Living Holy Lives
(1 Thessalonians 4:1-12)
Introduction: Sometimes it is good to peek over into the office, yard, home or church of other people to see how they do things - how they think and act. For most of my life, I believed grace was on one side of Christianity and works was on the other. The strong, I'm saved regardless of what I do, didn't pay much attention to what they did. The strong, I won't drink, dance, chew or hang around with those who do, didn't pay much attention to grace. Teaching at Regent University has given me a very clear vision of another way. I've bumped into people, of various denominations, who are very strong on grace. They believe that once saved it is very hard to lose your salvation by bad works. At the same time, holiness in living is of extreme importance to them. What a wonderful combination! They are secure in their salvation, but constantly alert to whether they are advancing the Kingdom of God by their deeds. Let's plunge into our study and see what Paul teaches us about salvation and living holy lives!
- Pleasing God
- Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1. What kind of living did Paul recommend? (Living in order to please God.)
- How often do you ask yourself, "Is what I'm doing pleasing God?"
- Should this be something that becomes a habit in our life - asking whether what we are doing at the moment is pleasing to God?
- How do the Thessalonians measure up with their living? (Paul says that, in fact, they are living to please God.)
- How does Paul say the Thessalonians could improve on this aspect of their lives? (They should do it more often.)
- Consider the apparent conflict in what Paul is writing. He first says they are "in fact" living in order to please God, and then he says "do this more." How can they be "in fact" doing it and yet not be doing it sometimes? How can there be room for "do this more?" (This reflects Paul's "grace" message. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we are saved. We are perfect in God's eyes. But, on our own we are far from perfect. Paul says, "Keep working on it. Keep paying attention to your goal of holiness.")
- Read 1 Thessalonians 4:2. On what authority is Paul giving these kinds of directions? (God's authority.)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5. Put yourself in Paul's place. He is writing to people who have not learned to control their bodies. People who are involved in sexual immorality. Would you start out by saying they are living to please God, but please try to do this more often? Please work to do it better?
- What kind of Christians are these Thessalonians? (They are saved Christians. Paul does not say they are pagans. He does not say they are lost.)
- What is the goal for these saved Christians? (Their goal is to live in a way that is "holy and honorable." They should be sanctified. They should be on the road to becoming saints.)
- Passionate Lust
- Read 1 Thessalonians 4:6. When I was young all sorts of messages about sex were presented to me by Christians. Some would refer to "dirty pictures," and dirty and impure conduct. At the same time, my parents sent me to a sex education class taught by a fellow who wrote the book "God Invented Sex." Paul does not refer to "passionate lust" as either being dirty or being created by God. What is the main problem Paul sees? (You take advantage of someone else. You treat someone else wrongly.)
- Have you viewed pornography, adultery and other sexual sins from this perspective?
- I was recently a moderator in a conference about human trafficking. It opened my eyes to the fact that many of those involved in prostitution and creating porn are slaves in some way. Some other person is controlling them. How does this knowledge change your view about your personal involvement in this activity? (The old argument is that this is "victimless fun" or a "victimless crime." Instead, it has many victims - generally young people victimized in the most terrible of ways.)
- Just this week a mother told me that her son's wife had left him and their very young child for another man. This story could be repeated millions of times. What "trade" is being made here? (The spouse finds someone who is more fun or more interesting, and the other spouse and the children suffer. The wandering wife has taken advantage of her family. A wandering husband takes advantage of his family. It is extreme selfishness.)
- Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:6 that God will "punish" those who commit such sins. How can you reconcile this with 1 Thessalonians 4:1 which says they are living in a way that pleases God? (Not all of God's punishment is eternal damnation. Our immoral choices result in punishment here. The excitement and fun of "wandering" results in damage to others who will, in turn, damage you.)
- How many times have you observed the truth of what I just wrote? Those who thought this would be "fun," end up with a load of grief?
- Sin That Separates
- Read 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8. We have the same problem we discussed before. Paul says these people are living a life pleasing to God, and he also says that they are in danger of rejecting God. Pick a sexual sin. Has the person who commits that sin rejected God or is that person leading a life pleasing to God? (It seems, amazingly, that the answer could be either one. For the Thessalonians the answer, according to Paul, is that they are leading a life pleasing to God - they just have to get better at it.)
- What does this teach us about the nature of sin? (We serve a Holy God, but He tolerates sin in those who claim the righteousness of Jesus. We all know that sin is progressive. It gets worse as we wallow in it. The result of moving in the direction of sin is that sin leads to a rejection of God and the Holy Spirit. This is the point where the loss of grace occurs. We no longer have accepted God. We have rejected God, rejected His grace, and rejected the purifying power of the Holy Spirit!)
- How can we know when we cross the line from a sinner saved by grace to a sinner who is lost? (When we no longer choose Jesus as our Savior. When we no longer care when we reject God and the direction of the Holy Spirit. Grace is deep. Grace covers a multitude of sins. But, at some point sin separates us from God because it causes us to reject God.)
- Friend, can you see what Paul is saying? You can be secure in your salvation as long as you choose to remain connected to God. The daily sins that we fall into do not threaten our salvation - no matter how much Satan tells us this is true. Instead, God calls us to avoid sin, to pursue holiness because God is holy and because we want to avoid the punishment that wrong actions bring here on earth. Our salvation lost only when our sins have gotten so out of hand that we end up rejecting God and rejecting His instructions.
- Life of Love
- Read 1 Thessalonians 4:9. What does this amazing grace teach us about loving others? (Paul says we are taught by God to love others. When you consider how generous God is to you, when you remember what a sinner you are - yet you are living a life pleasing to God - it changes your attitude towards all of those other sinners around you.)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 4:10. What kind of love do the Thessalonians have? (It seems much like their pleasing life - they need to work on it! They need to love more and more.)
- Read 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. Paul has instructed the Thessalonians to obey more and to love more. What is the goal of greater obedience and love? (They will be a positive example to those around them. People will respect them.)
- Friend, are you filled with joy knowing that your salvation is secure? Let that radiate out of you! Radiate love and good works so that others will be drawn to our great and gracious God! Will you determine to do that today?
- Next week: The Dead in Christ.