Are We Willing?
“For this is the will of God…“ I Thessalonians 4:3 (NASB)
First-century Thessalonica, like many of the pagan port cities, might be thought of as a “Vegas” of its day. It was an important trade-hub in the Roman world, and, as such, it featured a promiscuous and sexualized culture. In light of the danger and constant temptation such a culture posed to the Thessalonian believers, the Apostle Paul exhorted them in the strongest of terms: “this is the will of God, your sanctification.“ He stressed that they “abstain from sexual immorality,” for God had not called them “for the purpose of impurity” (v. 7), but to possess their “own vessel in sanctification and honor” (v. 4). As if to emphasize the central position of sanctification in the life of the believer, the subsequent verses connect the discussion of sexual purity with the topics of God’s Holy Spirit (v. 8), the commandment to love one another (v. 9), and the hope of the coming Kingdom (v. 14-18).
Are we willing to embrace God’s will for us–that we increasingly grow in sexual purity? Are we willing to present our “members as slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:19) and to submit to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (II Thess. 2:13)? We must be–and we must go about the hard work of seeking healing and wholeness through confession (I John 1:9), repentance (II Cor. 7:10), and rigorous, grace-based honesty with fellow brothers (Hebrews 10:25) as we continue on the journey. This is God’s will for us.
Sanctification is a work accomplished by God’s grace and through the power of His Holy Spirit. But there is a cost. As Oswald Chambers puts it in My Utmost for His Highest, “[Sanctification] will cost everything that is not of God in us.“ This is a cost we should all be willing to pay–“The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design, Thy dross to consume, And thy gold to refine.”