The apostle Paul encourages the church in Thessalonica to do three things: to be sanctified (holy), to grow in their love, and to live in light of eternity to come. As Christ-followers, our goal is to be conformed to the image of Jesus. This means saying “No” to the ungodliness of this world and saying “Yes” to living for Christ. We do this by loving God and others more, and the things of this world less. We must remember, through Jesus, we have eternal life in heaven. The best of our life is still to come. Always live with the hope of Jesus. Even in the tough times remember Jesus loves you, and He has an eternal home for you. Celebrate His goodness every day!
Our Duty is Our Delight
When Timothy returned to the Apostle Paul with word that the church in Thessalonica had been thriving even despite their trials, Paul was overjoyed by their obedience to God in his absence. In 1 Thessalonians 4:1, Paul writes, “...we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living.” It’s no surprise that we ought to desire to please our God, but Christians should be clear on why we strive to do so! We do not aim to please God in order to earn the salvation which Jesus has already given us -- we need only faith in Him to accept that incredible gift! Nor should we try to please God in an effort to somehow earn his favor so that He might reward us with our own selfish desires. Instead, we live in obedience to enjoy Him!
Psalm 16 reads in part, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” God’s word provides a blueprint for right living, but we don’t pursue it primarily out of fear or some cold obligation; Christians know drawing near to God in submission to His will brings the greatest joy we could ever experience in this life. We should live obediently in anticipation of our reception of the eternal pleasures God has in store for us. Charles Spurgeon writes, “We fear not God because of any compulsion; our faith is no fetter, our profession is no bondage, we are not dragged to holiness, nor driven to duty. No, our piety is our pleasure, our hope is our happiness, our duty is our delight.”
Set Apart for Special Use
1 Thessalonians 4:7 states, “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” As Christians we are called to live a life set apart from the rest of the world. As messengers of the Gospel, which is the best and most important news our neighbors could receive, we should seek to reflect the light of God so that others cannot deny the life change that Jesus brings. Just as fine dishes help to signal the quality of a fine dish, or are brought out specially in honor of a joyous celebration, we should also desire to become evidence to the glory of our God! Obedience to God produces joy in us, but it also serves to glorify the Father who not only redeems us through his Son but who can lead us to turn from our old ways. Jesus invites us to come to repentance and washes us clean of sin; he takes dirty plates and turns them into shiny and clean masterpieces. To be set apart is to glorify God and to provide powerful witness to souls around us who don’t yet know our Lord Jesus.
Paul continues in verse 8, “Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.” The Bible’s guidance for right living, which is the Word of God, is the instruction we need to follow in this life. As Augustine said, “If you believe what you like in the Gospel and reject what you don’t like, it’s not the Gospel that we believe, but ourselves.” Even in instances where our own sensibilities and will have not been transformed to match those of God’s, and we find ourselves asking “why,” it’s ultimately our submission to His authority which must guide our hearts. It is one thing to have faith in God’s existence; it is another to obey Him even when we don’t understand His plan.
Compassionate and Convicted
In today’s culture, the common idea of love has begun to mean universal acceptance more than meaning truth. But loving others and telling the truth about sin and false beliefs are not mutually exclusive activities; they go hand in hand! The Gospel is the Truth, and we must love the Truth! It is the reason for the hope that is in us. We love our neighbors by sharing that Truth with them rather than passively leaving them to believe the lies of the Evil One. We love them when we take an eternal perspective of the ramification of their unbelief on their souls. When we do this in humility and with respect for their human dignity, we are pursuing the Great Commission.
Paul instructs, “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.” Today there’s also a cultural demand to air our opinions about every issue possible on social media. But our actions will speak louder than words; the transformative work Jesus does in our lives will be more effective at bringing people to faith than heated, wordy arguments.