Faithlife Sermons

When Good Enough is not Good Enough

Living in Light of Eternity  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  32:12
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NOTE:
This is a manuscript, and not a transcript of this message. The actual presentation of the message differed from the manuscript through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is possible, and even likely that there is material in this manuscript that was not included in the live presentation and that there was additional material in the live presentation that is not included in this manuscript.
Engagement
Mary and I got married the summer before my last semester of college. By that time I figured that if I took a class in summer school and then took 21 units in the fall semester, I could graduate a semester early and get a “real job”. Since I was already working 3 part time jobs while going to school, I knew that would be a challenge, but to me it as worth it not to have to spend the time and money to go to school one more semester.
While I needed to take several classes in my business major, I also had room in my schedule for a couple of electives, so I found a class called “Techniques of Interviewing”, or something like that. And my first day of class confirmed I had made a wise choice. The class was set up so that in order to get a “C” and pass the class all I needed to do was to come to class every time it met. To get a “B”, I had to also record an interview and to get an “A” I had to do all that and also write a paper.
By the middle of the semester I had already secured a job with a top CPA firm, so I decided that it was going to be “good enough” to just get my first “C” in college so that I could graduate. So I went to class and that was it.
Tension
As I look back on that decision, given the circumstances I still think it was the right decision. But I also realize that in life “good enough” is not always good enough. And, as we’ll see clearly this morning, that is certainly the case when it comes to my relationship with Jesus Christ.
The very fact that Jesus needed to come to earth and die on a cross to make it possible for me to have a relationship with God is due to the fact that “good enough” is not good enough. Because I am a sinful human being I will never be able to be good enough to have a relationship with a holy God based on anything I can do. So I have to depend on Jesus and what He has done for me and put my faith in Him.
Maybe that is why once we’ve made the decision to put our faith in Jesus, it’s so easy to assume that in our walk with Him it’s okay to settle for “good enough”. After all, my eternal destiny is assured, so what difference does it make how I live my life here on earth? If we’re honest, I think we’ve all fallen into that trap at times. I know I have.
Truth
But this morning, we are going to see that in our walk with Jesus, good enough is never good enough. The very fact that Paul wrote the letter to the church in Thessalonica, and all the letters to the other churches he established, is proof of that. Paul could have very easily just kept a spreadsheet of how many people had made decisions for Jesus everywhere he went - 150 in Philippi, 500 in Thessalonica, 200 in Berea, 100 in Athens, etc. That’s how a lot of churches and denominations operate today. And most of the big rallies and crusades also focus on the number of conversions or decisions.
But Paul wasn’t satisfied with the fact that people had made decisions. And he didn’t want them to be satisfied with that either. So he wrote letters and sent associates back to these churches to make sure that they didn’t settle for good enough. We’re going to see that clearly this morning.
1 Thessalonians 4:1–12 ESV
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. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
At first glance, it seems like Paul is addressing a number of unrelated ideas here. But there are two key words or phrases that appear at the beginning and end of this passage that serve as bookends to tie everything together:
TWO KEY WORDS/PHRASES:
walk (vs. 1, 12)
Paul often uses the word “walk” to describe the life of a disciple of Jesus. I think he does that intentionally to paint a picture of some important aspects of that life:
First it is a journey, not a jump. We don’t immediately get to where we need to be. It takes time to walk somewhere and it takes time to grow in our relationship with Jesus.
Second, it takes effort. Unfortunately, the church has used phrases like “let go and let God” that make it seem like once we become a disciple, all our striving will cease. It is true that the life of a disciple does require trusting God, but as we have talked about frequently, living for Jesus also requires effort and discipline on our part.
more and more (vs. 1, 10)
Although the disciples in Thessalonica are moving in the right direction, Paul doesn’t want them to be satisfied with their progress. He wants them to grow exponentially in a lifestyle that pleases God. There is never a time in this life where we can say that we have it all figured out and don’t need to grow any more. And personally, I think that even when we spend eternity on a new earth in the presence of Jesus, that will still be true.
So with that in mind, we are ready to identify our main idea for this morning:

