Archive for the ‘1 Thessalonians’ Category

1 Thessalonians 5

1 Thessalonians 5 has Paul continuing to talk about the Second Coming of Christ.  “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”.  There are some who claim to know when Jesus will return, but the bottom line is they truly have no idea.  In fact, there are many who will miss being ready completely.  “While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape”.  We’re not going to know when Jesus will return, so we need to have our act together and be prepared at all times, which translates into a vibrant and personal relationship with Jesus all the time!

Paul challenges us not to put life on auto-pilot.  “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober”.  Being a Christ Follower is full time.  It isn’t an hour on Sunday morning in the pew.  It is full time 24/7 always walking with the Savior.  “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing”. God desires us to spend eternity with Him – He wants none to perish – but we have to take the step of receiving His gift of grace through Christ to make sure we are ready for that day.

And as we wait, we live in a way that encourages and builds up those around us.  What does that looks like?  Paul tells us to “admonish the idle,  encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all”.  The sad news is that most of us avoid these folks.  We want to hang out with people who are going places and doing things, who have resources and are successful, and avoid people that might require us to climb into the mud where they are living so we can make a difference.  But that is what Paul wants from us.  To be a difference in the lives of those who need it.

He wraps this first letter to the church in Thessalonica by giving a list of things that should define them as a body of Christ Followers:

  • Rejoice always
  • pray without ceasing
  • give thanks in all circumstances
  • Do not quench the Spirit
  • Do not despise prophecies
  • test everything
  • hold fast what is good
  • Abstain from every form of evil

Here’s the playbook for how we should prepare for Christ’s return.  Jesus is coming again.  We need to be sure we are ready.  First we need a personal relationship with Him to address the consequences of our sin and cover us with His blood.  Second we need to be living in obedience to God’s direction of how we can become the person He desires and bring Him honor and glory and praise.  Are you ready?

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1 Thessalonians 4

1 Thessalonians 4 has Paul talking about how we are to live.  Twice in this chapter, he uses the phrase “do so more and more”.  We can never do too much of the things that please God, or obey Him too much.  So what does that look like.  “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”.  In a nutshell – God’s plan for us is to sanctify us.

Paul goes on to say “God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness”.  As a Christ Follower, God wants us to be sanctified – which means to be set apart – and to become holy.  He describes some of what that looks like in the verses above but goes on to say “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands….so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one”.  Here’s the key to really focusing on this: we have to live for an audience of One.  We spend far too much time worrying about what other people think of the things we think and say and do.  The truth is that we should only truly care about what God thinks – no one else truly matters.

How we live matters.  We’re all going to stand before God someday and give account.  The standard for eternal life in heaven is not ours, but God’s alone.  He wants us sanctified and holy – pure and free from sin – and that is a problem for every one of us.  We will fail the entry exam.  We are sinners and left to stand before Him alone will be rejected from entering.  Our one and only hope is the gift of grace He has offered us through Jesus Christ.  But we have to accept that gift and make it our own – we must have a personal relationship with the Savior.

Paul wraps up the chapter describing what is ahead for those who know Jesus.  “We declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord”.  When Christ returns, it will be a glorious day.  He’s coming back with fanfare and complete control and will bring those who know Him with Himself into eternity in Heaven.  That’s a day we should all be looking forward to as Christ Followers.  The secret is to be sure we have that relationship with Him so we can experience that glorious day!

1 Thessalonians 3

1 Thessalonians 3 has Paul explaining why he was willing to send his right hand man, Timothy, to them while he stayed alone back in Athens.  This was a significant cost and investment Paul is making to care for the church in Thessalonica, but since he was unable to go himself he sent the best he had on his behalf.  Timothy’s charge was to “establish and exhort” the Christ Followers there.  Both are necessary, but establishing comes first. Encouragement can really only come after we are established in the right direction; otherwise, we are only encouraged to go further down the wrong path.

The believers in Thessalonica were under affliction, but Paul had warned them it was coming.  “For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know”.  Being a Christ Follower comes with a price.  For many around the globe, a significant part of the cost Jesus warns us to count, is suffering and persecution.  In our place and time, we’ve not experienced what many of our predecessors and those from other parts of the world experienced in the past and present.  But we need to prepare for suffering in the future as it is coming our way.

