We’re going to learn that there are four keys to inspiring others, to bringing out the best in their life.
The first one is: You gotta motivate them. You gotta help them soar beyond their present horizon. Secondly, you have to teach them. And we’re going to learn you have to teach them in the most strategic arena of their life. Third, then you have to affirm them and you have to affirm them in the areas where they’re making the most progress. And then finally, you have to correct them whenever their attitudes or their actions are thwarting the progress that God wants them to make.
And you’re going to see here the apostle Paul with supernatural, divine wisdom takes this church in the center of a pagan, pagan culture and they’ve been growing for about eighteen months, maybe two years, and he writes this letter and he’s going to take people that are really making progress and he’s going to take them to the next level because he’s going to model inspirational encouragement.
Listen to the apostle Paul, verse 1. He says, “Finally, brothers, we instructed, or you received our teaching, about how to live in order to please God.” See, he appeals to the very highest level of meaning and purpose. He says, you have the potential to please the living God of the universe.”
We need to understand, as believers, we need to look into one another’s eyes and realize we need to motivate, we need to encourage, we need to lift the horizons where people begin to sense and feel and believe they could do what they never dreamed they could do.
Motivation is not enough, though. Motivation without education is hype. You gotta raise the level, and then you have to give instruction and teaching, so they can fulfill God’s agenda.
He’s going to explain clearly what God’s will is. So notice what he says, verse 3, “For it is God’s will that you should be sanctified,” the word means “set apart,” be holy, pure, undefiled. And then he elaborates, “Namely, that you should avoid or abstain from sexual immorality.”
And the will of God is that you be sexually pure. This is saying God wants us, as believers, for our good because of His character, and His love, He wants us to be sexually pure. He’s saying, this phrase, “It is the will of God and here are the boundaries and inside the boundaries one man, one woman, sex after marriage as the fulfillment of depth, and commitment, and communication. Any other sexual expression by single people, or married people, or same-sex people, is out of bounds.”
Now, that’s what the Bible teaches. When you communicate and you want to inspire people there’s a balance. In verses 3 to 5, you tell it like it is, with conviction. But lest you get too uptight, in verses 6 through 8, you tell it why it is, with compassion. He said, you should learn to get a hold of this human body and that you should operate in such a way, in the sexual arena, that it is holy and that is honorable.”
And so he tells it like it is and he tells it with conviction. Why? Because God is a prude, because we’re puritanical, because we haven’t come out of the Ice Age? No! It’s because God cares so much.
In verses 6 through 8, he’s going to give us three specific reasons why this is the smartest, most logical, beneficial thing for you, and all the people you’re trying to help. So let’s look at it. Reason number one he says, “Look,” compassionately, now the tone changes. He says, “Don’t have sex outside of a monogamous, marital relationship because, one, it harms other people.” Verse 6, “And in this matter, no one should wrong,” it means, “trespass, sin against,” “his brother or take advantage of him.” That means, “defraud.”
Let me give you a very trite illustration. I’ll make this so trite that when you hear it you’re going to say, “Oh, I would never do that.” And then when you think, if you wouldn’t do that with ice cream, why would you do it with another person?
I want you to envision yourself going into one of the local supermarkets. Late at night so no one is around. Shiny floors. Workers are back-stocking the shelves. And you go to the ice cream counter, right? You know? The glass, see-through; there it is. Cookies and Cream, your favorite.
You pull it out, you’ve planned this very carefully so, with your trench coat, you shield, so no one can see. Holding the ice cream under your trench coat, you pull off the top. Looking both ways, hearing no footsteps, you now pull out the spoon. You dig that spoon in and it’s great. It is sweet. It tastes good. It’s wonderful.
And then you realize, “I better put this back.” You lick the spoon, stick it back, take a little saliva and smooth off the top. Well, you don’t want it to look used! Then you put the lid back on, you open the case, and you put it back, and shut it. And you say, “Ooooh, boy, was that good. Man, that was neat.”
And then someone goes to the grocery store. And their little girl has their sixth birthday. And it’s very special, everyone is there, and her favorite is Cookies and Cream. But there’s only one gallon left and as they go through with the cart, they open the case, there’s Cookies and Cream, and they pull it out and say, “Oh, great, there’s one left. This is going to make my little girl’s day.”
