Lent 2 B.C.P. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
4 1 Finally, brothers, 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 his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.
In the previous Chapter in this letter Paul had written that he was encouraged by the good news of the faith and love of the Thessalonian Christians that had been reported to him by Timothy (3:6).
The start of Chapter 4 is a turning point in this letter as Paul raises a number of matters, presumably raised by Timothy's visit. These eight verses are clearly about sexual morality that is required by God. This is not to suggest that the Thessalonians were immoral, in Chapter 1 they were described as 'model' in spite of 'severe suffering', verses 6f. Yet the idea of confining sex within marriage was alien to the Greek culture. An author of this period wrote, 'We keep mistresses for pleasure, concubines for our daily bodily needs, but we have wives to produce legitimate children and serve as trustworthy guardians of our homes.'
It is against this background that Paul writes to the Thessalonian church about the way they, and we, should live.
Why should we live? in order to please God, verse 1. This should be the motivation for every believer. How should we live? 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. We can know the way to live by following the Bible, not the current way of thinking.
This leads to ''sanctification", being set apart to live for God. The importance of listening to Biblical teaching and obeying it can not be understated. We are to know and apply God's word to our lives. Here, Paul is referring to sexual morality, you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God;
Self-control is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, something produced naturally by His work within the believer. But that does not mean that the believer should be unaware of the need to be self-controlled or of the conduct expected by God and written in the Bible.
Just as the notion of confining sex to marriage was strange in the Greek culture so it is in today where individual pleasure is the driving force behind advertising and the way people think. There is a culture of consumerism without real cost and commitment. Pleasure is seen as the highest goal on which health, relationships and the well being of others is sacrificed.
People get damaged when they disregard God's ways. This is why Paul wrote, 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.
God created human beings and he created sex. He created it to be enjoyed within marriage. Anything else is outside his plan and will harm people. Young people coerced into sex at an early age through peer pressure. Spouses wounded by the adultery of their partner. Those who are practising homosexuals. Those who cohabit.
Cohabitation is accepted by many people, even Christians as acceptable, even on a par to marriage. But it is not the same as marriage because there is no commitment. Some see it as good preparation for marriage but statistically, those who live together before marriage are more likely to get divorced than those who did not. Those who cohabit are more likely to be unfaithful than those who marry and the relationship is usually shorter, on average 19 months if there is no child/ren. Existing cohabitations with children tend to break up at four - to fivefold the rate of marriages. Cohabitees tend to contribute less economically to the relationship, are more likely to abuse children, who, in turn are more likely to have psychological and/or behavioural problems.
Not only will people be damaged by disobeying God's will, but their relationship with God will be damaged, perhaps into eternity.
The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.
Paul is writing to Christians, warning them that, if they disobey God's ways they risk punishment, even putting their salvation at risk.
Hebrews 10:26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
God sees Christians as morally perfect through what Jesus has done for them, through the work of the Holy Spirit who lives in every believer. If we deliberately disobey God's will for us then we are denying our very nature and stepping outside the protection provided by the cross.
Accepting God involves accepting His ways, His Son, and His Spirit. If we reject God's ways we also reject His Son, His Spirit, His salvation. We are called to live 'holy' lives, set apart for God. Whilst we will not live morally perfect lives because of our sinful, human nature our lives should involve a cycle continual repentance and faith so that we become more hole, more like Jesus.
"Holiness does not consist in doing extraordinary things. It consists in accepting, with a smile, what Jesus sends us. It consists in accepting and following the will of God." - Mother Teresa
"Breath in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy. " - St. Augustine