Sermon for Oct 30

By on October 30, 2016

Living to Please God

Preached to Clark’s Chapel UMC on 30 October 2016

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

NIV 1 Thessalonians 4:1 ¶ 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. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6 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. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

9 ¶ Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. 11 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, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.


Introduce / Establish Need


Every now and then, I have to tell you about my dogs.  Most of you know that we’ve had Barnabas for 8 and a half years. We’re partial to mini schnauzers and when Marjory had puppy fever, she picked him out, sent me over to see him and well, that was it.  He was an easy dog to train except for his greeting behavior, but overall I can say that given the stubbornness of this breed, he desires to please.


This summer, we brought Shiloh home.  She is a schnoodle, which is half schnauzer and half poodle.  Sometimes I wonder if she is confused about who she is.  She has much more of an independent streak in her than Barnabas.  And she is much more difficult to train. But in the end, she wants to be the center of attention.  So eventually, she will want to please us too with her disciplined behavior.  But until then, she spends time in the crate, while Barnabas has run of the house when we can’t keep an eye on her.


It is easy to talk about dog behavior.  But now we need to get serious, for our scripture text is going to guide us in that we are to please God with our behavior.  While Paul lays out specific examples that catch our attention, let us not miss that we are called to please God more and more with the way we live.  The theological term for this is sanctification, which is another way to say that we strive by God’s grace to live our lives to be more and more like Jesus Christ.  And to be clear, we are not preaching a salvation by works theology; our sanctified living comes after we become a disciple of Jesus Christ by faith.


Into the Biblical World


Paul sets the standard for Christian behavior.  We live to please God based on the instructions derived from the teaching and authority of the Lord Jesus.  We affirm that we receive these instructions through faithful interpretation of the scriptures by reflection of Christian tradition, informed reason, and Spirit led experience.  That is why Paul can affirm that all scripture is God inspired and useful for teaching or that we can confidently say that scripture is God’s truth for all matters of faith and practice.


Now Paul makes an absolute statement.  It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.  By saying this is God’s will, Paul leaves no wiggle room about his point.  It is our purpose to be sanctified, to fully submit to God’s leading in our lives.  To be more like Barnabas and less like Shiloh.


Paul begins with the topic of sexual immorality.    We know from history that Roman and Greek culture was as free with sexual expression as our culture has recently embraced.  Our culture has embraced an anything goes attitude towards sexual practice as long as it is consensual and doesn’t appear to endanger anyone.  In contrast, Paul teaches them to be in control in a way that is holy and honorable.  Scripture teaches and the church has long affirmed that God’s beautiful gift is to be enjoyed within the confines of marriage.  Paul gives us instruction that is valid for the church today, which I proclaim to us Christ followers:  God desires for us to be holy and pure and to live according to the Spirit.  So one component of sanctification is to practice sexual purity.


A second behavior of sanctification is the practice of brotherly love.  Paul gives a wonderful complement: We don’t have to write to you because you are already doing it well.  I’m in the middle of mid-term feedback sessions with those I supervise.  The easiest ones to write are for those who are doing everything expected and more.  You say, keep on doing it or as Paul says, do it more and more.  In other words, continue to grow in the practice of God’s love.


For John Wesley, growing in the practice of God’s love so that it guides us in the way that we live is what he called going on to perfection.  Wesley believed and taught that it was possible for people to reach a state of God’s grace in which voluntary sin would not happen because God’s love would be such an overwhelming presence in our lives.  We can all agree that is a goal worth striving towards and is a practical application of Paul’s teaching. So let us practice love of God and love of people more and more.


The final idea of living to please God from our text is the idea of a quiet and respectful life.  Paul’s aim here is that the church and its individuals live its daily life to win the respect of outsiders and to be self-sufficient, which I take to be reliant on God.  I don’t work in a profession in which I work with my hands unless you want to count all of my typing.  But am I living in such a way that I gain the respect of my co-workers and those I interact with?  Remember, we are Christ’s representatives and we preach a gospel by how we live.  We set an example.



Paul believes that we will through God’s own power, live to please God.


Into Our Experience


Our passage today may have meddled with us a bit.  As a rule, we Americans like to think we’re independent and to mind our own business.  However, in the church, we remember that we are part of God’s kingdom and our call is to live in a way that pleases God.


We talked about what it means to grow in sanctification, to have our behaviors become more and more like Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit.  What might that look like for you?  In what areas of our lives do we need to have more self-control?  Paul talked about sexual behavior, but he could just as easily talk about anger and lack of discipline.  How can we grow in love?  One practical way to grow in love is to put it into practice.  Get involved in a ministry that demonstrates love to people, especially to the weak and vulnerable.  And finally, are we living in a way that gains the respect of our community?  I believe we can be both quiet and effective in our ministry so that it gains respect and people come to know Jesus.

Paul will continue on with other instructions at the end of his letter and he concludes with this prayer:

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.


So, in light of this passage, let us live to please God!




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