23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Paul’s typical style, he ends his letter with final instructions the reader of behaviors and habits to keep. In the verses 12-22 before this, there is quite a to-do list: “acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.”
However, lest the people get into their heads that all they need to do to be a good follower of Jesus, or to be perfectly holy, is get busy with the doing and being, Paul makes clear that becoming holy and perfect is the work God does, not a standard of behavior or list of tasks. Looking at today’s verse together with the ones before and after it, Paul says, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” We do everything we do, but it is God who is actively sanctifying us (making us holy), and we are relatively passively being kept blameless by Him from the moment we accepted Jesus’ life as the price for our sin past, present and future, until He comes again.
But, if God is the one that makes us holy, then what is this list for? It is a very helpful description of what living out Jesus’ values and principles look like on the inside (spirit and soul) and outside (body). Perhaps it is also an implied reference to Jesus when He said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35). Paul wants to guide people that the love Jesus talks about is not only conventionally “soft and fluffy“- although it is sometimes – but love is also practical, firm, corrective, resilient and hopeful. It is multi-dimensional. It is also multi-directional, outward-oriented towards others, and upward-oriented towards God. God works through our life choices and attitudes, the people we interact with, to impact, shape and mold our character to perfection. God is faithful to keep working on us (relatively active role), but we need to show up and participate (relatively passive role) too.
Thoughts for the day
Sometimes we can think of God’s relationship with us and His process of making us perfect and holy like a dance.
- He comes up to us, extends His hand daily to invite us to dance, will you stand up and take His hand every day?
- In a dance, there is a leader and the follower, the dance has no flow and almost becomes a tussle if both parties are trying to lead. How willing are you to let Him lead you around the ballroom of life?
- Why have you answered the questions above the way you do?
Dear God and Heavenly Father, I want to enjoy “dancing” with you every day on polished ballroom floors and in the rocky places. Help me see your hand daily extended to me, take it and say yes to your lead every time. Amen.