20 March 2023

Living a holy life: Do we live to please God?

Lieutenant Tony Kakande

Lieutenant Tony Kakande reminds us that faith is an ongoing commitment.

Key text

We often worry about not being able to figure out God’s will for certain matters in our lives. For example, it is hard to escape the ongoing conversations and debate around diverse expressions of sexuality in relation to faith in Christ.

In our study passage, the apostle Paul makes it clear what he believes about how we should live to please God. He declares: ‘It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister’ (vv3–6).

The reason and motivation behind this way of life is to please God and this is a calling for every believer to live a holy and honourable life.

In contrast, Paul also makes us aware of what is not pleasing to God in the way we treat our bodies and other people in relation to sexual morality.

Pause and reflect

  • What does a holy and honourable life look like in our world today?

In Hebrews 11, the writer shares many examples of people who pleased God because of how they lived by faith. He argues that ‘without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him’ (v6).

This kind of faith involves surrendering to God’s will and purpose in every area of the believer’s life. Bible commentator Matthew Henry argues: ‘To abide in the faith of the gospel is not enough, we must abound in the work of faith.’ In other words, the confession of our faith in the gospel of Christ Jesus requires actions that evidence the existence of a living faith.

Photo shows some white flowers.

1 Thessalonians 4:3

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.

Read the Bible passage

Paul urges those who are followers of Jesus in Thessalonica to continue to live by the instructions they had received when he and his companions had visited them (see Acts 17:1). In verse 1 of our study passage, Paul commends these believers in Jesus for living in order to please God and urges them to continue doing this ‘more and more’

You might have heard some people argue that this is simply advice that is to be taken as a list of suggestions. However, the stark warning at the beginning and end of this study passage is that these instructions are to be received with the authority of Christ and those who reject these exhortations are rejecting God himself (see vv2 and 8).

The Salvation Army doctrine in regard to faith and sanctification states: ‘We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.’ This underlines the fact that Christian discipleship requires constant co-operation with God. Faith is not a single action at the point of salvation but an ongoing commitment and way of life.

Pause and reflect

  • Is our very salvation secure when we knowingly continue to live in a way that does not please God?

Paul uses a technique that I can only describe as going from ‘zooming in’ on practical holiness, with a very specific example of sexual morality, to ‘zooming out’ to our position in Christ. He reminds his readers that they have been made holy by Christ and are called to a holy life in Christ. Consequently, as evidence of their faith in his salvation, believers are to live to please God.

Paul then moves from personal to communal holiness with regards to how believers should learn to control their own bodies in a ‘holy and honourable’ way (v4). This extends to the way they treat their brother or sister in this matter (see v6). Paul gives clear warning that failure to discipline our bodies and control our actions has consequences. Acting in passionate lust, like those who do not know God, and taking advantage of other believers in relation to sexual morality will not go unpunished (see v6).

Paul explains God’s call to those who profess faith in Jesus: ‘God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life’ (v7).

Pause and reflect

  • I wonder if you have faced up to the question of who you are living for and, therefore, whom you are seeking to please.

If we have chosen to live in order to please God, what is the evidence of this in our lives? Paul is clearly writing to believers who have already been declared holy by their position of faith in Christ Jesus.

Our faith in Christ’s work of salvation requires that we choose to do God’s will and live a holy and honourable life that pleases our Lord Jesus in every way that matters – not just our sexual morality and treatment of others in the community of faith. God himself provides the resources we need in order to live in obedience to his will and purpose.

In a similar letter to the believers in Rome, Paul writes: ‘Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will’ (Romans 12:1 and 2).

Bible study by

Photo of Tony Kakande.

Lieutenant Tony Kakande

Corps Officer, Gateshead

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