Monday, December 11, 2017

The impossible life

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

TO CHEW ON: "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Reading through this passage, I'm struck by how impossible its instructions are:
"… be patient with all …. always pursue what is good, for yourselves and for all … Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks …. Test all things … Abstain from every form of evil…"

Can you do it? Neither can I!

The process Paul is describing here is sanctification. He uses a form of the word in a sum-up verse after naming the specifics above: "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely..." - 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

The Encyclopedia of the Bible defines sanctification:
[…  the process of acquiring sanctity or holiness as a result of association with deity. Its synonyms are consecration, dedication, holiness and perfection" - Encyclopedia of the Bible, accessed through]

It's an impossibly tall order. However, the next verse has the reassurance that we're not expected to do it by ourselves. This process of sanctification is not, finally, our project but His:

"He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it" - 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Whew! So we can just sit back and it will happen? Not exactly. We have a part to play. It's really a joint effort.

An article in The Dictionary of Bible Themes lists means and obstacles to sanctification (each undergirded by many Bible verses*):

Means of sanctification:
  • The work of the Holy Spirit
  • Meditation on the Scriptures.
  • Our active pursuit of holiness and righteousness.
  • Obedience and self-denial.
  • Prayer.

Obstacles to sanctification:
  • A lack of faith.
  • Rebellion against God.
  • Satanic temptation.
  • Self-indulgence and greed.
  • Yielding to sinful desires.

Let's view the specifics of the sanctified life (the 'be patient with all," the "rejoice always," the "pray without ceasing," the "in everything give thanks" etc.) through the grid of these means and obstacles. Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to put His finger on where we need to change—be more joyful, pray more, give thanks etc.? Do we read the Bible? Do we meditate on it? Do we actually obey the things God tells us to do? Do we pray, confessing the times we resist, rebel, mess-up?

Or do we throw up our hands with "This is too hard!" and carry on as usual, resisting the voice of conviction to be joyful, pray, give thanks, procrastinating on obedience, telling ourselves, everyone else can live like they please—why can't I?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the means You have given to bring about this set-apart life. I love the part of the definition that says it comes about through "association with deity." I want to hang out with You today. Amen.

MORE: *Access the article on Sanctification and view supporting Scriptures:
1. Click on the link 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 (passage on
2. Click on "Study This" - the blue box that displays to the right of the reference.
3. In the right sidebar that opens, click on "Dictionary of Bible Themes."
4. Select #6745 "Sanctification."

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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