Let me tell you just a little bit about my obsession. When I was fifteen, I gave my life to Jesus Christ because He gave His life so that I could be restored to a good and holy God. When I was nineteen, I experienced God in a way that I couldn’t even begin to describe if I wanted to. My encounter with God caused me to have a passion for the purpose with which God created me that was greater than any passion I have ever experienced before or will ever experience again. That passion, growing from the Holy Spirit’s work within my heart, provided me with a vision. That vision, in turn, motivated me and inspired me to begin writing and to begin preaching the Word of God to all people. This passion quickly became the core ideal within each arena of my life. My relationship with God became the core ideal within each arena of my life. What breaks my heart, most of all, is when a professing Christian, who claims to have experienced God, does not have the same passion or excitement despite any type of opposition.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 (ESV)
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. Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live to work with your hands as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependant on no one.
Pursuing God requires constant maturing
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.
1 Thessalonians 4:1 ESV
God, according to His own nature and according to His own definition, is infinite. Therefore, when we pursue God in any way, we are committing to a constant maturing in the faith. There is always a way in which we can grow closer to God, whether that be in our knowledge of God, our knowledge about God or our behavior for God. If God really is a good as we say He is, and He is, we ought to naturally want more and more of what He gives, and we ought to naturally want to please Him more and more. The problem is this: Most Christians, at least in America, are okay with having a mediocre relationship with Christ. Many local churches support that mediocrity by feeding their members the word of God through a baby bottle instead of exploring the deeper truths that God has given us, so that we can better know Him. As a result, those outside the church see the Christian faith as a joke, and Christians in more hostile nations are appalled by shallow, western Christianity; because we are not hungry for God.
The author of Hebrews, chapter 6 verse1, states it this way, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits” (ESV).
After I gave my life over to Jesus Christ, I was fine with just having escaped the flames of Hell. I was that way for three years because that is the way I thought it was supposed to be. We give our hearts to Christ and He takes care of the rest. Even though I gave my life to Jesus Christ, I chose to ignore Him in my life. I did not live according to the relationship I had with Him. Then, my freshman year at Oklahoma Baptist University, God revealed Himself to me in a way that I could not ignore. I guess you could say that I saw the Lord. After being exposed to God like that, there is no way that I could ever want to turn back. There is no way that I could ever want to stop pursuing Him and living according to His plan. After seeing God, I was, still am and will forever be obsessed. I need to have more of what Christ gives everyday, and, if I don’t get that, I feel completely lost. It burdens me that it is not this way in the life of every believer because I know what so many people are missing out on. They say that they have seen the Lord or have been exposed to God, but they still live a casual life. Christians, I am convinced that living a casual life after God truly reveals Himself to us is impossible. All of the sudden, we feel a need to know God more and more and to please God more and more.
By what means do we know and please God 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.
1 Thessalonians 4:2-7 ESV
The very first thing we must realize is that God alone is our sanctification. It is by God alone that we can be purified and returned to God, and therefore returned to our true purpose for living. Somehow, especially in twenty-first century American society, we seem to think, on many occasions, that being good, religious people is good enough. What we fail to realize is occupying a pew on Sunday morning or allowing someone to dunk us in the baptistery will not make us clean. Do not misunderstand me. Church is important. In fact, I am convinced that the greater relationship we have with God, the more being in fellowship with the local body of believers just once a week will not be enough. We will be so hungry that, every time the church building is open, we will be there as a community to glean some sort of greater spiritual understanding from one another. We must rely completely on God to make us more pure, for it is the only way in which we can grow in our relationship with Him.
Of course, relying on God means that we obey God’s commands: abstain from sexual immorality, control your body in holiness and honor and guard yourself against lust. God’s commands are not limited to these. God did not call us to impurity. God called us in holiness. We, ourselves, cannot achieve holiness. We can only receive it from God. The more we allow God to provide that for us, the less we have to try and earn it. The more we grow in holiness, the greater satisfaction we receive in this life and the more God’s glory is revealed to others through us. This requires that we actively pursue God. He is infinitely always there and always available. We are as close to God as we choose to be. I’m challenging you this morning to move on to a greater maturity in the faith that has been entrusted to us.
The common refusal to mature
You might ask, “What if I am okay with where I am? Do I really need to live the radical, obsessive life that you are describing in order to have a relationship with Christ and go to Heaven?” Pay very close attention, Christian.
Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
1 Thessalonians 4:8 ESV
After the Paul challenges his audience to please God more and more, and after telling them that they need to rely on and obey God more and more, he then tells them that refusal to do this, refusal to grow in maturity or in their relationships with God, is an act of disregard toward God. This means that, in the three years that I was okay with “just having Jesus”, I was actually disregarding God. It also means that when each of us grows complacent in our relationship with God, we actually disregard God. When we are okay with just being with the rest of God’s body, the Church, once a week, we actually disregard God. When we do not yearn to discover God’s deeper truths or when we choose not to share those truths with others, we disregard God. It is such a wonder that we grow dissatisfied in our relationship with God or with church. It is such a wonder that we don’t feel God around us. It is such a wonder that Christians in America are not excited about what God is doing. Listen. I have met the Lord, and I will never be the same again. Sometimes I wonder if professing Christians have even met the God I serve. If you have met God, then you should also have an obsession that no one in this world can explain. You should also have a passion and a yearning to have more and more of what God offers and to please God more and more.
How is it that we disregard God by not striving for a greater maturity? God gave us His Holy Spirit. If we do not allow God’s Holy Spirit to work within us, then we are rejecting God’s gift over and over again. It would almost be like cooking out on Memorial Day and having a great time with family while forgetting, as we often do, the importance of the day. We must not forget the men and women who gave their lives so that we have the freedom to celebrate! In the same way, we celebrate Christianity while forgetting that we need to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. For this is the reason we celebrate in the first place. Live in your relationship with Christ!
So then, we commit, as God’s people, to never stop growing in our faith: to study God’s word, to allow God’s revelation to us through His word, to be in the fellowship of believers more than just once a week, to earnestly pursue God and to allow God to transform our lives! Some of you need to recommit your lives to Christ. Some need to start a relationship with Christ. Some need to step beyond the church pew and actually serve God. Some may need to become members, and join this local, New Testament church. I am convinced that if we commit now to earnestly seeking God, we will all gain a greater obsession, a good obsession, and a greater passion for God, and for the lost. Let me challenge you to lay everything down on the alter before God. Stop being complacent in your relationship and in your service. In the words of contemporary recording artist Kevin Burgess, “I’ve seen the Lord. The same I’ll never be. Some say they’ve seen the Lord, but live all casually. I don’t know what you saw, but the Lord ain’t what you see. Once you really see the Lord, your obsessed with what you see.”