Monday, May 28, 2012

Final Words For Young Disciples!

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

The message is for young believers in a new church and it shows just how much belief Paul had in these young followers of Jesus.
What stands out to you about Paul’s style or approach with these young believers?  It really is like a letter being written from a father to his children as they leave home. 
As you read the passage, look at what is optional and what isn’t…try to be kind to one another…but be joyful always.  It shows us that when it comes to others, we can’t control their response, but we can certainly do something about the way that we enter into conversations.

The Strength of Leadership v12,13

As Paul closes out his message, he focuses on how we can strengthen the ministry of leaders within the church.
·         An attitude of respect
He lays out two commands with regards to those who are called to lead within a church.  The scope of leadership isn’t limited just to pastors as we see it includes those who a) work hard among you b) have been given a ministry to oversee or a group of people c) admonish you -  now…you might wonder about admonish – sounds like a spanking?  the word here means to put in mind or better those who can “talk sense into you”  with the challenge to encourage our growth in our faith.  Anytime that you step up to lead, in essence you are placing a target on your back.  You will be judged and scrutinized more closely.
For example – Wendy who leads our women’s ministry, Kathy and Mary who led Compass, your small group leaders along with our LB and many others I could list.
Hold them in highest regard – respect them for the position they hold. Recognize what they have been called to do and look for ways to support them and pray for them.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t challenge them, but if we see something that needs to be addressed, TWO THINGS - we should be ready to provide a solution, done in the right spirit and do it in love.
(example)  We can all think of examples when you’ve been on a committee or team meeting. It causes disunity when people don’t submit to the leader and it might not be the way that you would do it, but you learn to be at peace.
·         An attitude of peace - Live at peace with each other –  As far as it depends on you, live at peace with others.  We can  do this without being sarcastic or act In a demeaning way.   Look at your tone, your body language.  Bitterness can also really go down deep and there are a lot of off shoots so always be ready to ask for forgiveness whether you are the leader or a member of the team when you have not displayed an attitude of peace.

The Support of The Body v14,15

Warn the idle – ataktous (Gr) It’s a military expression that means to break ranks, to get out of line. It speaks of those who refused to serve their country. It refers to those who are undisciplined and irresponsible, soldiers who are idle because they are out of position.  I was so encouraged by some people who have been only attending here for a month and they are already asking about getting involved in serving.  The email went on to share where their passion and gifting was, do you need a letter of reference?  We can get police checks…

Encourage the timid – better understood as fainthearted.  These are people who maybe have given their all in serving in a ministry and have nothing to show for their efforts.  They need others to come alongside them.
Be patient with everyone – Recognize that often in a completing a task, our default will be to do it ourselves because it will get done right; however, we need to involve others.  As a parent could easily do stuff for their kids, it is much better to come alongside them and work with them to gain the confidence to do it with us.  It takes more time and effort, but in the end we are all better because of it.

The Standard of Perfection v16-22
(Of course there are 7!)

We have all come across motivational speakers or great speakers that have a way of communicating their message whether it is done through pictures, props or repeating a simple phrase.  I also remember studying under profs who would give us the main points through alliteration

Paul in our scripture passage uses some of these very techniques that we are looking at today Paul gives us the 7 Ps (Pi’s) of being holy or blameless in preparation for Christ’s return as John spoke on last week
Starting in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, in Greek, the language in which Paul writes this letter to the Thessalonians, each of these phrases begins with the Greek letter ‘Pi’, which is roughly the equivalent of the English letter ‘P’.

Paul knows that Jesus may come back at any moment and so he comes up with this way for us to remember how to be blameless, how to be holy in preparation for this event.

These verses have been referred to as the standing orders of the gospel.  They are all imperatives in the present tense

This is a great challenge, isn’t it?  After all, we would have no problem if the text said,
“Rejoice sometimes”
“Pray occasionally”
“Give thanks when you feel like it."

