Being a Christian is much more than attending church or being a good person. In 1 Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul writes a letter to one of the first churches he pioneered in the New Testament era. The context of his letter was instructions for godly living.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (NLT)
When we make a decision to accept Jesus’ offer of having our sins forgiven, we are signing up for “a new way to be human,” John Foremen, Switchfoot. This requires us to break free from the behaviors and customs of this world, and let God transform us by changing the way we think.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 explains that the will of God for your life is “sanctification,” which makes it a big deal. What is sanctification? Great question. Let’s break it down. The word is translated from the Greek, hagiasmos, which comes from the word, “hagios” which means holy.
Sanctification is the process of becoming holy.
There are two key terms to aid our understanding of the process of sanctification, positional and progressive.
“And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:10
The moment you receive the gift of salvation you are made positionally holy. This is what allows you and I to approach a holy God. Paul often referred to Christians as “saints.” The word “saint” is translated from the Greek word, hagioi, which means holy ones. Everyone who has been born-again is a saint, made positionally holy.
Although we are positionally holy, we are also participants in the process of becoming holy. 1 Peter 1:16, “since it is written, “Be holy for I am holy.” So if I am positionally holy, why do I need to work at being holy? This is the work of transformation in our life.
If we are going to be transformed, our thoughts and actions have to change. Our old ways of thinking, former strategies, and systems of living are incapable of producing holiness.
Why is holiness so important? “…without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14 Being holy is a requirement of having a relationship with Him.
Paul began chapter four saying, “I ask and urge you,” to continue to live a life that pleases God. “Ask and urge” paired together carry a sense of urgency. Our obedience to the word of God is what transforms us into a new person.
Obstacles to Sanctification
If there is active sin in your life, holiness will be next to impossible to pursue. Sin quenches the desire to live holy. If we allow carnal appetites to run unrestrained in our life, we will be disinterested in becoming holy. Repentance is the only way to break that appetite from things that do not produce holiness.
“5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5
Our human nature is plagued by sin. Colossians 3 instructs us to put sinful activity to death. The list of sins here was specific to the struggles of the people in Colossae, but you can fill in the blank for your sin. They need to be put to death.
Paul likens our sin to idolatry, which is the worship of idols.
Sin is a counterfeit to the blessing God wants to give. When we sin we are rejecting God at the expense of self-gratification. Our perpetual indulgence in sin is equivalent to idol worship.
Obedience to God produces holiness. Holiness is God’s will for you. Obedience is not God’s way of holding hostage His blessings, it is the pathway of blessing. Pursue the blessed life!