Friday, November 16, 2007

I Thessalonians 4:3-8


3 It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 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. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

In the day of the apostle Paul, the believers in Thessalonica, as well as in Corinth and Philippi, lived in the Greek/Roman culture which not only practiced every form of sexual immorality, but deified it, made it a God. You see, not only was fornication, pornography, and all uncleanness readily available in the city of Thessalonica, but, for the non-believers, it was considered a sacred duty, it was considered an act of worship for their gods. The Greek and Roman temples were staffed with prostitutes. Whenever they got a religious urge to worship, they went to the temples to have sex with these temple prostitutes. The trio instructs the Thessalonians not to go the way of the crowd of the Gentiles who don't know God. Imagine the temptation and the pressure upon the young followers of Jesus. The trio speaks bluntly to young people, to men and women of their day, and they say, "This is the will of God, not that you be conformed to this world, but that you be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom. 12:2). This is the will of God: your sexual purity.

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication" (v. 3). The will of God is clear here. We are to be HOLY, that's sanctification! To be holy is to be set apart unto God for His mission.

One essential element of our holiness is to “abstain from fornication.” The Greek word translated “fornication” is porneia from which we get “pornography.” It’s narrowest meaning is “prostitution,” although it has a broader meaning of sexual impurity in general. It was not considered wrong, for example, for a Greek husband to see a prostitute for sexual pleasure, as long as he didn't parade this fact in front of his wife. So, when it came to sexual practices, the Thessalonians needed very clear instruction so that they might live according to God's desires. Followers of Jesus are to be set apart from this sort of behavior and not indulge in these lustful passions.

NOTE that no one is to wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, by being selfish enough to satisfy your own lusts. This is underlined by, “For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness.” We are to stand apart from the crowd in these matters in order to be attractive.

This is painfully relevant to us today. We are living in a sexually impure world on nearly every level of life. Pornography may be the greatest and most destructive epidemic we have ever experienced in the world. Sexual purity is not an option for those who follow Jesus.

According to this paragraph, if you want to do the will of God, you can begin right here. Don’t go along with the spirit of the culture. You are not only violating your relationship with your significant others; you are rejecting God Himself. Sexual purity begins with a choice—to be holy.

I Thessalonians 4:1-2


1 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. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

This is an interesting peek into the relational dynamic between the leadership trio and the Thessalonians. After they have affirmed their work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope, they turn the corner a bit. They start out with "as for other matters, brothers and sisters", then they refer to a certain set of instructions they had given the Thessalonians.

What are these instructions? Well, we'll see some of them set forth specifically in the next paragraph. So, what kind of instructions might they be?

FIRST--These instructions are practical. They have to do with how to live their lives.

SECOND--These instructions are relevant. They have to do with their specific life situation. We'll see this next as a couple of instructions are given that are most appropriate to the Thessalonian situation and circumstances.

THIRD--These instructions are a work in progress. This is why they say that we beg you and urge you to do these things more and more.

FOURTH--These instructions rest in the authority of the Lord Jesus.

In fact, as you will see, not only in the letters to the Thessalonians, that all instructions can be boiled down being Jesus--living, loving, talking, thinking and walking like Jesus. Being Jesus is a lifestyle that we are continually work on.

You see, this is right at the core of what making disciples is all about. It is not simply a body of knowledge to be remembered, but an experiential knowledge to be lived. I like the statement: Your faith in Jesus doesn't need proof; it needs practice. It's so much easier to demonstrate for Jesus through some outward show or activity rather than to simply demonstrate Jesus in your life.

NOTE one more thing here: Jesus is most effectively demonstrated in community with others. It's very difficult to see Jesus clearly in and through just one person, all alone. Jesus shows up when two or three are gathered together in His name. This is why I keep saying that these New Testament writers seem to be southerners, because they keep using terms like "Ya'll do this!" or "Ya'll do that!" "Let the word of Christ dwell among ya'll." So, what are you doing standing there all by yourself? Ya'll need to get together!