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Living to Please God

1 Thessalonians 4:1-2 In 1 Thessalonians 4, The apostle Paul showed how God expects real change in believers lives. Their lives in Christ should tangibly reflect their new spiritual reality. Living a life to please God is one that excels in tangible spiritual growth. There is always a danger of Christians thinking they have no further need to progress in sanctification; but this side of eternity, no believer has even come close to what God desires for them spiritually (cf. Phil. 3:1216). Because it knew so much truth, even a church as strong as the one in Thessalonica might have been tempted to settle for the spiritual status quo. Thanks to Pauls solid instruction when he was with them, the saints were living exemplary lives and he had commended them for that (1 Thess. 1:24, 7; 2:1314). As a result, they might have thought their condition was ideal and in no need of improvement. But Paul knew they could, and needed to do better and encouraged them accordingly. From 4:1 to the end of the body of the letter (5:22), Pauls primary purpose was to exhort the church to strive for spiritual excellence. In 1 Thessalonians 4:12 he introduced three foundational elements concerning that pursuit of excellence in "Living to Please God": 1) The Priority of Excelling, 2) The Power and Principles for Excelling, and 3) The Progress and Pressure of Excelling. 1) The Priority of Excelling. (1 Thessalonians 4:1a, d) 1 Thessalonians 4:1 [4:1]Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge) you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing), that you do (excel) so more and more). (ESV) It will become characteristic for Paul to conclude his letters with practical exhortations. To him, the Christian faith was always a blend of belief and behavior, words and works. Theres a dangerous tendency in orthodox circles to focus on doctrine to the detriment of duty. Doctrinal conflict that neglects the duty to love one another becomes destructive of Christian community. At the same time, theres another danger in emphasizing behavior at the expense of doctrine. It can never be a case of either/orit must always be both. 1 Thessalonians 4:12 focuses on a discussion of the goal of spiritual excellence for the Thessalonians is clear from Pauls opening words, finally, then. Finally, marks a major transition point in the letter. The Greek word (unlike the English) does not necessarily signify an approach to the end of the entire discussion. Every time we learn of what was, the question should come into our mind as to what we should be doing about it now. Paul was not browbeating the Thessalonians but lovingly, gently, and kindly requesting that they as his brothers/brethren persevere in sanctification. Sanctification (Gk. hagiasmos) (4:3, 4, 7; Rom. 6:19, 22; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 12:14) Strongs #38): The Greek term for sanctify means to set apart for Gods special use, to make distinct from what is commonhence, to be made like God who is distinct from all else and therefore holy. The Greek word for sanctify refers to a process that is perfect in principle though not yet attained. Though we are not yet completely holy, (positional) we stand in relation to God as though we were. "Living to Please God" is properly applied to specific applications for one another. It is not being or doing more and more things, but with a specific objective that, in this case, the love shown for one another would be deeper and more meaningful, not just in greater activity. Paul used this verb previously in 3.12 (perisseute), and here, as there, it means to abound or overflow. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 [12]and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, (ESV) The verb is followed by mallon, to a greater degree, which highlights how dramatic their progress should be in living in such a way as to please God. The way of life they have adopted is to give way to ever increasing excellence in their moral conduct Applied in other ways, Paul exhorted: 1 Corinthians 14:12 [12]So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. Philippians 1:9 [9]And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, Please turn to 2 Thessalonians 1 The word translated do/excel (perisseute) means to abound, to be abundantly supplied, to overflow, to exist in full quantity, to be over and above and around, to be advanced. A closely related form of the word can mean extraordinary, or surpassing. Paul used perisseute here in a comparative way (cf. 1 Cor. 8:8) to tell the Thessalonians he was intent that they become spiritually extraordinary, that they do/excel to a higher degree (cf. 1 Cor. 14:12; Phil. 1:9; 1 Thess. 3:12; 4:10). 2 Thessalonians 1:3-5 [3]We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. [4]Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. [5]This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering-- (ESV)