And they get home and they open it up and they see, “Wow, this is used stuff.” How would you feel? I believe, in our culture today, most of us are more upset about used ice cream than we are about using people that would defraud someone else. See, God is not a prude. God is holy. And when He tells you something, He tells you because you matter to Him and He doesn’t want us to spoil it.
The second reason is not only does it harm others but notice the next line, it will harm us. He goes on to say, “The Lord will avenge or punish men for all such sins, as we’ve already told you and we’ve warned you.”
He’s saying it compassionately, “Don’t have sex outside of monogamous, heterosexual relationship because there’s a price tag. I’m just telling you. God is holy, He’s not going to change His character, He loves you, He will forgive you, he’s merciful. But people that have sex get AIDS, they get psychologically wounded, they ruin families.” God is a holy, just God and this command is to protect you.
Notice the third compassionate reason, verse 7, “For God did not call us to be impure but to live holy lives.” He says, “It’s just inconsistent. God is holy, how can you live an impure, unholy life because you’re called, you’re one of His, He wants you to reflect His love, and His nature, and His character. It would just be, I mean, how could you do it? It’s so inconsistent with your calling.”
And then notice verse 8, the summary, it says, “Therefore, he who rejects this instruction,” what instruction? “about sexual purity, it’s a rejection of God who,” notice, present tense, “gives you His Holy Spirit.”
You know what? When we sin against God we grieve, we break God’s heart.
And in years, and years, and years of working with men and working with couples my observation is until you and I get the area of sexual purity consistently making progress and victory, you will not experience the peace of the Holy Spirit. And you will not experience the power of the Holy Spirit. And you will not experience Spiritual fruitfulness.
There are a lot of people that aren’t tasting, and not experiencing, a fraction of what God has for you, and I understand you live in a sex-saturated culture. I understand. Is it tough? Yeah. I mean, I used them all. I tried to negotiate at least one of the Ten Commandments out, in my first two years as a Christian. I did, “Hey, God, I go nine for ten. Really. And I’ll keep the other nine.” No negotiations. He loved me too much.
At this point, there may be some of you that are saying, “Ooh, boy, might have been a good morning to sleep in.” You know? Like, “Zzzzzzing.” I know, in a group this size, there are some people that are addicted to soap operas, romance novels, and pornography. I know, in a group this size, some of you are involved in extramarital affairs. I know, in a group this size, some of you single people are living with someone else.
You need to hear compassionately, but with conviction, what you’re doing is wrong, what you’re doing is sin, and God loves you too much and He’s saying, “Today.” Not tomorrow, not maybe, it’s not like quitting smoking. You know, I got three packs, and I’ll get down to two, and I’ll get down to one.
This isn’t one of those where you say, “You know what? I’m sleeping around, ah, three or four times a week. I’ll cut back to two, I’m really making progress.” This isn’t one of those.
This is one where you say, “Today, I’m going to break off the relationship. I won’t see her or him again. I won’t do it in person.” Because if you do it in person, you’ll be right back into it. One phone call, one letter, that’s it. “I’m sorry, this means we’re going to figure out how we live apart.” And don’t give me that, “We can’t afford to live separately.”
You can afford to live under the judgment of a holy God but you can’t afford to live separately? Go to your closest friends and say, “Hey,” - if you love one another and it’s the right person for you - “can I live with you for a while? We need to figure out how to court and get our lives pure and right, so we can get married.”
I don’t know what you need to do, but you must take a drastic step. This is the kind of sin that Jesus said when He talked about sin He said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. If your eye causes you to sin, poke it out.” Now, He didn’t mean literally because you can sin with the other eye. He means be as drastic as you need to be to deal as radically as you need to because it will eat you up.
Let me give you three very specific ways to respond to this and grow and overcome it. Because there’s victory. First, get honest. Get honest.Ruthlessly, honest.” The twelve step people have much to teach us here. Get to the point where you realize, “Hey, I can’t do this.” And that’s step two. Get honest then get desperate or broken. Get desperate.
I mean, willpower does not have the power to deliver you from sexual sin. You can’t overcome pornography, or lust, or romance novels, or cut off an affair by, “Okay, I’m going to do it today,” you can’t do it! It’s too strong.
But when you get desperate and say, “Oh, God,” I remember, I got to the point I said, “God, I can’t lick this.” And I could almost sense heaven say, “Oh great. We’re finally on the same page. I knew you couldn’t lick this.” But when you get desperate, and admit you can’t do it, then you say, “Willpower? No. Grace. God, give me grace, give me power, give me strength.” He’ll give it to you.
