‘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.’ 1 Thessalonians 4:1
‘Now about brotherly love, we do not need to write to you for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.’ I Thessalonians 4:9-10
Yesterday, I had the opportunity of studying and reflecting on 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 with my mentor, Melba. I am trying to learn homeletics from her, and we used this passage to practice. This passage has been very dear to me lately as 1 Thes 4:3 about God’s will being our sanctification has really been an anchor of truth in some circumstantial uncertainties.
The whole passage is about following and obeying God’s teaching to grow in purity, holiness and love in our living to glorify Christ to the world. It serves as an encouragement and command to the people of Thessolonika. They had been taught what was good, and they were obeying. A phrase that stuck with us yesterday was to do so ‘more and more.’ In other words…keep seeking him, keep obeying, keep loving, keep following, keep being purified in him ‘more and more.’
Spiritual growth is a continuous process in which we never “arrive” on this earth. When we compare ourselves to others we can pretend we arrive (if we compare ourselves to the right people), but we are not meant to compare ourselves to others. The goal of our spiritual walk is sanctification–the conformity to Jesus Christ. God, as our loving and gracious Father, grows us and disciplines us and forms us in our journey here through his word, relationships, circumstances. Just like an earthly parent, he teaches us to say no to the things in our lives that hurt us and yes to the things in this life which grow us in his character (like a parent teaching manners and work ethic and respect, etc). He also gives us his Spirit to depend on and rest in and to transform us.
Our lives are meant to be lived in relationship with him–in dependence on him. The process of “more and more” teaches us to be dependent. When making an honest assessment of life, do we strive for the ‘more and more?’ To live ‘more and more,’ we cannot be lazy–it is a daily interaction, reflection. It involves daily worship–confession, repentance, study, prayer. These are not things to check off a list; this is a life of surrender. It is also a life lived in the truth and the power of the gospel daily. We do not accomplish the ‘more and more’ by ourselves.
Yesterday, we spoke of the ‘more and more’ in loving, giving, humbling ourselves, sharing, serving, living in purity. The list could grow ‘more and more.’ Here are some questions to ask today:
- Where are you resting in yourself instead of depending upon him more and more?
- What do you know to be God’s will revealed in his word that you are not growing in more and more?
- How are you examining yourself daily to grow more and more?
- Are you celebrating the gospel more and more in your life?
- How can you love more and more today?
- How can you prioritize life to give more and more resources?
- How are you growing in purity more and more by what you watch, listen to, think on?
- What is the state of your heart when you read this? Frustration? Guilt? Anger? Joy?–Remember the Cross of Christ and who you are in it.