The enemy was after Christ Followers then, as he is today.  Paul reminds them “the tempter had tempted you”.  Paul recognized that the tempter – that is, Satan – wanted to take advantage of the chaos created by this time of suffering. As it was with Job, Satan wanted to tempt the Thessalonians to give up on God.  He exhorts them to stay the course, and assures them that they are praying to “see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith”.  All of us get discouraged from time to time in our faith.  We need people around us that can not only keep us on course, but can encourage us to keep moving along the path on our journey to follow Jesus.

Paul ends this chapter with a prayer for the people there.  “Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and 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”.  Paul focuses on having these Christ Followers live a life of love for each other.  Why?  He writes “so that”.  The result of loving one another is it establishes our hearts blameless and holy.  If we are focused on loving others, we put our biggest problem – our focus on self – aside and we can live as Christ Followers focused on what matters which is the people around us.  Being a Christ Follower is not about me.  It is about those around me.  Love is what God wants them to experience through me.

1 Thessalonians 2

1 Thessalonians 2 has Paul writing to explain the marks of his ministry.  He wants it to be clear exactly what their motives have been and to make it clear that his character is above reproach.  “But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict”.  Paul didn’t have an easy road as an Apostle of Jesus Christ sharing the gospel.  He was resisted at every turn, and often driven out of the places he went to share Christ crucified.  But he stayed the course, always speaking with boldness.  As Christ Followers today, we really don’t face much persecution or resistance to the gospel, yet we still struggle to share.  We need to have the heart Paul demonstrated – sharing Christ needs to be high on our list of things to do.

Paul makes it clear this wasn’t his agenda, but God’s.  “For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts”.  There was no hidden motives in what Paul and his teams were doing.  They were obeying God so they could take the gospel to Gentiles around the known world at that time.  He traveled tens of thousands of miles on his missionary journey, not to rack up frequent sailing miles, but to take the message of Jesus to all corners of mankind.

Impressively, Paul and his band of brothers were careful to make sure they didn’t burden those they went to share the gospel with.  “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God”.  Paul was a tentmaker by trade and was very careful not to expect the people he was sharing the gospel with to support his efforts, even though he certainly could have asked for that.  He voluntarily gave that up to set himself apart from others in false religions who used their scam to take money from people.  Paul worked hard, and then would devote a part of the day to preaching.

As Paul and his team shared the gospel, they didn’t shy away from telling people what they needed to do.  “We exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory”.  Being a Christ Follower is not a ticket to live any way we want.  In fact, we move into a place where our focus needs to be on living in a way that glorifies God.  We have a higher standard.  Paul reminds them that core to that happening is to believe God’s Word as the source of direction and truth.  “We also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers”.  God’s Word needs to be the roadmap for our life.  That’s how we know the way to walk worthy of God!

1 Thessalonians 1

1 Thessalonians 1 has Paul writing to the church he had founded in Thessalonica during his second missionary journey.  He was only in the city a short time because he was forced out by enemies of the faith. But the Thessalonians continued alive and active. Though Paul had to suddenly leave this young church, his deep concern for them prompted this letter.  He was an amazing man of God, but he usually didn’t work alone.  In this case, he mentions “Silvanus and Timothy” who were often part of Paul’s team to encourage and uplift the church.

Paul hadn’t spent much time with them earlier because of the assault on him when their earlier.  After only a few weeks of ministry, he had to flee from an angry mob. He moved on to Berea – again enjoying several weeks of ministry, but soon driven out by the same Thessalonian mob.  They had his number and were trying to keep him from having an impact.  But there were some faithful in Thessalonica, and Paul wants to encourage them to stay the course. “For we know,  brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction”.  Their faith and labor had produced good works, and Paul was excited to support them.

One of the most effective ways to lead is through sharing examples of others who have followed.  Paul’s method of teaching Christ Followers was pretty simple – he told them to do what he did and imitate himself. No different here, and they have been doing it. “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia”.  This gave Paul a great story to tell, but in fact, he didn’t have to tell it.  The Thessalonians were living life so strongly as Christ Followers the story was being told on its own.  Their lives were shining brightly and they were examples to those around them.

Scripture tells us to let our light shine.  This church was that and much more.  “Your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything….you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come”.  This is a dream situation for Paul.  Often he was doing the heavy lifting in ministry, but in this case, the church was walking in faith and obedience.  They let their light shine everywhere, but also were addressing the sin of idolatry and were lining up with God.  Does your light shine where you are each day?  If people follow your example, will they get to Jesus like the people of Thessalonica led those around them?  Be strong and let your light lead those in your patch to the Cross!