Get help is number three. I don’t believe you’re designed to do this on your own. Our friend in the Men’s Breakfast talked about first sharing his pornography problem straight up with his wife. And they began to pray about it as a couple.
See, what happens is he’s humbled himself, isn’t he? When you humble yourself what do you get? Grace. Grace always flows toward humility. God is always opposed to the proud. Biblical axiom.
There’s a lot at stake. I encourage you, before you walk out the doors today, determine what you will do, before the Creator of the universe, about being sexually pure and clean and you can leave forgiven, restored, and get tied in with others to help you gain victory. We’re all in this boat together.
Moving on. You motivate, you teach, now notice he affirms them. And, by the way, you need to hear this. He affirms them, where? At the point of their greatest progress.
And then, what I love, too, is that we don’t often think about, “How could you talk about people struggling with sexual purity and then affirm them?” Yeah, yeah, because you know what? Sexual purity isn’t the worst sin in the whole world. It’s not a good one and there are great consequences.
Look what he says. He says, “Now about brotherly love, we don’t need to write you for you yourselves have been taught by God how to love each other; and in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet, we urge you, brothers, do so more and more.” Do you get this?
Right after, by the way, affirmation is an excellent thing to give right after you’ve had to do a hard teaching.
Notice also that affirmation needs to be specific. He didn’t say, “Yeah, you’re a nice church, I hear some good reports.” He takes the most valued behavior, and their point of greatest progress, and he specifically says, “You are loving well and, man, I’m proud of you! Your love is awesome! Way to go, Thessalonians!”
Wouldn’t it be good to hear that after someone just busted you right between the eyes, spiritually, and you realize, “Wow, I’m not even on first base, sexually, in terms of purity in my life, as a Thessalonian.”
But God’s working in my whole life. And I’m going to deal with that but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t care. And it doesn’t mean Paul is down on me. It means he wants me to be the man or the woman, for God’s glory and my good, that I can be.
Affirmation, then, is followed by correction. And as we move to this last, little section, this grows out of a misinterpretation and miscommunication, possibly, of some teaching the apostle Paul did on the end times, on the return of Christ. And he taught, “Jesus is coming back, Jesus is coming back just as He ascended so He’ll return.”
But what happened is, at least part of the group heard this and thought to themselves, “You know, it could be today.” Well, that’s right. It could be tomorrow. And then they looked around and thought, “Boy, this is a loving church. I mean, whenever you have a need people just step up and take care of you. You need a meal, they give you a meal.
And so a certain group that was starting to grow said, “You know what? There’s no use going to work today because Jesus may be back and I want to be ready. And why go to work when all these other loving Christians can take care of me?”
Paul’s correction is, “Be responsible, make an impact.” He could have said, “Hey, man, what’s the deal? Bunch of loafers, bunch of slackers, you’re not going to work, you’ve misinterpreted what I’ve said, man, I’m up to here with you guys. Get a job!”
Now, that would have been true. But that’s not how he did it. Notice how positively he does it. He says at verse 11, “Making your ambition to do three things: Lead a quiet life, two, to mind your own business, and, three, to work with your hands,” not highly esteemed in that day, “just as we told you.” So he’s reminding them.
Well, the first little thing here about their ambition, leading a quiet life doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t talk anymore.
It’s quiet in terms of, “Get your life focused on God’s agenda, instead of this restlessness that comes in trying to fulfill your own all the time.”
Secondly, he said, “Mind your own business.” And that doesn’t mean that, you know, you don’t talk to other people and help them out. It says, “Hey, basically, you know, pay your own bills, take care of your own house, get your own life under control.” And, third, he gives them a practical way to do it, “Get a job!”
He says there are two reasons. “In order that,” or, “so that our daily life may win the respect of outsiders.” Our testimony is on the line.
“And so that you will not be dependent on anyone.” “Hey, don’t suck the life out of the group of the church. Get a job, support yourself, and, you know what? People who don’t show up, people that don’t work, people that are idle – that’s not a good testimony.”
And so you see this inspirational encourager, the apostle Paul. And he sees this group like a diamond in the rough. And he motivates them and he helps them see beyond their horizons. And then He teaches or instructs them in their most strategic area of need. And then he affirms them in their area of greatest progress. And then, finally, he corrects them.