To some people who have been looking for the will of God for a long time, this is going to seem quite obvious. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3). God desires every believer to be sanctified. What does sanctified mean? Let’s use the word pure instead. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3–7, Paul talked about practical purity, and he gave four principles.
Abstain from Fornication
Stay away from sexual sin. Paul did not say to avoid sex; he said to stay away from sexual sin. Of course, this means we must not get involved in sexual acts that are wrong. It also means we should stay far away from those things. Some Christians who wouldn’t dream of doing those things sit and watch somebody else doing them or read about them in some book and call it entertainment. We should have no part in those things.
I am not a prude; I think sex is a glorious thing. God invented it. And because He invented it, it is good. But He designed it for the beauty of the marriage relationship and nowhere else. For people to think that they can cheat God and get kicks out of sex apart from marriage is to believe the devil’s lie.
It is absurd for a young person (or anyone else) who is living in sexual impurity to say, “God, show me Your will.” Such a person is not even doing what this text of Scripture says is His will. Why should God disclose some further will?
Stay away from immoral sex. That is a simple principle. Someone inevitably says, “How far away?” Far away enough to be pure. Sanctified. Set apart wholly unto God.
Am I saying that you can’t hold hands with the one you love? That is not the issue. Do I mean that you can’t kiss? I don’t mean that either. The Bible says, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12). You can be blessed by God only so long as you are controlling what you do for His honor. When lust controls you, you have crossed the line. It’s a simple principle.
Control Your Body
The second principle concerning practical purity is expressed in 1 Thessalonians 4:4 (KJV): “Every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour.” In the Greek, there are two possible meanings of this word vessel: “wife” or “body.” In the context, I take it to mean “body.” Paul was saying that we are to control our bodies. That is purity.
We ought to keep our bodies in subjection to ensure that we are honoring God. That includes controlling the way we dress and the things we do with our bodies. This principle covers the whole area of the lust of the flesh, and not just sexual things. A person can dishonor God by overdressing to attract attention. Gluttony also puts a person in the position of dishonoring God and committing sin because it is obvious to everyone that the glutton cannot control the desire to eat. Nothing that gratifies the body to the dishonoring of God can have a place in the will of God.
John MacArthur, Found: God’s Will (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2012).
We have just released a new Bible study on topic of God’s Will.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Lesson #1: God’s Will and My Will
Roman 11.33 – 12.2; Ephesians 1.4 – 9
Lesson #2: God’s Will and God’s Refreshing Word
Psalms 19.7 – 14
Lesson #3: God’s Will and the Holy Spirit
1 Corinthians 2
Lesson #4: God’s Will and the Church
1 Corinthians 12
Lesson #5: God’s Will and Circumstances
Romans 8.26 – 32
Lesson #6: God’s Will and the Glory of God
John 11.1 – 4, 38 – 45
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