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letthewordreveal

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….

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October 2014

Knowing the God of Peace in a World of False Security: 1 Thessalonians 5

The great theologian Colin Buchanan said that the greatest treasure in the whole wide world is peace with God. It would seem that the world would mostly agree with him, just not about the God bit.

We have a very false sense of peace and security in our world.

Peace by definition is the absence of conflict. The problem our world will not acknowledge is that the conflict is not ‘out there’ against the physical enemy, it is in our very own hearts.

Paul was aware of this, and reminds the believers at Thessalonica about their need for a more lasting and secure peace than what the world offers.

Peace that lasts for eternity will not come on our terms. It’s God’s plan, and in His plan, peace comes through judgement. Both the first and second Advent of Christ prove this to be true.

Although the world will be caught completely off guard at His return, believers will not be surprised but ready.

1 – The World’s False Peace v 2,3

There are three metaphors Paul using in showing what the day of the Lord will be like for those who are not prepared for it:

like a thief in the night
All is well is the message we want to believe, and it’s the one we tell ourselves sometimes, despite epidemics, terrorist wars, and a constant fear of death.

If we are not careful, we will buy into this lie that the world offers – “Peace”.
Our sinful definition of peace is that we are at rest within ourselves, that we would be happy, that we would have all we need in this life, even if it is as the expense of others. Our peace is a cheap, flimsy notion that we can be our own saviors. We can be good enough, wise enough, and strong enough to overcome any obstacle set in our way. We will overcome, and we will create our own peace.

What would steal this false notion of world peace away? It would take a thief of greater wisdom and greater strength than us mere humans.

Christ’s return will come like a thief in the night. While the world is in darkness, asleep to it’s real predicament, He will come and steal away their sense of peace and bring the consequences that always come when we place our idea of peace above having peace with God.

like sudden destruction
Not only will this false peace and security be stolen away at Christ’s return, but He is coming as a conquering King.

It will be like military invasion that the world never saw coming, and it will be sudden and destructive. Shock and awe maybe a type of warfare we have seen in our generation, but it doesn’t compare with the pure holiness and righteous judgement that will be manifest when Christ Himself appears.

like birth pains
In the times Paul wrote, with such a high death rate in childbirth for both the woman and the child, the first contractions of a woman in labour were not always welcome, even though everyone knew it would have to come eventually. Sometimes the onset of contractions meant facing possible death.

Even without the fear of death, birth pains can ‘catch’ a woman off guard, leaving her helpless and dependent on others, not able to move, and weak.

Other places in Scripture use this same metaphor for the return of Christ – that it would be the beginning of birth pains ( Matthew 24:8, Mark 13:8).

For the unbeliever, Christ’s return will be like suddenly going into labour, not knowing you were even expecting!

The thing with all these metaphors that Paul uses is that none of them are things you can run away from! ( 5:3b)

There is no escape from a thief who comes in in darkness, a military invasion that destroys all in it’s path, and the pains of childbirth that leave you weak and helpless.

The predicament of the world is dire, there is no more other chances when this happens, and will happen quickly, without warning.All the more reason for the reminder that today is the day of salvation.

2 – The Peace The Children of God Can Have. v 1-2, 4-11

In contrast to what unbelievers are unprepared for, and won’t acknowledge, Christians have no excuses to be surprised.

V 1 tells us that they had heard teaching on this before, and didn’t really need Paul to say all that he was saying, not that that stopped him from saying it all again anyway!

Not only did they need reminding, so they could comfort one another and reach out the lost world, but so they could equip themselves for a battle they were facing while living in a world that has false peace. They could have peace in the midst of a misguided world by walking after the things they had been instructed in.

we are children of the light and of the day ( 5-8)
The ‘but’ in v4 gives us great cause for hope. We don’t have be surprised, we don’t have to face destruction and unbearable pain, because we are not in darkness. ( 1 Peter 2:9).

We are children of the light and day, not darkness and night.

There two applications here for us that Paul gives.