The character of someone is shown in difficulty. Someone not worthy of the kingdom of God looks for the easy way out in the midst of difficulties or ceases to care. Paul praised the Thessalonians that they acted and excelled in the midst of difficulty. Their faith grew and so did their love for one another. They shared the Gospel and themselves (1 Thes. 2:8) in the midst of difficulty and God was glorified because of it. Illustration: "Excellence" His interviews were legendary. US Admiral Rickover always wanted to cut through glib, rehearsed answers to get a look at the person underneath. He especially wanted to know how candidates would act under stress. On occasion he had them sit in a chair with the front legs sawed off an inch or two shorter than the back, to keep them off-balance. In his autobiography Why Not the Best?, Jimmy Carter tells about his Rickover interview. The admiral asked how he had stood in his class at the Naval Academy. I swelled my chest with pride and answered, Sir, I stood 59th in a class of 820! I sat back to wait for the congratulations. Instead came the question: Did you do your best? I started to say, Yes, sir, but I remembered who this was. I gulped and admitted, No, sir, I didnt always do my best. He looked at me for a long time, and then asked one final question, which I have never been able to forgetor to answer. He said, Why not? One day we will stand before God to have our works examined. It's not an examination for eternal punishment for Christ paid that penalty, but an examination as to the quality of our work. Did we do the most of what God gave us? Did we waste time? Did we put a priority to everything else before God's task for us? If we were we used by God our work produces fruit and lasts. When sanctification is a priority, at the judgment we will hear: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Mt. 25:21) 2) The Power and Principles for Excelling (1 Thessalonians 4:1b) 1 Thessalonians 4:1b [4:1] (Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge) you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, (just as you are doing, that you do so more and more). (ESV) In the Lord Jesus can modify you and refer to those who are regenerate and share the divine life of God by being in Christ. Certainly only the regenerate possess the spiritual power and insight to accomplish the objectives of spiritual growth (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14). This reality clearly burdened the apostles heart, as demonstrated by his prayer for the Thessalonians: May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another (1 Thess. 3:12). The only way love or any other Christian virtue can increase is when the Lord causes it to happen. The power to excel comes from the power of the indwelling Christ (John 17:23; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:17; 4:1516; Col. 2:7; 1 John 5:20). Paul called the Thessalonians to spiritual excellence, which they could attain because they were in the Lord Jesus. We are to request and exhort in or on behalf of the Lord Jesus, that is, with His authority (v.2). The power for excelling does not operate in a vacuum. It works according to scripturally delineated, time-tested, Godapproved principles. Paul refers to the divine principles, spiritual truths, and gospel doctrine that the Thessalonians had received from him and his companions when they first arrived in Thessalonica (cf. Acts 17:24; 1 Thess. 1:56; 2:78, 14). The Greek word translated received is used for accepting instructions passed on as fixed traditions from teacher to follower. Paul speaks in these terms about doctrinal traditions as well as ethical instruction that he passes on to his converts and expects them to keep (cf. 1 Cor 11:2, 23; 15:13; Gal 1:9; Phil 4:9; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6) Paul instructed or taught concerning how they ought to walk, or conduct their daily lives (cf. Rom. 12:921; Gal. 5:1626 ("walk by the Spirit"="Fruit of the Spirit"); 6:610; Eph. 4:255:21; 6:1018; Col. 3:124:6). People might misunderstand Paul's instruction that this ought to be done as a type of " higher level option. Pauls urging of them to excel, however, suggests that there is a necessity that his readers live this lifestyle and that such living is not optional for less seriously minded Christians. Indeed, this necessity is heightened by the fact that such a lifestyle is a divine commandment (4:2), that God has called believers to this conduct (4:7), that God has given true believers the power to fulfill this commandment (3:1213) and that to reject living in this manner is tantamount to rejecting God (4:8). Walking was the most common means of moving about in the ancient world. The Hebrews were fond of referring to ones entire life as a walk. Enoch walked with God (Gen. 5:24) is the highest affirmation of the quality of his life. The same tribute was paid to Noah (Gen. 6:9). The people of God are commanded, Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that ye may live and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess(Deut. 5:33). In the best known of all psalms, the psalmist portrays suffering and sorrow as a walk through the valley of the shadow (Ps. 23:4). The strength offered by the psalm is that God is walking with us. To walk with God is to please God. Again, we are more likely to think that we are pleasing God in the fast pace of our many activities than in the slow and steady pace of solitude and service. One of the ways to please God called for in the Bible is to wait for Him (Ps. 27:14). In our age of instant gratification, we dont like to wait for anything. How quickly we want results. Someone said, My trouble is that Im always in a hurry, but God never seems to be. To please God is to walk with Him and to wait for Him. (Is. 40:31). There are times to soar and times to run. But most of life is walking and waiting. The Christians behavior is compared to a walk for several reasons: (1) it demands life, for the dead sinner cannot walk; (2) it requires growth, for a little baby cannot walk; (3) it requires liberty, for someone who is bound cannot walk; (4) it demands light, for in darkness, we cannot figure which way to go; (5) it cannot be hidden, but is witnessed by all; and (6)

