A Life of Influence by Rick Burdette
1 Thessalonians 4:1-4:12
FOLLOW THE LEADER – A Life of Influence
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 (pg. 825) August 30, 2015
There is a huge difference between love and lust that this world will never grasp…Love always flourishes and grows when “the need and desires of the other person are put first.” Lust always has a selfish motive…meet my needs…meet my desires…the other person simply exists for this purpose.
Love takes real effort…self denial and sacrifice…Lust takes no real effort, because its very purpose is to gratify my desires…right now.
[Here’s a good example…suppose you’ve made a commitment to eat healthy…you’re trying to be healthy…and low carb. is the way you’ve chosen to go…and your wife brings home a delicious, sprinkle covered, chocolate glazed donut in a little white bag (One she got free for filling up her car). This is all a pretend circumstance mind you!!! And suppose the health conscious husband sees that bag on the counter for two days. He’s opened it and smelled it at least four times. He lusts for this doughy, delectable pastry…and begins to think…One donut won’t hurt…It’ll go to waste if I don’t eat it soon.
This donut and milk would be awesome…the tipping point for giving in is really close. Thankfully the pretend minister’s grandson ate the only hypothetical donut before “lust” won.]
The Apostle Paul is writing to us as believers in our study this morning to live in a world of donuts, as did the people in Thessalonica.
And followers of Christ have made a more important commitment than to eat healthy. We have made a commitment to live in order to please God. We have made a decision to continually grow up to be like Jesus… “more and more! It’s an intentional decision to seek God’s will and God’s Word as we follow our leaders’ instructions.
What kind of life is that? What kind of life is worth following?
I. A LIFE THAT PLEASES GOD
There are 4 ways we can live our lives:
1. We can live a life of reaction. Something happens to us and we react to it…something makes us angry…we explode…something tempts us…we give into it…It’s the default setting that most people choose to live by. I lose my job…I find another…I lose my relationship…I find another. We go through the same motions over and over again until something forces us to change…and usually we then revert right back to the same life. We live life reacting as we go along…a lot of the time we react the same way over and over again. It’s a dangerous way to live. When you were 17 your reaction to bad things was you got high and ate Cheetos in your basement. And you wonder why at 33 you still react to bad things by getting high and eating Cheetos in your basement.
The second way we can live life is:
2. We live a life of conformity. We allow the crowd to shape our lives. We float along on the current of popular opinion. We choose to make appearance more important than reality….because we want others to “like us.” We thrive on others liking us. It’s a dangerous way to live according to author Leo Buscaglia because “The easiest thing to be is you. The hardest thing to be is the you others think you should be.” It’s a chore to live your life trying to please a fickle crowd.
Or you can choose a third way to live:
3. We live a life of rebellion. We reject authority, every authority…our parents, our teachers, our leaders. No one is going to tell “me” what to do, not even God. We fight…we reject “old foundational” truths…for more current ideas. It’s a dangerous way to live because it’s built on pride, and self determination. It’s a life that seeks independence from all.
Or as the Apostle Paul advises us we choose:
4. We can live an intentional life. A life with purpose and direction…a life that believes in a Creator, who has become our heavenly Father. We choose to surrender to His will and plan. We choose to live in a way that pleases Him….We choose to believe we were created by Him for this very reason.
We stop living for self and choose to serve Him.
Choosing to live this life in a sexually promiscuous society will require intentionality and a power greater than this world offers.
“Learning to control our own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like pagans (unbelievers) who do not know God, requires “being sanctified.”
Sanctified is a biblical way of saying “set apart” for God’s use.
[In the OT the tabernacle was “set apart” for God’s use by Moses and the Israelites in the journey to the Promised Land…when Solomon built the temple…it was sanctified, set apart for God’s dwelling place…The Holy of Holy places…was “Holy” because “God dwelt there.” His presence would fill the mercy seat, between the golden cherubim on top of the Ark of the Covenant. A curtain kept everyone out, even the Holy Priest who could only enter it once a year…on the day of atonement, when blood sacrifices were made for the sins of everyone, including the priests. The writer to the Hebrews talks about this old covenant in Chapter 9
HEBREWS 9:1-8 (p. 842)
As long as the tabernacle and temple stood, the real way into the most Holy place hadn’t been disclosed. What does this mean for a world that has witnessed Jesus dying on a cross, and then conquering death 3 days later?
What does this mean when it comes to us living a “sanctified” life that pleases God?
II. OUR BODIES HAVE BECOME THE TEMPLE WHERE GOD LIVES
When the Lord called us to leave our sin and live a holy life (v. 7) He also is the very God who gave us His Holy Spirit to make it possible.
