Sojourning Through Thessalonians, Pt. 7

Sojourning Through Thessalonians, Pt. 7

Study Guide, March 3, 2024

Pastor Clay Olsen

As followers of the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we are to be relentless pursuers of Truth. And, of course, truth is based upon the revelation of the Truth Giver as given to us in the Scriptures, the words of Truth. From the revelation of God’s Word we are given the true revelation of life, from Creation to Redemption to the New Kingdom that is coming. In other words, mankind is intended to discover truth through God’s words. God has warned mankind not to distort His revelation with man’s distorted imaginations. But if people reject the revelation of truth, then their entire lives and worldviews will be built upon distortions, deceptions, and as Solomon put it…vanity of vanities.

I read of just another example of the foolishness that people come up with when they reject the revelation of God. This one is in connection with God’s explanation of Creation. When you reject the direct creation of mankind and the direct creation of animals after their ‘kind’, then you come up with foolish things like this. And apparently this idea has been bothering many evolutionists, because a recent article reported that until now, no one had identified the genetic mutation that was responsible for allowing humans to lose their tails. That’s right…lose their tails. Oh yeah…apparently, that’s what many evolutionary scientists have been struggling with for years…how both humans and apes genetically diverged from monkeys and finally lost their tails. There are about ten more things I could say about that…but I’ll leave it at that.

This world is absolutely upside down when it comes to wisdom and foolishness. What the world considers remarkably wise is, in fact, absolute foolishness. But when anyone rejects or neglects the wisdom of God through the revelation of the Scriptures, then ‘foolishness’ is the only thing that mankind has left! That’s why Paul even pointed out that one of the marks of a repentant person is when they come to seek truth over falsehood. They begin to search for truth, they begin to hunger for truth, they begin to love truth. And that longing, that repentance, leads them to the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life…Jesus Christ.

So, again, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are to be relentless pursuers of truth. And that is part of what the Apostle Paul was exhorting the Thessalonian believers to adopt in their personal lives and in their communal lives within the church at Thessalonica. Let’s return to our sojourn in 1 Thess 4:1-2- “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.” NASU

Right away, we are exhorted to go beyond the natural tendencies of natural habits…meaning what? It’s natural, even for followers of Christ, to reach a point where they become satisfied with the knowledge they have acquired about their salvation and Christian living, and they become comfortable with the service they have given, and so they begin to just ‘settle’ with that. They have come as far as they feel they need to go. Again, it’s natural to think like that and to settle with that. And they actually may have excelled in acquiring considerable knowledge and giving of themselves in considerable service. That’s great! However, God’s people are never to be driven by the ‘natural’ ideas of their own thinking about their lives, but by the ‘supernatural instructions of God’s Word concerning their lives and how they shall then live. Which tells us, that even though we have done well in growing in the grace and the knowledge of Christ…still, God is still calling for us is to ‘excel still more’! In fact, this is to be one of the Biblical mottos for our lives: ‘Excel Still More!’

Sharon and I were recently impressed, and surprised, by a discussion with a fellow Christian that was telling us about his Father-in-law. This man had recently finished Bible College and was going into Pastoral Ministry. What surprised us was the fact that this man was now 76 years old and beginning a Pastoral ministry! What a champion for Christ!

But the thing is, as far as one is able, as to how we ought to walk and are to please God, we are instructed to ‘excel still more!’ Again, that’s not ‘natural’, but it is ‘supernatural’, which is why we are to ‘walk by faith’ and not ‘by sight’…or to not just rely on our natural reasoning and natural resources. Rather, we are to be reasoning from the supernatural revelation and drawing upon the supernatural resources of God the Holy Spirit, otherwise, instead of being enabled to ‘excel still more’ we will be disabled because of being ‘exhausted still more’!

For example: Did you ever stop to think why the command to ‘worship God’ always comes before the commands to ‘serve God’? As Pastor Robert was walking us through that amazing passage of Psalm 22, we were reminded of that secret to service as found in Ps 22:3- “But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” KJV Or, as it is often put: ‘God inhabits the praises of His people.’ This reminds us of a theme that runs throughout the Scriptures, that the power to serve our King is directly connected to the practice of praise unto our King. In fact, service without praise will drain you rather than inspire you. Service without worship will exhaust you rather than enable you to excel still more. Plus, if dwelling on what you do is not being offset by dwelling on who you are, then you will forfeit the joy of the Lord that is the real source of your strength.

For example: One of the truths that we have been trying to emphasize here at the Chapel over the years is the importance of learning to let most of your joy come from your identity in Christ rather than from your activity for Christ. Again, activity for Christ is great…be it with the Church or with your family or with your job or community service…that is great. However, your strength to do all of this has a particular source…the joy of the Lord, and there is no substitute. And the joy of the Lord is found in our worship of the Lord…in our praises of Who God is and who He has made us in relation to Him. Without dwelling upon the identity of Christ and thus, our identity in Christ, we will always be somewhat depleted in our energies for serving Christ and our inspiration in walking with Christ.

One of the biggest favors you can give yourself, which is actually from God, is to learn to think more about who you are each day than about all you have to do each day. If you only think about what you are doing or what you have to do each day, then, by default, you become the sum total of what you do rather than becoming more and more the person God created you to be. You are to rejoice in who you are in Christ over what you have to do in everything else. What comes before being ‘servants of Christ’ is being ‘worshipers of Christ’. And worshipping Christ involves praising Christ for Who He is and thanking Christ for who we are in Him. We are to daily be thanking Him for our acceptance in Christ, our significance in Christ, and our security in Christ. And it’s in our thankfulness about our ‘identity’ that we find the enablement to then carry out whatever ‘activity’ it is that we are called to do or are faced with doing each day.

