Monday, November 7, 2011

The Morning After: Authentic Holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)

Personal Holiness! That is something that should be a concern of every Christian. God's will for the Christian is to grow closer to Him in the way they live their life. That is Paul's point in this section of Scripture that he wrote to the church at Thessalonica. He knew he had taught them how the Christian should live, but he wanted them to continue growing. 

As I studied this, one question kept coming to my mind: "Am I growing closer to the Lord?" Can I look back over the past year and see growth in my walk with Him? There is one very important thing that Paul does as he gets into this section of Scripture. He begins by calling them "brothers." This is not meant to mean it is written to only men. It is a way for him to address them as Christians. He is going to call them to a high standard. He is going to talk about their sexual purity. But before he does, he wants to remind them that they are part of the body of Christ. They are Christians. Which means that Jesus has already changed them on the inside.

God always changes us from the inside out, never from the outside in. Any change that happens from the outside in is simply behavior modification. That invariably leads to moralism and legalism. God needs to change the inside before the outside can be truly changed. But once He does change the inside, the outside begins to slowly change. He gives new desires and affections. And what once was appealing to you is no longer attractive.

Paul says that it is God's will that we be sanctified. This word technically has the idea of "separate from or set apart to." Unfortunately, many Christians seem to only emphasize the "separate from" aspect of this term. Therefore, it becomes a great disservice to your Christian life when holiness becomes mostly about what movies you can't see, what music you can't listen to, what body piercings you can't have, what clothes you can't wear, what relationships you can't have, what stores you shouldn't shop at, and so on. Instead, it should be about what we are set apart to do. We get to image God. We get to be like Jesus. We get to grow into the image of Christ.

Now, Paul's concern here generally is that they would walk in holiness. The specific example for the people of Thessalonica is that they would be sexually pure. Much of my time in this sermon was spent walking through the sexual revolution that Paul was calling them to (revolution from sinfulness to holiness). If you want to listen to the message, you can find it HERE!

I ended the message with Five Ways To Avoid Sexual Immorality.

1. Remember Sex is a Gift from God.
2. Take Sexual Sin Seriously.
3. Deal with Your Heart in This Matter.
4. Pursue Your Spouse.
5. Rejoice in Forgiveness Offered Through the Cross.

It is a difficult message for the church, but a much needed one. One that needs to be talked about directly and frequently.

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