Together we've gone through the first three chapters of 1 Thessalonians, written by Paul. We talked about what the faith of a Thessalonian looks like, about giving your whole heart in all you do, about thinking before speaking, and about Satan's role in our lives. Today, we are going to dive into chapter four where Paul shifts gears to remind the Thessalonians how to live the Christian life well. And while some of it might not totally apply to today's world (we don't have pagan churches on every corner offering prostitution as a great worship option, for example, but we do still have prostitution in our world), we can absolutely benefit from studying it together two thousand years after it was originally written.
His advice can be broken down into five different thoughts, all related to the Christian life. Let's take a look.
1. Stick close to Jesus
"One final word, friends. We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance. You know the guidelines we laid out for you from the Master Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2)
Remember that there is a difference between doing everything you do in life because it's a "rule" that you have to follow from the Bible and doing it because you love Jesus. Paul is reminding us here that our motivation in life should not simply be the rule book. Our motivation should come straight from Jesus himself. Develop that amazing relationship with him so that you desire to do good because you love him. It's much easier to choose the right thing when you are bathing in the light of Jesus every day. Darkness cannot exist where light lives. The two don't go together.
2. Save sex for marriage
"God wants you to live a pure life.
Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity.
Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God." (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)
This is one of those things that is a reference to life as the Thessalonians knew it. Part of the pagan worship practices included things like participating in sex as an offering and giving parts of yourself (blood, etc) as an offering. I also remember reading that some groups also sacrificed actual living babies. Horrible. Paul wants them to steer clear of this stuff. It's not honoring to God and he isn't pleased by it.
As odd as it sounds, we can still learn something from these verses. Sex outside of marriage is completely commonplace these days. Everyone does it, right? So why not? Except everyone doesn't do it. Satan wants us to believe that so that we participate in it too. And nothing good comes from premarital sex. Women are developing an emotional bond with a man that isn't their spouse yet. They are letting things slide that they wouldn't put up with because of that bond. And when they break up in the future, they are ripped apart. Pieces of each person in that relationship are forever damaged. *
And besides that, premarital sex can never be what married sex is. Married sex is like authentic Mexican tacos made by an actual Mexican woman who learned from her mother growing up. They are amazing. They cannot be compared to any other taco in all the world. They will ruin you for all future tacos that you ever eat because they are that good. Premarital sex is like going to Taco Bell. There is something strange in it that you can't identify. Everyone's been there- Taco Bell isn't loyal to you at all. The shell is stale, the meat is old, and the seasoning is so salty that you can taste nothing else. It's just not good.
3. God cares about all of your worries so hand them over to him and trust him to deal with them all
"Don’t run roughshod over the concerns of your brothers and sisters. Their concerns are God’s concerns, and he will take care of them. We’ve warned you about this before. God hasn’t invited us into a disorderly, unkempt life but into something holy and beautiful—as beautiful on the inside as the outside.
If you disregard this advice, you’re not offending your neighbors; you’re rejecting God, who is making you a gift of his Holy Spirit." (1 Thessalonians 4: 6-8)
From here, Paul transitions into the reminder that God gave us these rules for our own good. He has shown us the good life to help us live a great one. And he offered up his Holy Spirit to guide us. Ignoring all the warnings and doing life any way you please is disregarding that gift. By rejecting the advice Paul gave, he is saying that you are also rejecting God.
Additionally, he is reminding us to stop living a life full of worry. God cares about all of it. He's got it. He's taking care of us. Have faith that he will do right by us. Let go of the worry. Leave it at God's feet so that he can take care of it.
4. Love each other
"Regarding life together and getting along with each other, you don’t need me to tell you what to do. You’re God-taught in these matters. Just love one another! You’re already good at it; your friends all over the province of Macedonia are the evidence. Keep it up; get better and better at it." (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10)
Paul says this over and over again throughout the New Testament. God told us about it in the Old Testament. Jesus touched on this and demonstrated it repeatedly throughout the gospels where his life was recorded for us. Love each other. The end. Just love each other. Don't keep track of who did what to whom. Don't hold grudges. Just love each other. Actively and emotionally.
Jesus said that this one was tied for first place as the greatest commandment in Matthew:
"Jesus replied, '"You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: "Love your neighbor as yourself." The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.'" (Matthew 22:37-40)
If Jesus put that much importance on the idea of loving each other, you better believe it's important. That's why Paul's bringing it up here. It's a vital part of living the Christian life well.
5. Be a good example for others to follow
"Stay calm; mind your own business; do your own job. You’ve heard all this from us before, but a reminder never hurts. We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends." (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)
There's not a lot to say about this one. It's pretty simple. Make good choices. Your choices affect others, not just you- whether you like it or not. You are a walking example of Jesus as a follower of Christ, so make sure you think before you speak and before you act. The world is watching. How will we portray Christ to those around us? How can we be Jesus to those in our lives?
I'm going to wrap this up because I have taken absolutely forever to finish it and get it posted. Sorry. Be blessed today and remember to be a blessing!
* Watch Mark Gungor's Tale of Two Brains for more information on these thoughts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=814eR5K7KD8