it suggests progress toward a goal. One pleases God by proclaiming the gospel while living a just Christian life (1 Thess 2:46), while those who oppose the gospel (1 Thess 2:15) or live in the flesh (Rom 8:8) can never please God Paul delineated what specifically was going to please God and glorify Him. It involves that believers need to confess their sins regularly (Ps. 32:5; Isa. 1:1819; Matt. 6:12; 1 John 1:9); to pray continually and trust Him (Ps. 27:8; Phil. 4:6; 1 Thess. 5:17; 1 Tim. 2:8; Heb. 4:16; 10:22; James 1:6); to pursue humility (Matt. 20:2628; Eph. 4:12; Phil. 2:34; Col. 3:12; James 4:6); to be content with Gods will (Ps. 37:16; 1 Tim. 6:6, 8; Heb. 13:5), as it is revealed in His Word (Ps. 119:105; Prov. 6:23; 2 Tim. 3:1617; 2 Peter 1:19); to be willing to suffer for His name (Matt. 5:1012; John 15:20; Acts 5:41; 2 Tim. 3:12); to evangelize the lost (Matt. 4:19; 28:1920; Mark 16:15; 2 Cor. 5:20; 2 Tim. 4:5); to celebrate the Lords Table (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:2328); to care for one another (Acts 2:4446; Gal. 6:2; Phil. 2:34; 1 Thess. 5:11, 14; Heb. 13:13; James 1:27; 2:1517); to honor God in their marriages and families (Eph. 5:226:4; Col. 3:1821; 1 Tim. 5:316; Titus 2:18; Heb. 13:4); and to be diligent and fruitful in all avenues of service (Matt. 3:8; Eph. 2:10; Col. 1:10; 2 Tim. 3:1617; Titus 3:8, 14; Heb. 10:24; 13:21). 3) The Progress and Pressure of Excelling (1 Thessalonians 4:1c-2) 1 Thessalonians 4:1c-2 [4:1] (Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God), just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. [2]For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. (ESV) Please turn to 1 Corinthians 9 Spiritual growth is not an instantaneous process; it does not culminate overnight. Instead, the pursuit of spiritual excellence is a lifelong commitment. As Christians walk in daily obedience, believers gradually but surely become more and more like Christ. Pauls exhortation to the Thessalonians was a confirmation of that fact and a reminder to them to keep progressing, just as they already did walk. They were on the pathway of progressive sanctification, and Paul wanted them to stay on it and have the patient, determined mind-set of the long-distance runner or the boxer, as he later described it to the Corinthians: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 [24]Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. [25]Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. [26]So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. [27]But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (ESV) (cf. Phil. 3:1214; Heb. 12:12) Athletes train in a specific sport for a particular completion. They must know what to do and not do in their training and diet. This requires discipline and focus. Without the aim, they are prone to get distracted. Without the disciple, even the best intentions get sidetracked through fatigue, apathy or distraction. God desires that we not just respond to each day as it comes but we have a concrete particular aim or objective. God likens such a disciple with the process of progressive sanctification that He calls us to. If we don't have a noticeable improvement in our ministry, then we fail to accomplish we He has called us to. The pressure for the Thessalonians to stay on the path of righteousness and excel more and more in their walk with Christ derived from the fact that they knew what instructions/commandments. This is a rare military word for authoritative commands handed down through the ranks (cf. I Tim. 1:5, 18) Paul gave the instructions/commandments by the (authority of) the Lord Jesus. Christ Himself authorized Pauls exhortation to the church in Thessalonica. Instructinons/commandments (parangelias) refers to strong, authoritative directives delivered by a commanding officer to his subordinates. That meant the church could not take the apostles admonition lightly. He not only reminded them of the various instructions/commandments he gave them, as he implicitly did concerning his earlier instruction to them, but he also reminded them of the divine authority by which he ministered (cf. 1 Cor. 2:15; 2 Cor. 10:15; 1 Thess. 2:13). Pauls directives did not originate from some arbitrary human sanction or some remote ecclesiastical authority (cf. Gal. 1:1, 1516; 2 Peter 1:2021). Instead, they came from the (authority of) the Lord Jesus, and obedience to them was mandatory (cf. Matt. 7:21; John 15:1417; 1 John 2:35). In "Living to Please God" our directives for our life come from Christ Himself..