A Life Pleasing to God

by Mike Ratliff

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9 ESV)

We live in an evil day. When “cultural relevance” carries more weight within the leadership of a church than conformity to the revealed Word of God then it should grieve those who know the Lord and are known by Him. I read an article today written about a post on a blog belonging to a youth pastor at Saddleback Church. The poster was questioning whether it would be okay to teach a series to the youth there about the evils of stealing. This is just another sad example of the visible Church being something other than The Church. As we have said many times here at Possessing the Treasure, there are only two religions in the whole world. There is genuine Christianity, which is based entirely in God’s Sovereignty and consists of those whom He elected, called, justified, sanctified, adopted, and glorified. Then there are all other religions, which are based entirely in the sovereignty of Man’s Free Will.

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 you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 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 4:1-8 ESV)

Carefully read the passage above (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8). Notice that Paul both “asks” and “urges” the Thessalonians to “walk” a certain way before God. The Greek word used here that is translated as “asks” is ἐρωτάω or erōtaō. It is translated as “beseech” in the KJV and “urge” in the NKJV. The ESV translation of “ask” is probably the best in this context. The Greek word translated here as “urge” is παρακαλέω or parakaleō. This word literally means, “to call to one’s side.” It is used to describe the calling of a person to produce a particular effect. This is an appeal by Paul to the Thessalonians to walk before God just as he instructed them.

The present, infinitive verbs “to walk” (περιπατέω or peripateo) and “to please,” (ἀρέσκω or areskō) in Greek, are in active voice. Present infinitive verbs pertain to continuous or repeated action, without any implications as to when the action takes place.  Active voice means the subject of the verbs does the action. Who is being exhorted? That would be “brothers” who are the Thessalonians and, by implication, all Christians. περιπατέω refers to how a person deports himself or herself before Men and God. This is who a person really is because it refers to how they do all they do continually. On the other hand, ἀρέσκω refers to acting in such a way that it makes another to be content with the person doing the action. This action implies a relationship prior to behavior. This behavior is actually satisfying or behaving properly toward one with whom one is related. Christians are intimately related to God because He has adopted each of them into His family. Paul is telling us that our actions, our behavior needs to conform to certain standards that will cause God to be pleased with us. There are standards of behavior implied here. Christians can behave in such a way that they do not cause God to be pleased with them at all. If this was not so then why does Paul exhort us otherwise?

What is the will of God for all Christians? It is their sanctification. This is the Greek word ἁγιασμός or hagiasmos. This word is also translated as ‘holiness.’ This word refers to separation unto God. In this context, ἁγιασμός refers the resultant state of sanctification, which is the behavior befitting those so separated. What behavior? It is, “that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust.” The word “abstain” is the Greek word ἀπέχομαι or apechomai. This verb is in present tense, infinitive mood, and middle voice. Christians are to continually ἀπέχομαι from sexual immorality. The middle voice tells us that the subject is acting in some way upon himself or concerning himself. ἀπέχομαι gives us the word picture of a person ‘holding himself or herself off.’ In other words abstaining from lust, from sexual sin, is something each of us must do. We cannot abstain through good intentions or simply wishing for it. No, we must abstain continually with action upon self.

How does Paul tell us to do this? We are to learn how to control our own bodies in holiness and honor instead of immersing them in the passion of lust. The word “know” is the Greek word εἴδω or eidō. Again, Paul used a present tense, infinitive mood, and active voice verb to describe the process of our perceiving and understanding with our minds “how to control” our bodies this way. The words “how to control” is the Greek word κτάομαι or ktaomai. We must acquire knowledge from God continually and apply it with His wisdom continually to κτάομαι our bodies. κτάομαι is in present tense, infinitive mood, and middle voice. Remember what the middle voice indicates from above! That means that this verb is reflexive. It is an action one does in some way upon self or concerning self. κτάομαι means to acquire to own. In other words, when we κτάομαι our bodies we purchase them by some means for our own. It is as if someone else formerly owned them. That would be our flesh my brethren. This process of abstaining from lust is taking back possession of our bodies from our flesh.

When we do this as a way of life we are keeping our bodies in a state of holiness and honor. The Greek word used here for holiness is ἁγιασμός, which was translated as ‘sanctification’ in v3. The word honor is the Greek word τιμή or timē. This word describes a state of high esteem. It is holding something apart and above because it is of great value and even precious. The opposite would be to immerse our bodies in the passion of lust. Those who do this are treating their bodies as if they are simply a vehicle or means to an end. They are actually selling back their bodies to their flesh. Also, Paul admonishes us all in vv6-8 that to disregard this exhortation is to defy God Himself.

Now, let us look again at this knowledge which we must possess continually and then apply with the wisdom of God in order to take ownership of our bodies away from our flesh and then walk in holiness and honor before God. I know I use this passage a great deal, but I offer no apologies.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God each day as an act of worship. Then, instead of being continually conformed to this world, we are to be transformed through mind renewal. This is how the mind of Christ is developed in us. Our part is to immerse ourselves in God’s Word. We must get it into us and work with the Holy Spirit in learning all we can about God and His ways. We are then to live it out through the wisdom the Holy Spirit imparts unto us. This is how we take our bodies back from our flesh to be living sacrifices before the throne of God. If we will do this then our flesh will be denied and as long as we remain in this mode of worship and service then it remains so. However, the moment we become self-sufficient in our own eyes it will come out of hiding and demand to be fed. This is the battle my brethren. The life that is pleasing to God is one that is dedicated to continually fighting in this battle to the end.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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