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The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….

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Thessalonians

“Getting Busy, Getting Ready – Together” – 1 Thessalonians 3

There is one question that many of us may get asked nearly every day that can elicit several responses ranging from happy to depressive.

How was work?” , or “How was your day?”.

Simple enough questions, usually asked in innocence by someone who actually cares for us, but sometimes the best we can manage is an audible grunt or even inaudible shrug.

Work can either make us feel liked our talents and gifting have been well utilised or that we have just been used. It can frustrate us, or it can make us strive for more success and accomplishment.

Here, Paul has some very clear commands to give us in regards to our work, especially our work among other believers.

1 – Some Work Against Us. v 1-2

It doesn’t take us long at all as we step out into the world to realise that not everyone is on our side.

Our first reactions to enemies is attack or retreat, but the first response Paul asks the believers to have is one of prayer (2 Thess 3:1) , because you are in a spiritual battle.

Paul recruits these new believers to pray for himself and the other apostles as they do their work of evangelising the lost, and seeking to spread God’s Word to as many as they can.

He outlines what they can pray for:

  • that God’s Word would ‘speed ahead’
  • that it would be received with approval and reverence 
  • that the team doing the work would be protected from wicked men

It seems like an obvious thing for Paul to say that ‘not all have faith’, but how often do we look at unbelievers behaving badly, especially in relation to God’s Word being clearly presented, and we are surprised or shocked at their attitudes towards God?

That some work against us while we seek to work for God is a fact, but is not something that should occupy our time other than our praying about it.

Prayer is first call of every outreach opportunity, and the first thing we request of every believer we are seeking to work with in the work of God.

Each member of the church, not just church leaders, are in need of your prayers for them. They should be able to depend on them.

2 – God Is Working For Us. v 3-5

One of the results of praying for God’s Work and for others who are involved in it is that we will, ourselves, mature and grow in our own faith as we interact more with the God Who is not only doing a work for others as we pray, but He is also doing a work in us.

He is faithful, and when we face opposition and unite around the Gospel, we will see Him establish us, and guard our own hearts against spiritual attack. (3:3).

We know what is like to use muscles we didn’t know we had, and how they can give us grief, at the same time, the more we do, the more we can do.

Pray seems to us like a small thing, but it is the greatest. It leads us to a confidence in the God Who works for us and through us.

As we pray and commit to God’s Work, we see Him directing our hearts towards His. (3:5)

To have a direction in life that leads you towards God’s love and the steadfastness of Christ is an example and an encouragement to those around you that can clearly see where your allegiances lie.

Where would people say your heart is directed?

Would people say you have way of communicating who Jesus is that shows God’s love, or do people see our fickleness, our indifference, our lack of spiritual growth?

It challenges us to pray all the more for God’s Word to not only have free course in the hearts of those who have never heard it, but we must not think we are past our need for it to have free course in our hearts also.

3 – We Should Get Involved In God’s Work, Together. v 6-18

3:4,3:6a,3:10, 3:12 all list commands…

There is something else Paul repeats through chapter 3 that shows why it’s so important. 3:1a, 3:6a, 3:6b, 3:13, 3:15b all mention the word ‘brother’. Twice in the singular, when referring to the disorderly/idle/lazy/irresponsible brother, but other times in the plural when speaking to the main body of believers.

The two words repeated ( command/brother) tell us that not only is there a brotherhood/family/community dynamic to the church, but also that that family has some rules that all members of it should abide by.

We don’t like rules. We don’t like being told what to do. We do however, like telling people they shouldn’t tell us what to do. We like making rules about how people shouldn’t make rules!

  • don’t let anyone be disorderly/lazy/irresponsible ( 3:6)
  • support yourself where you can and don’t become an unnecessary burden (3:7-10)
  • don’t be a busybody, always messing with other people’s business and disrupting their lives, mind your own business (3:11-12) 
  • keep doing good, don’t let the lazy people get to you ( 3:13-15)

Paul is building on an instruction he gave them in his first epistle ( 1 Thess 4:10-12) that Christians should stand out in the broader community as being of excellent reputation. The hardest working, but doing their work without drawing attention to themselves. Providing their own way, not sponging off others when they would be capable themselves of contributing and doing it well.