1 – those who are of the night are usually asleep – we need to be awake.

2- those who are of the night, if they are not sleeping, are most times up to no good, indulging in their passions and desires, and getting drunk – we need to be sober minded and ready to fight.

If unbelievers are only interested in sleeping and doing dark things at night, not only is there a lesson that there’s not much good happening in the darkness at night, but it also shows us just how different our calling to day and light is to make us. ( 1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

We must be sober and prepared, not have our mind filled with earthly things, and not under the influence of darkness.

we need to be ready for warfare ( 8)
When we are clear minded and sober about life and our responsibilities to God in our faith in Christ, we realize we are in a battle. It is a warfare we are in against the world, the flesh and the devil, and we must be equipped properly.

The breastplate of faith and love will protect our heart and life from false affections in this world that would steal away our attention. When our hearts and lives are covered and protected by the loving faithfulness of God, we are free to be faithful and pure in our own love towards others.

The helmet of salvation shows that our mind is fixed on heavenly and eternal things. We know that Christ has saved us, and will return to set all things right.

we need to know we are not destined for wrath because Christ died for us ( 8-11)
The hope of our salvation is in the fact that Christ died for us. We have been saved from the destruction to come by His death in our place.

This hope is meant to give us peace. When we have that kind of peace with God we can rest in Him, and be not only faithful and peaceful about our lives, but also at rest about our death also. We will be with Him, no matter whether we are awake or asleep in this life.

3 – The Peace of God in the Family of God Sanctifies v. 11-28

Battles and hope of victory may fill us with gusto to get out there and scalp some devils, beat up some fallen angels, and cure the world of hunger.

We would think that is what Paul would instruct us to do, ‘Therefore, take your peace with God that has been granted to you by faith in Christ, and go help Jesus build a new world with your own bare hands….’, that would almost be easier than the actual instructions he gives.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing,”

It seems an anticlimax after all the heavy theological and eschatological talk of the previous verses.

I’m supposed to help my fellow believers? This is the best way to prepare for the new heavens and new earth that Christ is returning to set up?

The best way to prepare for eternity is to prepare with those you are going to spend it with.

respect and esteem the leaders in the church ( 12, 13)
be peaceful with the rest of the church body ( 13b)
minister to and be patient with those in need ( 14)

This one is specific in it’s approach. You cannot have a blanket rule or formula in how you approach others. Not all can be treated the same. If you admonish the fainthearted or weak, they will become more fainthearted and weak. If you encourage and help the idle to be idle, you will create an idle monster. All have specific needs, and all need to be met where there are at. You can only do that by getting to know someone, moving towards them, asking them how you can help, and being patient with them.

do good to one another and to EVERYONE ( 15)

Doing good to everyone includes doing good to those who may be doing evil to you. Forgiveness and grace must be evident in the lives of believers.

rejoicing, prayer, giving thanks, following after the Spirit, testing what is good, holding fast to the good and abstaining from evil. ( 16-22)

All these instructions lead to our sanctification. ( 23).

The God of all peace will do a work in us that allows us to minister to others in these ways, and relate to Him with more devotion and faith. True and lasting peace will come when we rest in His faithfulness.He will do what He has said He will do.

Do you have peace with God, or do you have a peace the world offers, that is false and insecure, something that can be taken away the moment you face your real predicament? Peace doesn’t come when you deny your situation.

Peace came to earth once before, it was announced to shepherds on a hillside. “Peace on earth and goodwill to man”.

Peace came when Jesus came, and it came at a great price to Himself.
He gave Himself for our peace, and what we do with Jesus will determine whether or not we will have eternal peace with God.

He is returning, and He will bring peace, but again, it will come at a great cost, except this time, He will not bear the judgement and wrath as He did the first time, He will be bringing it with Him for all those who have not believed. Peace will reign on earth at Christ’s return, but will you be found ready, prepared?

Ask, Seek, Knock: Matthew 7:7-11

How quickly do you give up when something starts to get a little harder?

