1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 – For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel in sanctification and honor,
As people, we have been created by God as sexual beings – and it is the will of God that these desires find their fulfilment in the sanctity of marriage.
Yet the desires we have inwardly can burn in ways that have an evil expression, and which will bring destruction and devastation to our lives should they be followed through. This verse acknowledges these desires and gives us a command – that we should ‘know who to possess ourselves’.
The image is of a wild horse that needs to be bridled. Left to it’s own devices it will surely bolt and end up in places that are not good for it. But our job is to ‘possess’ the horse, to ‘own’ it and to bring it under control.
This is not an impossible task – although there are many who have suffered defeat in these areas and have given up hope that they could ever ‘possess themselves’ and exercise control over their own flesh. The Lord, through Paul, gives us this command knowing that we CAN know how to bridle our desires, and make our body obey us! If God says that it’s possible – then it really is possible!
Although this verse speaks specifically of sexual sin, there are numerous ways the desires of our flesh can manifest. Our job is to identify these and work, with the grace and power of the Spirit of God, to bring them under control.
1 Thessalonians 2:5-6- For neither were we at any time found using words of flattery, as you know, nor a cloak of covetousness (God is witness), nor seeking glory from men (neither from you nor from others), when we might have claimed authority as apostles of Christ.
Every calling comes with its own set of struggles. Although Paul had no problem boldly declaring his calling as an apostle of Christ, he gives us an insight into three particular temptations that face apostles and leaders:
1) Words of flattery
Flattery is telling people what they want to hear, when it’s something less than the truth. There is a definite line between prophetically speaking to a person about the great things that God has for their future, and falling into the trap of flattery. Flattery has the potential to gather great crowds of people around us, but Jesus has called us to ‘speak the truth in love’.
2) A Cloak Of Covetousness
Coveting is an inward desire to possess what has been given to someone else. Paul refers to a ‘cloak of covetousness’ here because a common way that coveting manifests amongst Christians is to cover that desire with an outward appearance that looks holy. It’s not enough to want great things – we have to look at why we want them. Is it covetousness at work?
3) Seeking glory from men
We get our glory and praise from one of two places – either from people, or from God. Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 5&6 that if we do righteous acts simply because we want people to notice us – then we will receive our reward in full. In contrast, leaders must epitomise a ‘performance for an audience of one’.