Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 24 2020 - 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18 – Discerning God’s will

It is common to hear Christians speak about seeking God's will for their lives. This is understandable when we face decisions such as jobs and careers, where to live, who we might marry and so on. We want to discern how we may best live to please God. But this very desire to please God reminds us that many aspects of God's will are quite plain; they do not need searching out, they only need working out.

Paul speaks of one such aspect of God's will in his first letter to the Christians at Thessalonica. An older translation renders it, "This is God's will for you, even your sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Here is one area where there can be no doubt about God's will for our lives; God wants us to be holy. Paul goes on to speak particularly about the need for a holy life in the area of our sexuality. This was a particular problem in the Gentile world of the first century and it is equally a problem in the contemporary world. Here is an area where Christian lives can stand out as distinctly different from prevailing culture: chastity before marriage; faithfulness in marriage.

I recently came across a report suggesting that a significant proportion of Christians are addicted to pornography. Indeed a survey suggests that 20% of Christian ministers are involved in regular viewing of pornography on the internet. Satan whispers that such private preoccupations do no harm. He is a liar; they harm our character, harm our effectiveness, harm our witness. God wants us to be holy; this is one key area where our devotion to him should be reflected in a pattern of life which is distinctively different from the preoccupations of contemporary society.

It is said of Augustine that when he began to read Scripture and come under the conviction of the Spirit that he prayed, "Lord, make me holy – but not yet!" I'm sure that we would not dream of praying like that, but maybe we think like that: "Lord, I want to be holy, but not right now!" Let's not run away from the call of God. Let our prayer be that God would help us to lead a holy life now and in every moment of every day that he gives us. A holy life is a powerful testimony to the sanctifying power of God.

"It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality" (4:3).

But a holy life is displayed not simply in abstaining from things. A holy life is a Christ-like life and this is to be seen in the way we relate to other people. This is a lesson that the Christians at Thessalonica had learned well. Paul writes, “Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.  And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more” (4:9-10). The holy life that is God’s will for us is a life characterised by love for others. This is the life the Spirit of Christ is teaching us to live. We need to apply ourselves to our lessons and live a life of holy love.

Lord Jesus, you have drawn us to yourself by the loveliness of your holy character and your love for us. Help us to grow more like you – to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. May your love shape our lives so that, taught well by your Spirit, we may love one another and draw others to you by showing them your love. Keep us from those idols that would undermine and destroy our witness.

Peter Misselbrook