I can remember doing StMary’s Peak in the Flinders. It was an adventure, and an ordeal.

Giving up was a real possibility, but I had to prove myself worthy of the compant! Being told the view was worth it was hardly motivation enough. I lacked stamina, I lacked the fortitude. I made it, but very begrudgingly!

Another person going up with me was persistent. In a mixture of encouragement, intense heat, prodding and empty promises of an easy trek, this other person made it without complaint. They kept going.

What is the difference? Persistence is one factor, but the other person knew what resources they had to call upon. There was never any doubt.

In our Christian lives, if we are honest, we doubt sometimes. We don’t truly know whether we will have all we need, and we worry about today, tomorrow, and anything else we can think of.

We lack persistence, not only our faith, but also in our prayers and pursuit of God, especially when it comes to pursuing His holiness.

1 – Be Persistent In Your Pursuit of God and His Holiness v. 7-8

You might have read through the Sermon on the Mount and been inspired to live in a new way.

I would rather make bricks without straw than try to live the sermon on the mount in my own strength. – Lloyd-Jones

Our lofty ideals of turning over a new leaf and living a morally upright life are excellent intentions, but completely pointless unless we ask for help from Christ and His Spirit.

Our response to studying out the sermon should be instead to go to God for grace, and to do so constantly, persistently asking of Him all the things we need.

Our daily bread, forgiveness of sins, deliverance from evil…

This life we are being called to is not a once-off ‘ say-a-prayer-then-you’re-done’ occasion. It is LIFE. More abundant. Free, liberating, completely new, but life still has to be lived, and while we live on this earth, we have two options, ask God for help and seek His righteousness first, or do it on our own and depend on our own righteousness.

Our failures and mistakes in this life may discourage us sometimes, but they are not meant to, they are meant to drive us to God all the more.

Ask again, seek again, knock on Heaven’s throne room door, again.

He gives, He is not hidden, and He will open the door.

asking….

“You won’t know unless you ask…”, you may have heard that statement in many contexts, and sometimes in can make us frustrated, others times, it leads to us gaining some insight or receiving something we would not have otherwise had.

Getting a free delivery on a furniture item, or a discount off a damaged product is one thing. Asking permission of someone to marry their daughter is quite another!

We ask God for all the things we need, simply because He says He will provide all we need.

seeking….

There are songs written about trying to find what you’re looking for…

We are always looking for something. The next popular trend. The latest news. The newest model car, iphone. We are a seeking people, a restless people.

What are we doing when we are looking for something that still is constantly out of reach the moment we lay hands on the thing we had strived so hard to get?

We are worshipping. We’re looking for righteousness, and more often than not, we’re looking for it in the things our hearts long for.

What we daydream about reveals what we worship, and what we worry about reveals what we trust. What ask for and seek is simply the outward actions of hearts that are deceived into idols to worship and trusting in earthly things while distrusting God.

We also seek righteousness and terms of worship on our own terms, even if we are moral people. That is why Jesus has had so much to say about public displays of self-righteousness.

These are not the things we should be looking for, seeking for…it will only get us lost.

The only place we can be found, and truly find what our hearts really need, is in the kingdom of God and in His righteousness. ( 6:33).

Seeking God, we will always find Him. He doesn’t hide Himself from us when we are looking for Him. If He appears hidden, it’s only because we have placed our own wants and needs above His ways and will.

knocking….

There is another song about knocking on heaven’s door….

People seem to be obsessed with getting into heaven, even if they don’t believe in God.

The door we knock on though, is not shutting us out. It’s a sign of an access that we have to God that means we can come into His presence, because Christ has gone before us. ( Hebrews 5:16).

Knocking on a door can be an awkward thing. What if they are not home? What if they weren’t expected me? What if they don’t want me to come in?

God’s door, although there is only one, is available for us to enter through. Inside, there is safety, provision, and acceptance.