1 Thessalonians 5

Paul wraps up his first letter to the church at Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 5.  This is a little further clarification on the things to come, and then a list of directions on how we need to live as we await Jesus coming again.  He begins by reminding us that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”.  We will not know the date and time.  We won’t have a calendar appointment in Outlook reminding us Jesus is coming.  It will happen without warning (well not exactly as scripture is full of the details on God’s plan for His return), but it won’t be broadcast with lots of time to prepare.  That time is now.  We need to be getting ready for Christ’s return today.  We don’t know when it will happen.  Are you ready?  Paul reminds us “you are not in darkness….for that day to surprise you…..you are all children of light”.  We have the plan in our fingers if we are reading the Bible.  We need to study and be prepared.  As Paul puts it: “let us keep awake and be sober”.  We need to wake up and pay attention to what God had given us in preparation for Jesus coming again.  We have direction.  “Put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation”.  Sound familiar?  Some of the same terminology we find in how we are to handle spiritual warfare as found in Ephesians 6.  We need to be ready.

 

Paul goes on to remind us of God’s plan for each of us.  “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”.  If you were wondering what God’s plan is for your life, Paul wrote it well.  God wants us to be saved from eternal wrath through Jesus.  How can that happen?  Paul goes on to say He “died for us…..so that…..we might live with Him”.  Did you catch that?  Jesus went to the Cross and sacrificed His life so we might live and have eternal life with God.  It is really that simple.  He died….so we might live.  What a blessing.  What grace.  We didn’t deserve it, but He chose to die for us anyway.  The only question that remains is what we do with that offer of grace.

 

Paul concludes this first letter to the church with a list of things we ought to do as we live in preparation for Jesus to come again.  Check them out:

      encourage one another and build one another up

      respect those who labor among you

      esteem them very highly in love

      be at peace

      admonish the idle

      encourage the fainthearted

      help the weak

      be patient with them all

      no one repays anyone evil for evil

      do good to one another

      rejoice always

      pray without ceasing

      give thanks in all circumstances

      do not quench the Spirit

      do not despise prophecies

      test everything

      hold fast what is good

      abstain from every form of evil

      greet all the brothers with a holy kiss

What a list of how we should live.  There is much to be done as we await God’s coming again.  We should not just sit back and wait.  We have work to do.  This list tells us what that is!  Get after it.

1 Thessalonians 4

1 Thessalonians 4 contains several key instructions for how we are to live and then Paul closes with a glimpse of the things to come.  He begins by telling the brethren in Thessalonica to keep on doing what they are doing.  And then he throws these words on – twice in fact in this chapter alone – “do so more and more”.  Living God’s way should never just stay where it is.  We should continue to do so more and more.  We should never become complacent that we have it right or have made it.  Our goal is always out there ahead of us and we need to continue to strive for it more and more.

The first area Paul focuses on is that we must “abstain from sexual immorality”.  He makes it pretty simple when he says “you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor…..not in the passion of lust…..that no one transgress and wrong his brother”.  We need to get the area of our sexuality under control.  This is a never ending battle for all of us – God created us as sexual beings – but He also put some very strict guidelines around how we are to live in that regard.  And the key is that “God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness”.  Sexuality is not given to keep us from being pure and holy.  It must be dealt with God’s intended way – not the way the world has totally messed it up.

Paul goes on to give a list of ways for us to “love one another….do this more and more”.  We are to truly love as God has loved us.  He lists some things to demonstrate what that looks like:

–       “Aspire to live quietly

–       Mind your own affairs

–       Work with your hands

–       Live properly before outsiders

–       Be dependent on no one

–       Encourage one another

We are to live and love as God has loved us.  That means putting others in the middle of our lives.  It means loving them with true love like Jesus demonstrated for us on the Cross.  It is the opportunity to make a difference.

The chapter ends with a picture of what will come based on the truth that “Jesus died and rose again”.  Sometimes we tend to lose sight of that big message and truth – we don’t keep it front and center of our minds.  But Jesus did go to the Cross.  He was crucified and on the third day He arose and conquered death and will do the same in our lives as Christ Followers as well.  Here is what God writes through Paul.  “God will bring with Him (Jesus) those who have fallen asleep”.  Those who were dead and believers will be the first to join God – “the dead in Christ will rise first”.  Those who are “left until the coming of the Lord” will be joined with Him as He “will descend from heaven….caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”.  Jesus is coming again to gather His own to Himself.   Do you believe it?  Today may be the day.  Are you ready?  Have you made Jesus your Savior and accepted His gift of grace?  Don’t miss the meeting with the Lord that will take us to eternity in heaven.  There is no second chance on this one.  Get right with Him today!

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