A simple way to put this is to say: ‘Perspiration without inspiration will drain you. But perspiration with inspiration will recharge you.’ Now we’re getting real, right? Another example of the strength received from dwelling on identity before activity is this: Dwelling on Christ’s righteous robe that we wear empowers us to then do whatever it is that we have to do about everything else.

Plus, remember this, if you don’t work from your identity you will always be working for an identity. If you don’t serve from who you are in Christ you will always be serving from who you are in and of yourself, which is an empty resource. Again, what recharges you is reviewing who you are each day instead of just reminding yourself of all you have to do each day. One of the strategies of the enemy is that if he cannot stop Christians from serving God he’ll try to get them to neglect their worship of God, for he knows that it is in their personal worship and praise of God that they receive the joy of the Lord in their soul. And it’s this joy of the Lord that is our strength…not our determination, as good as that is…not our focus on duty, as necessary as that is, not our commitment to service, as wonderful as that is, but first…first comes our personal devotion to and our adoration of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And then, along with worshiping and praising Him, we also thank Him daily for who we now are in our personal relationship with Him.

So remember: Think more about your Identity than about your Activities…don’t leave home without it! Dwell on who you are in Christ more than what you have to do about everything else, and you will discover a joy in living that is found in nothing else. Which brings us to a powerful statement about the will of God. Let’s look: 1 Thess 4:3-8- “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” NASU

One of the frequent questions that believers ask is: “What is God’s will for my life?” And here we have 1 Thess. 4:3 jumping right up to answer that: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” In fact, that’s God’s will for each of our lives: our sanctification. And what is that? Or, which one is that? You say, which one? That’s right…because the Scriptures speak about two different ‘Sanctifications’. We see the first one in Heb 10:10- “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” NASU This is the once for all sanctification of salvation through the once for all offering of Jesus Christ to remove the penalty of our sins once for all and to provide for the forgiveness of the presence of our sins. This is a ‘completed sanctification’, or a positionally ‘set apart’ position that we now have as ‘holy unto God’. Just as in ‘Justification’, this ‘Sanctification’ is finished, sealed, and secured. This is what makes our salvation in Christ eternally secure because our position as a sanctified, or ‘set apart’ child of God is complete. The gift of eternal life has already been given to us in our spiritual new birth and our position is now that of a son or daughter in Christ’s forever family. That’s why this ‘sanctification’ is called ‘Positional Sanctification’.

So this ‘Positional Sanctification’ is about our spiritual birth into God’s family. And now the next one is about our behavior as God’s child, or about making progress in becoming more and more useful in serving God as His saved children. Therefore, this kind of sanctification is referred to as ‘Progressive Sanctification’. Just like in the Great Commission there is the ‘Go part’…in the Great Commandment there is now the ‘Grow part’! God’s will for you and for me is to grow in our loyalty unto God…grow in our consecration unto God…grow in our service unto God…and…to grow in our morality unto God. Say what? Right, our morality. And just how important to God is our morality? Look again: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God…”

Why is morality of the body such an important issue to God? Well, let’s let God answer that. 1 Cor 6:18-20- “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” NLT

It’s striking to realize that we are called to fight against many other sins in life. But when it comes to sexual sins the Bible doesn’t say “Fight”…no, it says – “RUN!” Don’t try to reason with it…don’t try to rationalize it…don’t try to debate it…just RUN! With any sexual sin that walks up to you, whether it’s on the street, or on your screen, or on your sidewalk…don’t try to fight with it, don’t try to walk away from it…just RUN! Don’t fight sexual immorality…FLEE from sexual immorality! It’s that dangerous!

Any sexual relationship outside of Biblical Marriage between a man and a woman is sexual immorality, which is a sin against the human body, which God owns by Creation. Even if that person is not yet born again through repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ, by creation God still owns the body that their soul inhabits. They are like tenants in a house that God owns. When people say it’s their body and they can do what they choose with it…oh, it’s their choice all right, but it’s certainly not their body…it’s not their house. It’s not their body at all…all human bodies are owned by God alone, even unsaved human bodies. And thus, they will give an account and face the consequences of the choices they made in doing what they did in a body that is owned by the Creator that made their body. And they will face judgment and sentencing for the sins they committed against a body in which they temporarily resided, like damaging a house that belonged to someone else…in this case, the Creator.

And then especially for one who has become born again in his or her spirit, their body, or his or her ‘house’…their body has also become God’s temple. And since a New Testament Christian is also a New Testament Priest, only those things which God has blessed can be taken into His temple. And in relation to sexual relationships, only the sexual relationship within Biblical Marriage has been blessed by God and is thus blessed within His temple. No other sexual relationship is permitted within the temple of God. And a sin against God’s temple is a sin against God. That’s why even Joseph, when he was approached by Potiphar’s wife, said, “How could I sin against God by doing this thing?” He knew that sins against the body were sins against the Creator of the body.

Again, the body of every unsaved human being is still a house that belongs to the Creator. Their soul is a temporary tenant, but the Landlord is the Lord. And since sexual sin is described as a fire in Scripture, sinning sexually is like walking around someone else’s house with a torch and burning things up…the furnishings, the gifts, the heirlooms, the décor, and more…damaging or destroying things in that house that belong to God alone.

And when that unsaved soul turns from their sin to follow the Lord and trusts in Jesus to save them, their house also becomes God’s temple, in which the Spirit of Christ, God the Holy Spirit now indwells along with them. Thus, it’s even more imperative that believers abstain from sexual sin, or they will be torching the sacred things within the very temple of God!

Rather, God’s temple is to be protected from outside and inside harm, as far as we are able, and then used as a base from which we serve the Lord of the temple and seek to bless others and please God through the ministry of our temple. And we’ll talk more about that next time.