If you’re looking for relationships that last, you have to have some critical ingredients. As Jesus rejects some who claim belief, you’ll see what’s essential in His relationships—and in yours. Learn the five mandates of healthy Christian relationships and how to avoid the heartache of expecting people to do what only God can do.Preview Next Episode
This is the will of God, your sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3a, esv).
Often discussions about God’s will seem to revolve around answering life’s big questions like where we go to college, who we choose to marry, which job to take, which house to buy, what our kids’ lives will be like when they grow up . . . and then before we know it, we’re discussing where they’ll go to college, who they’ll marry, what job they’ll take, and the whole thing cycles into the future.
But believe it or not, God’s will doesn’t focus on these kinds of issues. He’s not holding His breath, hoping you’ll choose to move to Bolivia instead of California, or vice versa. His will is not a secret blueprint for making specific, minute decisions—a master plan He’s hiding from you, testing you to see if you can figure it out. Because here’s the truth: if you are busy being the person God wants you to be—the parts He does make clear in Scripture—you’ll already be where He wants you to be.Always, the overarching, sanctifying need is to conform to the Word of God, living with a pure conscience, being quick to respond to the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Click To Tweet
God’s will for you is “your sanctification.”
Sanctification is one of the key words we learn from Scripture that helps us understand what our salvation means. It covers the space of time between our justification (the moment of conversion when God declares us righteous through our faith in Christ’s payment for sin) and our glorification (when we stand before Him in eternity). Sanctification means to make holy—a process that is crucially important for us since by nature we are not holy, and we need to be holy. More and more holy. So this is what God is doing with us right now as we wait for Christ’s return, as “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We’re being sanctified. Little by little. Day by day. One step at a time.
This is God’s will for us.
To the believers living in Thessalonica, much of what apparently needed sanctifying in their lives were their sexual practices and their understanding of moral purity. That’s why Paul zeroed in on their need to “abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3b). In other cities and places where he wrote his first-century letters, the more pressing matters may have been idolatry, immaturity, materialism, or some other spiritual deficiency. But in every place—including our place today—the overarching, sanctifying need was and is to increasingly conform ourselves to the Word of God, living with a pure conscience, being quick to respond to the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. For not only does this transformative lifestyle give proof that we are growing in holiness, it also helps us not “be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).
God’s will, plain and simple, is the Bible. The will of God is the Word of God, not merely the specific answers to life’s various multiple-choice questions. Because if you’re doing what the Word of God says, you’ll be making the right decisions already. If you are increasingly the person God wants you to be, you will not make wrong choices about the details like where you are or who you’re with.
You’ll be doing His will.
Because you’ll be growing in sanctification.
Father, thank You for being bigger than my biggest problems and questions, and for knowing me better than I know myself. Thank You for fully understanding and providing for my true needs. Today I bring my concerns to You not as someone desperate for answers, but as someone simply committed to being Yours—in every way, manner, and decision. By Your Spirit I ask You to bring to my mind what I already know of Your will, and I ask You to give me a willing and obedient heart to do it. Thank You for Your sanctifying work in my life. This is what I seek, confident that in the process You will keep me exactly where I’m supposed to be. In Jesus’ name, amen.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16, esv).
Let there be no confusion on this point: If you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). By believing in Christ you were “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13–14), the down payment on everything He’s said will be yours throughout all eternity. Even as you can never lose the favor of God on your life if you’ve turned from your sin and embraced His forgiveness by faith, neither can you ever lose the Holy Spirit. He will always be in you.“God has given you His Holy Spirit to unburden your heavy heart and operate as a Helper for you.” Click To Tweet
That’s God’s job—to indwell you, with all the Holy Spirit.
But it doesn’t mean you’re continually being “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18, emphasis mine), as Scripture commands you to be, and as God wants you to be. Until you allow Him to totally, thoroughly permeate you—like chocolate sauce stirred into a glass of milk—all the necessary ingredients may be inside you, but you’re not letting Him fill you.
That’s the part you can participate in.
And so, even though God has given you His Spirit to unburden your heavy heart and operate as a “Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16) . . .
Even though He’s given you access to “a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7) . . .
Even though He’s able to provide you victory over old habits and weaknesses so that “you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16), you and I forfeit the freedom, joy, peace, and confidence of being filled again and again with the Holy Spirit when we continue opposing His intended purpose in our lives.
If that progression pretty much describes your feeling today, you can change it, right this minute. Here’s how: (1) Recognize your need to filled. “I’ve been trying on my own. No wonder I’m so tired.” (2) Confess all known sin. “I knew the right; I chose the wrong. I’m sorry.” (3) Yield yourself to God’s purposes. “Whatever You want from me, I’m Yours.” (4) Ask Him to fill you.
And He will.
Father, as much as it hurts to admit, I confess I’ve been resisting You. I’ve been choosing my way, thinking it’s better. But You haven’t made provision for me to live as a Christian without You. Your provision for me is to live Your life through me by Your Spirit. I recognize Your plans as being what’s really true. I confess to You how I’ve worked against You. And I yield myself again to Your purposes. Fill me, Lord, with Your awesome Holy Spirit. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6, esv).
