Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

God's Will for Your Life

[The following was originally posted on 3/11/14.]


What is God's will for my life?

If you believe in God as personal, omniscient, and sovereign, then I am certain that you have asked this question in your heart, at least occasionally, if not daily.

I have good news for you, dear reader. God Himself has spoken to me. He has given me an inerrant, infallible word concerning His will for your life (and mine).

This is what God told me:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.

and

in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

You may be tempted to be disappointed with these words, found in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 and 5:18. You may think: 'what I want to know is the specifics of my circumstances, where I will go and what I will do/should do in the future.' But God is not in the business of fortune telling. The Apostle Paul, through whom this letter came to the Thessalonians, himself did not know his own future. He desired to see the Thessalonians, but he was not sure he would get the opportunity to do so. On other occasions he wanted to travel east, to minister the gospel in Asia, and he intended to do so, but he was prevented from going there. God does not reveal our personal future paths to us in this life. He withholds this information in order to increase our faith and dependence on Him.

Background for 1 Thessalonians 4:3 and 5:18

Paul's basic reason for writing 1 Thessalonians was simply to encourage the church, letting them know that he greatly desires to see them and that he constantly prays for them. The Thessalonians were doing many things right: they were active in evangelism (1 Thess 1:8), and they were active in giving to the poor (1 Thess 4:10).

Paul was concerned that the Thessalonians, while engaged in noble activities, may neglect basic matters of sanctification. For this reason, Paul ended 1 Thessalonians with an unusually long (relative to the shortness of the book) section of exhortation, beginning in 1 Thessalonians 4:1, in which the actual word "exhort" occurs.

Connection Between the Thessalonians and Us

The pagan culture in which the Thessalonians dwelt was not so different from the culture in which we live today, especially in the following way: the culture is/was rife with sexual immorality. The Apostle Paul (himself a single man), under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was keenly aware of the powerful pull of sexual sin. The Thessalonians lived in a culture in which orgiastic feasts and temple prostitutes were the norm. We live in a culture in which certain kinds of sexual immorality are even more all-pervasive. Television and computers make all forms of sexual images instantly available. Even movies that are not considered pornographic may sometimes contain nudity. Modesty is virtually an unknown term in current American culture. For these reasons and others, you and I must be vigilant so that we do not leave ourselves open to temptation. We must flee sexual immorality in all forms. We must pray for wisdom that we would guard the sexual aspect of our lives in order that all areas of our lives will manifest the holiness and glory of God. Love for God and love for others must compel us to properly confine and channel all of our sexual energies to the marriage bed, that our union with our spouses (or future spouses, for those yet unmarried) would be sweet, joyous, and undefiled.

Sanctification is expressed negatively in mortification. Specifically, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 highlights the fact that God's will for our lives is that we put to death lustful passions by abstaining from sexual immorality. Sanctification is also expressed positively in vivification. Specifically, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 highlights strengthening our spiritual life by gratitude, as we engage in constant thankfulness.

The command concerning thankfulness comes in a section of 1 Thessalonians in which the Apostle had been giving an exhortation concerning life within the church. While patiently ministering to people with problems (and problematic people), the Thessalonian Christians might have been tempted to become disappointed, bitter, and complaining.

We live in a culture in which complaining is all-pervasive. Obviously, there are situations in which criticism is legitimate or even necessary. Yet even in those situations, there is often occasion for thanksgiving due to God's common grace. A bitter attitude is always inappropriate. You and I must be vigilant concerning our thoughts and speech in order to make sure that we are not fostering a complaining spirit, but that we are instead looking for opportunities to express thankfulness to God and others.

God's Will: An Example from Jesus' Ministry

In Mark 8, Jesus desires to feed a large crowd. Jesus' disciples tell Him that they only have seven loaves of bread. Jesus takes these loaves, gives thanks, and then miraculously feeds about 4,000 people. One principle that we may learn from this historical account is that when we are confronted with a seemingly dire situation, we should not complain, but we must give thanks for whatever God has provided, and we must faithfully expect that God will provide for our needs.

God's Will and The Spiritual Disciplines

What is God's will for my life?

God's will for your life and mine certainly includes spiritual disciplines such as the "acts of righteousness" that Jesus mentions in Matthew 6: giving to the poor, fasting, and praying. God's will for your life and mine certainly includes evangelism, as Paul mentions the Thessalonians evangelistic activities in 1 Thess 1:8. But at its most basic, God's will for your life and mine is that we be sanctified: that we "do not quench the Spirit," but that we yield to Him; that we may see His influence progressively take full effect in our lives, that we may bear the fruit of the Spirit for the glory of God in Christ.

God's Will and the Trinity

The Apostle expresses God's will for the Thessalonian Christians- and, by direct implication, God's will for our lives as well- in Trinitarian terms. God is Father: in abstaining from sexual immorality and engaging in constant thanksgiving, we are seeking to honor and please Him. Jesus Christ is Lord and He is coming again: in abstaining from sexual immorality and engaging in constant thanksgiving, we submit to His lordship; we do not want to be caught in a state of shame or ingratitude when He comes again. The Holy Spirit is God, present in our lives as a gift; He empowers us and grants us joy: in abstaining from sexual immorality and engaging in constant thanksgiving, we avoid quenching the Holy Spirit, and we are enabled to see His fruit in our lives.

God's Will for Unbelievers

1 Thessalonians was written to Christians in Thessalonica. The words from 1 Thess 4:3 and 5:18 to the Thessalonian Christians are directly applicable to Christians today. But for those who are outside of Christ, there is a more basic answer to the question: what is God's will for my life?

If you are not a Christian, then God's will is that you become one by turning from your sins and trusting in Christ. Jesus lived the perfect life that we have not: He never committed any sins of commission (He never broke God's law through wrong actions such as sexual immorality); He never committed any sins of omission (He never failed to do what He ought through inaction such as a lack of thankfulness). Jesus died on the Cross, paying the penalty for the sins- sins both of commission and omission- that we have committed. Jesus rose from the grave, conquering sin, death, and Hell. Jesus now lives, offering forgiveness and eternal life to all who trust in Him. Trust in Him and live for Him today.

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