Pastors are often asked questions about God’s will for a particular decision someone is facing. “How do I know which job is God’s will for me?” Or which relationship? Or which city to live in? Often I do not know the answer to a question about God’s will in a specific situation, but I can always point to one thing I know for sure is God’s will. And it is not a small matter. In fact, if we understand this and commit to this, the answer to a lot of decisions becomes clearer.
“For this is God’s will, your sanctification” (I Thessalonians 4:3). The word sanctification means to bet set apart.
- In the Old Testament the Sabbath is set apart from other days (Genesis 2:3).
- After God rescued His people from Egyptian slavery, He commanded them to set apart the firstborn son in every family to Him (Exodus 13:2).
- When the tabernacle and temple are built, the priests were set apart to serve, their clothing was set apart, and objects in the temple were set apart (Exodus 28:38).
A day was differentiated from the other days. Clothes were set apart from other clothes. Objects were set apart. Now God has set us apart by declaring us to be His! Because we are His, we are commanded us to live as if we are set apart – to walk in holiness and become more and more like Him. “For God has not called us to impurity but to live in holiness” (I Thessalonians 4:7). This is His will for you.
This passage was initially written to people who lived Thessalonica. Likes most cities in the Greco-Roman world, sexual activity was rampant. One of the Greek orators wrote about life in that time period: “We keep mistresses for pleasure, concubines for our day-to-day bodily needs, but we have wives to produce legitimate children and serve as trustworthy guardians of our homes.” Women was mistreated and objectified. Men commonly pursued multiple sexual partners. And then there were these new Christians living in the city and Paul, who penned the passage, connected their sanctification with the sexual ethics of the day. He reminded them “you are set apart. God’s will for you is that you would not be like the world, that you would be pure.”
Sanctification is not just about sex; it is about growing in our commitment to our Savior. But sanctification impacts all our lives. God has already revealed His will for us – that we would become more like Him, more holy, living our identity as those who are set apart.
As we wrestle with decisions, a good question to ask is “Will this make me more like Jesus?” “Will this make me more holy?” If there are multiple job offers, ask which one will make you more like Jesus. If there are multiple choices on the dating front, ask which person will help you know Jesus more. If there are multiple options on a decision ask, “Which one is more likely to help me know Jesus more and make Him more known to others?” If both options help you grow in holiness as a set apart child of God, then make a choice and go for it.
Yes, He cares about your job and your hobbies but He cares about your joy and your holiness more. Yes, He cares about where you will live, but He cares more about your walk with Him. This is His will – your sanctification.