2- Your Heavenly Father Is Far Better Than Any Earthly Father v. 9-11

I’m sure some fathers grow weary of the persistence of their children. The constant nagging can cause them to either turn a blind ear, and switch off, lash out and make sure the child never asks again, or cave in and give something that maybe isn’t in the child’s best interest at all, just to have some peace.

But the child here in the passage is asking for bread, for fish. He is asking for sustenance, for food, for needful things.

No father, who is in their right mind will turn to a child who is asking for a basic daily meal and say, “ You ate yesterday! You are way too needy!”.

Jesus knows that fathers have an instinct to care for their children’s basic needs, and that they would never give something to them that would harm instead of sustain.

Stones and serpents hardly make a balanced meal, it is an extreme example of poor parenting, which although men are evil ( v11a), they instinctively know better than to do this to their children. At least they should. It would be implicit in the text to say that if an earthly father abused his children in this way, or in anyway that endangers their safety or health and well-being, he is not really a father at all.

Although pestering children may be a hassle that causes some men to be begrudging in their ministry and care of their children, God is never like this.

The child with the kind, gentle, and firm father does not fear to ask him for things, but deep down he enjoys the assurance that his father will not give him something which greater wisdom and experience assess as not in the child’s best interests. The child with the extravagant but thoughtless father approaches him with arrogance and lays down his next demand, knowing he will not be refused. The child with the stingy, ill-tempered and abusive father will seldom ask for anything, fearing another meaningless beating. – Carson

The trouble for us with this illustration of fathers is that we look at our earthly fathers, and for good, or for bad, see our Heavenly Father the same way.

The kind father will raise children who believe God is kind and good, but just.

The father who spoils his children will raise children who quickly become disillusioned with a God Who doesn’t give them everything they demand.

The father who is stingy and abuses his children will raise children that think that God is mean, distant, and will always hold back love and forgiveness from them.

Men are evil, fathers are evil, even the best ones sin.

Our Heavenly Father, however, knows not only what we need, but provides it freely when we ask in faith.

We are to approach our Heavenly Father with a trust in His goodness, despite any earthly examples we have the contrary, and expect He will do right by us, because He has promised to do so.

3 – Are You His Child?

There is of course, still a massive question for you to ask. Not of God. His position on the matter is established. He will give, He will be found, He will open.

The question is for you. In order for you to receive the good gifts of God, you need to be His child.

Are you His child?

My parents have a home that is always open. Mum’s hospitality and cooking bring many from near and far. If you visit my parents for a meal, you will be welcomed and well fed, even a bed could be made for you if needed.

They have many people come and go in their home, but their greatest pleasure is to have their children home for a meal. There is a different care given in my parents home that I would receive that you simply wouldn’t. That care about you and for you, but not in the same way. You are not their child.

There are benefits to being a part of a family. To being blood related.

God’s family is the same, unless you’re blood related, you can ask, seek, and knock all you like, you’re not going to get in because although you may want the good gifts of God, you don’t want Him.

Do you want the things of God, but not God or His holiness?

If you want what He offers, you have to be His child to get them.

It sounds exclusive, and it is. It’s a narrow and hard way for us, and not many find it, or want it.

So what would you really ask for?

Who are you asking?

What are you looking for in places you shouldn’t?

Where do you want to enter?

The answers to these questions are simple. There are two choices. Your way, or God’s.The rest of chapter 7 will show us that.

If you choose Jesus, you have great blessings coming to you. If you choose your own way, you will set yourself up for destruction.

We must see God as the perfect Father, Who gave His perfect Son, so we could become part of His family.

Seeing God as Father is harder for some than others, but Christ never doubted His Father would give Him what He asked, and even when the Father didn’t, the Son still obeyed, even unto death.

Asking God to give you what He wants for you, which is His perfect righteousness, will grant you access through the door He has made open for you.

Ask. Seek. Knock. Always.

On Logs & Specks & Dogs & Pigs: Matthew 7:1-6

We have considered the dangers of worrying about the things of this world, and underlying our fears about daily provision seems to be this inbuilt desire we have that is geared towards independence and wanting control.

