Text: 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.
Let us pray: Creator Father, your will is that we grow in sanctification, that is, you desire that we, by Your Holy Spirit, continue to move away from uncleanness of body and soul and toward You, that we may share in You holiness. Deliver to us this treasure;
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Your God has a request of you, His baptized and believing children. And since the apostle Paul extended God's request to the church Thessalonica, I dare extend God's request to you church in Muscatine.
This request is not a new request. Once I say it you will mostly agree and say, "Well, yes of course." When you are asked to do something you already know, it is called an exhortation. An exhortation is like what mom does when she tells everyone to wash their hands because supper is ready. You already know that you should wash your hands, but we don't always do what we know is best. Therefore, an exhoration is ok.
This request is for Godly people like you. It would be unloving of me to assume that most of you are not already concerned about what is about to be asked. So the concern for this sermon is not that you will reject the request. The concern that you may have is more like, "Ok Lord, but how do I do that?"
So, enough teasing. The request is this: Live your daily life – to please God. And I can hear at least one of your response, "Ok Lord, but I'm a sinner, how can I please you day to day?"
Ok. Let's take a step back in order to answer your question.
First, no one is justified before God without Jesus. No Jesus, no faith of Jesus. As it is written in Romans 1:16-17, "For in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from Jesus' faith for your faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by the Lord's faith.” (Hab.2:4) So faith in Jesus is a gift from Jesus that you may now receive His faith; which is now also your faith. But you, my gentle hearers, know that it is not your faith that Jesus is the Christ that saves you; but rather, it is Jesus' faith in His Father that is given to you that saves you. That faith is the perfect saving faith. Jesus' faith can now be called your faith; that is why we say you are saved by faith alone.
Second, no one receives Jesus's justifying faith out of thin air. Not through dreams but through means, specifically the preached Word, absolution, baptism, and Christ's body and blood.
So, faith comes by the Word of God. This is truly is both the starting point and ending point of Christianity; that you are saved by grace through the faith of Jesus, who gives your His faith as a saving gift (Ephesians 2:8-9).
No problems there, but then you hear today's text to the Thessalonians: Live you day to day life – to please God, for the will of God is your sanctification so that as you walk by faith alone you may please God. This is where the gentle reader cries out and asks, “But how can I please God because I'm a sinner?” I can think of other questions you might have but let's address this one and call it a day.
Yes, you are justified by grace through faith alone. But hear this, you are also sanctified by grace through this same faith of Jesus – alone. Let me say that again, “You are sanctified by grace through faith alone.”
St. Paul uses two applications to emphasize his point. The two examples he brings up are sex and business. Therefore, I will touch on them, too.
The apostle Paul gathered the Lord's church in Thessalonian. The Thessalonians were firm in their justification by God. They also live is a town that encouraged many unclean behaviors such as the encouragement of all kinds of sexual activity and unclean behaviors such as the encouragement of shading business dealings. How can the Thessalonians live a life pleasing to God in such a town?
We live in a similar town. Walk the halls of the local High School or Jr. High Schools and you might hear a few sexual innuendos or crude encouragements along the same line. Walk the halls of local government or business and you might hear about a few shading deals or questionable legal practices. You can't change all that, but should ask, “How do you live a holy life among an unclean people?”
Dear Christian, you have the Holy Spirit who has given you Jesus' faith. I ask you to review the meaning of the third article of the Apostles' Creed. You cannot by your own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ your Savior or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has done what? The Holy Spirit has called you – did you hear that – the Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel.
Dear Christian, you are called by God into His kingdom. You are not like other people. You have a new nature. Your old nature still loves the unclean innuendos and practices, but now, your new nature is a sharing in God's nature.
Because you are called by the Gospel, the Lord now asks and requests of you that you consider anew His Word. In light of the uncleanness that still clings to you after Holy Baptism even while you continue to believe this Gospel, hear again God's good and holy Law.
So, here is the application of sanctification according to the 6th commandment:
“You shall not commit adultery.” But what is the Gospel? You are sanctified, moved away from uncleanness toward the holiness of God, by grace through the faith of Jesus alone. Just as someone else, in this case God, is the only one who can accomplish your justification, so also, someone else, again God, is the only one who can accomplish your sanctification.
“Everyone should control his own body in holiness and honor.” This passage is encouraging you not toward your control of your body or controlling your own sexual urges but this verse is an encouragement toward holy marriage.
This is hard to hear but is good to be repeated from time to time:
Christian husbands, you have the Holy Spirit. You are able to repent of pornography and believe that the Holy Spirit will give you the strength to not act on the uncleanness the resides in you. You are able to treat your wife's body in holiness and honor. You already strive toward this. It may not be perfect. But God will always accept your repentance and give you Jesus' faith again and, although much more difficult, your Christian wife may accept, will probably accept, your repentance and forgive you. The Holy Spirit will continue to help you and it is pleasing to God.
Wives, this is also true for you. Although viewing pornography is less socially acceptable for women, the number of women becoming addicted to it is on the rise. The Holy Spirit will continue to bring you to both repentance and the faith of Jesus. This is the strength needed to treat your husband in holiness and honor.
And very important for both husband and wife. When your body is beginning to burn a little hotter and encouraging your toward uncleanness rather than the Lord's holiness, ask your spouse to use his or her body to bring your body under control. This is what the Scripture means when it says, “Everyone should control his own body in holiness and honor” because the husband's body is his wife AND the wife's body is her husband. The other will put out your fire just as someone else forgives all your uncleanness, who is God. But ask. And think more highly of your spouse's body than your own.
Teenagers, and to anyone who is not married, hear God's Word again for the purpose of repenting of your inherent uncleanness and moving toward the Lord's holiness, which is pleasing to God. God has not given you a spouse or a body to help control the burning. However, you can consider your own body as less important than those around you, in honor and holiness.
Young men, consider the young women around you as your biological little sister. You wouldn't do what you are thinking about to your little sister. You are decent Christian young men and in that decency, you would draw the line at dishonoring your little sister that way. Therefore, consider the young women around you as your biological sisters and draw the line. The same goes with older women, treat them as your mother. I know you would draw the line at that. One day that young women may be someone's husband. One day one of those young women may be your wife. Repent and draw that line. This is pleasing to God. You have the Holy Spirit. You live by the faith of Jesus. God will not forsake you. He will always be ready to bring you to repentance with His good Law and bring you to the faith of Jesus with His good Gospel. There is nothing that you have done or thought that will cause God to give up on you. He Gospel will continue to call you back to His goodness. His Holy Baptism continues to be your cleanness. His Absolution will do what it says week after week.
And yet, your Creator Father, is calling you to a day by day lifestyle in a manner that pleases Him. To this, I ask you and encourage you to do something you already know (an exhortation) and that is this: Live in a manner that pleases the God who sent His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Particularly, in homes and halls where uncleanness resides, treat each other as holy and honorable. This is pleasing to God and there is no uncleanness He is unwilling to forgive, therefore, in His stead and by His command, I forgive you all your uncleanness; in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.