Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode 1 · 5 months ago

Christian Community

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1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

Sanctify us with your truth, open our eyes to behold wonderful things in your word. Teach us, Lord, what it means to be a Christian community, a Gospel Church. And we ask these things in Jesus name. Amen. First, thus Alonians, Chapter Five, Verses Twelve through twenty eighth. This is God's in arrant word. We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and Admonish you and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves, and we urge you, brothers, admonish the idol encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with them all, see that no one repays any one evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice, always pray without season, thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus. For you, you're not quench the spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything, hold fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil. Now, may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, He who calls you as faithful, he will surely do it. Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. This is the word of the Lord. Please be seated. You know, if you've if you've studied Paul's first letter to the thirst and church in thessal and Nike, I think you see very, very quickly that the major theme of his letter is how Christians are to live in the light of Jesus certain return, how were to live in the light of his Jesus certain return. And so it is that, in light of Jesus Return, Paul Talks about the faith and the mission of this local congregation in thessal and Nika. It's about it's around fifty a D, I believe. He tells them what their priorities should be. He talks about Christian leadership, obstacles to their faith and their death, destiny and our destiny in Christ. It's a very, very practical letter and interestingly, John Stock Calls this concluding section of Paul's...

...letter how to be a Gospel Church. I've called it Christian community. It's pretty much the same thing. Now you're probably like me that when I study the Bible I understand only a fraction of what I study and when I understand only a fraction of that, then I remember only a portion of what I understand and then apply only a small part of what I remember. So I'm grateful that the Apostle Paul is a master teacher. I think he recognizes our difficulties in these areas. So here at the very end of his letter, he gives us a lot of truth that's contained in small packages, easily remembered, simple, uncomplicated, so that we can readily grasp and grab a hold of and more easily apply it to the circumstances of our lives. Here at covenant O PC, a couple of years ago I taught a Sunday school class on the letters of the risen Christ to the churches of Asia Minor. It's material or contained in revelation chapters two and three. As you know, those are very revealing letters. The offer a penetrating, I think sometimes uncomfortable, examination of life and seven representative congregations in Asia Minor. I think it's round the end of the first century now. These were local congregations. Some of them were struggling with false teaching. For some there their first love for Christ had grown cold. Others were dealing with moral failure or with worldliness or with materialism. Some are facing persecutions, cute suffering and in many ways I think these were typical congregations that you would find in America today. But in each situation, as we saw toward the end of that letter revelation, these congregations were each called upon by Christ the conquer and to overcome. At the end of each letter, Christ has something to the effect to the one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my father on his throne. And isn't that Jesus called all to us today? Conquer, persevere, don't get sidetracked,...

...press on, keep on keeping on, don't be overcome, cross the finish line, win the prize. It's good advice but, as we know all too well, many times easier said than done. You know, we survey our burdens, our hurts, our wounds are trials. We look at the sin that still in dwells our hearts, we see the opposition of the world to the Christian Gospel that you and I proclaim, and Christ command to conquer and overcome. Doesn't seem so easy, does it? Well, it was the same with this small congregation in Thessalonika in Paul's Day. They were having difficulties. They hadn't received enough instruction from Paul Because, if your recall, he had to leave town rather rapidly. They were still pretty new in the faith. They were having issues with the local Jewish population. They had a lot of questions about friends and loved ones who had died and about how they themselves could better prepare for the second coming of the Lord Jesus. So they had some loose ends to tie up. I think many of them felt incomplete. Maybe some felt abandoned by Paul. Some probably felt that nothing was happening in their spiritual life, that they didn't have what it takes to finish the race, the conquer and overcome. And into that situation, Paul, as he concludes this marvelous letter, he gives them these what I think our self contain kernels of truth about how to be a Gospel Church, how to overcome and conquer, how to be a Christian community, and I think the key to all this wisdom is found in verses twenty three and twenty four. So let's just start there this morning. Okay. Now, may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, he will surely do it. Paul is praying here for the set thessalonians and for all who will read this letter, and the highlight, I think, of this prayer is the recognition that God finishes the things that he starts. Note the words are completely and whole and complete. They're emphasized now. May the God of peace himself, no underling here, no second...

