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Jack Graham - A Life that Pleases God - Part 1

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    Jack Graham - A Life that Pleases God - Part 1
TOPICS: A Life that Pleases God

The title of the message is "A Life that Pleases God". And you can find our text in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4, so begin finding 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4. To please God is the purpose of every Christian. Jesus Himself said, "I always please the Father". And that should be the pursuit and the prayer of all of us who follow Jesus. That we would be like Him more and more, and that we would live to please Him. The Apostle Paul said, 2 Corinthians 5:9, "We always make it our aim (to do what?) to please God".

The great, late Adrian Rodgers used to say, "If you please God, it doesn't matter who you displease. But if don't please God, it doesn't matter who you please". It is our purpose and God's plan for each one of us that we would pursue Him, that this would be our holy ambition, that we would please Him. Unfortunately in the church today at large, the church, there is a disconnect between what we say we believe and how we live! In fact, surveys and statistics tell us that unfortunately there's very little difference between the lives of those who profess Christianity and those who do not. Very little difference or distinctiveness between those who go to church and those who do not.

Now God has called us to be unique and distinct. That's what the word holy means. The word means that we are to be different as God is utterly and holy unique and distinct and separated from sin. And the God who is holy has called us to this holiness! Yet, the church including many of its leaders, pastors and others, have accommodated to the culture and we are in a slide downward. We are slouching towards Gomorrah! And this immoral epidemic is spreading. And countless men and women who name the name of Christ have fallen into sexual sin and immorality! And the problem is not too many people seem to care. Laissez-faire, it's just the way it is.

And so we're often silent on the subject. We don't talk about it. It's a taboo in the church to talk about these issues. After all, we don't want offend anybody. We don't want to name sin and call sin for what it is, lest people turn away. Yet God has called us, not to acceptance but to abstinence from sexual sin and whether we are in the culture or in the church, it needs to matter how we live our lives! We sadly have not been dealing with the problem. We have not called one another into accountability; not calling each other out, but calling each other up into purity and holiness and godliness. God knows what is good for us, what is best for us! And if it will make you happy, if it will make you holy, if you will make you wholesome, God wants you to have it. And remember, any time God says "you shall not" He is saying you shall help yourself to genuine happiness by keeping His commandments. And, yes, there is a moral law that governs the universe! God has not set aside His own moral attributes, nor has He set aside His word and His will for us to live godly lives!

And that's the subject of 1 Thessalonians 4. So verse 13 of the end of chapter 3 says, "That He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before God our Father". And then He expands, beginning at verse 1 of chapter 4, "Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you". This is a very strong word. It means, I beg you. Paul had a pastor's heart. And when he was writing this, he was writing from Corinth, a very corrupt culture, a very sinful culture; sex saturated even more than our own culture today, though we're headed there. He was writing from Corinth where Christians, new believers were facing the old sins and the old temptations every day, to Thessalonica, more of the same! The Greco-Roman world, the world of the Romans and the Greeks was a very sex saturated culture. Even the worship of their idols and deities was accompanied by sexual sin and behavior, prostitutes in the temple and on and on. It's vile; it is wicked!

And so Paul is writing in this culture. Just in case you're thinking, "Well, that's the Bible. Of course it talks about holiness". Paul is talking to a very unholy and corrupt society, or in the midst of that. That's the background. And now you have these Christians at Corinth and these Christians at Thessalonica who are trying to learn how to live this brand new life. Many of them have come out of deep sin and shame in their life, and brokenness and pain in their lives, and now called to a higher standard, to elevate in that, and that's what's happening. Verse 1 again says: 1, "how you out to walk and to please God", and here's a commendation, I love this, "just as you're doing".