In my walk with Jesus “good enough” is never good enough

It’s important to note here that the Thessalonians were doing a lot of things right. According to Paul, they had received the teaching of Paul and his companions and were living in a way that pleased God. But Paul is writing to encourage them to take that to the next level.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, our primary purpose in gathering here each week is not so that we can learn something new, although I certainly hope that does happen from time to time. But it is more about being encouraged to do a better job of living out the things we already do know. I am reminded of the words of Mark Twain:
It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.
As I mentioned a moment ago, this passage contains three sections that at first seem to be unrelated. But as we’ll see in a moment, they all have a common denominator.
Three aspects of walking with Jesus:
Holy living (vs. 3-8)
Loving “insiders” (vs. 9-10)
Loving “outsiders” (vs. 11-12)
The common denominator here is growing in love:
Living a holy life flows out of my love for God and my desire to please Him. The verb “please” in verse 2 literally means that I desire to “give delight” to Him. Although Paul uses the example of sexual immorality to demonstrate the importance of holy living, that is only one area of our lives where we are to be holy, although certainly a very important one. The more I grow in my love for God, the more I will desire to live a holy life so that I can please Him.
As we saw two weeks ago, it takes a village to develop mature disciples of Jesus. So when I grow in my love toward my brothers and sisters in Christ, I not only help them grow in their relationship with Jesus, but I also promote unity within the body of Christ.
When I grow in my ability to live a life that makes Jesus and the gospel attractive to outsiders, I demonstrate my love for them.
Application
Originally I was going to share several different ways that we can make sure that we don’t settle for “good enough” in our walk with Jesus. But the more I worked on those principles, the more it occurred to me that they all boil down to this:

If I don’t want to settle for “good enough” I must live in a way that is counter to the culture

We often make a big deal about knowing the will of God for our lives. But in verse 3, Paul reveals one important aspect of that will:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification...
If you’re using the ESV translation, you have a footnote that indicates that the word “sanctification” can also be translated “holiness”. It is the same exact root word that is translated “holiness” elsewhere in this passage. Typically we tend to think of that word as describing righteous living or moral purity. And it does carry that idea. But the word itself means “to be set apart”. So it is not primarily about doing the right things, but rather about being set apart from what is common. Or to put it in the terms we are using this morning, it is to be different or unique in comparison to our culture.
Sometimes we think that our culture today is worse than it’s ever been. But the culture there in Thessalonica was actually quite similar to what we face today in many ways. Granted, they didn’t have cell phones and the internet to tempt them, but they did live in a sexually promiscuous culture, where pagan religions encouraged sexual immorality. So the command to abstain from sexual immorality was just as counter to the culture of that day as it is in our culture today.
The word translated “sexual immorality” in this passage is a single Greek word - porneia. We get our English word “pornography” from it. It is a broad term that describes any sexual thoughts or actions that occur outside the marriage of one man to one woman for a lifetime. We could easily spend an entire message focusing on how to be counter cultural in this area. But since, we don’t have time to do that this morning, let me leave you with just one thought.
Sexual sins, regardless of their nature, are self-centered and involve the exploitation or use of another in order to satisfy our selfish desires. And although our culture tries to paint that immorality as an act of love, it is nothing more than love of self. It has nothing to do with genuinely loving another.
The second area where we are to live in a way that is counter to our culture is the way we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. Even though the Thessalonians are loving each other, Paul exhorts them to do that “more and more”. That is because truly putting the interests of others ahead of our own is so counter to a culture that promotes the idea of doing whatever you need to do to get ahead - even if that means hurting others in the process.
Rachel Gilson serves in the leadership of the missionary organization CRU. That is the same organization that Tom Terry, one of the missionaries we support as a church, is part of. She has written a book about her experience as a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction. Although those desires haven’t gone away, through the strength that comes from her relationship with Jesus, she has been able to overcome those desires and has now been married to her husband, Josh, for 13 years. In a recent interview, she shared one of the keys to being obedient to Jesus in this area of her life:
I think the number one thing that helped me [resist acting on my same-sex desires]…was that I had a community of people who love me and loved Jesus.
I pray that Thornydale Family Church would be that kind of church - one where we love each other by coming along side of each other and encouraging and helping each other overcome the struggles in our lives.
Finally, Paul writes about how we are to love outsiders. And here is where I think the church needs to do a great deal of introspection and evaluation of our own church culture.
This week I read an article by Collin Hansen, the Vice President of the Gospel Coalition. Before the 2016 election, he was invited to speak on the history of the religious right to a group of Christian students at Cornell University. When he asked the students what their classmates associate first with Christianity, he was shocked with their answer. But since then he has asked the same question to other similar audiences and their answer has always been the same:
Westboro Baptist Church
For those of you who might not be familiar, that is not really a church at all. As Hansen describes it, it is “an overgrown family cult in Topeka, Kansas” which is known for protesting at the funerals of service members in the most hateful way imaginable.
Hansen writes this:
For a religion like Christianity that seeks to persuade, perception can dictate reality. Who wants to join a movement known for hatred and bigotry instead of human rights and consent? And yet that’s exactly how Christianity comes across to many today when they see crosses held up during the January 6 attacks in Washington, D.C., and when they learn the mass shooter in Atlanta on March 16 was raised in the Southern Baptist Convention.
That is such a far cry from the kind of lives that Paul urges the Thessalonians to live. And it is certainly a far cry from the typical life in our culture today.
Paul is certainly not teaching here that we are to become isolated and not have any interaction with those outside the church. But he is saying that we are to live in a way that we don’t unnecessarily provoke confrontation with those outside the church. That doesn’t mean that we don’t stand up for biblical principles when they are being violated. It just means that we do it with gentleness and respect.
Hansen ends his article with these instructive words:
But across history, and around the world, Christians bring extraordinary change through ordinary means such as setting another seat at the table, caring for the weak, and suffering with joy because they love their enemies. When Christians “obey the truth” (Rom. 2:8), they remind us how the West was really won—not mostly through arguments but through love in close-knit community. Facing today’s challenges, we will only move forward—together—when we get back to the only gospel that saves. No evil can overcome us if we resolve to do nothing but good (Rom 12:21).
To me, that is the picture that Paul is painting here.
We have learned this morning that...