He gives them an illustration – himself. ( 2 Thess 3:6b-10).

They knew how he was when he was with them. He owed no one anything. He paid his own way, so as not to burden the congregation.

His example he was reminding them of was one not just of hard work, but of work without distraction. Commitment to the task. Taking responsibility for your own actions. Not being lazy while everyone else is active. Not getting in people’s ways with unimportant and burdensome requests for things you should be doing for yourself.

There is saying ( said in jest, of course!) a little too often said in our home when someone is asked to do something for another, “What did your last slave die of?”  to which the usual speedy reply is, “He’s not dead yet!”. 

Paul is challenging the church to not place burdens on one another by being disorderly, irresponsible or lazy. Do your own work, and do it well, expecting nothing in return for your labour, while seeking to free other people up to do the work they have to do also. Stay out of one another’s way as you do God’s work, or as a direct paraphrase might say, “Mind your own beeswax!”.

Other places in Scripture teach us that if someone doesn’t want to work, they shouldn’t eat either. It’s common sense, but we forget it so often, especially in a church setting where so often a small percentage of the congregation does a large percentage of the work while the larger percentage of the congregation openly critiques or outright hinder the work that is going on.

Disorderliness and idleness are not character traits that belong in a church that is seeking to be as effective as it can be for God’s glory, and Paul rightly says we need to warn those who seem insistent on having the world revolve around them.

We do need to care for one another, we do need to bear one another’s burdens ( Galatians 6:2), but we should never be creating burdens for others by being immature or irresponsible.

Most times, we just stop at Paul’s first note of not having anything to do with them (3:14b). We’re good at ignoring the problem people in our churches, we don’t usually need to be told twice to steer clear. We’re not so good at warning them though ( 3:15), and this is what we should ultimately be doing – aiming for their restoration to full fellowship and contribution to the congregation.

Warn that brother or sister who is being disorderly. If we consider them part of our church family, we should warn them.

Sanctification is partly a community project. We are responsible for our brothers and sisters, and if we see them straying, if we see them falling away, especially in instances like this, we are told to extend love to them( James 5:19-20). Never to endorse their sin or behaviour, but to lovingly confront them and say, “This is wrong, this is not glorifying to God.”

Other people not pulling their weight should not discourage us either. (3:13).

Don’t grow weary, keep up the work you are doing for God. Keep looking to Him as your reward, not around you to see if others are doing their bit. Shake off those that would seek to distract you from your work, if they won’t listen, they won’t listen. Haters gonna hate, shake it off, get on with your task at hand, which to focus on becoming more like Jesus. You are only responsible for your own actions, and if you want to please God, you will follow His Word, not your own agenda.

Issues like this can cause conflict. We don’t like it when the dynamics are negative, but we are called to be in community with other believers. We want peace from outside opposition (3:2) and internal indifference (3:6-15), and that peace only comes from the Lord of peace(3:16).

Yes, church would be great if it wasn’t for other people, but seeing as there are other people there, we had better spend some time in prayer and meditation on Scripture figuring out how we are all best meant to get along.

Christ’s example, of course, is always the best to follow, and in Philippians 2:1-8 we are shown what the mind of Christ is, and how we should apply that specifically to our relationships with other Christians.

The message of Thessalonians is clear, Jesus will return and He is looking to find us faithful when He returns.

What will He find in us when He comes back?

Busybodies – more interested in sharing gossip than sharing burdens?

Disorderly and irresponsible people – more interested in making work than doing any?

Or will He find people who are confident in His love, enduring in Christ’s work, while actively living in a community with one another that builds up for God’s glory?

Taking steps towards being ready for Christ’s return is as easy as asking Him for help, and then seeing how you can help the person next to you become more like Jesus.

Anticipating the return of Christ is a community project that every believer should get busy with.

“Standing Firm” How to not be shaken or troubled over Christ’s return. 2 Thessalonians 2

You may have heard the saying, ‘I’m never wrong. There was that one time I thought I was, but it turned out I was just mistaken.’

