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. [1Th 4:1]
I attended a Friday evening fellowship at the home of a church elder to welcome some newly baptized sailors and marines to the body of Christ. We sat around a piano and listened to some classic gospel music, and it was evident that some of the young men weren’t quite sure about their decision. Petty Officer James said, “This just doesn’t feel right.” I asked him what his buddies were doing that night and he said they were probably at a bar, or some [exotic] club.
On Sunday, I heard the testimony of three young Christian women. Chelsea (22) had gone to church her whole life, but she only walked with God on Sunday morning. The rest of the week she walked in the world. Her social life was so demanding that she had no time for weekly Bible study, or prayer. Her teen years were spent trying to figure out how to have sex and not get caught, or get pregnant.
Jackie (31) was baptized when she was 18, but her habitual partying and drinking continued guiltless for the next 12 years until she heard a sermon about repentance, and she felt convicted in her heart to confess her sins. “Funny,” she said, “I heard that same preaching at church, and from my parents, for ten years before my heart was ready to truly repent and believe.”
Monique (28) was involved with the youth ministry since her teen years, but her secret temptation was sexual immorality. She had been having sex since the age of 16, and never felt any remorse: “I always thought if I loved the person it would be okay.”
Christian, how are we to walk in the Lord in a manner that is pleasing to Him? Being justified by faith is only the beginning of our journey. Jesus Christ did the hard part. He died on the cross for your sins. All you have to do is repent and believe, and take up your cross to follow Him. Some will say, “That sure sounds like work. I thought we were saved by faith.” Indeed, we are saved by faith to do good works (James 2:26), but not by the works themselves lest any man should boast (Ep 2:8-9).
Sin is a heavy burden. Christ said that His yoke is easy and His burden light (Mt 11:30). Living for the weekend is an appealing snare that entangles many. At the Friday evening fellowship our brother James was mournful that he was missing out on a night of fun with his buddies; and Chelsea, Jackie and Monique were fine going to church on Sunday as long as they didn’t have to give up partying during the week.
Were these four young people truly justified in the Lord? Some will question whether they were even saved, but what we can know for sure is that even though they were baptized and attended church they were clearly not sanctified.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality. [1 Th 4:3]
The Thessalonians, to whom Paul was writing, were justified by faith in Jesus Christ, but like the assembly at Corinth they were in bondage to all sorts of sexual immorality which was rampant in the pagan Greek culture of their day. In fact, the literal meaning of sexual immorality–from the Greek word πορνείας (porneias)–is all manner of sexual sin including fornication, adultery, homosexuality, pedophilia and bestiality. (From porneias we derive the word porn, or pornography.) God hates sexual sin. One cannot justify their behavior like Monique who thought that sex with her boyfriends was an expression of love. It is not. Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to possess their bodies in sanctification and honor, not according to the lustful passions of the Gentiles who know not God (1Th 4:4-5).
The Roman assembly had a similar problem of walking in the flesh. (This is not unique to James, Chelsea, Jackie and Monique.) Paul told the Romans they could either be obedient to sin resulting in death (Ro 6:16), or obedient to righteousness resulting in sanctification (Ro 6:19); and having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life (Ro 6:22).
To the assembly at Corinth Paul wrote that Christ Jesus is our righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1Co 1:30-31). The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to pursue the sanctification (or holiness) without which no one will see the Lord (He 12:14). In the next verse he warns that no one come short of the grace of God (He 12:15-16). We know that all fall short of the glory of God (Ro 3:23), but here the Bible tells us to not fall short of the grace of God. For all of those years of drinking, partying and walking in the flesh Chelsea, Jackie and Monique fell short of God’s grace.
I know many Christian brothers who have a problem with pornography. The church, my friends, is leavened with a whole lot of sin. Paul wrote that God has chosen us for sanctification by the Spirit, and faith in the truth (2Th 2:13). By faith, then, we are justified, and by the Spirit we are sanctified; but if we continue walking in the flesh our minds are still conformed to the spirit that is in the world.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. [Ro 12:2]
Our spiritual service of worship, writes Paul, is not going to church every Sunday, or tithing, or singing in the choir, but presenting our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God (Ro 12:1). Mind you, attending church and doing all those things are well and good, but if you are not walking in obedience, holiness and righteousness; if you are not thinking with the mind of Christ; if you are behaving in a manner that is grieving to the Holy Spirit (Ep 4:30) then you will surely fall short of the saving grace of God.
This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. [1Jn 1:5-7]
To our brethren who struggle in the flesh, I pray that you will faithfully seek the light.
Next: The Seasons of Our Lord
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