Lesson 1: Grace That Sanctifies

But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.

– Romans 6:22 (NRSV)

The third form of God’s unearned love is grace that sanctifies. Led by the Holy Spirit, we are slowly transformed into the people God desires us to be. “Sanctification” is the process of becoming more like Jesus and increasingly set apart for God’s work (made “holy”).

Devotion: Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12. God desires our sanctification. This passage offers a good overview of sanctification, incorporating many ideas we will explore in the coming days: it is a process, driven by the Spirit, but requiring our cooperation. Living in a way that pleases God does not mean everyone should become missionaries, preachers, or martyrs. If God calls us to one of these, we should respond. However, too often, people elevate these roles over their own callings. Each of us is invited to live faithfully where we are. Paul realized many people are called to lead quiet lives, doing their jobs, showing love to others, and minding their own business. Becoming holy people means living in a way that allows others to see our good works and give praise to God no matter where we are (Mt 5:16). What is encouraging about God transforming the world through everyday people led by grace? What might make that idea frightening? How do “holy” people act? Who do you know that acts that way? Do you think of yourself as being slowly molded into a more holy person? 

Personal Worship Option: Reread 1 Thessalonians 4:4. Many faithful people have issues with their bodies: unhealthy eating, self-image, sexual temptations, fitness, abuse, etc. Your body is a gift from God. It allows you to experience other blessings. Spend time in prayer reflecting on the blessing/struggles of your body. How does God view your attitude toward your body?

Dig A Little Deeper:

4:1 Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13. Paul assumes the teachings of Jesus are handed down to the apostles, who then pass them on to the Church. How do the teachings of our faith get handed down now? What would the perfect system for instruction in the Church look like?

4:3 “Fornication” (Greek, “porneia”) refers to sex between unmarried persons, but it can also mean all forms of sexual sin. The Roman world saw sexual promiscuity as a norm. What are the current struggles the Church faces regarding sexual standards? How have views on sexuality changed over the years?

4:6 Which motivates you more to be just and moral: potential judgment and punishment (4:6); God’s call to holiness (4:7); or the presence of the Holy Spirit guiding you (4:8)? How do these three work together as a foundation for Christian ethics?

4:11 What is being communicated by “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life…?” How might this call mean different things in different cultures? When might Christians need to hear this message? What does 4:12 state is the goal of this lifestyle? How urgent a call is this passage for modern Christians? When might we display false enthusiasm?

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