When something we don’t like gets in our way, we don’t like it. Other people have a way of disrupting our plans, or doing things in such a way that we can’t help but trying to control them.

Some truths would expose us in an instant if anyone were to line up our walk with our talk. Ch 6 has outlined that, and ch 7 goes on to give us some warnings and object lessons of what happens when you do or do not trust in the Word of God.

1. Don’t Judge Others. v 1-2

Judging others is easy. A simple trip to the shops is easy enough to expose our critical attitudes about others, not to mention our attitudes in church. We treat judgement as a favorite pastime in church circles.

What do you talk about on the drive home from church or family functions? Do you gossip? Do you slander? Do shake your head at the positions some people hold to, or the people themselves? Or do you pray for them?

That judging others is the nature of humanity. Right from the start of the human race we have judged others, blamed others. Finger pointing began in the garden, and we are still perfecting the art, trying desperately to distract others ( and God ) from our own sin.

There are several problems that arise when we judge:

-we become judges

James points out this a real dilemma ( James 4:11-12). When we judge our neighbor, we place ourselves above our neighbor, the law, and above God most of all. There is only One Lawgiver and Judge, do you really think you can fill those shoes?

-then we get judged
Are you prepared to face the same scrutiny that you place on others? Would you be able to stand under your own punishment?

We are so quick to look at another person and know automatically what they should be doing or not doing, but when it comes to receiving judgement, we certainly don’t want that same treatment. We want to be heard in context, and understood in full. We want a fair hearing, but think others are unworthy of that.

We don’t like ambiguity. We prefer the clarity of judging. – Miller

For us, it’s black and white. What we see is what is happening, but when jump to conclusions about others and cast judgement on them, we are falling into that trap of self-righteous deception.

We can’t hold others to account based on conclusions only we hold to.

There is a time for calling out sin in the lives of others. Of confronting falsehood. But it is to be done in very certain and particular way where it never ever comes down to exclusive and personal trial where we are the judge, jury and executioner.

This not about abolishing judgement and discernment altogether, this about getting rid of our bad attitudes when it comes to others, and the only way to get rid of a bad attitude is to address the heart change that we need.

The better we think we are, the less we will love. Self-righteous judgement cancels compassion.When we don’t take the time to understand another person more fully, to move towards them with love, we may find ourselves moving away from them altogether. Becoming more exclusive with our love because we have come to believe we hold the monopoly on the truth, when we may have missed the facts, and more pointedly, missed the person. Judgement keeps us from becoming involved with other people and their problems. Judging is a more efficient use of our time we think. – Miller

Don’t Be Blind To Your Own Sin. v 3-5

Not only do you miss the other person, but you will most likely miss your own sin. The problem is hardly ever the other person. It’s usually our own heart, sinfully reacting against being sinned against or hurt.

When all you see is someone else’s sin, you will not see your own.

Walking around with a log in your eye is a difficult task, but if you think you are especially skilled at helping others with sight issues, it’s not usually because you understand what they are going through and want to help, but because you can’t see you own need and your not actually helping others, your just pointing out their need without acknowledging your own.

It’s hypocritical, and we can’t stand hypocrisy. Especially in other people.

We don’t like hypocrites, and we don’t like those who judge others. We look down our noses at people who look down their noses at people, and we get stuck in a vicious cycle of vendettas, plots, gossip, slander, accusation, comparisons, misplaced assumptions, and we soon are the judges we loathed so much.

We must stop and look in the mirror. Not a comparison to another person. Not our own idea of what we should look like and what our practice of faith should be, but the living word of God that reveals the thoughts and intents of our hearts.

When we’ve done that, when we have clearly examined our own patterns of sin in our own lives and dealt with it appropriately, we can then actually help another person.Clear sight leads to helping another person, getting alongside them instead of in their face, but acknowledging and confessing our own sins and failures first.

Initiating confession and repentance is the best way to help another in their own error.

