Text: 1 Thessalonians 4:1–8
 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.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;  that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,  not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;  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.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (ESV)
Introduction (verses 1-2)
Holiness is a difficult topic to speak on because we are quite conscious of our failings in this regard. When Peter drew near to Jesus, he said, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man.” And Isaiah, when he saw the Lord’s glory, said, “Woe unto me, for I am a man of unclean lips.” Nevertheless, we must speak on this topic because it is critical for our spiritual well-being; but we do so only because the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin, and because the grace of God sustains us.
To be holy is to be set apart for God, to be devoted and consecrated to him. To live in such a way as to always please him, in thought, in word, and in deed. Who is sufficient for these things? To be holy is a life-time task and it will never be completed in this life. But God will be with us all the way. He has given us his Holy Spirit to empower us, and he has given us his Word to encourage us as we walk in the path of holiness.
- Holiness is God’s Will for Us: (verse 3)
“YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Peter 1:16)
- Because Christ died to make us holy;
“[HE] GAVE HIMSELF FOR US TO REDEEM US FROM ALL LAWLESSNESS AND TO PURIFY FOR HIMSELF A PEOPLE FOR HIS OWN POSSESSION WHO ARE ZEALOUS FOR GOOD WORKS.” (Titus 2:14)
- Because without holiness we won’t see God.
“STRIVE FOR PEACE WITH EVERYONE AND FOR THE HOLINESS WITHOUT WHICH NO ONE WILL SEE THE LORD.” (Hebrews 12:14)
- Holiness is Our Responsibility (verses 4-5)
- God works in, but we work out!
“THEREFORE, MY BELOVED, AS YOU HAVE ALWAYS OBEYED SO NOW, NOT ONLY AS IN MY PRESENCE BUT MOUCH MORE IN MY ABSENCE, WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING, FOR IT IS GOD WHO WORKS IN YOU, BOTH TO WILL AND TO WORK FOR HIS GOOD PLEASURE.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
“FOR THIS VERY REASON, MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO SUPPLEMENT YOUR FAITH WITH VIRTUE, AND VIRTUE WITH KNOWLEDGE, AND KNOWLEDGE WITH SELF-CONTROL, AND SELF-CONTROL WITH STEADFASTNESS, AND STEADFASTNESS WITH GODLINESS, AND GODLINESS WITH BROTHERLY AFFECTION, AND BROTHERLY AFFECTION WITH LOVE.” (2 Peter 1:5-7).
- Don’t let sin reign in your body (Romans 6:12-13)
“LET NOT SIN REIGN IN YOUR MORTAL BODY, TO MAKE YOU OBEY ITS PASSIONS. DO NOT PRESENT YOUR MEMBERS TO SIN AS INSTRUMENTS FOR UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, BUT PRESENT YOURSELVES TO GOD AS THOSE WHO BEEN BROUGHT FROM DEATH TO LIFE, AND YOUR MEMBERS TO GOD AS INSTRUMENTS FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
- Holiness is a Serious Matter (verses 6-8) “The Lord is an avenger in all these things.”
- To be unholy is to reject God’s call.
“THEREFORE, AS THE HOLY SPIRIT SAYS, ‘TODAY, IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS IN THE REBELLION. ON THE DAY OF TESTING IN THE WILDERNESS, WHERE YOUR FATHERS PUT ME TO THE TEST AND SAW MY WORKS FOR FORTY YEARS. THEREFORE, I WAS PROVOKED WITH THAT GENERATION, AND SAID, THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART; THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN MY WAYS. AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.” (Hebrews 3:7-11)
- To be unholy is to disregard God.
“DO NOT BE DECEIVED: GOD IS NOT MOCKED, FOR WHATEVER ONE SOWS, THAT HE WILL ALSO REAP. FOR THE ONE WHO SOWS TO HIS OWN FLESH WILL FROM THE FLESH REAP CORRUPTION, BUT THE ONE WHO SOWS TO THE SPIRIT WILL FROM THE SPIRIT REAP ETERNAL LIFE.” (Galatians 6:7-8)
- To be unholy is to despise the Holy Spirit which God has given us.
“OR DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT YOUR BODY IS A TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WITHIN YOU, WHOM YOU HAVE FROM GOD? YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN, FOR YOU WERE BOUGHT WITH A PRICE. SO GLORIFY GOD IN YOUR BODY.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
“BELOVED, I URGE YOU A SOJOURNERS AND EXILES TO ABSTAIN FROM THE PASSIONS OF THE FLESH, WHICH WAGE WAR AGAINST YOUR SOUL.” (1 Peter 2:11)
Lord, help us to live according to your will. Help us to live lives that please you. Help us to be holy, because as your children we want to reflect your character. Help us to heed your warnings regarding sin and immorality, that if we sow to our flesh, we will surely reap death and corruption, because you are a God who cannot me mocked. And if ever we are in the grip of sinful habits that weaken our spiritual lives, that defile our consciences, and that harden our hearts against you, we pray that you will melt our hearts and free us from these sinful habits by the power of your Holy Spirit. Give us freedom from sin! We claim the promise of your son, Jesus Christ, who said, “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.” We also ask forgiveness for the many times we have disregarded you and your call for us to live holy lives. We repent of our sins and we ask that you cleanse us from all unrighteousness by the blood of your Son, Jesus Christ. Lord, you are a merciful God to those who trust in you and who turn to you with broken and contrite hearts. Have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and make us holy. And we believe that you will do so, because we ask all these things in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. Amen.