1 Thessalonians 4 (2)
Pray Psalm 51.1-4.
Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge.
Read 1 Thessalonians 4.3-8.
1. What is sanctification? Why is this God’s will for us?
2. Here Paul focuses the work of sanctification on being sexually pure. Why is this so important to being sanctified?
Some people struggle with discovering God’s will for their lives.
If that’s you, then your struggle is ended. Paul tells us plainly, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (v. 3). Sanctification is that process that finds us being transformed increasingly into the image of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3.12-18). As we lay aside the old person we used to be, learn Jesus (Eph. 4.17-24), and become clothed anew in His righteousness, we are sanctified – “set apart” – for God and His will. The goal of sanctification is increasing holiness (v. 7); if we reject the work of sanctification, we are rejecting God Himself (v. 8).
Sanctification means working out your salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2.12). It requires time in prayer; consistent, deep, and fruitful study of God’s Word; and daily obedience in every next step of our lives. To increase in sanctification, we have to overcome obstacles, and a big one in Paul’s day had to do with sexual immorality.
Imagine how urgent Paul would be about this in our day. We need to be as circumspect and determined in this matter as Paul expected of the Thessalonians.
The place for sexual relations is within marriage. Outside of that, anything else is sexual immorality and a powerful hindrance to sanctification. We may think a little sexual diversion not harmful, but Paul advises us to think otherwise, and warns us that God stands ready to judge us if we reject His plan for sanctification by following our desires for sexual immorality instead.
Don’t let it happen to you. The life of sanctification is more exciting, more thrilling, and more useful in Christ’s Kingdom than anything else you can imagine. Make sanctification your goal and your desire, and you’ll know and be fully immersed in God’s will for your life.
1. How would you counsel a new believer to get started on the road of sanctification?
2. How can we tell when we’re making progress in sanctification? Are you making progress?
3. Why is sexual immorality such a powerful hindrance to sanctification?
There are, then, many kinds of lusts for this or that, but when the word is used by itself without specification it suggests to most people the lust for sexual excitement. Such lust does not merely invade the whole body and outward members. It takes such complete and passionate possession of the whole man, both physically and emotionally, that what results is the keenest of all pleasures on the level of sensation. And at the crisis of excitement, it practically paralyzes all power of deliberate thought. Augustine (354-430 AD), City of God 14.16
Keep me focused on Jesus and working out my salvation today, O Lord, and protect from…
Pray Psalm 51.1-13.
Let these words search your soul as you pray, waiting on the Lord to reveal any areas where your sanctification is being hindered by sin. Confess, repent, and seek the Lord’s help to move on.
Sing to the Lord.
Psalm 51.1-13 (Passion Chorale: O Sacred Head Now Wounded)
Be gracious to me, Savior, according to Your love!
According to Your mercy, my sins, my sins remove!
O wash me, precious Savior, and cleanse me from all sin;
Look on me with Your favor, and cause my grief to end.
Against You only, Savior, have I become unclean;
Thus just the condemnation which You pronounce on me.
Lord, I was born to sinning, while You seek truth within;
To wisdom my heart winning, release me from my sin!
In Jesus’ blood and mercy, Lord, cleanse my evil heart!
Let me washed, cleansed, renewed be and pure in whole and part.
Bring joy again and gladness; look not upon my sin.
Deliver me from sadness; renew me yet again!
Create in me a clean heart, renew me from within!
Take not Your Spirit from me because of all my sin.
Salvation’s joy restore, Lord, and keep me in Your hand;
Thus shall I tell Your strong Word to sinners in the land.
T. M. Moore
Where do 1 and 2 Thessalonians fit in the unfolding of God’s covenant? Order our workbook, God’s Covenant, and find out how all Scripture fits within this redemptive framework (click here).
Forward today’s study to some friends, and challenge them to study with you through this series on 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Each week’s lessons will be available as a free PDF download at the end of the week. Get a copy for yourself and send the link to the download to your friends. Plan to meet weekly to study Paul’s ministry and prepare for your own.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).