...echelon spiritual leadership, sanctify you completely. May your whole spirit and soul and body, everything about you, the whole person, be kept blameless, be preserved complete at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. God does not begin projects and leave them half done. God is a great finisher and, having prayed for them, he treats them to. This is staggering promise. In Verse Twenty Four. He who calls you is faithful, he will surely do it. You see, he's telling these people, and he's telling us, that they're Christians because they've been called by God, not because of something they've done, not because of any effort that they've expended, not because of some insight that they've discovered. God initiated their salvation and he is faithful. What he starts, he finishes. Or, to put it in the words of revelation two and three, we learn that the true measure of whether we will conquer and overcome it's not the strength of our own arm, it's not the wisdom of our own judgment or the conviction of our own belief, but the power of the infinite, eternal and unchangeable sovereign God. Now that's pretty good encouragement, I think, for any Christian to step out in life without fear, knowing that their destined to be finished, completed, destined to be conformed to the character of Christ, to know that they have absolute freedom to take on the obstacles in front of them and to live the life God directs them to live. And you see the rest of this passage is a series of short commandments to help them and us to see that and to do that. Short, simple instructions, clear steps, uncomplicated directions that we can take to make real the promise of God that we will be completed, that we will be conquerors, that we will be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we can and will become a Christian community and change the word. God's going to see to it. So let's just take a look at this passage. I think we find these neatly package truth centered around basically three general themes. The first theme has to do with our relationship to one...

...another as Christians. That's versus twelve through fifteen. The second theme, I think, deals with our relationship with God himself, versus sixteen through eighteen. The third theme deals with our relationship with the truth, versus nineteen through twenty. You know I've covered, I've already discussed versus twenty three and twenty four, and then Paul concludes with some final personal thoughts versus twenty five through twenty eight. So let's just look at each of those in term in turn. These themes. First, this theme of our relationship to one another as Christians. Versus twelve through fifteen. Look there. You know, I think our relationship with one another has two parts. The Parson might be described as one getting along with the people that you look up to to getting along with people you might have a tendency to look down on. Now, either of these relationships could and they have in the past. They've caused major problems in the church. But here I think we have a series of short instructions on how to deal with both these relationships and honor the Lord and avoid conflicts and and factions in the church. So Look First there at verses twelve and thirteen. Think those verses have to do with our relationship with the leadership of the church. What does Paul say here about what that relationship should look like? Well, I think he summarizes here what Church leadership and involves by saying essentially that it's work that those who bear responsibility for Jesus name ought to be esteemed highly. Why? Because it's demanding, it's difficult, it's sometime frustrating work. Now use the three short descriptions of what he means by that word work. First Day labor among you you know the old story. I wish I had Christopher Chup of his job. He only has to work on Sunday. Well, you know that that's nowhere near true. Pastoral Work, elder work, Deacon work is hard work. Lazy men don't make it as pastor's elders and deacons. You know, my dearly departed mother's model in life was you might be smarter than me, ste but I'll outwork you every time. That's I think that's a good model for church leaders. You know, in other places Paul uses illustrations like farmers, I think, soldiers athletes to describe the kind of hard work he has in mind here for Church's Leer work. He talks...

...about that over in second timothy see H spurgeon once said about his own ministry, I work myself to death and I pray myself alive again. So I it's significant that Paul Describes Church leaders here as laborers. They work hard on our behalf. Secondly, Paul says that they are over you in the Lord. I think it's important to recognize that Paul speaks of this leadership as in the Lord. This is leadership that is called by God. Those who are willing to shepherd, to leads, is served to make the hard decisions and lead the people who need to be led. And finally, he says that they're two admonish. They are to teach you. You know, admonish means to hold the word of God up before our eyes and say the word of God calls us to this way of life, to this way of doing things. It calls us to not do these other things. You know, those who serve as elders, they have a heavy burden. They spend themselves watching out for our souls. They must give an account, it says in scripture, for our souls. And I think we can. We can make their load lighter, make their work a joy, contributing to peace in the church by obeying and submitting to their leadership. That's what it says over in Hebrews Thirteen. I think we should avoid giving our leaders unnecessary grief. We should strive to live a peace with each other. And so Paul says, respect them, esteem them, love them, because they labor and lead and help you learn. And I think that means to acknowledge and honor and think highly of their persons and their labor. Means to prize, to value, to regard them because of their work, to respect them, to esteem them and to love them, to pray for them, to let your hearts be knit with them in mission and the care about them and to be concerned for them and their family. So I think that's that's one thing. That's our relationship with those whom we look up to. Now there's another half here. The second half of this issue. Is at Paul raises is of getting along with each other, is that there are people in our lives whom we might be tempted to look down on, maybe some whom you consider less mature than yourself. And he lists three different groups here in this church, this Tessalonian church,...

