What does God want from you and I as believers? There are times in our lives when we are not always certain of the answer to that question. Maybe you’re in a place of needing to make decisions and you’ve asked God for Him to reveal His specific will to you and at the moment you honestly could say that you don’t know what God’s will is in this thing that’s before you…
And yet here in today’s passage, Scripture affirms with absolute conviction and clarity what God’s general will is for all of us.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”
The direct translation of the last word translated as ‘sanctification’ can also be translated as ‘holiness or purity’. God wants everyone of us to be pure, to be holy, to be more and more like He is. Note how this is an absolute and unqualified statement, it is always God’s will for all of us, it is not relative, it does not change.
In the passage, Paul zero’s in on an issue that many in Thessalonica seemingly battled to be pure in and an issue that many today still battle to be pure/holy in – sex.
Our world is awash with loose morals, the prevailing sexual ethic of our day is something like ‘everything is permissible as long as there are two or more consenting adults!’
Sadly, God’s moral law found throughout Scripture which makes it clear that there ought to be no sex outside of the covenant of marriage is disregarded by many both in and outside of the church.
The whole realm of sexual purity is one of those areas in which so often many of us could not be described as being pure or holy. But this is not God’s will for us.
Rather, God wants us to;
“…abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God”
And what is meant when the bible says God wants us to abstain from sexual immorality?
The Greek word used here is broad and so includes all sex before marriage and or outside of the marriage covenant between a husband and his wife.
Brothers and sisters, we need to be re-sensitised! We often see sex as a personal choice, and in one sense it is and yet God through Scripture warns us abundantly clearly that to engage in any sex outside of marriage is against God’s will for you.
More than that, the passage goes on to warn us saying;
“the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.” (vs6)
God is not unmoved by our ‘personal choices’, rather we grieve and anger God when we live as the unsaved person does, when we do not keep ourselves sexually pure before Him. This is a solemn warning, and warnings are of no use unless we take note of them and adjust accordingly.
So let’s not be like those who do not even know God, let’s not be guided by passions and lust but rather let’s be those who desire to please God and because we do want to please God, let’s be those who control our own bodies (vs4) and keep our bodies pure and honourable before God who sees everything.
What does God want? He wants His children to be sexually pure.
And what if we haven’t been?
The good news is that we have been given the most amazing gift by Jesus – we can always repent and He will forgive us because He died in our place for our sin. But, repentance requires that we change, that as Jesus said once to a woman caught up in sexual sin we are to; “go and sin no more.”
Do you need to repent? You can! You will be forgiven!
But then you need to make changes with the help of the Holy Spirit.
And if you need help, speak to someone in leadership you can trust.
What does God want?
He wants us to be sanctified, to be transformed more and more into the perfect holiness of our Saviour Jesus.
Emotions must have been running high, God’s people had obeyed God even though His battle strategy was weird, and God had caused them to overcome at Jericho, the first victory won. God had given clear instructions on what to destroy and what could be kept and for what purpose. Israel’s armies obeyed, except for one man!
In chapter 7 we read how God’s people, buoyed with courage launch themselves at the next challenge as they begin to take possession of the land God gave them. But surprisingly to them they get routed, sustain losses and are defeated.
Joshua and the elders are shocked! This wasn’t in their script, they had been on the up, and now this shocking set-back. What are you up to God?
In this moment of shock and defeat Joshua comes to some wrong conclusions. We are so prone to this aren’t we!
We look at events before us, what has an hasn’t happened and we draw conclusions with our own limited thinking, conclusions which often are severely lacking in discernment and humility. We who are finite, limited, who know so little call the omniscient into question.
This is what happened to Joshua. Joshua lays the blame for the events at Ai at God’s feet, as he in prayer questions God (Joshua 7:7) about why He brought them into this land (a complaint so reminiscent of the complaint his ancestors had made against God in Exodus 16 – 40yrs earlier).
More than this Joshua in his shock tells God how to run the world! Joshua tells God how what has happened at Ai with this defeat is not good for their public relations with the surrounding nations who will hear of this defeat and will come and defeat Israel (Joshua 7:8-9).
Have you fallen into this trap?
Questioning God, putting God on trial for things you don’t understand?
And yet, Proverbs 9:10 says that wisdom begins with an attitude not with knowledge. A right reverent fear of God leads one to wisdom and keeps one from folly.
So why did Israel get defeated by such a relatively small army at Ai when they had just had such a great victory at Jericho?
Scripture is abundantly clear, the reason was that there was sin (disobedience) in the camp and this sin angered God (Joshua 7:1).
Oops, in 2017, we don’t like this language being used of God!
When Scripture rubs you up the wrong way, ask yourself why?
Is it not conforming to your little personal perspectives and preferences?
Are you placing yourself as an authority over Scripture judging Scripture?
God is not about to leave Joshua in the dark regarding the source of this defeat. “Get up!”, God tells Joshua twice – there is sin in the camp, that is why you were defeated, not some malfunction in Me.
More than this, God warns Joshua that He will not tolerate this sin continuing but will remove His presence from them unless something is done quickly (Joshua 7:10-13).
The rest of the chapter deals with how Achan’s sin is revealed, confessed and punished and so the Lord ‘turned from His burning anger’ (Joshua 7:26).
What can we learn from this account?
Sin is never just private.
It is personal, never less than that but it is also more than private. Our over individualised and ‘self-obsessed’ era of human history battles a little with this concept but Achan’s sin caused the death of 36 other men, husbands, sons, brothers, uncles… Caused the whole nation to be in a precarious situation.
This is still true today, no sin is ever just private. Sin has ramifications on others.
Unbelief in a husband or father impacts the whole house and marriage, pornography not only soils the mind of the user, but impacts their view of every female in their lives & perpetuates and pays for the bondage of those being used to create the content… I could go on and on.
Achan’s sin affected God’s people, took away blessing even. In our church there have been times remarkably similar to this account when God spoke to us as elders of sin in our church camp that we needed to deal with.
Friend, brother or sister. We are called to be a Holy people (1 Peter 1:15)! We are called to love Jesus by obeying His commands (John 14:21). Let’s take this seriously, let’s see the corporate impact our sin has on others, on the wider church.
And let’s thank Jesus that when we have sinned we have a Saviour, our Mediator, the One who sacrificed Himself in our place for our sin, was punished by God so that we could be forgiven.
“He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5).
Jesus did all this so that we can be forgiven, so that the wrath of God against sin could be taken away from us and from His people. Thank you Jesus!
So, if there is sin in your life – repent, ask Jesus to forgive you!
And if there is sin in the camp you know about, go to your brother/sister and urge them to repent.