Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. [. . .] For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thessalonians 4:1, 7-8 ESV)
How we live matters just as much as what we claim to believe. The apostle Paul reminds the Thessalonian church that the practical application of the gospel is just as important as the foundational truth of the saving grace of God. He urged them to grow in their capacity to do more and more of the things they had been taught. They had been taught how to live. The word walk is used as a metaphor for how to live. The correlation between the steps one takes in a certain direction and the decisions we make in life that lead to certain consequences is pretty clear. The choice to participate in the sexual immorality of the Gentile world will result in unfortunate consequences (see v. 6). Paul’s point is that if the gospel has affected our lives, it has done so currently in the present as well as eternally in the future. What I mean is that we live eternal life today!
God has set us apart from the world. That means that we should not act like the world any longer (see verses 3-5). Closely connected with how to live, Paul says that the Thessalonians have been taught how to please God. He points out in verse 7 that we are called for the purpose of holiness. The preposition translated in, “in holiness”, can mean into communicating the goal of a certain action. Contrasting the phrase “for impurity”, where the word for also indicates purpose, strengthens the idea that God has called us for the purpose of our holiness. Pleasing God then means we strive to live holy lives. Paul brings comfort to the conscientious Christian by sealing it in our minds that holiness is the goal. I am confident that perfection is not the quality necessary to please God. Scripture bears witness that many servants were loved by God and were capably used to promote the kingdom yet only one person has ever been perfect. The point is that all faithful servants had a desire to please God and strove to do so through the decisions they made. They matured spiritually through their communion with God and their faithfulness to his word. They changed behaviors that hindered their effectiveness for God. They were role-models of how to live for God. The desire to engage in the process of growing in our ability to reflect the holiness of God in our lives today is what really matters.
We celebrate my favorite holiday in November. Thanksgiving stirs up much gratitude and love for family, friends, and especially my Savior. Love and gratitude fuel our desire to please those who have done so much for us. It is the same with our Lord. Can we remember him and all he has done for us throughout the year? The result should be a sincere desire to please him. He gives us wisdom as to the practical stuff.