...talks about the idol or unruly. Think there's other words are disordered, undiscipline. Then he talks about the faint hearted and he talks about the week. Well, what does he say here about each of these groups? Look at versus fourteen and fifteen. First he says admonish the idol or the unruly. Now, apparently this church in Tessalonaika, Tessalonia, had a particular problem with unruliness, lack of discipline. It appears that there were some who had abandoned their jobs and we're waiting for the Lord to return. They thought it was right around the corner and so they were living off the generosity of others, freeloading, so to speak. Now these are not necessarily ruthlessly selfish people, but they're the kind of people who can't seem to get anything done. They never follow through on anything, they can't hold a job or looking for a pot of gold at the end of the next rainbow. Can you tied me over until my ship comes in? But his ship never seems to come in. And apparently they're not just undisciplined in financial things but in moral things and spiritual things as well. And Paul says that these people need to be at montage. They need correction and direction and training and teaching. They need loving discipline. You know where to hold the word of God up before their eyes and say this is the standard of the Christian life, this is what you're to do and what you're not to do. Now I want you to note this important fact. Here. Paul is speaking here to you and me to the whole congregation, and he's saying don't just leave this admonishing to the pastor and elders, us a congregation are to be exhorting and admonishing one another in this way. Then he says encourage the faint hearted. Notice, not admonage the faint hearted, but encourage the faint hearted. Now, apparently these people are not lacking in much so much in discipline as encourage. I'm not sure who these people were, what was happening in their lives, but notice Paul says that the proper response to them as not to get tough on them, not to get in their face, not to get on their case, but to encourage them, strengthen them, teach them. And then he says help the weak. Now again the week could refer to people who are spiritually immature. They're less mature in Christ than they ought to be. They could be people who are dominated by something. Maybe they have a habit that seems...

...to to control them, such as alcohol, a bad temper, sexual immorality. But kick them out of the fellowship. No, help the weak. But don't you know, don't miss the point here. Three very different responses for three very different kinds of church members, people in different settings, people in different stages of life. The weak are to be aided, help the faint hearted are to be encouraged strengthened. Those that are out of step the idol there to be confronted, admonished with the word of God, and were to be doing all that with one another, not just leaving it up to the elders to do it, doing it out of love. And then he goes on and he says in all cases we're told to be patient with each other. Be Patient with each other, don't look down our noses at some people, don't reject them, because God is done with either of us, US or them. We are all at work in progress. Be Patient with me, you know, you look through scripture and you'll see the probably ninety nine percent of the people God has ever used at one time or another in their lives were in one of these categories. Each of us were there at some point in our lives. God has an afflict, affection for people who are undisciplined, fainthearted and weak. That's why he picked us. Christ. Patience with Paul, the Pharisee, the rebel, produced an apostle. It was probably the most significant follower of Christ who ever lived. So be patient. And the final statement in this regard. We see Verse Fifteen. Look there. Whether you've experienced bad leadership or hassle from someone else in the congregation, Paul's instructions are not to retaliate, don't return evil for evil, hassle for hassle, but rather always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Leave retaliation to the Lord. So those directions are simple, they're uncomplicated or straightforward, easily understood. I think these are the kind of things that we can begin to measure our lives against. The help us to become more of a Christian community, more of a Gospel Church. So in verses sixteen through eighteen we come to this second major section, which has to do with our relation to ship, to God himself. That's in sixteen through eighteen. To look there. So what do they say? What are those verses say about this relationship? Well, those who are in a right relationship to...

