Meditations in 1 Thessalonians
Part 2 : 14. To Please God
1 Thess 4:1,2 Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
In this final study in part two – the principles that we note that stand out in the earlier part of this letter – we note one final principle, the thing that hopefully motivates us in the ‘doing’ side of our lives. Someone has said that Christianity is a ‘doing’ religion; we don’t just learn background knowledge about God or theories about spiritual life, the bigger part of it all is actually putting it into practice. But there are also other world religions that ‘do’ but the truth is that they either do because the rules are there and they follow them in order to win approval, or they have rules and follow them before of fear of the awful One who has made them.
When we come to the Christian faith we find something quite different. We find all that we are and do comes out of a loving relationship and where this relationship is real and genuine, doing simply becomes a response of love. So when Paul in the verse above speaks of instructions on how to live to please God, he is providing us with a means of responding in love to His love.
The apostle John understood this well. In his first letter he wrote, “And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make your joy complete.” (1 Jn 1:3,4) Fellowship is another way of referring to closeness of relationship. Because we have this closeness of relationship, he is saying, we write to you and explain these things so that your joy in this same relationship may be full. That’s his starting point. So he goes on to write, “if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.” (1 Jn 2:5) As we follow His word, His revelation to us, we experience AND express God’s love.
Later he writes, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. …. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins… if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 Jn 4:7-12) Love is behind everything we are and do, God love. He expressed it by sending Jesus to die for us, He expressed it by drawing us to Himself and forgiving us, cleansing us, adopting us and giving us His own Holy Spirit of love to live in us. Now, as His Spirit of love lives in and through us, we express love. Ultimately it all comes and flows because we have responded to Him and we gave Him our lives and were transformed. If we ever lose sight of that, we fall back on legalistic religion.
As we move on into the third part and start looking at specific individual instructions, we must keep in mind these things otherwise we start attributing these things to means of salvation instead of simply love responses to love – which is what they should be. Sadly, the reality is that because we are the people we are, we often lose sight of this, that we are loved and everything we are receiving from God is an expression of His ongoing love for us. Indeed we even take for granted the good things that happen to us and fail to see them as specific expressions of God’s love to us. Remember, here is a vital truth to hold on to: “God IS love” (1 Jn 4:8,16) and so everything God thinks, says or does is an expression of love. Everything He does with or for us is an expression of love. The enemy tries to blind us to this truth but it is the truth.
Think of your wife or husband who you love very much or a child of yours who you love very much. So much of the time we just act towards them without thought but when we do think about it we realise we do what we do because we love them so much. Love is the thing that prompts us into action and is behind every good word or deed. Perhaps it is also like that in the Christian life, we do so much of what we do without thought, but ultimately we are motivated by the starting love we have for God when He saved us. Our conforming to instructions we find in the New Testament, whether from Jesus or the apostles, flows from the feelings we have deep down, towards Him because of who He is and what He has done. We live out of gratefulness and thankfulness and our natural desire is to please Him.
When I do things for my wife or children, I want to please them, I want them to feel good about it, and when I do that I do it because I love them. I don’t do it to try to love them or win their love, because I already love them, but I do it as an expression of my love for them that already exists, I do it to please them because bringing pleasure is a desire of love, an expression of love, an outcome we want to achieve because we love. As with our families, so it is with God. Our learning these instructions from the apostles, is simply a means of providing ways we can please love and we desire to do that because we love Him, and we love Him because He has first loved us. Hallelujah!
PART 2: Big Principles – picking up some of the ways God works
8. Motivation – faith, love and hope, driving forces
9. The Work of God – the work of salvation from the beginning
10. Facing Idolatry – the alternative to worshiping God
11. Judgment – Accountability before God
12. Building the Church – the outworking of salvation
13. Spiritual Blindness – the example of the Jews
14. To Please God – why we DO