Sermon – July 19, 2020
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 – Holiness and God (mp3)
Our culture is always standing against God. One of the chief ways in which many of us see this today is in its attitude towards sex. All things, they say, are good so long as it is consensual no physical harm comes to others. It is, after all, a private matter. As Paul seeks to lead the Thessalonian church in such matters, he confronts just such opinions. Sex is, in Christian understanding, truly profound and important. To think that we ought not live out this portion of our being under the instruction and wisdom of the Lord is foolish and unfaithful. Today, let us come to our text and see the manifold wisdom of God where so much of the world might reject it.
1. Deepen your devotion to God
Paul front-loads the importance of the subject that he is about to tackle; this is no minor doctrinal or practical issue of no consequence. Rather, it deals with commands from and backed by the authority of Jesus, and therefore marks out an essential practice for Christians. Our sanctification, our being made holy, is not an option for those who really want to be devoted, something to shoot for among the people who are really religious. Rather, it is the goal for every Christian, and a must to please God. Let us, therefore, seek to deepen our devotion to God.
2. Pursue the purity of God
Paul then helpfully provides an example of how to seek out such holiness: avoid sexual immorality. Sex is a good gift designed by God to be sought out only in marriage. While all must do this, Paul understands that sexual immorality is a problem more prevalent and persistent among men. So, all men must learn to control themselves, lest they trespass and exploit other believers. This advice is not capricious, nor arbitrary, but seeks to model our relationships on the way that God has shown himself to deal with us. Christ loves his people, and devotes himself to them alone. They are to have no other Gods. Therefore, as we model the union of Christ and his people in our marriages, we know that any relations outside of marriage mar that image and betray our faith in Christ.
3. Flee the fury of God
And, for those who do betray that faith, Jesus is an avenger. He will not let his people be wronged. For it is not man’s laws that you are breaking, nor is it the church, Paul, or the pastor’s; rather, you are rejecting God as God over you. Indeed, those who indulge in such sins should be given no assurance of salvation from us, but warned and led into repentance. Jesus is always willing to forgive and show mercy to those who repent. But for those who persist, there is wrath and fury. Flee from that fury!