7. Growing in Holiness
We please God by obeying His Word with its call to holiness.
” 1 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. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you 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; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. – I Thessalonians 4:1-8
Review from Last Week
- What are the three primary ways Paul prayed for the growth of the believers in Thessalonica?
- How important is the ministry of prayer in the Christian life?
- How did last week’s text affect your thinking, habits, and behavior as a follower of Jesus Christ?
I. Fight to Live by God’s Standard of Conduct (vv 1-2)
II. Fight for Sanctification & Holiness (v 3)
III. Fight to Live by God’s Sexual Standards (vv 3-8a)
IV. Fight by the Power of the Holy Spirit (v 8b)
Quick Thought: John Owen on Gospel Driven Holiness
In his vast theological writings, Puritan theologian and pastor John Owen frequently refers to a disciple’s sanctification as the pursuit of “gospel holiness.” Gospel holiness is obedience to Christ motivated by belief in the gospel, not by one’s moral effort. It is a view of sanctification, the gradual process of being conformed to the image of Christ, that recognizes the essential, ongoing role of repentance and faith in Jesus. To clarify the difference between self-made “sanctification” and gospel-motivated sanctification, John Owen labors to differentiate between gospel holiness and morality. In his distinction, the latter is the product of human effort, not of grace. Although morality and holiness may, at times, look similar on the outside, they are altogether different on the inside. Morality is self-centered; gospel holiness is Christ-centered. Morality holds self up high in reaching for moral virtues, but gospel holiness holds Christ up high in virtuous failure and success. Gospel holiness requires the truth of God’s Word and his grace to believe and obey the truth. This truth and grace, which comes to us in Jesus (John 1:17), is central to holiness. Owen describes gospel holiness as: “peculiarly joined with and limited unto the doctrine, truth, and grace of the gospel; for holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing, and realizing of the gospel in our souls.” (John Owen, The Holy Spirit, 152.)
Post-Service Online Coffee Fellowship
Please join us on a zoom call for our Virtual Coffee Fellowship (bring your own coffee!). We’d love for you to say hi, whether you’re a first-time visitor to United Community Church or a longtime member. All are welcome!
The call will be open for more or less an hour after the service finishes – you can join by clicking here! If you can’t join with the link, the Meeting ID is 998 7707 5071, and the passcode is 221309
Life Group Questions
Quick Review of the Text
- What is Paul’s main purposes in 4:1-2? Why does he feel the need to write like this?
- How is pleasing God linked with accepting God’s Word? (see 4:1, 2 & 8) Might it be possible to please God at the same time as rejecting God’s Word?
- What reasons does Paul give for believers to live a holy life? (4:3, 7)
- What should our response be to temptations towards sexual immorality and what might this mean in practice?
- What contrast does Paul Draw between 4:4 and 4:5?
- How does the inclusion of 4:6 strengthen Paul’s argument in this passage?
- What are the principles that appear to govern the conduct of relationships in our culture and what the differences between them and the view of the Bible? How different do you think the pressures to the prevailing culture would have been in Thessalonica compared within our day?
Apply the Text
- To what extent is the idea of pleasing God something that we naturally consider or not?
- What misconceptions do we often have about what a holy life involves?
- Are there any helpful strategies that can be suggested to help us avoid sexual immorality?
- In our culture why is self-control so difficult?
- Consider what it might mean for you to please God more and more?
- Some professing Christians argue that the Bible permits committed, loving homosexual relationships. To deny them this would mean that they cannot fulfill their sexual desires. How would you counter this with Scripture?
- Some Christians justify viewing sexually explicit movies by saying, “I need to understand where our culture is at.” Your response?