Paul came to Thessalonica and showed them from the old testament ("the scriptures") what The Christ was supposed to look like and do, and showed them that Jesus IS this Christ and that he has come. Many believed. He taught them for a short time, maybe a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, we don't really know, and then was run out of town on a rail. You can catch the story in Acts 17.
At this point, think what it must have been like to be a Thessalonian Christian. Your leader chased away, left to live on your own. Excited about this new hope you've found. A new lease on life, everything is bright and new, and you are telling everyone you know about it. Then life starts to happen. Persecution comes. People question your faith, slander Paul. Your friends start dying. What's going on??
Paul wrote to them a very encouraging letter. "I KNOW you have been chosen by God. What Timothy reported to me about you was EXACTLY what I'd expect to hear from God's chosen children." What a relief to the Thessalonians! What else could have have told them that would have been more encouraging?
His main focus for their hope is the fact that any minute now, Jesus Christ is coming back for us. He says many times throughout the letter that their hope is in his return which will come unexpectedly. He will come and end the pain and suffering and injustice that his people experience every day on this earth.
So that bring us to today. The very end of Paul's letter. A rapid fire series of commands, urgings, pleadings for the Thessalonians to continue to pursue a life pleasing to God all the more. He's already made his case, won their respect, and has their ear. He's now wrapping up with his last words to them. He gives 20 commands, that I want to boil down today into four "attitudes" that we are to have. Here we go!
In light of Jesus the Christ redeemed them from their slavery to sin and the futility of a meaningless, hopeless, superstitious life through His work on the cross, and in light of His imminent return:
a Chosen Child of God:
Respects their leaders
12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.
- Labors among you tirelessly
- Is "Over you in The Lord" - In charge, has gone before, stands in front of... leads.
- Think Maximus, or a 1 Star general - out leading the charge to the bunker, or the calvary charge..
- Admonishes you - teaches you. "puts sense in your heads". warns you.
Esteem them very highly because of their work
- if they aren't working, they aren't really a leader!
- This work almost always go unnoticed... "pastors only work one day a week, right!?"
- We have no idea how much they do for us...
- Appreciate them! Not just with a monetary gift once a year, but are you actually thankful that God has put these specific people in your life to lead you?
But the best way to honor them:
Actively keep peace amongst themselves
Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
a) Admonish The Idle
unruly, disorderly, out of line
Think of the people in the marketplace in Acts 17
In Greek, military term "out of rank"
What does it look like to be idle in our church today?
Encourage the fainthearted, help the weak
Pray for them. Help them in their faith
Grieve with them, lovingly share God's word with them. Be there to just give them a hug. Affirm them
Don't admonish the fainthearted
Don't Encourage the Idle
c) BE PATIENT WITH EVERYONE
Incredibly difficult after admonishing someone a few times and no change, or encouraging someone many times with no change. But remember: we were (have been, probably will be again) THE SAME WAY.
d) See to it that no one repays evil for evil. (no revenge)
Instead seek to do good to one another and to EVERYONE
Matthew 5:38-42 - repay evil with good IN ACTION.
This is a reflection of Christ's love for us! While I was his enemy, he died for me. This is the exact opposite of what we deserve, and so we are to give people the opposite of what they deserve.
We're doing a whole series on this at The Rock this summer. If you'd like to explore this more deeply, join us! Friday nights at 7:30ish at Zeke's
Always Rejoices in Jesus
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
"Rejoice always" by itself is a bit of a superficial command... "BUCK UP, SOLDIER! IT'S NOT SO BAD!" - not very helpful
In any circumstance, we have reason to rejoice. God, the creator of the universe, crafter of this planet, knows us, loves us, and wants us to know him. Even though we have all separated ourselves from him by what we have done or haven't done to him, to ourselves, and to each other, he offers us a way to make up for it, BELIEVE IN JESUS. That's it. No amount of good we can do, religious ceremony we can perform, or wishful thinking we can trick ourselves into believing will fix the homesickness and guilt in our hearts. Only accepting God's free offered gift can.
If God Himself loves us, loves YOU PERSONALLY, what more could you ask for?! Everything else fades away. We can endure anything, any pain, any loss, any frustration.
Paul gives us several simple (not easy) ways of tapping into joy:
"Pray without ceasing with thankfulness for what Jesus has done for us."
This is God's WILL for us!
What does God want from us? To accept what Jesus has done for us, and focus on that entirely! To be thankful for it constantly. To consider it enough. This is the BASIS for everything we are talking about.
We can appreciate our leaders if we realize that God has given them to us and are thankful for that.
We can be at peace with our brothers and sisters if we realize that God loves them.
We can have love for even our enemies us if we realize how much God wants them to know him and love him.
Philippians 4 if you want more.
Does not quench the spirit
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.
Do not quench the Spirit
Do not suppress or subdue the Spirit's work in you!
The Spirit = Jesus. We have very pagan and superstitious notions of The Spirit these days. Not some mystical force, but a Spiritual BEING, a PERSON, named Jesus. As spoken of in The Bible.
Through active despising (as below) or passive neglect of what He tells you to do!
Do not despise prophecies.
A very practical example of Quenching the Spirit.
Prophecy = forth-telling, not fore-telling. Not Nostradamus but preachers! Someone who tells you how God's word applies to your life today. (And if they aren't using God's word (Bible) don't bother...)
Probably the most dangerous and easy to fall into area!
Goes with "respecting your leaders". Listen to what they have to say!
We are so cynical! We are so critical of those God has put over us; has given us to lead us in the way we should go. Left to ourselves, we will mess our lives up! Many of us have had that experience.
If someone is claiming to speak for God, don't simply criticize and blow them off! Instead:
Test everything: don't just swallow it blindly either, men are never perfect!
Hold on to what is good: if they tell you something that accurately lines up with the Truth (the Bible) DO IT.
Abstain from every FORM of evil: throw out whatever doesn't SEEM right, let alone whatever is outright false.
Here's a hint: if it's on daytime network TV, you can throw it out immediately. Absolutely worthless.
A few closing thoughts
23 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. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Paul's final prayer is that God would sanctify them (and you!). Sanctification is the process of making something "Holy" or "Set apart for a special purpose." The process of becoming more like Jesus in the way we think and (therefor) act. These four attitudes are a continual and growing result of becoming like Jesus.
It is beyond us to actually make ourselves holy. He asks us to do certain things, but the sanctification is up to HIM (otherwise Paul would have said: may God AID you in the process of sanctification...) - Philippians 1:6
And that we be kept blameless. What will you be in the middle of doing when Jesus returns?
He is going to give his chosen children the will, power, and ability, to carry through with the things he asks us to do, and to avoid what he asks us not to do. We have access to him through the Holy Spirit which lives inside of us! What an encouraging thought!
25 Brothers, pray for us.
Pray for our leaders!
26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.
Affection. A hug would probably do well in our culture. (SAME SEX!!) This is probably the best test of being at peace with each other. And maybe a good way to start down the road to peace. Try giving someone you have a grudge against a hug.
27 I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
This letter is meant for all the churches, all believer, it applies to you today!
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.