It is those modifiers that really can trip us up!  The real impact of the gospel will be felt when we don’t feel like rejoicing, praying or giving thanks for that matter and yet that is the transformative nature of the gospel that changes us inside out that we have both the power and the desire to rejoice, to pray, to be thankful even in the most difficult moments of our life

P1           Rejoice Always

Now let’s be clear that we aren’t called to rejoice about everything, but learn how to rejoice in all circumstances.  My mom always had a way with this. She would say, “Jack, if this is the worst thing that is going to happen to you, that you are not doing too bad at all.”   It was a way of helping me learn to put every situation into its proper perspective.

The truth that we need to remember is that because of the faith we have with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27). We know that the war is already won (1 Corinthians 15; 1 John 5:4). Nothing that happens here on earth, in our lives, can change the salvation that has already been provided through our Lord. Nothing: the only question is whether we will take advantage of it, whether we will experience it or not!

The gospel Jesus said is like new wine and it should make our faces shine.  I know some people think if we
The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) and “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).

P2           Pray Without Ceasing  

Ok, take a deep breath right now and slowly exhale it…without taking another breath and let’s try to hold that for 30 seconds

Prayer is your spiritual breathing.  This is just a simple illustration to remind us that trying to live without prayer will inevitably lead to greater pressure and anxiety on you as a person. 
We know that we are in a spiritual battle. We know that we fight not as much against flesh and blood as we do against powers and principalities (Ephesians 6:12ff; cf. Romans 8:38; 1 Peter 3:22). We know that there is always going to be opposition to the gospel. We know that even though the gospel is good news, we know that there are people who hate the truth and we know that there are people who really don’t want to hear the truth.  My daughter Addi was sharing with me how she was encouraging her one friend in .  It turned out that her sister was listening in on the other line and at one point she yelled at Addi and said, “why can’t you just accept her for what she believes”  The truth was that she didn’t know what she believed and Addi was talking about her faith.

John refers to many of these people as antichrists (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 2:1-7; cf. 1 Corinthians 6:22). There are people who are simply anti-Christian.  This can refer to those who have ignored  the message.   There are people who will not only ignore, but those who will attack us instead. Recognize that you are constantly under attack and the way to combat that is to keep in constant communication with God.
Some have described this type of a praying spirit to using a fishing net.  When a fishing net is being used, it is in the water and you watch for signs of movement.  You need to have a strong sense of awareness and be focused in your approach.  When using a fishing net, you are often working with a partner and so this isn’t a solo project.

P3 Give Thanks In All Circumstances

This attitude of thanksgiving is so important. The Lord loves us. Do we really believe His promises that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5). that He will not give us more than we can bear. He loves all of us and He manages to work together even the most unpleasant situations somehow, someway for His Kingdom purposes, and because of this we can learn to be thankful in any given situation.

That God is sovereign.
That nothing happens by chance.
That God causes all things to work together for good for his children.
That hard times reveal our weakness, break our pride, and show us our total need for God.
That God has triumphed over sin and death through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
That God uses the worst that happens to promote our spiritual growth.
That God is faithful even when we are faithless.
That God’s Word will be vindicated.
That God’s promises are true.
That evil will not reign forever.
That heaven is real.
That this world is not the “real” world.
That when we are weak, he is strong.
That his grace is sufficient for every situation.
That nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
That our salvation rests on God and not on us.
That there is no pit so deep that the love of God is not deeper still.
That the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from every sin.
That God delights to save sinners.
That the Lord can soften the hardest heart.
That there are no impossible cases with God.
That even when we feel alone, we are never alone.
That our Father will not test us beyond what we can bear.
That the Holy Spirit abides with us always.
That the Lord Jesus feels our pain.
That the Holy Spirit prays for us when we are too weak to pray for ourselves.
That the Lord Jesus intercedes for us so that we are finally saved.
That God uses everything and wastes nothing.
That our doubts cannot cancel God’s work in us.
That someday we will be conformed to the image of Christ.
That God is faithful to finish his work in us.
That our hardships equip us to minister to others.
That we are invited to come boldly to the throne of grace.
That God’s plan far exceeds our limited imagination.
That weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
That we are still God’s children even when our faith falters.
That while we suffer outwardly, we are being renewed inwardly.
That our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory.
From selected verses as compiled by Dr. Ray Pritchard

P4 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire

The Bible often uses the symbol of fire to picture the action of the Holy Spirit. Like a blazing fire, the Holy Spirit warms the heart with God’s presence.  The Spirit enlightens our mind to see things that we normally wouldn’t be aware of.  The HS empowers us and also burns away what is ineffective and unfruitful in our life. 