Eye surgery is difficult. It’s delicate. The organ is sensitive there needs to be a level of care given that doesn’t diminish the diagnosis or the need for surgery, but a level also that gives the patient a confidence that the surgeon is on their side!

Would you trust a blind eye surgeon? If you wouldn’t, then don’t be blind to your own sins as you rush in to point out another’s.

There is a great need for unity in the body in order for a building up to be done in truth and love. ( Ephesians 4: 11-16).

Too often our confronting of others is not with love. There might be truth, but truth without love just leaves us with hopelessness, and it certainly isn’t an example we have been left with. When we rush in without love, we tend to be more divisive and destructive than edifying and building up.

Self-surgery at the Cross is required before we trying to go in blind.

Be Discerning v. 6

We seem to think there is a fine line between judgement and discernment. But the problem is usually with our assumptions, and not so much our definitions, but our applications.The problem is when we mash the lines between judgement and discernment together. We need to be discerning, we cannot be judgmental.

The necessity for a Christian to be discerning is paramount, but we have a big problem when we take that responsibility of discernment and warp into a justification for harsh criticism. We become arch-critics, where we are at home in passages which encourage us to spot false prophets by their fruit , and claim “ I’m not being judgmental. I’m just being discerning. I’m a fruit inspector. By saying such things we set ourselves up in a position that is not our’s. – Carson

When we are helping someone else take a speck out of their eye, after taking the log out of our own, there are times when our help, even with the best of intentions, can still be wasted.

You don’t give your dog your furniture as a chew toy. You don’t buy diamond rings or jewels for a pig.

While it’s not be up to us to decide when someone is being a dog or a pig, we can certainly tell when our wasting our energies and resources on projects that are just not worth it in light of eternity.

God’s grace abounds to sinners, and we should always seek to be extending grace to others rather than turning away from them, but there comes a time when we can be too persistent with sacred things that are either not valued by the other side, or are being lessened in value by our own behavior.

Don’t corrupt the Word of God by using it as a battering ram against opponents.

Don’t think that the holiness God has called you to will resonate at all with those who despise pure and precious things.

Pick your battles, know when to move on. ( Titus 3:4-11).

do some personal inventory.

Why do I dislike what they are doing so much? Are there things in my own life that I am blind to because I’m too busy looking at others?

Why do I want to help them? Is it because I don’t think they are like me, or is that they could be more like Jesus?

What would it be like if every person in the church was exactly like you? What kind of church would that be? Would you feel served, ministered to, forgiven, reminded of the Gospel in everyday life if everyone else was you?

– check your pride.

Pride make you a predator, not a person. – Keller

A simple lesson in observation is to note the time when you have ‘won’ an argument. In those times in your life, did you feel more like Jesus? Or, more likely, did you feel proud that you had scored a point?

Sometimes, we are more interested in being right than being like Jesus, and we need a reminder that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Are you a grace hunter or a sin hunter? – Welch

It’s so easy to look at someone and find the negative. We seemed more inclined to self-protective harsh criticism of others than we are to seeing God at work in the lives of others.

Mercy triumphs over judgement, but we take the high road instead of the road less travelled, and we are partial in judgement, accusing some, excusing ourselves and others. We forget that all have sinned. We forget that if we fail in one area, we have failed in all. ( James 2:8-13).

We know this, and earnestly desire mercy of God, and accept it freely. But we keep it to ourselves.

What if Christ came the first time only to judge and condemn, and not to save?

What if, on the Cross, instead of asking for the forgiveness of those who had placed Him there, He called down the angels, and God poured out His wrath on a world deserving of damnation?

What if He had not died in our place, with our sin holding Him to that Cross, and instead, had nailed us to the Cross instead? We say no to that for ourselves, but what are we doing when we take the forgiveness, mercy, grace, and eternal love of God in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, and claim it for our own, but then turn to a brother, a sister, a neighbor for whom Christ died, and judge them as being unworthy?

Christ did not die so you could be justified in your self-righteous judgements of other people. He died so you could be made righteous before God and have peace.

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