We don’t like to be wrong about anything, but it’s in our nature, and it’s in the nature of the world to not only be deceived, but to be deceptive.

Right throughout history, we see the devil planting seeds of doubt through deception. He did it to Adam and Eve, he has done it to every human being since about everything that God has given us instruction on, including of course, Christ and His second coming. Satan’s chief weapon is deception.This can lead us to be worried about what is true and what is not, thankfully for us, Paul speaks directly to this deception by telling the believers not to be alarmed or shaken (2:2) but to stand firm (2:15).
1 – False information leads to shaky faith v. 1-3a

There are a couple of responses we can have to being told that the end of the world is upon us. We can either be in denial, saying “Peace, peace” when there is no peace ( 1 Thess 5:3), or we could be panic-stricken thinking we have missed our ticket out, which is the message Paul was rebutting in chapter 2 of 2Thessalonians.

There is another option to dealing with the return of Christ, and that is to trust what God has already revealed, and know He has all things under control, and in knowing that, we will know when we are being presented with false information.

It can come in various ways – a spirit, a spoken word, or a letter forged in the apostle’s names, however this false information comes, Paul has the same response to it, “remember what I’ve told you before (v.5) and stand firm in those teachings (v.15)”.

The main deception being spread around was that Jesus had already come again ( 2:2b).He goes on to lay out a sequence of events that show that this cannot be true. Several things must happen first, and although Christ’s coming will be like a thief in the night to those who aren’t walking in His light ( 1 Thess 5:2-6), for believers, we don’t need to be worried about opinions or interpretations that tell us this has all already happened or be startled when they see things happening we don’t understand.

2 – False gods lead to false pleasures v.3-12

The sequence ( same as Matthew 24) -the Day of the Lord cannot come until:

the rebellion/ falling away happens first ( 2:3)
the ‘restrainer/withholder’ is taken away (2:6-7)
the man of sin/lawlessness / son of perdition/destruction is revealed with clear satanic influence with false signs and wonders ( 2:3, 2:9)
this man of sin proclaims himself as God (2:4)

Only after all these things will Christ return, gathering us to Himself ( 2:1), and destroying the man of sin with His very appearing ( 2:8).

What the falling away is seems to be clear. A world that has no concern about God isn’t going to fall away it is already fallen. The rebellion is an apostasy – an acceptance of false belief about God and twisting of His Word. Paul echoes what most other end times prophecies say, including those from Christ Himself, that many will turn away from following after Christ in the last days. There will be false information, and it will be believed, not because it’s true, but because it’s popular. Stand firm in the truth of the apostle’s teaching, Paul says, and you will not be part of this – but you will see it happening.

One thing becomes obvious as we look at this text and others about Christ’s return, we don’t have all the information. The Thessalonians seemed to know who the ‘restrainer’ is ( 2:6), we can only assume or guess. Some say the restraining force is the Gospel, or the Holy Spirit, or God Himself, or spiritual beings, such as angels who figure strongly in apocalyptic scenes as fighting/holding/restraining ( Daniel 10, Jude 9, Revelation 12:7-9, Revelation 7:1, Revelation 9:13-15). For whatever reason, God has ordained a certain force to be in place, restricted the rise of the man of sin until just the right time. When God removes the buffer, it will be no holds barred. Satan will have the perfect puppet to work with.

The revealing of this man of sin who sets himself up as God and requires people to worship him as such will be seen by believers who see it happen as a very obvious and blatant act of blasphemy, which has been Satan’s main act of rebellion since he was cast out of heaven, wishing to be God.

Who is this man? We are left without a name or title or specific label, but we are given certain characteristics which are unmistakeable, and we are certainly given his end ( 2:8) which is something we must absolutely keep in mind when we consider the instruction to not be shaken or alarmed.

He will be powerful. He will perform many signs and wonders by supernatural means. ( 2:10) And by these signs, he will deceive those who love deception ( 2:10b).

God gives the unbelievers exactly what they have chosen for themselves. They refuse truth, so they can have a false god. They have pleasure in unrighteousness, so they are condemned to an eternity of destruction that that lifestyle brings. Hell is a monument to human freedom. Unbelievers have rejected the truth, loved unrighteousness, and God will act in the end to confirm their stubbornness. This is a dire warning – do not harden yourself to the truth of God and His Word. Do not love unrighteousness or promote it, if you do, God will give you what you have chosen.

