Progressing in Purity

A Bible Exposition Of 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Grab your Bible this morning and turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 4:1. Today we are going to continue working through some areas of Christian living before we jump back into Mark’s Gospel.

This morning we are going to study the topic of sexual purity. Sexuality is a delicate topic. It is possible to mishandle the topic in a couple of ways. One way is to ignore it altogether, to say that is it uncomfortable so we are going to avoid it. But God deals with it so clearly in Scripture, we want to preach whole counsel, and we believe it is necessary to teach about.

The other way to mishandle the topic is to be undignified. In other words, to spend too much time in unnecessary details, or to make light of certain elements. But when God addresses sexuality it isn’t flippant or crass, or overly detailed… there is a measure of dignity and restraint.

So this is the same approach and balance we are striving for. Today’s message is a bit of a heavy one. It is sobering. Note I didn’t say depressing or discouraging. It is a message of hope and power, but it certainly isn’t light either.

I’m not going to spend time giving you statistics on internet pornography, or sexually transmitted infections, or human trafficking or abortion. Certainly the cost of sexual sin on society is profound. But statistics don’t contain power for change.

I’m not going to spend time giving you stories of how heartbreaking and damaging sexual sin is to individuals. That would awake your sense of emotion, but you would leave hear and not be convinced or compelled from Scripture.

Instead, what I aim to do over the next forty-five minutes or so is to equip your heart and mind with a right theology concerning sexuality. What we need is a renewed mind and heart.

Our understanding of sexuality as Christians is rooted and grounded in theology. Namely, that we are created by God. He sets the boundaries, He defines our purpose, He determines the standards of what is in bounds and out of bounds. This is our starting point.

Furthermore, we are (if we are saved) in a relationship now with God through his Son Jesus Christ. And because we belong to Christ now, every part of our lives is connected in relationship to Him. We live now, not for ourselves, but by faith, for Him.

And so today isn’t going to be tips and tricks. I’ve shared before I marvel at the un-helpfulness of some of the writing on this topic. I say unhelpful because it focuses on efforts to control the flesh by implementing a system.

Fight sexual sin by installing a filter on your computer, and having an accountability partner, and don’t compliment people of the opposite sex. Those aren’t bad things if you want to do them, but they have zero power. 

They are all in effort to do something in the flesh to control a spiritual issue.

Paul’s approach is theological. No practical guidelines. No strategies. Instead he is going to define the standard, the remind the Thessalonians where the power for change exists.

Paul brings Trinitarian theology to bear on sexual ethics. You have the Trinity at your disposal. The Father’s revealed will and calling upon your life, a new identity gifted to you by the Son to whom you are now united, the power of the Spirit that lives within you working and willing in your behalf.

This morning we will be in 1 Thessalonians. Paul is writing to a church that he loved very much. He had spent time ministering there, and then had been away for some time.

Paul had sent Timothy to Thessalonica (3:1-2) who brought the report back to Paul of how the church was doing. Apparently as we will find out today, this little flock needed to be reminded concerning sexuality and what pleases God.

Paul’s thesis: if you are a new creature in Christ, then make sure not to return to your old ways of viewing sexuality, but instead grow in purity.

A message like this is timely for us.

We live in a culture that is increasingly calling evil, good, and calling good, evil. There is a celebration and affirmation of things that are base, and defiling and degrading. 

You can hardly open your web browser to read the news without being bombarded by the enticements of base things that shouldn’t even be named among the people of God. Headlines day after day throughout our nation are chronicling the decline, which is happening at an unprecedented rate.

But as bad as you might think our culture is, we aren’t to the point of Greece and Rome. Thessalonica had digressed and was more debauched than modern American culture is right now. There is nothing new under the sun.

But if we are going to be useful to Christ we need to understand the battle. We need to have the weapons in our arsenal to deal with the onslaught and honor Christ. We want to encourage one another in these things. 

See honoring the Lord in the arena of sexuality really comes down to believing what God says over the lies that sin promises to deliver on. And so when I use words such as battle and arsenal, what we are really talking about is truths that when accepted by faith, will conquer the lies that you are tempted to believe.

And in a culture declining as rapidly as our is, we will need to be able to give these truths to those who come into the church with no understanding of a theology of sexuality.

Our outline today is…

8 Considerations to Progress Your Purity:

  1. Consider Your Spiritual Mentors (1a)
  2. Consider Your Previous Obedience (1b)
  3. Consider Your Precious Savior (2)
  4. Consider Your Father’s Will (3-5)
  5. Consider Your Impact on Others (6a)
  6. Consider Your Divine Accountability (6b)
  7. Consider Your Calling to Purity (7)
  8. Consider Your Indwelling Spirit (8)