Deep On My Heart

Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 8:03 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put the song in mind “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 (NIV).

The Instructions

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

Although what I am about to share with you does not technically qualify as instructions, I believe the apostles, and/or the believers in Thessalonica, set the example for us, as noted in the two previous chapters (chaps. 2-3), as to how we should live in order to please God.

They dared to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the people in spite of strong opposition, i.e. they were faithful in service to the Lord despite resistance, conflict, or even hostility coming against them. Their appeal (petition) to the people of God, possibly with regard to this subject of being instructed in how to live to please God, did not come from error or impure motives or through the means of trickery. They were honest, forthright and loving in their dealings with the church. They did not alter their speech or the gospel presentation in order to make it pleasing to humans, and they didn’t use flattery (insincere compliments), cover-ups (schemes) or facades (false fronts or fake appearances) in order to deceive. They did not look for praise from humans, but they lived to please God.

They also were devoted to the body of believers, treating them as a loving parent would treat his or her own children, gently caring for them, loving them, giving of their own lives to them, supporting themselves so as not to financially burden the young believers, and living holy lives before them as an example to them. They were also dedicated to encouraging (exhorting; admonishing), comforting (showing sympathy) and urging the believers to live lives worthy of God, who calls us “into his kingdom and glory.”

They thanked God for the believers and for their faith in the Lord, their faithfulness in service, their labor prompted by love, and their endurance inspired by hope in Jesus Christ. They thanked God for how the followers had become imitators of the Lord and of his servants, even though they faced severe suffering for their faith and practice. As well, they thanked God that the believers there had turned from their idols to serve the living and true God. And they thanked the Lord that the disciples there had accepted the preaching of the gospel, not as the words of humans, but as the words of God. They were encouraged, too, by the believers’ faith, because the followers were standing firm (steadfast and assured) in the Lord. Amen! They were also faithful in prayer for the followers, and they set as their goal to supply what was still lacking in the believers’ faith, i.e. this was ongoing.

Be Sanctified

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

It is God’s will that we should all be sanctified, i.e. that we should be made holy, set apart from the world and set apart to/for God, being transformed by the Lord Jesus into His likeness. Although this is the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and we cannot do this in our own flesh, that does not mean we do not have a role (part) in this process. We do!

We must willingly and willfully choose to and make it a practice of our lives to keep away (separating ourselves) from all types and means of sexual immorality in order that we may be set apart to God and to his service. We must choose to be different (unlike) the world so that we can become like Christ. In other words, we can’t hold on to the world of sin and its sinful practices and philosophies if we want to be holy (set apart) unto the Lord. We can’t spend our evenings viewing and listening to what is unholy and ungodly and then try to live lives pleasing to God. The two are in direct opposition to each other.

We have to cooperate fully with God’s work of grace in our lives by refusing to allow anything immoral to even enter into our minds, because sin begins in the mind. We have to examine all that we take into our minds and hearts against scripture to make sure we are not entertaining immorality in our minds, and so that it does not then move from our minds and hearts to our actions. When we entertain lustful (sinful) thoughts, even just in our minds, we are wronging and are guilty of taking advantage of others, especially our spouses to whom we have vowed our faithfulness, love and commitment until death us do part.

Love Others

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Instead, we are to practice loving thoughts, attitudes and actions towards others. The two previous chapters, as noted above, give us many good examples of how that love is to be lived out in practice, so I will not repeat those again. They speak volumes to my heart. I hope they do to you, as well! Yet, I will say here that “love” cannot be defined by this world of sin, for their definition of “love” is distorted by sin, so we should always look to God’s word to see how genuine love was lived out in practice by Christ and by his servants.

Love is not a feeling or an emotion. It is action, i.e. we love even despite how we may feel at the moment, i.e. in our flesh we don’t always feel like responding in love, do we? I know I am not perfect in this area, but God is changing me all the time, for which I am so thankful. I still have a lot to learn about love, I am sure, and I am willing to learn, because my goal is to be loving in all I do and say. Yet, as noted above, loving words are not always what is pleasing to humans, but they treat others like a loving parent would treat his or her child, which means sometimes it requires us to speak the truth in love, even when it hurts.

Part of loving others involves not being a busybody (meddler; gossip), especially to not interfere in matters that don’t involve us in some way. Our brothers’ and sisters’ walks with the Lord do concern us, though, so we are to be busy about encouraging, comforting and urging one another to live holy lives pleasing to God so that we are not led astray, and so we don’t fall into temptation. Busybodies are often those who stir up trouble for others while they themselves do not have their own affairs in order. Oftentimes they are guilty of taking advantage of others and of not taking personal responsibility for their own affairs. We should guard ourselves against such pitfalls as this. In all things, we should emulate Christ.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.