn to control your walk as a child of God, not as a dog in heat!
How do we do that? There are three ways we can stop being led by our sexual desires.
The 1st way we can stop being led by our sexual desires is to,
Learn and meditate on God’s Word so that you know the difference between your desires and God’s. (it’s crazy how we can justify sexual immorality and say God told us it was ok. Or just be blind to the truth!)
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
The 2nd way we can stop being led by our sexual desires is to,
Consistently takes steps to grow in your knowledge and faith of God’s love for you. (it doesn’t take away sexual immoral desires, it just motivates us to enjoy Him more than those desires!)
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)
The 3rd way we can stop being led by our sexual desires is to,
Have Gospel centered relationships with people who will fight the fight with you! (includes vulnerability (you got to be honest or those relationships don’t help!)
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Stop creating division and discord. (4:6)
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: … 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.
Division is when at least two people can’t live in unity anymore. Discord is when fighting and tension occurs. Verse 6 gives us direction on both of those.
It was understood that if a person had sex with another man’s wife you sinned against that man. Adultery was actually illegal in the Roman Empire. So imagine, as a Christian, if you had sex with somebody else’s spouse you were not only violating God’s law of morality but you were also violating the morality of a pagan society that justified every other kind of sexual immorality other than that!
In Jewish culture and law it was understood that pre-marital sex was having sex with somebody else’s wife or husband and thus was still adultery, even though neither is married.
But, more specifically, most scholars believe Paul was speaking specifically in verse 6 not just to sexual immorality as defined by the Bible, but specifically to one aspect of the impact of sexual immorality within the church. In the church families get close to one another, they trust one another to literally support each other through the trials and tribulations of life. In Thessalonica that included supporting each other through persecution! So imagine the division within the church. The discord within the church when all of sudden it got out that there was adulterous affair going on in the church! The sense of betrayal in an affair is already deep, but add to it that it’s somebody you loved and trusted drives the knife even deeper and division even broader, the discord even uglier!
Paul uses an Old Testament Hebrew concept here to illustrate God’s response to creating this kind of division and discord in the body. Of wounding another family member in this way. Paul says I told you that God himself is the avenger in these matters!
In the Old Testament every family had an avenger. If somebody in the family was murdered and through due process the accused person went to a city refuge, stood trial and was found guilty then that person would be put to death by the family’s official avenger. Only the official avenger had the right to carry out the punishment on somebody who had wronged their family. Here Paul says in our family the avenger is God! Listen, that was meant by Paul to be a threat. If you are a child of God then you need to know that He will discipline you to rescue you. God will not simply cover up our sin as some weak parent who is too scared to actually parent their kids so they just cover up their sin and mistakes.
I’ll never forget one time when Ari was little and he did something that he knew in advance the consequence was going to be a spanking. His only concern after getting caught by Keri was who was going to administer the spanking. Was it going to be Keri or me! Paul says it’s God that’s issuing this consequence.
Stop disregarding God. (4:7-8)
For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. (Fact. Period.) It is absurd to hear Christians saying God called them into sexual immorality. Whether that be homosexuality, premarital sex to try and see if you are “compatible” or an affair with the person you think God truly called you to be with instead of your spouse! It is so clear, and so obvious that God has called us to sexual purity. Paul says, “Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”(every saved person is saved because the Holy Spirit has been given to them. Given by God’s Grace in Christ to bring our dead soul that was eternally void of God into an eternal relationship with God where we are eternally filled with God! He is in us and abiding in us and as such He is leading us!
If you are a Christian, then you are so because God has put His Holy Spirit in you and as such set you apart from those who are not His. Point being if you are a Christian God is in you speaking to you. Therefore, to justify immorality you are not ignoring a preacher, but you are ignoring God.
If you’re a Christian, the Holy Spirit of God is in you making what the Bible calls obvious sin. Obvious! So when we choose to take a step into sexual immorality we are doing it hearing God’s clear instructions. And we are saying … NAH … not really interested. I’ll just choose something else. More importantly to the point of this passage it’s saying I’ll choose someone else! We are not disregarding an instruction on where to put your feet. We are disregarding the person who told us where to put our feet! And in this case that person is God Himself!
Challenge: How are you disregarding God in the area of sex and sexuality?
My first official girlfriend was in the 6th grade. It was a girl I had liked on and off every school year and to my surprise she sent me a note via a mutual friend asking me if I wanted to be her girlfriend or not. A literal check yes or no letter! I checked yes without hesitation and sent it back to her. We were both so excited, we told all our friends. She wrote my name on some of her book covers and stuff, you know the drill. But I never called her, didn’t talk with her much on breaks in school. I may have walked with her down the hall a couple times and sat with her at lunch a few times at most, but no more than before I was her boyfriend. So, three weeks after I got the check yes or no letter I got a “Dear John” letter. And get this, I was devastated! My heart was absolutely trashed! Now here’s what makes no sense. I had totally disregarded her in my walk. that is in my life. So why in the world was I so devastated? HA! I mean I was “all about her”, but not enough to stop hanging out with my boys during lunch or recess. And of course I didn’t have time to call her after school either because when I finished my homework I wanted to go play with my friends! So the irony is that I was totally devastated about not being her boyfriend anymore but in reality I never was! I was ironically devastated over losing something that I claimed I had. That in reality I actually never claimed with my living!
I’m not trying to be cheesy, but if you’re a Christian you got a letter from Jesus that said check yes or no. You didn’t ask him to be His Kid. He asked you! He sought you out and gave Himself to you! But what we end up doing is we disregard Him. Instead of choosing to make more and more steps each day to be with Him, we disregard Him and the path He is walking. We instead choose to go our own way. We know the direction our feet should be going but we choose to go a different way We choose a different step, then another one, then another, and we suddenly wake up one day and realize we don’t know God at all. We suddenly wake up one day and realize our life is mess. We had been lying to ourselves that we were walking with God, but we were really just walking with our desires and in this text the direct application is our sexual desires. These desires were leading us and not Christ. And because they were leading us, we were not on His path with Him. We were on our path following our sexual desires and as such not walking in life and not living! Living is daily walking with with God. That is not happening if we are disregarding where He is telling us to put our feet and thus literally disregarding Him!