God are in the center of his will for them, and we see here what God's will is in these three short commandments, taken together as a whole. Rejoice, always, pray without seizing and give thanks in all circumstances. Now it does matter to God where we where we work, where we live, what school we go to who we marry. I think those sorts of things are important to you, but I think they're second in importance to the kind of person we become. That's what he wants for us, that's what we give us joy. I think one misunderstanding concerning the will of God is this idea that what I want for myself will make me happy, fill me with pleasure, provide for my every need, whereas what God wants me, wants for me, is righteous and true and eternal, but unpleasant. It will make me miserable. No, read the text. This is the will of God for you. Rejoice, always, pray without seizing and everything give thanks. I think our lives are to consist of unbroken rejoicing, it's to consist of unending intimacy with the master of everything, with the Lord God of the universe, and it's to consists of the freedom to thank God in whatever circumstances you are. That didn't sound like misery to me. God is not committed to making us unhappy. It's his intention that we live, I think, the most fulfilled and abundant and overflowing lives conceivable. He's much more concerned about it than we are, for we are for ourselves. I think the last thing to note here is that each of these characteristics are spoken of in a context that never ends, always without ceasing. In everything, faithful is he who calls you, and he also will bring it to pass. Must be true, because I am not capable of doing anything all the time in everything, you know, if God isn't bringing it to pass, if he's not making the joy I experience possible, if he's not producing in me a regular, ongoing prayer life, if he doesn't fill me with gratitude for the life he has given me, then it's not going to happen. Now, I mean, I'm incapable of charging my cell phone each night. I woke up this morning of us at fifteen percent. I mean, I'm I mean capable of never overdrawing my checking account, and I don't even know if I...

...should admit this to you, but there was one year I forgot my wife's birthday, and that is not a good thing. So if I can accomplish something, you know, if I can't accomplish something like that, then it's beyond me to even consider these demands that Jesus gives us. Know the will of God is accomplished by the power of God. Well, let me go on to this third section and versus nineteen through twenty two. It has to do with our relationship to the truth. Take a look there. What's he getting at? What's Paul Getting at in these verses? What is our relationship to God's truth to be? You know, I think all of us have seen how the vitality of life in the spirit can be strangled by things like tradition, things like habit. You know, the other day I heard want someone say that the seven last words of the Church Are we've never done it that way before, but here, you see, the Holy Spirit is seen as a flame, as a creative, powerful fire that is apt to do things that we would never do. We might want to quinch that, which might be different. So how do we quench the spirit today? Well, I think one way is that we resist his work. You know, the spirit is always at work to produce conviction of sin, Godly sorrow that leads to repentance. The spirit is always at work. Don't resist that work. You know, many of you've read Ericma Tax's wonderful biography of Dietrich Bonho von Hoffer, and in one section of that book. He tells about it. An American evangelist who actually went to Germany before World War Two to try and share the Gospel with the Nazi leadership and he actually got to speak to the high ranking Nazi official, Himmler, and ensuring the gospel with him. Himmler said this. He said, I do not believe that Jewish idea of laying one man's sin on another. I am an Aryan. I take my sins upon myself. Fine, say that, do that and see what that takes you for see where that takes you. Here was a man sharing the gospel with him. He was resisting, not going to deal with a conviction, not going to repent. So I think that's one the way. Another way is to delay your response to the overtures of the spirit. You know, we're on the holy spirits timetable, he's not on ours. The spirit comes when he wills to convict of Sin. Now is the day of salvation. Never say, I'll get back to you tomorrow on that. There may be no tomorrow. You remember the story over in Act Twenty four, Paul's preaching...

