Discipleship: Boundaries + Goals

I don’t like disclaimers but there is some protection in them. I tell you what I am not saying, so you can read/hear/process what I am saying. No hidden messages here. Okay? Thanks. (insert smile of relief)

The passage I want to cover has the heading “Live to Please God” in the New Living Translation (NLT). We will read this passage, and then zoom out. Okay? That’s the plan. Here we go.

Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more. 2 For you remember what we taught you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

1 thessalonians 4:1-2 NLT

Discipleship is about us, about God, and about us in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If we understanding that it is ours to submit, then we keep a “God is greater” perspective and can humble down. These first two verses suggest three things. First, there is a way to live that pleases God. Second, there is a way to live that does not please God. Third, discipleship should include lessons on how to please God with our lives. These are the goals of discipleship.

Verses 3-8 encourage the creation of boundaries to honor the body. Many are taught that the flesh deserves no respect because the flesh causes us to sin. The flesh makes us carnal and keeps us carnal. But this set of verses encourages respect for the body because God gave us His Holy Spirit. The implied thought is that the Holy Spirit lives in us, so let’s be holy. What does holiness look like? Sexual sin, lustful passion, doing harm to and cheating Christian brothers and sisters, is not holiness. These behaviors are not becoming of the saints because they are impure. We have a choice, though. Verse 8 offers a strong warning: whoever refuses holiness by committing these acts is rejecting God. Why? Because the Holy Spirit lives in us. Wow!

Verses 9-10 provide a wonderful contrast in approach, to go from an exhortation to holiness to a celebration of love in action. The Thessalonians are commended for how they show love. There is a strong and effective demonstration of love in the faith community. The believers receive encouragement to keep on showing love.

Finally, verses 11-12 provide some practical wisdom. Live a quiet life. Mind your own business and work with your hands. Be responsible, independent even. Then find that clean living attracts the respect of non-Christians.

So, where’s the lesson for discipleship? Here’s how I see it.

  1. Holiness is an achievable goal because it is a calling from the Father.
  2. Holiness requires boundaries (just like everything else!).
  3. It is possible to show God’s love and have a need to be holy.
  4. Boundaries are the result of a choice. As we grow in grace and in the knowledge of God, we learn to choose the people, places, things, actions, and thoughts that please God.
  5. Discipleship, or following Jesus, helps us establish the right boundaries… as a healthy life practice.
  6. Holiness is a by-product of discipleship. If we walk with God, we will learn what he commands and loves, and as a love response, we will do what pleases Him.

By no stretch is this simple, but it’s not too hard for us either. Discipleship yields results — not just personal benefits, but God benefits too. God gets the glory when we choose Him. Think about it. To those of us who were improperly indoctrinated about holiness, begin and complete a detox. Let the Holy Spirit lead us safely into the truth about holiness.

When we walk in holiness, people will know we belong to God. That’s it, that’s all, that’s all there is. Selah.


Dr. Shaunta Scroggins is the founder and organizer of The Bereans’ Commentary.

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