All of this information Paul gives is not so we can figure out who this man of sin is, but is so we can be aware of Satan’s schemes and activity.

A thought worth pondering is that the devil, even though he is powerful, he is not all-powerful. He isn’t omniscient, omnipresent.If the Jesus Himself did not know while He was on earth the day or hour of His Second Coming ( Mark 13:32), and the angels don’t know, the Thessalonians don’t know, Paul doesn’t know – then we should remind ourselves of the fact that the devil doesn’t know either!

He is constantly working towards his evil ends, setting up many various ‘men of sin’ throughout history, banking on one of them being his man, destroying as many of God’s people as he can. The mystery of sin is already at work ( 2:7a). It is an underground force, restrained, sometimes unseen,but still inherently evil.There will be one, though, that has his full backing, and this is his end game, all bets will be off. Evil will be unmasked in human form, and he will destroy, deceive, pillage and blaspheme. Not a single person on earth will be left in the dark as to what Satan’s schemes are, and everyone will know which side they are on and will at the end, face either destruction for having following the son of destruction, or salvation, having followed the Saviour, the Son of God.

3 – True comfort leads to firm faith v. 13-17

While all this is daunting and fearful to contemplate what awaits us in this world, knowing things will get worse before we see Jesus in the flesh, this doesn’t mean that we live introverted, inwardly focussed lives, only worried about our own lives, and just being sure we ride out the worst until Jesus rescues us. Whether or not we think the gathering to Christ happens before or after the great tribulation is beside the point that we should not view this doctrine as our salvation. Christ Himself is our salvation.That we will be caught up to meet The Lord in the air and escape destruction and trouble is very appealing, but this was not Paul’s main message. His message was for believers to stand firm, even if they see all these things coming to pass. It is the Person and Presence of Christ that we are to be desiring, not just escape from an evil world.

Paul’s tells the believers that they should only obey the apostle’s instructions on these issues ( 2:15) and we would do very well to stick to that also.

Within evangelical circles, there is no lack of end-time calculators and speculators who hope to brag of their ‘new’ information about the end times…we might be tempted to laugh these people off, but there is danger in that. We need to protect the church from this sort of peril. Whenever believers wander off after some new eschatological fad, somebody will sustain permanent spiritual damage when those predictions fail to come to pass…The healthy Christian must develop an aversion to the “X-Files” type of logic… Christ taught that many false prophets would appear and deceive many( Matthew 24:11).It doesn’t matter whether ‘inside information’ comes through some charismatic utterance or through some private decoding of the Bible. Such people are alive today and are by definition ‘false prophets’. – Gary Shogren

The end result of holding to what we do know, instead of obsessing over what we cannot know, is an assurance of hope that Christ is surely coming again, and in the mean time, we can be comforted as we establish ourselves in every good work and word. ( 2:16-17).

This means practically that we trust more in what God has revealed in His Word than trusting in opinions or assumptions of men. The best way to know is something is false is know the truth better than you do the lie. When you only study what might be false, or you’re always on a witch hunt for apostasy, not only will you be exhausted, you won’t establish yourself in good works, you will grow more and more isolated and more and more exclusive in your own standards. Know and love the truth, and you will see false teaching, signs and wonders a mile off.

Don’t be alarmed or shaken. We have faith in a Deliverer Who can destroy our worst opponent with a single breath. His appearance will be our salvation and the world’s judgement. We stand on firm ground when we stand in Christ.

“Worthy of the Calling” – 2 Thessalonians 1

The purpose of 1 Thessalonians was to comfort the believers with the fact of Christ’s return and to instruct them how to live while they waited. The purpose of 2 Thessalonians was again comfort them, but mostly to correct false teaching about this Day of The Lord. Paul wanted them to avoid being idle (3:6-15), and to not pay attention to those who pretended to bring a word from Paul saying Christ had already returned.( 2:1-3).