When we make the intentional choice to surrender our sin for cleansing in the blood of Jesus, it requires our death, burial and resurrection. Baptism isn’t the “washing of dirt from our bodies. It’s a commitment to God to wash our hearts” according to 1 Peter 3:21. It’s when we receive the indwelling gift of His Spirit…it’s when our bodies become temples that house His presence.
Now God lives in us…while we live in a very immoral world…a world that revolves around lust much more than love. God intended sex to be an absolutely beautiful art of oneness between a husband and wife. The two becoming one flesh…Satan twists the gift of God into lust. It’s like trading filet mignon for a .99 McDonalds cheeseburger…but Satan focuses on our hunger…and the Spirit of Esau, which wants immediate gratification.
Thessalonica was similar to our culture…It was a sexually driven culture. One of their Philosophers: Demosthenes wrote “We have prostitutes for pleasure. We have mistresses for the day to day needs of our bodies and we have wives for the bearing of children and for the faithful guardianship of our homes.”
Men held the upper hand in Roman culture, but sex dominated it’s culture and affected everyone. It was men and women who came out of this culture, but were now committed to God and each other…like Christians now…the culture was the same, but now they weren’t…because the Holy Spirit was leading them and us:
III. TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER
When the Holy Spirit is at work in us we begin to clearly put others in a place of value…we stop wronging people and taking advantage of them.
Paul says that a message Christians have obviously received, and it’s one God punishes when we haven’t…because it’s a rejection of His Spirit.
Remember He writes “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.
Love isn’t something you’ll learn in a class, or can memorize in a Standard lesson. God is love, and if He’s present in your body it shows in how you treat people…all people.
James Michener, writing in his book, The Source, tells the story of a man named Urbaal, who was a farmer living about 2200 B.C. He worshiped two gods, one a god of death, the other a goddess of fertility. One day, the temple priests tell Urbaal to bring his young son to the temple for sacrifice–if he wants good crops. Urbaal obeys, and on the appointed day drags his wife and boy to the scene of the boy’s “religious execution” by fire to the god of death. After the sacrifice of Urbaal’s boy along with several others, the priests announce that one of the fathers will spend next week in the temple, with a new temple prostitute. Urbaal’s wife is stunned as she notices a desire written more intensely across his face than she had seen before, and she is overwhelmed to see him eagerly lunge forward when his name is called. The ceremony over, she walks out of the temple with her head swimming, concluding that “if he had different gods, he would have been a different man.”
The Thessalonians now have a different God! So do we! No longer serving the gods of death and sexuality…we serve the Resurrection and life.
When a selfish, self centered, controlling husband became a gentle, genuine, giving mate and partner Love Wins over lust. When a critical, complaining, bitter woman becomes an encouraging, thankful, genuine friend…love wins.
When busy bodies make it their ambition to mind their own business and seek unity and peace over entertainment…Love wins!
There will be good days…and there will be bad days. There will be setbacks and failures…and there will be mountaintops and victories…but because you’ve chosen a life on intentionality your daily life wins respect and your self-worth doesn’t depend on someone else.
You know you are loved by a Savior regardless of the circumstances, your victory comes because of His presence in you…not what is present in this world.
In verse 9 Paul chooses a word that really strikes me as an intentional choice. When he talks about loving one another he doesn’t use the word “agape” for love. Agape is used in John 3:16 “For God so loved (“agape”) the world…He gave His only son.
Agape is used by Jesus when He says “For this reason the Father loves (Agape) me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again” in John 10:17.
But in our text Paul chooses the word “phileo” (brotherly love). It’s intentional…not an accident. Why?
[I have one brother (Sam) and I have one sister (Barby). I call her “Bubs.” I love them in a way that I don’t love anyone else. We are connected by “blood.” We are family. We’ve fought with each other, we’ve laughed with each other, we have wailed in grief with each other. We’ve seen each other at our worst and we’ve seen each other at our best. Sammy is 65…Bubs is 62 and I’m 55. We’ve been brothers and sister for a while.
I believe Paul has chosen this word because in the Church we have this kind of bond. Even as new brothers and sisters join the family…we’re family. We love each other “phileo.” We’re blood relatives…forever.
I don’t really have a choice in who my brother and sister are. My parents influenced that…And when it comes to my brothers and sisters in the family of God…I don’t get to choose…Dad does.
Maybe if we started loving each other like this we’d get past the arguments…the stuff that makes us say “I’m leaving this family and finding another I like better…maybe if we realized that our connection is meant to be forever we’d speak more cautiously and quietly. Maybe we’d say we’re sorry quicker and I love you more often…and maybe love would win again.