1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
Introduction Do any of these words sound familiar: “I just can’t help it.” Or “I never meant those words to be hurtful.” Or “It’s not my fault that you are so touchy!” Was it Robert Fayney who said: “It is the curse of the powerful to be blind to their own faults?” Today’s fruit is “Self-Control.” Today is about the Holy Spirit helping you to say “no” to ungodly habits, attitudes and ambitions. Of all the fruits of the Holy Spirit this one is scarce in a culture of instant gratification. “I feel like ice-cream – 5 varieties are in my freezer!” “I want a new car – Oh, good there’s a 60 month instalment plan.” Our culture isn’t big on self-control. So there are three key ideas in today’s scripture:
A. Self-Control results from living under Authority
1. One of the unusual signs of a life that is short on self-discipline is that they are big on pleasing themselves. When I say that Self-Control results from living under Authority I get it right from the first verse we read: 1. As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Some would argue that it was much easier for those early Christians to live under God’s authority – after all many of them were slaves. I recall reading “the one who complies against their will is of their own opinion still.” You can put chains on a wrist but that doesn’t mean the person will live to please you. It takes love to do that. So consider that God has and still does love you. Jesus is preparing a place for you in heaven. The Holy Spirit is dwelling in you to comfort you. What you need to please God is the fruit of self-control, and strangely enough that fruit grows best when you see your life as under God’s authority. You don’t keep commandments from God to be a Christian, you keep them because you ARE a Christian and want to please you Heavenly Father.
2.The more self-control the more you please the Lord. The more you please Him the more you want to. Not surprising then that the verse adds Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. The instructions were all about living a Holy Life from the inside outwards.
B. Self-Control results from living under Anointing (Holy Spirit filled)
1. When we use the word sanctified, or sanctification our thoughts might turn to becoming saints (though the increase within us of Holy Living.) All good and true, but the heart of sanctification is first of all the infilling of the power of the Holy Spirit. Its God’s will that you should be filled with His Spirit – only out of that can you move on and say: 3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God. Please don’t get the cart before the horse. It’s NOT when you have everything perfect inside that you ask the Holy Spirit to come live with you. There is a process involved that starts with a crises. Speaking of the process – what does learn to control your own body suggest to you? Illustration: Come up here anyone who’d like to learn to play a brass instrument! Oh oh – looks like its going to take a bit longer!
2. The anointing of the Holy Spirit means control of our bodies. If you don’t …. Its very likely that someone else will be taken advantage of. 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. The fruit of Self-Control leads so seamlessly towards holy living. This fruit isn’t just a good suggestion. This is a fryuit that comes with commanding instructions. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.
C. Self-Control results from living with Affection
1. So we spoke about Self-control as the results of living under authority and living under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. If we left it there you might get a very austere picture. So factor in the fruit-salad idea that we have been maintaining in this sermon series. The fruit list starts with LOVE. 9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. (How about you – can it be said of you that you love all of God’s family throughout Hunterdon County?) Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, As affection grows so too can Self-Control. Love is all about living for the good of others, self-control helps you keep the focus right.
2. The best form of loving is the one that emanates out of a well-settled life. Listen carefully to the final words that the fruit of self-control seeks to produce in you: 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. Let me briefly unpack that list:
Quiet Life - Boring! Unless the turmoil comes from lack of self-control. You don’t want that kind of excitement! Mind own business – It takes control to not gossip. Shut up about other people’s problems. Work with your hands (Oh oh – white collar workers – are we in trouble here?) Don’t be dependent on others. See to your basic needs yourself.
Conclusion: Claiming that you can’t help from doing the things that hurt people around you is to pretend that you have no responsibility for their pain. “Oh you were hurt! – well, I just didn’t think you’d be so petty as to react to my words that way” NO! The problem isn’t pettiness – the problem is what you said first – You just “didn’t think.” The problem was your lack of self-control. Now don’t sit so low in your chair – we all struggle with thoughtless words. The scripture says the Christian who tames their own tongue is near perfection! But don’t give up on the quest for the growth of the fruit of self-control.