In my walk with Jesus “good enough” is never good enough

And we have also seen that...

If I don’t want to settle for “good enough” I must live in a way that is counter to the culture

Action
As we close this morning, I want to ask every single one of us to honestly answer this question:
Do I think that my walk with Jesus is “good enough”?
My prayer is that every single one of us will answer that question with a resounding “no”. I certainly hope that there is no one joining us today that is completely satisfied with where you are. So hopefully, that’s a relatively easy question for you to answer.
But let me ask you a second question that is probably much harder:
What am I going to do about that?
Since we’re all at different points in our journey, that is going to look a bit different for all of us. But let me give you a few options to consider:
If you’ve never placed your faith in Jesus Christ, you haven’t even begun the journey yet. So I want to invite you to do that today. As I mentioned earlier, when it comes to your relationship with God, it is certainly true that “good enough” is not good enough. There is nothing that you can possibly do that is good enough to be made right with God, But the good news is that Jesus did that for you. He died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins and make you righteous before God. All you have to do is to accept that gift by putting your faith completely in Him.
For the rest of you who have already made that decision and are on the journey, here are some ways that you might be able to take your next steps in your walk with Jesus:
If you’re not already reading your Bible on a daily basis in a systematic way, will you make a commitment to do that? One way to do that is to join our church Bible reading plan.
If you’re already doing that, maybe you could begin to share some of your insights or questions in our Faithlife group. Or perhaps the next step in your journey would be to start memorizing some Bible verses.
How about making a commitment to pray for the other people in this church on a regular basis if you aren’t already doing that? I use an app called PrayerMate to help me do that. By the way, I’d like to pray more specifically for your needs, so let me know how I can pray for you. You can also pray for others by going to our Faithlife church group and clicking on the Prayers tab. And you can help others pray for you by posting your prayer requests there.
Some of you should consider serving somewhere here at TFC. As we continue to ramp up some of our ministries, we need more people to serve.
Some of you may need to consider asking for help with some addiction or sin. Maybe you’ve tried to overcome that on your own and you need someone to hold you accountable or give you some encouragement and help.
Frankly, some of you need to consider making some changes in the way you use your social media. I’ve seen some of your posts and they don’t always reflect living quietly and minding your own affairs. I’ve been guilty of that in the past, too, and I still have to resist the temptation to jump in and respond every time I read something I don’t agree with.
And possibly, some of you have been far more dependent on others than you need to be. You have taken advantage of their generosity and used it as an excuse not to work hard and provide for yourself.
That’s only a partial list, but hopefully it’s enough to get you thinking. Some of you probably already know something you can do to take your next step in growing in your relationship with Jesus so that you don’t settle for “good enough”. If that’s true I want you to go ahead and write it down right now. Even better share is with someone else who will hold you accountable to follow through. If you don’t know yet, then can I ask you to pray about it this week and then choose one thing you can do.
Inspiration
If there was ever anyone who could have viewed his walk with Jesus as being good enough, it was Paul. But as he got close to the end of his life here on earth, he wrote these words in another one of his letters:
Philippians 3:12–15 ESV
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
My prayer for all of us is that this will become our testimony as well.
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