I have been a Christian nearly all my life. I have tried to live my life as an honest and loving and kind and generous person. Through sickness and through divorce as well as through the deaths of my parents and my only two siblings I have tried to live striving to please God in all that I do. I still need reminders, as I think that we all do, to live our life pleasing to God. The Apostle Paul reminds the church in Thessalonica of how to live. Let’s take a look.
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. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2, (New International Version or NIV).
The very first thing I notice here in this passage is that we are to live our lives to please God and not ourselves. That is a tall order if you really think about it. So much of my life is doing the things that I want to do; the things that I think need to be done. I wake up in the morning thinking that today I will do laundry or today I will go grocery shopping or today I will sew a baby blanket or quilt. I go through the day deciding what I will eat and when I will eat it. I think about who I will pray for unless God prompts my memory in some way to pray for someone. I take my son to school and pick him up when school ends. I do what needs done each day and I don’t really consciously think of living to please God. Do you? Be honest now because this is an important reminder to us all. Let’s see what else Paul says.
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 4:3-8, (NIV).
I have often wondered what the will of God is for my life and now Paul begins to explain to us what God’s will is. I better sit up and listen to this next part because God’s will is my desire. First we are set apart, that is what sanctified means, we are now holy humans because we have the blood of Jesus covering our sins. As holy humans we need to live a different life than other humans who are not holy because we are separated from them by our holiness. So how do we differentiate ourselves from non-holy humans? Paul tells us. I wonder why the very first behavior that we are to change on Paul’s list is to not be sexually immoral. In fact Paul says to avoid sexual immorality, does that mean that we just don’t participate or does that mean we don’t go anywhere near sexual impurity? I think both. We are not to be a partner in sexual immorality which is participation. But we are also not to encourage sexual immorality in others. Some may say that porn is not bad because they aren’t actually participating in the act of sex while viewing it but I believe God considers viewing porn the same as doing the act of sex. If you don’t believe me then look at Matthew 5:28 and read what Jesus has to say. Paul goes on to tell us that every one of us needs to learn to control our sex drive and to not give in to lust of any kind. Why? The reason why is because non-holy humans, or pagans as Paul calls them, live only for their lusty desires and they don’t restrain their sexual thoughts or actions. The world thinking now and has always been to seek something you are passionate about and then do it to please yourself. And I thought that the sexual revolution only started in the 1960’s! Boy was I wrong! And not only are we to control our bodies but we are to never take advantage of our sisters and brothers in Christ, just don’t do it! This would include husbands who think they can basically rape their wife at any time and from things I hear marital rape still happens. God is serious about this aspect of our lives. In the context of this passage Paul is talking about sexual behavior but I think we can also include the broader scope and say that it is wrong for any Christian to take advantage of another Christian. We are not to swindle or cheat or overcharge them or take advantage of them in any way. Doing so will bring God’s punishment upon you. That is pretty serious don’t you think?
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12, (NIV).
Paul praises this church for the love that they show one another as well as fellow travelling Christians. They knew how to love. Do we today I wonder? Is your church known for the love they have for one another and for those in your region of the world? I wish I knew what their church programs were like. I wonder if they were feeding the poor and taking care of orphans and widows. I wonder if they were helping the ill and divorced. I wonder what their outreach program was like. I really wonder how my church would compare to their church in the love department. I know that my church has a once a month fellowship dinner and I rarely attend. Shame on me I guess. I will work to improve my attendance. I know that my church has a prayer request page and I pray for people often whom I don’t even know when I see their name and need on that page. My church participates in several mission projects and so do I. But to tell you the truth I have never been in another Christian’s home since moving here a little over two years ago and I have never invited anyone to my home. I need to work on getting to know my church family better. Otherwise how can I show them I love them! Paul urges the church members from Thessalonica to be more loving and to do more. I think he is urging me to do more too, how about you?
Paul also teaches in this passage that we need to mind our own business and to work hard to not be a burden on anyone. In doing this we are leading the quiet life that God intends for us to lead. When you look at this all in one thought it appears that Paul is saying to live a quiet life minding your own business taking care of your own family needs but at the same time help out whomever you can. Just don’t gossip about it! Don’t become a nuisance to them. Don’t be a busy-body. Don’t wear out your welcome! I think that my church and probably most churches today do a really fine job of not being a busy-body in other people’s lives. A good question to ask is why are we to live this kind of life? I think Paul is saying that living life in this way we will gain the respect and notice of non-holy humans and they will see the difference in our way of living versus their way. That is how God is glorified and hopefully those people will want to become followers of Christ too. Are you living a life pleasing to God?