...to feel these about the judgment to come, and Luke records that Felix, this great Roman. Officially, he got scared and he stopped Paul in the middle of the sermon. He said, I'll hear more about that later, and he left Paul in prison for two years. He never spoke to him again. You know, those are frightening words. I'll hear about this later. Feelings for crying out loud, you had the apostle Paul, standing right in front of you. He wrote half the New Testament. He could have opened to you the gateway to Heaven, and you didn't have time for him. He said some other time. Bars we know that time never came, and I think finally, quenching the spirit means entertaining opinions and views that are contrary to his. The Holy Spirit never disagrees with scripture. The Holy Spirit never disagrees with scripture. You know, it may seem very worldly and wise that say I don't believe in the INERRAN see and inspiration of scripture. Well, the Holy Spirit does. He inspired it. So if you disagree with him, I think I know who's right WHO's wrong. It might seem fashionable not to believe in the Deity of Christ, but the Holy Spirit does. I'm sticking with the Holy Spirit on that one. So don't stifle the truth. Don't put God in a box and expect him to operate as if he were a man and act like we would. It says here. Don't despise prophecies, don't refuse to accept what the Prophets of God were revealing. Don't despise the preaching of the word. And there's a balance to all of this, and that's what Paul gives us in verses Twenty One and twenty two. Now, being original has no value in itself. Being new is no good at all if all you're doing is being disobedient. You can be the most creative follower of the latest false teacher and be doomed as a result. The spirit of God will never contradict the word of God. So, in our glorious freedom to expand and try new things and to seek God in areas where we have never thought of him before, check everything against the truth of scripture. Don't be fooled, abstaining from every form of evil. Then there's these closing verses here, and will go through this quickly. Verses Twenty Five through twenty eight. Paul gives first, he gives his parting request for prayer in Verse Twenty Five. You know, it's a humbling thing, isn't it, to read of an apostle asking of congregation to pray for him. Now think of WHO Paul was. Paul had been caught up into the third heaven. He'd seen things which a man is not allowed to talk about. He'd been...

...invested with Apostolic Authority. He had seen Jesus Christ facetoface on the road to Damascus. He'd been given Christ Authority over all the churches. He could do miracles, he could speak in tongues, give real prophecies and give words of knowledge. And yet he says to this little congregation, would you please pray for me? You know, if Paul can ask this congregation in festal and I could to pray for him, I'm asking you to pray for your pastor and your elders and your deacons and your teachers at I know you'd do that. He also says here in First Twenty six, to greet everyone with a holy kiss. Now cultures differ on this. They change over time. And now there was a man at desert springs, a godly man. You know him. He's names George Rhoda. He would come into church every Sunday morning when I was a pastor over there, and kiss me on both cheeks. It made me nervous, but he was not embarrassed in the slightest of that. George Rhodo is one of the most godly men I've ever met. So Paul saying here convey love, greeting affection, and don't just do it verbally, express it tangibly. Show the love and Kinship and Fellowship of the Gospel not only by genuine, gracious verbal expressions, but even show them by culturally appropriate physical signs. You know, I for one love hugs, lots and lots of hugs. You know, a key element of my personal philosophy of ministry is that you can never overdose on hugs. You know currently has an apron that she wears all the time and it says on the front of that Apron. Have you hugged a Presbyterian today? If you have it and do it, even go out and find a baptist and hug him or her. Then in verse twenty seven, Paul gives a powerful charge to the church to have this letter read to all the brothers and then he concludes the letter in Verse Twenty eight with a blessing, an apostolic benediction. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. You know, if you go back to the start of this particular epistle, he started the epistle with grace, way back in verse one of the letter, and now he ends it by extending God's grace to all these Christians and to us today. You See, these Thessalonians, they were people just like us. They were a Christian community, a Gospel Church, which affected the society around them. They affected the course of history. They had a dramatic impact on human events. And as a final word to them, Paul gives them all these uncomplicated, straightforward priorities,...

...and I think these are things that we can remember too, things we can analyze ourselves by. Markers said, we can lay down next to our lives to discover where we are, who we are as individuals and as a Gospel Church, as a worshiping community. Maybe men, we could write down a few of them, put them on the bathroom merit, take a look at as we shave women. Perhaps put them on the Refrige, some place where you will see them. Appreciate those who diligently labor among you. You pray for them. be patient with each other. We're all in process. Rejoice, always, pray without seizing, give thanks in all circumstances and abstain from every form of evil. Those are four you could pick from. Paul lays out more here. Pick some of those. We all have steps to take today. We all have places to go, of direction to head off into and get ready for the week. But most important of all, we all have the promise of God that it's not on us, that he will finish it. He who calls you is faithful. He will surely do it. Let's pray, thank you, Lord, that you love us, that you love your church, that you love this church. We asked that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened. We asked that we will be the kind of people with freedom to live as you want us to live. We ask that we will grow into the stature of Christ, because we need not fear anymore that we are in fit, unable to finish. Thank you for the steps you've given us to take to be a Gospel Church, to be a Christian community, to touch the world around us in Jesus name. So let's RESP.

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