This church faced troubles from every side. They faced outside trouble with the persecution that was present right from the start of their church ( Acts 17:1-9). They also faced trouble from within the church with this false teaching that was gaining ground and undermining their faith and doctrine.

It’s with that in mind, Paul writes to them to encourage them in their suffering, to affirm what they are doing right and to dismiss what is being wrongly taught.
Ch 1 – encouragement in suffering
Ch 2 – enlightenment for the confused
Ch 3 – warning to the careless.
…..
You may well have seen the billboard or TV ad about the “unbreakable” Hilux ute, where someone who wishes to purchase and drive a Hilux must go through a series of exaggerated obstacle courses in order to prove themselves worthy of being a Hilux owner. The tagline for the ad is “Are you worthy?” . The inference is that if you wish to drive an unbreakable ute, you have to be unbreakable yourself.

Worthiness and reaching a certain standard are things we all seek to accomplish, whether consciously or subconsciously. We want to be considered worthy of something. A certain job, position, relationship, possession, whatever it might be, we want to be worthwhile enough to have something or belong to someone.

Paul in writing his second letter to the Thessalonians tells them they are considered worthy of God’s Kingdom (1:5) when they suffer and his prayer for them is that God would make them worthy of His calling ( 1:11) by having a desire to see good in every situation.

Worthiness for the early church, and for us, is a high and difficult thing, and as we can see even from these two verses, it is a costly thing.

Thankfully, we have the answer before we start to get overwhelmed – that our worthiness isn’t based on whether we get glory or not, but on the glory of Christ’s Cross (1:12).

1 – Essential Ingredients For Thriving Under Suffering. v 1-4

Suffering is not something we think we deserve, no matter what form it is and for people to say it’s just something you have to get past or grit your teeth and bear is very, very hard.

We need an answer to suffering and how to suffer with an awareness of why we are, but there are no exact answers to it that we can comprehend.

The church in Thessalonica wasn’t just enduring under suffering, they were thriving and Paul lists two things they have that meant he could boast about their steadfastness to others.

their growing faith (v3a)
their increasing love (v3b)

Growing in trust and faith when things are difficult and loving others when you have afflictions are counter-intuitive. We are self-protective and distrustful, especially when something is happening to us.

The church had an abundant, growing faith, and their love for one another was increasing more and more because they managed to do what so many of us fail to do when the heat is on us. They trusted in the God who was greater than their circumstance. They were faithful, not through being super-human themselves, but in having faith in a faithful God who would never fail them.

Faith and love are meant to be key characteristics of the church, and when we love one another, we soon become self-forgetful instead of self-focused. They were not suffering in isolation, alone, without any support or help. They had each other to remind each other of the goodness and faithfulness of God.

When we face hardship, our lips may well speak doubts, but when we surround ourselves with others who will speak truth to us, we can tell our hearts a different story.

2 – A Response To Suffering. v 5-7

“ At the cross, we see the absolute uniqueness of the Christian response to suffering. In Islam, the idea of God suffering is nonsense; it is thought to make God weak. For many Buddhists, to reach divinity is precisely to move beyond the possibility of suffering, to give up your attachments to other people so that you will never have to suffer for anyone. Only in Christ do we have a God who loves us enough to suffer with us ( and for us).” – Vince Vitale

It was because of this that Paul was able to say such bold statements in v 5-7 about suffering proving us worthy of God’s Kingdom and that God will set all things right at some point in human future, even the things people seem to be getting away with now.

That God is just and that God will do what is right is a great answer to suffering. It’s not cheap or dismissive answer, because if God isn’t all-powerful and couldn’t hold everyone who has ever been born to account, then who will? There are no other reasonable alternatives.

We might well say we believe in God but don’t know why He causes suffering – that if He really is all-powerful as He claims, then He could surely wipe out all suffering now. There shouldn’t have to be suffering in this world if God is truly God…right?

The goodness and justice of God are not superseded by the injustice and evil of this world.

God in His Sovereignty has declared it to be like it is, and one day, all will be put right, and until then, to wish for a world without suffering is to wish for a world where you don’t exist.

A world without suffering would be a world without love, without cost, without courage, without relationships, without you.

