What actions please God?

Faith always has to do with living and behaving according to that faith.

From the very beginning, God’s standard for his people was: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19.2).

Our Heavenly Father is pleased when his children reflect his character. God is holy and faith in him should make us holy, too.

Holiness has frequently been defined by what people don’t do. They don’t drink, smoke, cuss, dance, or go with those who do.

Dallas Willard has proposed that holiness is a life that reflects the attitudes, actions, and teachings of Jesus. His shorthand phrase, “living a Jesus-kind-of-life” perfectly sums up the essence of holiness.

An Appeal for Holy Living

During his short stay in Thessalonica, Paul taught the church about holiness. In his letter, he found it necessary to remind them of his teaching.

1 Thessalonians 4.1 – Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more.

What kind of behavior pleases God?

If you answered “living like Jesus,” you get an “A” for your response.

Paul didn’t rely on his personal authority when talking about the kind of behavior that pleases God. He spoke “in the Lord Jesus” to the congregation. In verse 2, he emphasized the authority of Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 4.2 – For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

When we read God’s inspired word, the Bible, we have before us God’s instructions and guidance for living the best life possible.

We don’t have to settle for human suggestions when we can be led by the Lord.

A Major Issue

One major issue in the Greco-Roman world had to do with sex outside of marriage. For the most part, first-century cultural values did not include holiness.

In addition, their view of marriage contrasted with ours today. Back then, marriage was not necessarily based on love. Wives were valued for their ability to manage a household and bear legitimate children. Love was secondary.

The Greco-Roman culture placed no prohibition on sex outside of marriage. A man could consort with prostitutes or have a mistress without any negative consequences.

Paul wrote to remind the church that God’s holiness required holiness on their part.

1 Thessalonians 4.3-7 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;

That each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;

That no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.

For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness.

Several comments are in order to best understand this passage.

(1) Sanctification (verse 3) refers to being set apart for God.

In the Greek language, the root word for holiness forms the basic meaning of “sanctification.”

In short, we have been set apart to live a Jesus-kind-of-life. This is not a burden, because the best life ever lived was lived by Jesus.

To be like Jesus is the best opportunity and gift of all.

(2) God’s holy people will “abstain from sexual immorality” (verse 3).

You may remember the Marlboro commercials where a handsome man on horseback said, “I’m looking for Marlboro country.”

A preacher once asked, “Can you imagine Jesus on a horse, saying, ‘I’m looking for Marlboro country'”?

In the same way, I’m sure it is impossible for you to think of Jesus as being sexually immoral. As we live a Jesus-kind-of-life, we won’t be sexually immoral either.

Let’s remind ourselves that the knowledge of God implies the knowledge of how to live like him and to please him.

(3) Sexual intimacy is an act of lovemaking. Sexual immorality wrongs and takes advantage of the persons whom we claim to love.

In today’s YouTube video, Rudy Ross has an excellent explanation of the hard done by sexual immorality.

(4) Paul used a communication technique that scholars call “framing” to emphasize a point.

Verse 3 is the first part of the frame. “This is the will of God, your sanctification.”

Verse 7 completes the frame: “For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness.”

The command to live a Jesus-kind-of-life is not a burden. It is a great opportunity to push ourselves to settle for nothing less than the imitation of Christ.

Authority Asserted Again

As Paul makes his appeal, he returns to the Lord’s authority.

1 Thessalonians 4.8 – Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.

The “Holy Spirit” is both a name and a reality. The Spirit is holy, just as God is holy.

The Holy Spirit reproduces God’s character of holiness in believers.

When we place ourselves under the care and direction of the Holy Spirit, he will produce in us a Jesus-kind-of-life.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. You can see it on the Bob Spradling channel.

Please email your prayer request to bsprad49@gmail.com. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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