So let me start with a commendation to those of you who are in Christ, and you're living for the Lord and you're pleasing God; you're doing this, but it's not easy. It's a struggle; it's a challenge every day to live to please God, to live a holy life. And he says, "I commend you just as you are doing". But then he says: 1 that you do so more and more. There's some growing to do! There's more for you! The Christian life is more than a beginning. It is a wonderful life and lifestyle in which we live these repentant, redeemed lives that are different; they are holy unto the Lord. This is a sanctuary unto the Lord. "Lord, make me a sanctuary".

And verse 2 says: 2 "For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus Christ". There it is. This is Jesus talking. This is God speaking. These are the instructions I am giving you through our Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 3: 3 "For this is the will of God". You want to know and do God's will for your life? You're a young person today, a teenager, or a young adult. You want to find and fulfill God's plan, God's purpose for your life? You want to do the will of God? Start right here, start right here. First Thessalonians 4:3, "For this is the will of God, (what?) your sanctification".

The word sanctification is a word which means to be holy, to be pure. Sanctification: it means separation from sin unto God. When you got married, maybe you were dating around and you know, you had all these dateables in your phone. You'd call them up and go on a date. Maybe one, maybe two at a time, five at a time. I don't know. But you dated around. But then the one walked into your life, that one, the one of God's own choice for you, and you said at an altar, "I choose you above all others, beyond all others, and I separate myself to you. I commit to you. To leave all the others and to cleave to you". That's sanctification. A man is sanctified to his wife; a woman is sanctified to her husband. We are separated from all others, and we cleave and cling to one another. We're separated to each other. Now, we are separated from our sin and separated to God in this love relationship that we have with Him.

Now I need to make it absolutely clear that if you are living in habitual sin and certainly habitual sexual sin, you're not going to heaven. You're on your way to hell. You say, "Where do you get that"? Well, look in 1 Corinthians chapter 6, and verses 9 and 10. These verses clearly tell us that people who are practicing sexual sin. People want to say, "Well, all sin is the same". And yes, in the eyes of a holy God all sin is the same. But there is a shamefulness to sexual sin that is separated from sin. And Paul talks about all of that in 1 Corinthians 6. But just this, He says, verse 9: "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? (The unrighteous meaning those who are not in Christ. And who are they?) Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God".

Bam! Let the hammer down! Paul's being straight up and honest. And I'm trying to be as honest with you as I can be, and that is that if you are living in this kind of sin, if you are practicing sexual sin and reviling and drunkenness, you're a party animal, you're not saved! You need to be saved. You need to come to Christ and repent of your sins, and to be cleansed. You don't have to live in your sin. You don't have to live in your shame. You don't have to live a life of regret. You can be made brand new by the power of Jesus Christ. But with that said, if you are in Christ, then you're life is to be different. It will be different. "If anyone be in Christ He's a new creation. Old things are passed away; everything becomes brand new".

Again, you haven't arrived there yet, you're not perfect, but you're on the way. It's not perfection right now that God is after; it is progress! Progress! "That you would abound more and more". Sex is God's idea. God is not holding sex out from you; He is holding on to it for you. He is not keeping sex from you; He is saving sex for you! It's His idea. That's why the Scripture says in Hebrews chapter 13 and verse 4 that: "Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed be kept pure, but God will judge the adultery and the sexually immoral". So the marriage bed, the physical intimacy between a man and woman in marriage is to be protected. There are to be boundaries, both before we get married and certainly while we are married. And when the scripture here talks about sanctification from anything that is immoral.

Look at it again in chapter 4, verse 3, it says: "This is the will of God for you, your sanctification (what?): that you abstain from sexual immorality". That's a very strong word there: abstain. Some translations give it as "avoid". That's a bad translation. The language of the New Testament is much stronger than avoid. It's not like, you know, I'm walking down the hall and you know, I try to avoid you. It's much stronger than avoid. John Philips translation gives it "cut it out" like a cancer. Abstain from it! We're talking about total abstinence from any sexual behavior that is outside of the blessing and the beauty and, yes, the boundaries of marriage! I didn't say it; God said it! God knows what is best for each one of us! God has chosen a path for us that is pure! And real satisfaction and security is found in God's way, not my way. We're not smarter than God!

