How now shall we live? (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2)

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“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.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2)

These verses are the ‘hinge verses’ in this letter.  Up until now, the apostle Paul has been referring back this whole time, looking back at their visit to the Thessalonians, taking them back to the Gospel that was preached amongst them.

From this point onwards, Paul suddenly switches looking to the present and future addressing certain practical ethical problems of Christian conduct which were evidently troubling the Thessalonians or were ethical life-issues that Timothy had observed and felt needed correction.  So, Paul switches from explanations regarding his own behaviour to instructions regarding theirs because of their faith in God.

One of the great weaknesses of contemporary evangelical Christianity is our comparative neglect of Christian ethics, in both our teaching and our practice.

– John Stott

Paul presents a striking contrast when compared to our current neglect of ethics in our day.  For the rest of this letter, he gives detailed instruction in Christian moral behaviour.  Contrary to much of the thinking in our day and contrary to so much of the emphasis in our churches teaching, how we live really matters!

‘you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God’ (vs1)

Paul can say that these Thessalonian believers had received something from Paul and his team, they had left a deposit of how to live SO AS to please God.  He could say that the Thessalonians knew the instructions they had been given on what gospel life should look like in practice.

Living to please God is an overarching guiding principle of all Christian behaviour.   John Stott says the following about living to please God;

First, it is a radical concept, for it strikes at the roots of our discipleship and challenges the reality of our profession. How can we claim to know and to love God if we do not seek to please him? Disobedience is ruled out. 

Secondly, it is a flexible principle. It will rescue us from the rigidities of a Christian Pharisaism which tries to reduce morality to a list of do’s and don’ts. True, we still need to be instructed … how to live in order to please God (1), and this for us will necessitate the developing of a Christian perspective through biblical meditation. Nevertheless, our incentive will be not so much to obey the law as thereby to please the Law-giver, and this will become increasingly a matter of Christian instinct as the Holy Spirit trains Christ’s sheep to discern their Shepherd’s voice. 

Thirdly, this principle is progressive. If our goal is to be perfectly pleasing to God, we shall never be able to claim that we have arrived. Instead, we are summoned to please him more and more.” (extract from “The Message of Thessalonians” – J.Stott)

May we, make it our life ambition to live in such a way that pleases God.  After all, if we truly love God we will want to live in such a way that will please God.  And so as we read on in this letter which focusses on ethical teaching regarding how we should live, let’s remember that to do so is not legalism but rather practical help to those who want to please God.

And finally, lets remember that pleasing God is something which is never complete but rather something we want to do ‘more and more’.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for so radically giving Your life in order to sacrificially save my life.  I worship You and am so grateful to You.  

Thank you for the gift of repentance and the offer of forgiveness because of your life lived in my place and your death died for my sins.  

Today Lord I re-commit myself to living in such a way that will please you, finding out what does please you and then making changes to what I do and do not do, how I think, and how I speak and act towards others.  Holy Spirit, I invite you to challenge and change me more and more so that I might live in such a way that pleases You. Amen.

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