1 Thessalonians 4
…that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. – Vs 1
The NET Bible translates the last part of this verse as "that you do so more and more." Paul uses this phrase twice in this chapter. Here in association with the manner in which they walk or live their faith out on a daily basis. They are to excel still more -- they are to live lives that please God and to do so more and more. The commands of Christ and their obeying of them are to be increasingly more a part of their lives. Why? Because God's will - His desire or purpose for their lives - is holiness that is becoming increasingly deeper, greater, more pervasive, and influential over their day-to-day lives.
And Paul is speaking to us as well. He gives us practical, everyday examples of what this progressive, aggressive sanctification or growth in holiness should look like. He says it should impact the morality of our lives, especially sexual morality. As we increase in holiness, our desire to live sexually immoral lives should decrease. My holiness should impact how I use my body, including my eyes, hands, and mind. Because God did not call me to lives a life of impurity, but holiness.
Paul says that as we excel still more we will love more. Both our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as those who are outside the family of God – our lost neighbors, friends, coworkers, and all those with whom we share this planet. Paul gets really practical when he says, "we urge you … to aspire to lead a quiet life, to attend to your own business, and tow work with your hands" (Vs 11). It seems according to 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12, that there were some who were not doing this. Paul says this kind of practical, progressive holiness will show those outside of Christ what it means to live a decent, quiet, godly life. One that is characterized by diligence, faithfulness, and responsibility. As we increase in holiness we don't become "other worldly" but instead we show what kind of life mankind was meant to live prior to the introduction of sinn and the effects of the fall.
Excel still more! Do so more and more. So how are we doing? Is our holiness increasing? Paul is not saying we need to get more holiness. Because in Christ, we have been made holy. We were set apart by God as holy at salvation. But we are to increasingly live out who we already are in our daily lives. It is to become increasingly more apparent that we are indeed holy by the way we act, react, think, talk, walk, live, and relate to others. Not in our own strength, but through the Word of God and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. I can live an increasingly more holy life because I am a holy person possessing the presence and power of God. Holiness is in my new DNA. It is my nature. It is who I am!
Father, I want to excel still more in my holiness. I want to live out of who I am – according to my new identity in Christ – not my old sinful nature. I am not just a "new and improved" me, but a whole new creation in Christ with a brand new nature – the nature of Christ Himself living in me. My heart is new because Christ is there. I live under new management with a new power available to me I didn't have before. I live by faith in the Son of God. According to His power, not mine. Living His life, not mine. Help me to live a life of personal integrity, grace, and courage – more and more everyday of my life. Amen