Welcome to 2018. Typically the New Year is filled with resolutions like getting fit, saving more, eating better, being kinder, being more productive and other self-improvement plans. Without settling for the same old resolutions, likely to fail by February anyway, why not allow one of the oft-asked questions, namely what is God’s Will for me, to guide your New Year.
Despite so many of us wondering long and hard about this question, the Scriptures are not silent on the matter, in fact on some occasions they answer this question explicitly. One such example may be found in 1 Thessalonians, where the Apostle Paul, under divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes to the young church at Thessalonica. In chapter 4 of his letter, he begins his conclusion with the following words
“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.“
This plea, from the Apostle for the Thessalonians, is a plea toward holiness founded on the “instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus” with the goal of pleasing God (yes, you read that right!). This statement in and of itself would’ve been enough of an exhortation, yet in the next six verses he unpacks this and unloads upon them a tremendous duty wrapped around a declaration of God’s will for their life.
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;4 that each one of you know how to control his own body[c] in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 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. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
There it is. God’s will for not only the lives of the Thessalonians, but for us as well, is sanctification or more simply put holiness.
The translation and punctuation from the ESV cited above aides our interpretation by unfolding what exactly is meant by the word sanctification. Specifically, we read of the following modifying statements
- That you abstain from sexual immorality.
- That each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor
- That no one wrong his brother in this matter
Without any guesswork or longing to see signs for God to show us what His will is for our lives, here we have in straightforward, plain language that God’s will for the life of the believer is holiness. This begins with abstaining from sexual immorality (negative) and exercising bodily self control (positive), specifically as it pertains to lusts, and then moves outward from personal to community to avoid sinning against each other in this matter. In other words, not committing sexual immorality with each other, nor lusting after each other.
Holiness is a serious duty of each believer, a life-long pursuit of being Christlike. One of, if not the chief, hindrance to this is sexual immorality. With this my own exhortation, I begin with a self-examination, that my heart and hands would be clean. But let me then also encourage you to desire holiness and sexual purity, particularly in this age of rapid, cultural descent into sexual immorality. Let us begin this New Year seeking ways to be more obedient to God’s will in this matter.
“56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.” Jonathan Edwards – Resolution #56