Common Sense Sanctification
Sanctification: Becoming more like the person of Jesus Christ, less like my sinful self and more like my savior. It’s a transformation process.
We often differentiate between salvation and sanctification.
The backdrop of the Thessalonian letters is found in Acts 17:1-5: Thessalonian Jewish leaders had chased Paul all the way to Berea (about 90 miles)
“The church at Thessalonica was in many ways a model church. Paul had many things to commend the believers for: their exemplary faith, diligent service, patient steadfastness, and overflowing joy. But in the midst of his commendation, Paul voices a word of caution. Abounding in the work of the Lord is only one step removed from abandoning the work of the Lord through complacency. Thus, Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to excel in their faith, to increase in their love for one another, and to give thanks always for all things. In short, Paul encourages them to “stay on target” as they labor for the Lord.” (1.)
The danger of success in any measure of life is complacency.
This is a parental note, we see Paul’s fatherly affection, encouragement, and nurturing toward the Thessalonian believers.
Paul’s main theme is sanctification, the growth and maturity of the believer.
- Thanksgiving for their love and faith
- Reminders of his own integrity
- Encouragement and confrontation of their immorality and indolence.
The Thessalonians needed encouragement and exhortation to resist the temptations of moral impurity and slothful behavior.
- Clarification about what it means to be “asleep in Jesus”
- Encouraging leaders and general conduct as believers
Believers are examples
1 Thessalonians 1:6-7
There will be debate on this as long as we’re on earth: how much do you have to change in order to know you’re saved? We confuse works with salvation and sanctification.
How much of our sanctification proves our salvation? None.
We look for change—but do we measure our Christianity because of those changes? This is a complicated subject.
What Paul says to the Thessalonians is: you are an example to us and to those around you. We saw something different in you.
We want change, we want people to grow in Christ.
A note: “Example” is τύπος, *type*. It means the mark left behind as a result of a blow, as in the mark left when the key in a typewriter would strike the ribbon to the page and leave the mark of that letter.
In Philippians 3:17: join in following my example
1 Corinthians 5:16: be imitators of me.
Are you—am I—an example to others of what a believer looks like? A sobering thought.
Be Bold in Sharing the Gospel
1 Thessalonians 2:2
For most believers, the idea of sharing the gospel with others is terrifying.
The reasons we don’t share the gospel are:
- we’re afraid
- we don’t know how
We have to know the how, and not be afraid of others’ potential response. We need to learn how to share the gospel.
“preach the gospel at all times, use words if necessary.” is not only a mischaracterization, it’s an error.
I have found no one gets mad when you start a conversation with, “I’d love to get your opinion on something—”
Specific encouragement: pray that God will give you the boldness to ask some questions.
The greatest favor we can do for any human being is to ask them to tell you about their relationship with God, and move that conversation toward the Text.
We’re just presenting God’s Word and letting His Spirit do the work. Our job is to share the story and ask some good questions.
Pray that God will give you boldness, spend some time learning how to share the gospel, and just see who might come across your radar. You might be shocked.
Please God, Not Man
1 Thessalonians 2:4
Be free from the fear of men and full of the fear of God.
If we’re entrusted with the gospel, we please God by sharing it.
The Christian life is not easy
1 Thessalonians 3:3-8
Where did we get the idea that life was going to work out a certain way? We are fallen creatures in a fallen context.
But Paul, in the midst of affliction, was comforted by the faith of the Thessalonians.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-7
Immorality pulls at us, but sanctification points us to God.
We can’t just stop sinning. We have to turn away from sin and do good. The energy that went to sinful behavior has to go somewhere. Be a student of your sin: when do you find yourself succumbing to temptation, watch what happens. There are certain tipping points when we’re more vulnerable to temptation and it’s important to study and know those.
You and I cannot make our flesh better. You and I can submit to the power of the Holy Spirit and ask for Ephesians 5:18, that we’re controlled by the Spirit of God.
Walk to please God. Excel still more. Pursue God’s will.
God’s will—this topic comes and goes in popularity.
The will of God is your sanctification.
You and I have to submit to God’s call for sanctification, not our heart for sensuality.
Grieve with Hope
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
Paul gives several remarkable passages regarding death and the believer. We don’t grieve like the world, that’s a game-changer for the believer. It’s not morbid to think about your mortality because this world is not your home.
Any and all who trust in Christ and Christ alone are given the gift of eternal life.
If we believe the core of the gospel, He rose again and so will believers!
- Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible(Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983), 416.