Now there is a pure desire and an impure desire. The problem is not sex. God created sex. The problem is lust; the problem is sexual behavior outside of God's parameters that He has chosen for us. Whether it be adultery, or immorality before marriage: in mind, in thought, in deed. Lust is uncontrolled passions. That's what lust is. You say, "What is lust"? Well, most people have an idea as to what lust is. I don't have to explain it to you. What he's talking about is uncontrolled passions. That's why he says in this passage-we'll get to it in the message next week-learn how to control your body!

You say, "Well, man, I'm young and I'm a teenager and I'm just figuring out all this stuff, and my hormones are raging, and can I catch a break on this? I'm going to have to wait"? Yes! Yes! Yes! Live your life to please God! Not to indulge yourself! If you are a believer, this is your passion! This is the passion that overwhelms every other kind of passion. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 just a verse or two over, "That you would be sanctified, body, soul and spirit". You have a body, physical life, you have a soul which is psuche, psychological life, emotional, intelligence and so on. Then you have a spiritual life, how you relate to God. And you don't compartmentalize your life by saying, "Well, in the spirit I'm holy, but in the flesh not so much". That you would be sanctified, made more and more like Jesus physically, mentally, psychologically and spiritually, that you would please God.

That's what he's talking about here. I'm telling you that there are no exceptions. There are no excuses. This is for all who name the name of Christ! The word immorality here is taken from a Greek word pornea. But you can hear the word porn in that word, and literally the word pornographic is akin to this word, but not just pornography on paper, on video, but pornography in your life! Where this obsession begins to control you. You become an addict. You become habitually disconnected from God. Again, God made sex for His purposes and for your pleasure. I tell young couples when I'm talking to them before marriage on the issue of intimacy that God made sex for the purpose of procreation. You understand that right? You're here.

Procreation. Recreation, yes, God gives pleasure and offers this as a pleasurable experience in life between couples that are committed to one another. But also communication, and that's the real purpose of intimacy in marriage. "Adam knew his wife and she conceived and brought forth a son". It is to know; it is to communicate intimacy! Don't throw that away! Treat that with respect! Intimacy is to be reserved to please God and to live it out His way! Psalm 84:11 "The Lord God is a sun and a shield; He gives grace and glory, or favor and honor, and no good thing will He withhold to them who walks uprightly". And so back to our text: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you abstain".

Is there anything unclear about the word abstain? "That you abstain". Not accept, as so many people have accepted immorality in our culture, but abstain. Personally abstain! This is the will of God for you. You see, everyone has a choice in life to make: whether you will live to please God or live to please yourself; whether you will indulge your flesh or walk in the Spirit. It should be your desire to starve the flesh and feed the Spirit in your life. Deuteronomy 30, verses 19 and 20 says this. We'll land this plane right now and bring it back next week. "But I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days".

What a scripture! We have a choice to live in victory or to live in misery, to live in God's blessings with all the benefits that come from walking with Him or to live under the cursing of judgment! You have a choice! And that is your happiness or your unhappiness! I stand here as a witness to you today to choose life, and not death, so that you can enjoy your life and experience all the happiness. And, yes, God wants you to be happy! He's a happy God and He's a holy God! And it is in His holiness that we discover His happiness!

Again, real satisfaction in life is found in obeying Him! And I tell you this, to know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to obey Him! If you know who God is, if you know Jesus in your life, you know He is great, you know He is gracious, you know He is good! He has redeemed you and He will set you free from the power of sin and death in your life! So He's calling us up higher. Don't settle. Don't throw away God's gifts. Live to please Him. And how do we please Him? "This is the will of God for you, even your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual sin and immorality". You say, how in the world can I do that? We'll talk more about that next week. But until then it really involves a decision, a choice you make; to choose Christ over yourself, to turn from your sin and trust in Him.
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