A Life that Pleases God
TEXT: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
TOPIC: A Life that Pleases God
Pastor Bobby Earls, First Baptist Church, Center Point, Alabama
Sunday Morning, October 30, 2005
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, NKJV
1Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; 2for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 8Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.
Look again at verse one, 1Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;
This morning, I am preaching on the subject “A Life that Pleases God.”
In your life and mine, there are many people we care deeply about that we wish above all things, to please. If you are married, you want to please your spouse. Children want to please their parents, grandparents their grandkids. It may be that you want to please your best friend, your teacher, coach or employer. We all have someone special in our lives we want to please.
But may I say to you, that more important than pleasing mom or dad, brother or sister, friend or neighbor, each one of us should want to please God! How do we live a life that pleases God?
Paul gave counsel to the young believers at the church in Thessalonica in how they should live. The Thessalonian believers were expecting the soon return of the Lord Jesus. Most of the Epistle to the Thessalonians is written around the topic of the Lord Jesus’ certain return. We like to look forward to the day when we shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. But my dear friends, in the meantime our feet are firmly planted on the ground and we need to do some walking. We are to walk in a way that pleases God.
In chapter 4, the Apostle Paul addresses the very important subject of holiness, sanctification and right living here on earth. The fact of the matter is that it is the will of God that we are to live holy lives that please God. Look at verse 3 once again. 3For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”
Before we go any further, I want to explain what the Bible means when it talks about our sanctification. You not only find the word in verse 3, but also in verse 4 when we read, "That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor." What does the word sanctification mean? A hint is found in verse 7, "For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness."
11. The word "holiness" in verse 7 is the same word translated "sanctification" in verses 3 and 4. When the Bible speaks of being sanctified it is speaking of the process of being made holy. Sanctification speaks of the consecration of our life to God spiritually and the separation of our life from that which displeases God. You could read verse 4, "For this is the will of God, that you be consecrated."
A Sunday school teacher was describing how Lot's wife looked back and turned to a pillar of salt. One little fellow spoke up and said, "My mother looked back once while she was driving and she turned into a telephone pole."
The simplest way I know how to define sanctification is that we turn our backs on the world, the flesh, and the devil and keep our eyes on the Lord, serving him, loving Him, honoring Him, and each day of our life we draw closer to Him and become more like Him.
When it comes to the matter of sanctification, living the Christian life as God desires and demands, the Bible is our instruction book. Let me explain. As Paul writes to the believers in Thessalonica, he says in verse 2, "For you know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus." As we think of a life that pleases God notice first that a life that pleases God begins with a high reverence for the Word of God.
1. A Life that Pleases God Reverences the Word of God, 1 Thessalonians 4:2
"For you know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus."
Paul declares that the commandments he gave them were more than his opinions or convictions. He tells them they came from and by the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul was declaring that what he shared with them had a Divine source. They were more than the words of man. They were the words of God. The Bible we hold in our hand came from and "by the Lord Jesus."
Let me remind you today that our Bible is more than the words of men. It is the Word of God. The Bible contains 3,586,489 letters, 773,692 words, 31,173 verses, 1,189 chapters, and 66 books, and I want to go on record and say that I believe that every letter,
every word, every verse, every chapter, and every book is the Word of God.
George A. Marsden in his book Reforming Fundamentalism stated that 85% of the students in one of America's largest evangelical seminaries stated that they do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. He also tells of a poll taken in 1987 by
sociologist Jeffrey Hadden of 10,000 clergymen in the U.S who were asked if they believed that the Scriptures are the inspired and inerrant Word of God in faith, history, and secular matters. The result was:
* 95% of Episcopalians said, "No."
* 87% of Methodists said, "No."
* 82% of Presbyterians said, "No."
* 77% of Lutherans said, "No."
* 67% of Baptists said, "No."
I don't know what the result would be if such a poll was taken today, but I can assure you that here is one Baptist preacher that believes the Bible to be the inerrant, inspired, and infallible Word of God. There is not one word in the Bible that should not be there and not word missing that should be there. There is not one error, flaw, mistake or contradiction in the Bible. IT IS THE WORD OF GOD!
I read about this preacher that announced that the next Sunday he was going to preach on Noah’s Ark. The next Sunday he got up to read his text not knowing that some boys had glued some of the pages of his Bible together. He began to read, "Noah took unto himself a wife and she was," he turned the page and continued to read, "three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high." He paused and then read it again. He then looked up and said, "You know, I have been studying the Bible for almost fifty years, but there are still some things in there that are hard to believe."
There may be some things in the Bible some find hard to believe, but you can believe them for the Bible is the Word of God. Because the Bible is the Word of God it deserves our reverence. That is where we begin to live a life that pleases God, by giving reverence to His word. Secondly, notice that a life that pleases God continues in our obedience to the Word of God.
2. A Life that Pleases God Obeys the Word of God, 1 Thessalonians 4:2
In verse 2 Paul spoke of the "commandments" he had given them "by the Lord Jesus." Notice the word "commandments." The word is a military term that spoke of a commanding officer giving orders to his troops in the field.
I want you to understand that the Bible is more than a book to admire. It is a book to apply. It is more than a book to possess. It is a book to practice. It is more than a book to have. It is a book to heed. It is more than a book to own. It is a book to obey.
In the Bible God tells us what is right and what is wrong. In the Bible God tells us what we are to do and not do. In the Bible God tells us how to live and how not to live. It is important to understand that what God tells us is more than suggestions or recommendations. They are commands. They are our marching orders from headquarters.
