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Live A Holy Life

by David Johnson

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

It is good to be together again and be able to look into the Word of God and to make personal application and to witness the truth to others.  The title for the lesson is, “Live a Holy Life.” And our Bible text is in the New Testament and it is found in 1 Thessalonians chapter four and the first 12 verses.  Let’s listen to the Word of God.

Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God as, in fact, you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified, that you should avoid sexual immorality, that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen who do not know God and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man, but God who gives you his Holy Spirit.  Now about brotherly love 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 the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands just as we told you so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.   This is the Word of God. May he add his blessing to the public reading of his Word.

You and I know that today we live in a sex saturated society.  But sexual sin is certainly not new.  For example, according to scholars, the first century AD in the Gentile, Greco-Roman society was even more immoral than today’s western culture for centuries, especially in northwestern Europe and America that have had the influence of biblically based Christianity or the Judeo-Christian heritage which pagan Thessalonica, which was in Macedonia or northern Greece did not have prior to the apostle Paul’s coming. Pagan Greek society evidently did not have civil or criminal laws to prohibit the grosser forms of sexual immorality. We actually do have hard evidence to this circumstance. There have been archaeological excavations in Greece that have uncovered elaborate brothels with all kinds of lewd pictures on the walls. Evidently homosexuality was very common.  And also vulgar sexual rituals practiced in worship to the many pagan gods and goddesses. Sexual promiscuity was openly tolerated. Adultery was commonly practiced as well as all sorts of fornication as the apostle Paul wrote to the new Christian converts in Thessalonica, likely most if not all had lived in sexual immorality.  No doubt many had mistresses. Many women likely engaged in harlotry to support themselves.

Therefore the apostle Paul wrote explicitly to live a holy life, especially regarding sexual immorality and the like with warnings and exhortations and instruction which would include us by extension today also and to share with others with the strong challenges not to return to the sinful old habits before our conversions as Christians even today.

And so with all the daily pressures today not to cave in to the increasingly wicked society that, again, is accepting and tolerating more and more like the pagans of old in our society. Unbelievers usually, heathen have little or no restraint regarding sexual sin.

In 1 Thessalonians chapter four and verse one it says, in part, that he urges you in the Lord, in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. Well, to do what? To live in order to please God. Notice in the Lord, not just Jesus, but in the Lord Jesus, which strongly implies, obviously, his lordship, obedience.  Jesus needs to be our every day master, Lord in our thoughts, in our words, in our deeds.  We need to make him Lord in our ongoing sanctification.  That is, to do this more and more. It is an ongoing process, a daily battle with the help of the Holy Spirit.  We can grow as believers, as Christians.  We can grow. We can develop. We can mature.  We can be holy, that is set apart and pleasing to God.  We all have room for growth and improvement, to grow more and more in our spiritual maturity.

In 1 Thessalonians chapter four and verse four the apostle Paul wrote, in part, that each learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable. That is, we need to cooperate with the indwelling Holy Spirit.  And part of the fruit of the Spirit, according to Galatians chapter five and verse 24 is self control. And so here, applying it to lust, we need to have self control. Instead, we should strive for true love, not lust, to do it in God’s way, not mankind’s way.

Today’s standards are often stated as, for example, quote: Well, if it is between consenting adults and if it is pleasurable and if you don’t hurt anybody, it is ok, do it.  This grieves God. It is against God.  Sexual sins always eventually hurts someone.  We hurt ourselves, our mates, our children, our families, our businesses, our churches with negative emotional and physical consequences and always spiritual consequences. God created sexual intimacy between a husband and a wife for procreation, children and pleasure and as an expression of romantic love between a man and a woman, a husband and a wife. An apt scriptural summation of this is found in the book of Hebrews chapter 13 verse four where it says: Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure. For God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. God’s man and God’s woman has and needs to strive to control his or her own body with restraint, with purity, with abstinence, until marriage which is not weak, but takes great inner strength.

In 1 Thessalonians chapter four and verse six it says, in part: And that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. Well how?  In this immediate content and context as an adulterer or in any ungodly sexual sin against his brother, whether in the Church or not in the Church, apart from the Church. Premarital sexual sin, for example, could also rob, wrong a future marriage of virginity that ought to be brought into the marriage. The Lord will punish men for all such sins that are not repented of.  This should be an added incentive for abstinence, for chastity, to live holy lives.

Do you realize that it was Jesus Christ, his character, his commandments, his teachings, his Church, Christianity that first dramatically changed and challenged the sexual immorality of the ancients of especially western Gentile world, the Greco-Roman world? Our Judeo-Christian standards should set us apart from the prevailing society around us of course even today.

