When you preach through the Bible with a systematic style of having the text in front of you, those really tough places will pop up from time to time. Eventually, you get to passage you’d rather skip over.
1 Thess. 4 is one of those places. Paul won’t avoid it.
Neither should we.
And my question is just very, very simple: “As a follower of Jesus Christ, who I claim as my King, am I willing to have my whole being (and that means my sexuality) laid before him and allow him to command what is best for my life?”
It is my desire to leave it in that simplest phrasing, let the passage stay in front of me, and consider: “Am I truly living as wholly given over to my King?”
HIS will needs to matter, if I am his apprentice and HE is my master teacher. The world doesn’t get to dictate this matter to me any more if I am truly following him.
Leaving it in as simple terms as possible, my truly honest question is this: how do you walk this passage out in your life?
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.
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. (1 Thess. 4:1-8)
I am working my way through Leviticus… intentionally…
Leviticus 18-20 and 1 Peter 1 offer similar exhortations: Where you are headed and how you succeed depends on the relationship you have with God. Live differently. You do NOT have to live like the people in that land.
What 1 Peter reminds us in a very sober way is that although we haven’t physically picked up and moved to a different “land,” when we follow Christ, we have moved allegiances.
The call really is to live differently. Our salvation is precious. Our Lord is precious. His call is real. Why ignore it?
13 Therefore, once you have your minds ready for action and you are thinking clearly, place your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 Don’t be conformed to your former desires, those that shaped you when you were ignorant. But, as obedient children, 15 you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy. 16 It is written, You will be holy, because I am holy. 17 Since you call upon a Father who judges all people according to their actions without favoritism, you should conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your dwelling in a strange land. (1 Pet. 1:13-17)
I know I can be concerned about the spiritual place of others. It may be the hazards of the job as a pastor.
When I get so caught up with the spiritual place of others, the Lord gently (or not so gently) reminds me that maybe I should be concerned about the place of holiness in my own life.
5 I said, “Mourn for me; I’m ruined! I’m a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips. Yet I’ve seen the king, the Lord of heavenly forces!” (Isa. 6:5, CEB)
Advent is the powerful story of Christ coming to us. It also needs to remind us of the state of our own affairs. We are not worthy. We cannot dwell in his holy presence.
In an era where our society has effectively wiped away “shame” and “embarrassment” we may very well have destroyed our sense of “holiness” and our need for the holiness of God in our own lives. We are simply not comfortable with the Holy. That’s why we’ve created God in our own image.
How we need a vision of the Holy. To realize we truly do not belong in his presence… and then to know his touch of grace that draws us in!
John 17 is Jesus praying for his disciples. It is beautiful.
In v. 17 I find one of the most powerful sentences in that prayer, with three incredibly powerful words.
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
Sanctify: to make holy. To set apart. To consecrate.
Truth: not just making correcting statements. It is living in Christ. It living in truth.
Word: logos. It is the essence of Christ. In the beginning was the Word…
We have a tremendous calling. It is a high and holy calling. It is not a calling that says, “You are saved, so get out of this world.”
It is a precious calling that says, “You are commissioned by the One who is truth to live out that truth in this world today. Get to it.”
We want “holiness” is a few easy steps.
Holiness might be “possible” in a few steps, but they aren’t easy. Our affections have to be turned. Holiness comes when our affections are on Christ and not our own agendas. Our vision is full of Christ, and rid of this world’s agenda.
We need the taste of the Kingdom in our spiritual mouths. We need that holy hunger. Taste and see the Lord is GOOD.
We also need “crisis” moments. We realize our tastes have been wrong. Our tastes don’t just need adjusting… they need changing. That brings crisis. We like our lives. We like the way we think things are.
But the Kingdom comes. The taste touches us and we are awakened. But the old tastes don’t go quietly into the night. There is a crisis. Sometimes there may be several crisis points. We have to face our frailty. We have to face our ugly nature. We fall on Christ.
Taste and see… he is GOOD.
What images come to your mind when the word “holiness” is used?
Have we, as believers, given up on “being holy?”
13 Therefore, once you have your minds ready for action and you are thinking clearly, place your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 Don’t be conformed to your former desires, those that shaped you when you were ignorant. But, as obedient children, 15 you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy. 16 It is written, You will be holy, because I am holy. (1 Pet. 1:13-16, CEB)