That is not the world God has placed us in, and if we believe in Jesus, we have this assurance, that our suffering will one day work backwards.

All we have ever lost, or never had, will one day be redeemed. All the injustice of this fallen world, with it’s diseases, abuses, failures and fallings will be part of a great eschatological reversal.

3 – Avoiding The Greatest Suffering. v 7-10

When Jesus returns, He returns to judge the quick and the dead. ( 2Timothy 4:1).

His appearing will be a consummation of glory for those who trust in Him, but for those who don’t, it is a condemnation to the greatest suffering, the eternal destruction and death.

The vengeance of God, with flaming fire, will be inflicted on these unbelieving peoples.

those who don’t know God
those who don’t obey the gospel

Both are inclusive, and could well be said they are one and the same description, but elsewhere in scripture we are told there will be those who say, “Lord, Lord, did we not…etc.( Matthew 7:21-23).There are many who know God, but refuse the truth of the gospel. There are many who claim to know Him, but a far away from the kingdom because they have not acknowledged Him and have chosen the deceitfulness of sin instead.They have done things in His name, but not for His name.

All who face the vengeance of God in flaming hellfire have chosen that position. Hell is a monument to human freedom. The unbelievers greatest condemnation is that they will get what they have chosen.

To not acknowledge God in this life is to condemn yourself to an eternity without Him, and it won’t be an eternity spent with friends. It is total isolation. Total destruction because you are left entirely to your own devices that you chose for yourself, and it will burn you forever. That is meaningless suffering…

“ There are worse things than ceasing to exist. And living in outer darkness is not in a nice sense of ‘I’d like some down time by myself’. Rather, it’s ‘I’ll never be in touch with anyone ever again’ ..’See you in hell?’, No, you won’t.” – Gary Shogren

They are consumed by His glory, where the believers, because they stand in Christ’s righteousness and are heirs of the Kingdom He is bringing, get to witness His might an power.

Those who believe get to see the justice of God bringing all things to completion and fulfilment.

There are two options for us – ignore and disobey and face eternal destruction in separation from the God we so desperately want to ignore in this life. Or acknowledge and obey, and see Jesus face to face in full glory.

Will we be among the disbelieving or among the marvelling?

4 – The Purpose Of Present Suffering. v 11-12

Hope of future resolution is all well and good, but what about the here and now?

Paul gives a prayer that should be a prayer we pray for one another all the time also, filled with affirmation, encouragement, and challenge.

Praying like this for one another will help see why we have to go through some of the things we go through.

to make us worthy ( v11a)
to make us have a desire and resolve to see that all things will work out for good ( v 11b)
to see God at work in us as we trust in Him ( v11c)
so that Christ will be glorified by our actions under pressure ( v 12)
so we can be glorified and made more like Him, which is the ultimate purpose of all our suffering here ( v12)

“The pain I experienced has given me a tender heart for the weak and exploited of this world. The failures I knew have given me hope that lives can change and the assurance that the Grand Weaver does weave a beautiful design, albeit sometimes with strange threads. God is able to help us conquer THROUGH suffering, not just in spite of it.” – Ravi Zacharias

The encouragement that Paul gives to the believers at Thessalonica should be the encouragement that we all give one another. When we see God at work in another person, we should praise God and encourage them to continue.

Speculating about things we don’t have all the information on is dangerous thing, but just like the Thessalonians, we speculate about the timing of Christ’s return. We more concerned with when it’s going to happen and how it’s going to happen that we forget the FACT of His return…We are meant to comfort one another with the fact of His return, not confuse one another with speculations…

When we see other believers struggling under the load of suffering, whatever form it takes, we should never be quick to point out errors or sins we think we see. We should be gently reminding them that Christ suffered for them to win them a crown and make them worthy. They do have value in God’s kingdom, and they need reminders of who they are.

When we are asked difficult questions by unbelievers who want to know what we think about suffering in the world, remind them that God has a way of making things work backwards. One day all will be set right, all because on one day in history, One truly innocent man suffered for all the sufferings of mankind throughout all of history in order that people could trust in Him and escape eternal suffering.