In 1 Thessalonians chapter four and verse seven it tells us here: For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.  It is estimated that in America 21 percent and growing or one out of five are conceived before marriage, outside of marriage. America today like even ancient Judah in Jeremiah’s day—according to Jeremiah chapter three and verse three—refused to blush with shame, which is becoming more and more the norm.  Babies born out of wedlock, which is being widely accepted and not even considered immoral, not even blushing about this anymore in many cases. And I, as a minister of the gospel, have encountered this in numerous premarital counseling sessions. There has been a lot of change with a lot of our society over the years. And we are becoming more and more like the ancient Greeks and Romans and tolerating much more.

I encountered, for example, a professing Christian mother who previously would not allow her son and his girlfriend that were living together to stay overnight together in her house out of respect to her as she put it, but now this same mother in follow up counseling is herself living with a man and she condones it, because to marry him means that she would lose her deceased husband’s pension. So money is more important to her than the master’s commandments or to live a holy life, including sexual purity. And, of course, the excuses pile up. Well, if it is pleasurable, if it feels good, it can’t be wrong. Well, that is not even reasonable or rational.

So, for example, if child molestation feels good then it is ok? Of course not. It is not ok. It is immoral.  It is an abomination. Well, everybody is doing it, regarding sexual sin in general. No, that is not even true. Not everybody is doing it. And everybody that does will be punished by God if they don’t repent to be forgiven and genuinely repent. Repent means to stop doing it. And then you also hear: Well, if both consent as adults and really love each other, it is ok. Well, studies indicate that those that live together before marriage usually, eventually end up with failed relationships and or failed marriages due to lack of trust. There is a lack of commitment. If you live together usually you are willing and able to change partners much more easily. It doesn’t work.

And in 1 Thessalonians chapter four and verse eight it says, in part: He who rejects this instruction does not reject man, but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. It is sin against God.  And it is a commandment, not just a suggestion. It is not optional. Even Christians with the Holy Spirit, with the indwelling Holy Spirit can and do sin sexually. And by doing so grieve and quench the Holy Spirit within.

You need to have the mindset of Joseph as in Genesis chapter 39 and verse nine where it says, in part, where Joseph said to the woman that was tempting him, Potiphar’s wife: How can I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?  And, of course, this is true of any sin. We first sin against God. And in sexual sin we sin against ourselves.  And there is always hurtful consequences to those around us.
In verses nine through 12 Paul wrote of the positive attitude that we should have, positive attitude and action regarding brotherly love, meaning here especially in the Church.  In verse nine it says: You yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. Well, taught how? Through Scripture that was then written, the Old Testament and, of course, the oral teachings of the apostle Paul and others.  But, for example, in Leviticus chapter 19 and verse 18: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the Lord.  And so they had teaching on these things and they knew what was right and what was wrong and how they needed to love one another and what God’s perfect will is concerning these matters, these inter relationships.

In verse 10 it says, in part: You do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. That is, not just the brothers in the Church at Thessalonica, but all the brothers of the churches in the region of Macedonia, northern Greece, which would have included Philippi and Berea, an example to us today to love all the brotherhood of believers. We are not in competition as congregations of the Lord’s Church, but should complement each other in brotherly love.

In verse 11 it says, in part, that we should lead a quiet life and mind your own business and work with your hands. Here we have the apostle Paul’s three fold admonition, first to live a quiet life. That is not wild and frantic, not with social or spiritual conflict, but peaceably. And regarding mind your own business, well, evidently this was a problem in the Church at Thessalonica. And is this not often a problem today in the churches?
Consider Paul’s counsel in the second Thessalonian letter, chapter three and verse 11 where it says, in part, that those that are not busy, they are busy bodies, that they gossip and are saying things that we ought not to, that should not be practiced.

And then, lastly, to work with your hands. That we should not have idleness or laziness. You understand that when the apostle Paul wrote this in Macedonia, in northern Greece, the Greek culture at this time considered manual labor, working with your hands, beneath their dignity, that manual labor was work that was fit only for slaves, for servants. But all Christians are admonished to earn our keep, not depending on handouts, to earn the bread that we eat, to labor so as not to be a burden to anyone.

In 1 Thessalonians chapter four and verse 12 it says, in part: So that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders. That is, meaning that part of our Christian witness is in all three of these areas, that we are not to be busy bodies, but to be busy, to be working and that we should not be gossiping and that we should lead quiet lives and mind our own business and live in peace with one another. And, of course, as our witness also to the world, to the outsiders, to those around us that we live a holy life, set apart from the world. Christians should be radically different from the world. And we can do this in the power of the Holy Spirit an be that reflection of Christ when others can see Christ in us, Jesus who lived a perfectly holy life that we will strive to live like this before those around us.

May that be the Christian’s desire.


                        David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.

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Philippians 4:13