WONDERFUL THING IN THIS PASSAGE – We all want very much to please God. So, it’s surprising how unsure we sometimes are – and how much we sometimes disagree – about what it is that pleases Him. In today’s chapter, Paul gives the Thessalonians and us a brief “Pleasing God 101” class:
“We ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received instruction from us on how you should live and please God – as you are doing – do this even more. For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is God’s will, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:1-3).
Remember, the apostle had been with these new Christians only a few weeks before he was whisked away for his own safety. However, from the moment each of them was saved, and for however many days he had with them, Paul constantly taught them how to please God – that was the focus of his instruction. And it had worked. Timothy brought back a report that they were, indeed, living in ways that pleased God.
Paul’s main new instruction to them in this follow-up letter was, “Do this even more.” And he reminded them how: “For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus.” God wanted each of them to be made holy like Jesus (“sanctification”), and that could only happen as they did what Jesus commanded.
WONDERFUL THING IN MY LIFE – Somehow the Lord stopped me in the middle of verse three and brought my eyes back to verse two. He asked me, “So, is this verse true – for you and for the folks you’re writing to? DO you know the commands of Jesus?”
The Thessalonians did. After their short training, under the duress of persecution and with no New Testament for reference, they knew enough of Jesus’ commands that they were able to live lives pleasing to God. Now, these first converts were from the synagogue, so they were familiar with the Old Testament laws. But those aren’t the commands that allowed them to please God. Jesus occasionally referred to those, but most of his commands were new: “You have heard that it was said … But I tell you …” (repeatedly in Matt 5:21-48).
If we really want to please Jesus, and He tells us the things that please Him, you’d think we’d want to take note of those things. But, in all the time I’ve spent in the New Testament, I’d never thought about the specific commands “through the Lord Jesus.”
Several came to mind right away, and I had a great few minutes with the Lord Jesus, saying His favorite two words: YES, LORD. Yes, I’ll “come” to You and “follow” You. Yes, I’ll “listen” to your voice. Yes, I’ll “love” my brothers and sisters as You have loved me. Yes, I’ll “forgive” because you forgave me. Yes, I’ll “repent” when you show me anything that displeases You. Yes, I’ll “seek first the Kingdom.”
A brief internet search for “the commands of Jesus” will pull up a number of longer lists that others have already compiled for our convenience. Then approach them not as a slave fearing his master’s rod, but as a child yearning for his Father’s smile.