Remind yourself, as you suffer, that although it is hard and seemingly unfair, hope in Christ means God will be glorified through it all, if we submit and wait for what we can’t yet see.

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?

More & More….1 Thessalonians 4

What do you do more than others? This was a challenge Jesus laid out for His followers in the sermon on the mount ( Matthew 5:47) in the area especially of loving others.Paul in speaking the Thessalonians to walk after the things of God more and more ( 1 Thess 4:1,10).

It is a very challenging thought, that we would love God (4:1) and others (4:10) more and more, because if we base our Christian lives on only what we do, we will either become self-righteous and proud, or exhausted and overwhelmed, because ‘more and more’ sounds a lot like rules about prohibitions and exhibitions!

1 Thessalonians 4:1 gives us a major turning point in the epistle. Paul had been describing already what kind of people they were, and should be, and that they would continue in the gospel they had been entrusted with. He now moves on to directly exhorting them to do and not do certain things. In essence, he says, “ Keep doing what you are doing, but do it more, don’t become complacent.” .

Paul doesn’t give us rules about how to make ourselves look good though. He is far more concerned, just as Christ was in the sermon on the mount, with our hearts and what Christians should desire above all.

1- To be MORE holy v 1-8

Paul’s first call is for believers to consider the what the will of God is for their lives, and it’s not as complicated as we might be inclined to think!

the will of God for us is our sanctification ( being set apart and holy).v1- 3
Paul’s call is that they would continue to walk in what they had received and to do things that please God rather than themselves.
That is the essence of being holy. In trusting in God’s grace, and Christ’s finished work, we are found in Christ, set apart, holy and called out, sanctified.

God’s explicit will for us in our salvation is that we would be made holy before Him without blame, in love ( Ephesians 1:4). We have been purchased with the blood of Christ, redeemed from the slavery of sin to serve the living and true God, who now wants our bodies, minds, and hearts to be conformed to be like Jesus.

this means that we would abstain from sexual immorality( sex outside marriage) and to know how to be self-controlled v 3b – 4
The definition of holiness and our being set apart is that we would not serve our desires, but follow after God’s.

There is no greater example of this than in our sexuality. We have been made holy vessels for God’s service, so why would defile ourselves by disobeying God’s good design for our bodies or our minds?

Self-control in this area would mean we are seen not to go along with what everyone else is doing. We don’t accept immorality. We stand against it, especially in our own lives. Just because ‘everyone else is doing it’ doesn’t mean we must resign ourselves to accepting defeat in this area. If Paul said it was possible to self-controlled, than we can be. If God’s Word says it is possible to abstain from sexual immorality in thought ( Matthew 5:27-30) or deed, than it is. We may never be free from the temptation, but we can certainly be free of the power of it. The best weapon that we have, and so often underplay or overlook as being irrelevant, is abstinence. Abstaining from sexual immorality is not rocket science, but it can be hard, especially when we have wired ourselves to excuse or justify our wrongful thoughts and actions, and even blame others when we do sin in this area, but the truth is we have no one to blame for our sinful actions but ourselves.

so that we wouldn’t be like those who don’t know God. v 5
The obvious danger of not obeying God in this is that we would be like the unbelievers, who spend their lives just doing whatever feels good to them, without considering other’s sacredness or their own.

so that we would not set a bad example to our fellow believers or cause them to sin by sinning against them.v 6
Living in this kind of destructive sin will have consequences. You may cause another person to sin in the same way, or by sinning against someone else in this way, you may cause them to sin in their reaction to your sin. This is a vicious cycle that can only be stopped when we consider the will of God for us, and for those around us. To cause another person to sin is a great offense before God, and we will be held accountable for that if we remain unrepentant.

God has called us not to impurity, but holiness.v 7
“ Holiness in the realm of of sexuality is not just some admirable virtue; rather,it proceeds from the person of God Himself.” – Gary Shogren

if we ignore this, we wouldn’t be ignoring the command of Paul or other human authority, but God Himself, who has given us His Spirit.v 8

2- To be MORE loving v 9,10
Paul turns to another theme about which he knew the believers already knew about, but it’s one of those things that bears repeating. Like instructions from your mother or wife. It’s not because they don’t think you heard, but because it’s really important!

