Well, I’m back from the Village Missions Couple’s Retreat and we had a wonderful time. Cheryl is still in California as she is speaking to our sending church this Sunday and then continuing to help her folks as they finalize moving from their home of 25 years. Please keep her in your prayers. I hope everyone is persevering in their bible reading. I’ll be posting my thoughts on 1 Thessalonians today and then 2 Thessalonians tomorrow. Because I’m taking such a large chunk of scripture, I’ll keep my thoughts short and sweet.
1 Thessalonians 1 – Paul tells the Thessalonians believers how he knew they had been chosen by God, namely, because the gospel came to them 1) in power; 2) in the Holy Spirit; and 3) with full assurance or conviction. We don’t need insight into the secret things of God to know when we are dealing with those God has called to himself. When the gospel is preached, hearts are stirred by the Holy Spirit. Those who were unwilling to surrender to God are now spiritually enlightened and willing to submit. Their lives are transformed by the power of God. Those who have truly heard and responded in faith to the good news of Jesus will begin to manifest a new life with new values and new priorities. Further, their commitment to Christ will be characterized by conviction and assurance that they belong to him. O that the evangelism we see done in the church today would be more reflective of what Paul describes as having happened in Thessalonica.
1 Thessalonians 2 – I was struck by several phrases Paul used to describe the ministry in Thessalonica. Since he speaks in the plural, I assume he is referring not only to himself but to Silas and Timothy, the co-senders of this letter. Anyone who ministers to others could learn from this passage but I would ask that each of you pray that these descriptions would be true of me as I pastor-shepherd in Mayer:
- Emboldened to speak the gospel despite opposition – If we believe that the gospel is true and that it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, then it is only the fear of man that would keep us from bold proclamation.
- Speak to please God and not man – Closely related to the above, I see this statement as I reminder that we are not to fiddle with the truth in order to make it more palatable to our audience, but are to remain steadfast, true, and uncompromising when handling God’s Word.
- Gentle as a nursing mother – Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit and one that I have been praying would be manifested more in my life and my dealings with others.
- Encourage, comfort, and implore like a father – What a balanced and caring approach we would have if our efforts at ministering to people could be characterized as encouraging and comforting but also urging the other onto obedience.
1 Thessalonians 3 – I immediately noticed that in v. 2-4, Paul reminds his readers that afflictions are to be expected. He tells them not to be shaken when they come, to recall they were appointed for this very purpose, and that he had told them they would experience afflictions when he was with them. Somehow, we think trials are unfair and pray that God would remove them. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with such a prayer, we should realize that trials, sufferings, and afflictions are not the exception, but the rule in the Christian life. When Paul found out from Timothy that the Thessalonians were standing strong, he rejoiced. As Spurgeon said, “When the man of God sees his people living to God at a high rate of piety…he exults over his converts with a holy joy.”
l Thessalonians 4 – I doubt that anyone would accuse Paul of abandoning the gospel of grace by preaching a works-based salvation. But he was never hesitant to insist on holy living, because God insists on us living holy lives. This is more than the imputed righteousness of Christ or the positional holiness we have as a result of being in Christ. This is actual, experiential holiness. Paul is clear in v. 3; God’s will for our lives is our sanctification – that we would be holy and Christlike. In fact he states in v. 7 that we have been called, not to impurity but to live in holiness. For the Puritans, life was a constant rehashing of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Each day they confessed their sins, dying to self, and each day they tried, by the Holy Spirit, to live lives worthy of the gospel, since they had been raised with Christ to newness of life. When you pray for yourself or your family, how high on your prayer list is holiness?
1 Thessalonians 5 – Many of us have memorized v. 17 because it is so short: Pray continually. But notice how that verse is connected with v. 16 before (Rejoice always) and v. 18 after (give thanks in everything). The more we rejoice, the more we pray. The more we pray, the more we rejoice. And when they are connected, the result is gratitude for all that God has done. Again Spurgeon: “When we joy in God for what we have and believingly pray to him for more, then our souls thank him both in the enjoyment of what we have and in the prospect of what is yet to come.”
Blessings folks, and stay in the Word!