If we are to live a life that pleases God, we must be obedient to the commands God gives us in His Word. As James said, we are to be "doers of the word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22). God's commands are to be obeyed without hesitation or reservation. To live a life that pleases God, one cannot do as he pleases; he does as Christ pleases.
The “commandments” of verse 2 involve far more than just the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament. The commandments also include the “all things” that Christ commanded and taught as referenced in the Great Commission.
I’m probably going to go into overtime right at this point, but if you want to know what some of the commandments are that Christ commanded Paul who taught the Thessalonians look over one chapter to chapter 1 Thessalonians 5:11. I find 18 different commandments in this one passage.
Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. 12And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. 14Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. 16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies. 21Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22Abstain from every form of evil.
The Lord Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
3. A Life that Pleases God Reveals our Separation, 1 Thessalonians 4:3
In verse 1 Paul spoke to the believers at Thessalonica about how they "ought to walk." In the verses that follow he speaks of this walk as one that is distinct and set in contrast to those who are not saved. We read in verses 4-5, 4that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;
He speaks of the Christian lifestyle as opposite of the lifestyle of those who do not know God. How a Christian walks is different from how a non-Christian walks. In other words, when one looks at how a Christian lives, they are to see a different kind of life than the one lived by those who are not saved. As indicated in verse 4, a lost person lives after the flesh. A Christian learns how to possess his vessel (body) in a consecrated way.
While others may cheat, steal, and lie in the workplace the Christian is to be different. While others may live like the devil, the Christian is to live like Christ. Our practice is to correspond with our profession. Our walk is to match our talk. A sanctified, set-apart, separated, consecrated life is a life that pleases God.
I think of the agnostic Robert Ingersoll that spent much of his life attacking the Bible and God. I read the story of a former schoolmate of Ingersoll that entered promisingly upon the legal profession. He married a lovely woman and was the father of two children. Then he began to drink. He sank to the lowest depths and lost everything. One night a Christian worker found him lying drunk in an alley. He brought him to a mission and there he was saved. He was utterly transformed and rebuilt his home and life.
One day he learned that Ingersoll was to give a lecture against God and the Bible. This converted alcoholic wrote to him, saying, "Old friend, would you tell the people that you are against the religion that came down to the lowest depths of hell and found me? Would you speak against the Savior who stooped and lifted me, rebuilt my home and brought joy to my wife and children?" The effect of the letter on Ingersoll was obvious. He read the letter that night before a large audience and then said, "I have nothing to say
against a religion that will do this for a man. I am here to talk about a religion that is being preached, but not practiced by so many."
Christians that do not live as they should not only gave fuel to Ingersoll's blasphemy, buy they continue to hurt the name and cause of Christ in our day.
Listen to just how our lives impact the lives of others.
I am my neighbor’s Bible:
He reads me when we meet,
Today he reads me in my house,
Tomorrow in the street;
He may be relative or friend,
Or slight acquaintance be;
He may not even know my name,
Yet he is reading me.
I want to read you something. These are the words of a godly old preacher, J. Vernon McGee, whose sermons and commentary on the bible I read almost daily in my study. Listen up and take to heart the things he has to say concerning this passage.
“The great tragedy today is to hear of some Christian worker who has become involved in sexual sin. And, unfortunately, there are even churches that will defend a minister who has been guilty of such. We are people who are supposed to be set aside for the use of God! Paul says that you cannot be involved in sexual sin and at the same time be used of God. One cannot live in sin and be a preacher or singer or Sunday school teacher or an officer in the church. I don’t care who you are, if you do, you will wreck the work of God.
Paul says that we are to live a life that commends the gospel. The loose living that we find among some believers today brings the gospel into disrepute. Such people are not living for God or serving God. You cannot serve God and live in sin. He doesn’t accept that.
“That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour.” The immorality that exists in our day is absolutely astounding. A very fine Christian leader who holds Bible classes on the campus of a college here in California told me that the boys’ dormitory is Sodom and the girls’ dormitory is Gomorrah. These poor kids know all about sex, but they don’t know about love.”
Verse 7 tells us 7For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.
A child of God cannot continue in sin. The Prodigal Son may get in the pigpen for a time, but he won’t live in the pigpen.
Verse 8, 8Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.
A child of God is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He cannot continue to live in sin because the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit. The time will come when the child of God will long for holiness in his own life. Would to God that that would be true for many of us today!
By the way, the Holy Spirit is the only means by which we can live for God.
In the seventeenth century, Lewis Baly, the bishop of Bangor and chaplain to the king of England wrote a book entitled The Practice of Piety: Directing a Christian How to Walk that He May Please God. It went through seventy-one English translations by 1792 and was also translated into most European languages, including Dutch, French, German, and Polish. On most bookshelves of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, you would find a copy of the Bible, Pilgrim's Progress, and Baly's book. The Puritans of New England even translated it into the Indian language used in Massachusetts. The whole emphasis of the book was that pleasing God is not a matter of personal choice, but an imperative to be taken seriously by every Christian. 1
I pray to God that you have taken this message from God’s word seriously today. In a moment, we will extend an invitation. You will have opportunity to respond to the Holy Spirit who has spoken conviction to you today. While we pray, I invite you to come to the altar and confess your sins. Repent, and renew your commitment to live holy, separated and a life pleasing to God.