(Image courtesy of http://popmn.org.)
"[A]nd may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.  Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives His Holy Spirit to you" (1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:8).
The question is often asked: "What is God's will for my life?"  We ask this question as if there was some magical, golden path we must watch out for, and if we miss it, we are doomed.  God's will for my life, however, is not magical at all.

This is the will of God, that you be made holy.  "Be holy because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16).

Sanctification, or the process by which God's regenerated creation is made holy (that is, into the likeness of Him), is a lifelong pursuit that is empowered by the Holy Spirit.  For our behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, affections, and motives to be transformed from sinfulness to holiness is an amazing thing!

Although holiness is applied by the Holy Spirit, it is us who work for it.  Paul says in Philippians that each one is to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (2:12b-13).  But what does this mean?

It does not mean that we are, say, in a rowboat, where we apply the work and the direction.  Likewise, it does not mean that we are in a motorboat, where we sit back and let the motor do all the work.  It is, however, like we are in a sailboat, where we busy ourselves with the integrity of our stern, tie the ropes taut, manage the sails - while the wind provides the energy and direction of our movement (see John 3).  We are to work out our salvation, but it is the Lord who works according to His good will and pleasure.  The tension between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility is evident.

The question, then, is why does God care about His people's holiness?  Why doesn't He just save us from hell, let us live how we want, and take us to Heaven when we die?  Isn't that what it's all about?  By no means!  On the contrary, holiness is the fruit that assures us of our salvation and glorifies the Father.  It is not "believe once and you'll be saved."  It is "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."  This is a continuous and present act of belief, not a one time event that happened somewhere in the past.  To grow in holiness - to hate our sin more and more and to love the law of God more and more - is to show that we are, indeed, children of God and heirs of His kingdom.

And what is the law of God?  It is love.  "Love is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:10).  It is interesting that Paul in 1 Thessalonians prefaces his command to be holy with "increase and abound in love for one another... so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness."  The Christian growing in love for God and others is the means by which we are established in holiness.

At first, the Christian is motivated by the idea that "I should" love God and others more.  After some time, the attitude changes to "I can" love God and others more.  Finally, the Christian's attitude begins to say "I want" to love God and others more.  The Holy Spirit changes the motives and passions of the carnal man to that which is entirely new; "for the old has gone and the new has come" (1 Corinthians 5:17).

Let us, then, with eager hearts, pray that the Lord increase and abound us in love, that our hearts may be blameless, established in holiness.  For this, indeed, is God's will for our lives.  His will transcends jobs, relationships, sickness, sufferings - "in all things, He is working for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).  And what is His purpose?  Well, we know what it is now: "for this is the will (purpose) of God: your sanctification."

Currently, according to medical personnel, my month-old son has a large hole in his heart.  The doctors are monitoring him and have begun prescribing medication to lessen the volume of blood his heart is currently pumping.  One side of his heart is very large and strong, but the other is weaker.  We await more tests to see if the doctor's will recommend surgery.  Yet through it all, the Lord's will is being accomplished.  Some may say, "How can you say that?"  We are not promised our best life now, full of health and wealth.  On the contrary, we are promised the opposite: a life full of pain, suffering, and death.  Therefore, as long as my son draws breath, we have received mercy from God.  Even in his death (and someday he will die, along with all of us) the Lord's grace is sufficient.  In all of these things, the merciful Lord is working for the glory of Himself; and I want to see Him glorified and honored through my sanctification.

“If you want to know the future details of God’s will of decree, you don’t want a renewed mind, you want a crystal ball" (John Piper).