When the fire of the Spirit  moves in a congregation, the results may be so supernatural that some believers may be tempted to “quench” the work of the Spirit because it will get personal
How might that happen? First, you might do it by quenching the Spirit’s work in your own life. That happens whenever we say no to God. Perhaps He is calling you to take a step of faith, to follow His divine guidance, to move out of your comfort zone, to exercise your spiritual gifts in a brand-new way, to demonstrate the reality of forgiveness and reconciliation in a broken relationship. By saying “no” in those situations is like throwing cold water on the fire of the Holy Spirit. Don’t be surprised when your life begins to grow cold.

Second, you might do it by stopping the Spirit’s work in someone else’s life. I Corinthians 12 speaks of various manifestations of the Holy Spirit. It speaks of differing operations and differing gifts. This can be a risky concept because we aren’t all alike!

AW Tozer “Society has an elaborate conspiracy to make us all alike.”  So, the message is stay balanced, don’t get too fanatical, too weird…just blend and unfortunately that mentality can easily spread into the church in a way that can suffocate the way that God has designed and created us to worship Him.
God made you an absolutely unique creation. He gave you a combination of gifts, talents and abilities that He gave to no one else in all the world. It’s all too easy to become harsh and critical toward others believers who don’t see things exactly as we do. It’s perfectly legitimate to say that the Holy Spirit may work in your life differently than He may work in my life.

We can also quench the work of the Holy Spirit in our church by critical attitudes as well.  We can be very quick to judge whether we think the Spirit of God is at work in someone’s life or not.

P5 Do not treat prophecies with contempt

The word for prophecy here is the ability to speak forth the mind and counsel of God.  It is the exercise of the gift in bringing confirmation to what God is already speaking into our hearts and lives with regards to his will, his direction and leading. 

God may speak a word into your heart through a message that you hear, through the reading of Scripture and through others in the body as they speak into your life.
Sometimes it may not seem at the time to line up with what is happening in your life right now and it may also be something that God has yet to do in your life.

P6 Test everything. Hold on to the good.
The Christians in the first century town of Berea did this very thing in Acts 17:11. They were the next place that Paul and Silas visited after Thessalonica. They didn’t just accept what Paul was telling them carte blanche; they put his words to the test. They search the Scriptures; People sometimes make mistakes. We don’t always get it right.  It is for this reason that 1 Corinthians 14 shows us that we know in part and we prophecy in part…v12 goes on to say that we now see in a mirror dimly.  Good, God-honoring people sometimes make mistakes and when we hear someone share with us, we need to test it, approve it, check in it our own spirit.  Does it line up with Scripture? Pray about it and seek the peace of God to rule in your heart v15 ( be the umpire) 

P7 Abstain from every kind of evil

John Wesley argued that this involves more than just avoiding vices. He says, quoting a non-Christian Epicurean poet, in a sermon entitled, ‘The Almost Christian’ that “Good men avoid sin from the love of virtue. Wicked men avoid sin from a fear of punishment.”

Avoiding evil and avoiding it because of a legitimate higher love for the presence of God is extremely important.  We have to believe that it is every bit worth the pursuit.

I believe as we make the effort, God meets us and takes us to greater heights, greater depths and leads us to greater intimacy.

The  Sustaining Presence of God v23-28….
(just in case you thought you were doing the work).

God doesn’t set people up for failure. He is a loving God. He would never ask from us that which is impossible. After all with God all things are possible, and in Verses 23 and 24, He tells us how it is indeed possible to be perfect even as God is perfect. He says He will do it. God himself will sanctify us through and through, keeping us blameless until the return of Christ.

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