1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.
In some circles today this would be considered the height of conceit. What does Paul mean, saying his instructions come from God! That’s the group that denies there is such a thing as absolute truth; everything depends on situational ethics. That is actually the height of stupidity, because it makes man the arbiter of right and wrong. That’s exactly how the devil tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, and we’re still suckers for it. God is certainly the God of love and grace and mercy, but all of that would be meaningless if there weren’t absolute standards. Today, even in the church it’s very rare for the bride and groom to both be virgins until after the ceremony. And actually, that’s exactly what Paul is talking about in this passage. We need to seek and obey God’s plans for us, even – and particularly – when our flesh isn’t happy about it. We have trouble believing what John said in his first letter: “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:3-4) All too often we choose to lose to the world, because that seems more “fun.” We have no grasp of how empty and destructive such “fun” is.
I’ve struggled with this just like everyone else. Now I’m in the position of guiding and encouraging others in their battles. I am never to draw back from stating God’s truth clearly, but I must always do so in love. I have no “high horse” from which to talk down to anyone, but I must make it very clear that forgiveness is not the same as excusing. Even Paul had to deal with people twisting his words and saying that if our sins become occasions for God’s grace, then we should sin all the more! (Romans 6:1-2) Sins damage everyone involved, and it is supremely stupid to choose to sin.
Father, thank You for this reminder. You know who needs to hear this at this point far better than I do. I shy away from legalism, but keep me from shying away from proclaiming Your truth. May this church be characterized by holiness, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!