If you’re a follower of Jesus—if by faith you have turned from your sins and received His forgiveness—I have news for you.
God is after you.
He’s still pursuing you. Wanting more of you. Hungry to make sure you’re experiencing every blessing that His Son died and rose again to give you, for His glory.If you’re a follower of Jesus, God is still pursuing you. Click To Tweet
It doesn’t matter how defeated or discouraged you are today. He’s still after you. All that matters is that you are His. “My sheep hear my voice,” Jesus said, “and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Is that you? Following Him? Not perfectly, of course, but following? Sometimes stumbling, but still getting up? And following? And trying again? And wanting to follow Him even better, even more?
Then God Himself is also following you. He’s on your trail. He’s after you. Promising you that your best days are still ahead of you, no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done. Your greatest days of usefulness and service to God are still in the future, because “goodness” (defined as bounty and blessing) and “mercy” (lovingkindness and favor) will be on your heels and hunting you down every second of the time.
Can’t be true, you say . . .
Too many failures. “I’ve failed God too many times. No way am I on His first team anymore. I’ve blown it. I have areas in my life where I’ve never gotten victory. Even today I failed again. I’m on the shelf from here on out, and I know it.”
Too many years. “It’s too late for me. Too much water under the bridge. It’s fine for those who came to Christ as kids or in college or whatever. But I showed up late to the party. The best I can do is just sneak into a back corner of heaven.”
Too many others. “I don’t have any big-time gifts. I don’t have any great abilities. Other people have training and know what they’re doing. Not me. I’m just not that important. It might even be wrong for me to get in their way.”
Too many obstacles. “I’ve got so many things going on in my life right now—work, family, health stuff, all of it—I don’t really have time. And I don’t see it changing anytime soon.”
Believe me, I’ve heard all these lies and dodges before. They’re as old as time, because the enemy will do anything to convince you that God has lost the scent and given up on you.
But just you try staying hidden behind these shadowy half-truths. Just you try imagining you’re out of sight, out of mind. Just you try giving in to the unreality that your home and heart are off His grid, out of His hunting zone.
Because, listen. Can you hear it? It’s the panting of the hound of heaven, running full-speed, headed your way, chasing you down. Following you “all the days” of your life—not to rip into you, but to restore you and refresh you, to overwhelm all of life’s badness with His “goodness.”
Lord God, I believe Your Word, even when I doubt myself. I believe what You have done to claim me as Your own, even when I too often resist You and choose my own way. Thank You for loving me enough to want me experiencing the full blessing of relationship with You. And thank You for relentlessly pursuing me until I’m actively living in it. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18, esv).
As a pastor and communicator, I’m always thinking of illustrations. But the best word pictures to use in seeking to understand the heart of a biblical text are the ones that God has already put right there in the Bible.
Like getting drunk, for example.“Just as a person can lose control to alcohol and act like a fool, the believer in Christ can give control to the Holy Spirit and experience abundant life.” Click To Tweet
I love knowing that when He was inspiring Luke to record what he’d seen and heard on that first Pentecost after Jesus had ascended to heaven, he recalled people mocking those who’d been infused with the Holy Spirit, saying it looked like they were “filled with new wine” (Acts 4:13). And when Luke transcribed Peter’s response to these events, he made sure to capture the words where he said, no, “These people are not drunk, as you suppose” (verse 15). “Drunk,” yes, only not with liquor.
The reason it must be such an important illustration is because when Paul—who wasn’t even a believer at that time—was later writing his letter to the Ephesians, God gave him the same analogy. “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” There’s something specific about drunkenness that apparently best illustrates what being filled with the Spirit is truly like.
Hmm. What could it be?
I believe it involves control. Everyone’s familiar with the fact that a person who is drunk loses control over their tongue, their body, and their thinking. You have no idea what they might say, no idea what they might do, and no idea where their fears and anxieties (or the loss of all fears and other inhibitions) might take them.
Nowhere, of course, does the Bible commend losing control, in the way that being drunk causes someone to lose control. But just as a person can lose control to alcohol and act like a fool, the believer in Christ can give control to the Holy Spirit and experience abundant life. That’s the point. “Do not get drunk with wine,” because that’s obviously ungodly, but do give control of yourself—your tongue, your body, and your mind—into the hands of the Spirit.
Notice the ways the Holy Spirit takes control when He fills us:
And instead of living in debauchery or fruitlessness, you will experience the abundance of overflowing with the Spirit.
Father, I want to be filled with Your Spirit. I can’t do anything worthwhile otherwise. Thank You for not demanding we lose control of ourselves if we want to be in tune with you spiritually. But thank You also for not limiting me to my own ability (my inability) to control myself. My only desire is to be led and directed by your trustworthy Spirit, through the name and power of Jesus, amen.