Why the repetition? We forget the things we should not, and tend to remember the things we should forget.

We have been taught by God how to love one another, but how far does our love go? Can we ever reach a stage where we can safely say we love someone else perfectly? Paul clearly thinks thats not possible. Love more and more.

3- To be MORE diligent v 11,12

Living quietly appeals to some more than others.

Paul’s instruction here has been misconstrued and twisted into a separation doctrine that instead of keeping out the influence of sin, we see evil as being more powerful than He that lives within us.

Christians are not to use their call to holiness as an excuse from being in the world. When we focus too much on our separation from others, we tend to lose sight of the most important commandments and the great commission.

Live with quiet integrity. Be known to be diligent, and busy with the right things. The Thessalonians were known for being busy about loving others ( 1 Thess 1:3, 4:9&10). What are we known for? Looking for reasons not to associate with certain people, or looking for opportunities to love with God’s love?

4- To be MORE hopeful v 13-18

In v1-12, Paul has laid out some ethics for how believers should live in practical ways. In v 13-18 he gives us an excellent motivation for living like this, but also a great call to hope in a world that can seem to be overwhelming in it’s attacks on our purity, holiness, integrity, patience, and of course, on life itself.

It is the return of Jesus Christ to the world that will not only give us vindication over the evil and evil one who attack us in this life, but the mere fact He is coming back is meant to give us hope NOW, especially in our loss.

Paul turns his attention to give more detail about Christ’s return, and we hunger for it. We want to know what we don’t know. We want to know what happens next. We get obsessed with it actually.We love fine print, even when there isn’t any. But Paul doesn’t give us times, dates, places, names. He gives us hope and comfort, so we can encourage one another, not to scare one another with speculations, conspiracies and divisive applications.

We mourn for the loss of those we love, but Paul says although we mourn, we shouldn’t mourn like people without hope. We have sorrow, we have sadness in our lives, it is in our nature and we shouldn’t disregard it’s place. Christ Himself those who mourn will be comforted ( Matthew 5:4). But our mourning is not like the world’s mourning. We have hope, and we should have. Not as a distant, “Maybe”, but a certainty, a surety. This will happen! It is a desire we should have if we truly belong to the returning, conquering, redeeming King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Our hope, Paul says, is that they get to see Him first! We should not be sad for them, they are closer to Christ than we can presently be, and though we may be left here on earth when our loved ones die, but the day is coming when we will be reunited with them.

What proof do we have that this will happen?

Jesus’ Second Coming hinges on what He did at His first. If we don’t believe that, if that doesn’t give us hope, then this certainly will be meaningless to us also.

He died and rose again, if that is true ( 1 Thess 4:14), then it follows that His Word is true about this also, that we who die will also rise again, and those who haven’t died at His returning, will be caught up to meet Him in the air at a gathering unlike any other the world has ever or will ever see, and from then on, we will be with Him forever.

What does that mean for us?

We will not just see our loved ones, but the greater hope and desire is that we will see Him.

The hope of seeing Him purifies us, John says. ( 1 John 1:2,3) That encourages us in all that has gone before in Paul’s instructions and calls to holiness and purity and love, that these are not only possible, but for believers, gloriously already within our grasp. If Christ died, rose, and is coming again, then we can surely live for Him in such a way that when He comes, not only will we see Him, He will see us, and we will be fully glorified in Him, and fully free from all the griefs of this world.

If we die in this world, when He comes back, there’s no grave that can hold us down! Life conquers death, and at His appearing, there will be no doubt that death is defeated.

This is should be an encouragement.

When was the last time you were encouraged or encouraged others in the fact of The Lord’s return? Maybe we need to remind one another of what it’s really about, not what we would like it to be about. It’s not about our predictions, interpretations, guesses, wishes, or deepest desires. If our desire isn’t to see Him and be with Him forever, then our situation is far worse then just being ‘left behind’. We were never truly caught up with Him to begin with.

Let Him be our goal. Let His coming in glory and with justice be our only source of hope and encouragement as we desire to live for Him until that day.

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