Growing in love for others is the result of deepening one's relationship with God. God is love so the closer we get to Him the more of His love penetrates our heart. It is the love we receive from God that creates the desire to love Him back. John 14:15 says to love God is to obey His commandments.
There are many ways we can appear spiritual, healing the sick, raising the dead, serving as a deacon/elder, worshipping with our hands up, falling down in the Spirit. Yet, our religious works are dead if not motivated by love (1 Cor. 13). Jealousy, envy, control, pride are often rampant amongst church leadership, true Kingdom leaders are known for one main character and that is love. Being Apostolic, Prophetic, performing miracles is nothing but clanging symbols without love.
Paul was most impressed with the Thessalonians because their faith was flourishing and their love for one another was growing. One of the most frustrating parts of the ministry is the lack of volunteers. Love is the motivating factor behind faith increasing. Faith and love are verbs meaning action words. So if we want to see more action by those we lead, we need to display to them God's love more. Churches can be full of people doing all sorts of religious things and yet really not connected to each other. Ministries need to scale back and keep things simple where growing in relationship with God and each other is the main emphasis.
As it says in verses 11 and 12 in order to live worthy lives where God is honored by the choices we make and the words we speak as leaders we need to provide the right environment. Ephesians 4:16 says each part of the body supplies grace to the other parts, so therefore to be enabled we need to be growing in God's love together as His body. If we want more of God we need to connect closer with other growing believers. Our issues will never be resolved isolated it is the body of Christ operating together that frees each member from the iniquities that can so easily beset them.
Sunday September 8th
1st Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:28
I had a conversation recently with Linda Hart, because she is the head of our prophetic team.
I told her that I had these two dreams on back to back nights, and I wondered what they meant.
In the first dream I was a teepee, waiting for the pow-wow to begin. In the second dream I was the big top, waiting for the circus to start.
I wondered if there was a reason why I was waiting for something to start in both of my dreams.
Linda told me, “You just need to relax, God is obviously showing you that you are two tense!”
In chapter 4 we find that the Thessalonians were also waiting, waiting for Jesus to return, and the Apostle Paul has to remind them that they shouldn’t lose hope while they are waiting.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Those verse are often read at funerals, to remind us to have hope in the resurrection, when we will be reunited with our loved ones for all of eternity, and the fact that Jesus would someday return and draw all believers to be with Him,
But, just like people today, it’s possible that the Thessalonians were wondering “when” that was going to happen. So in chapter 5, Paul starts off by addressing that question:
Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day.
“Just like a thief in the night”
“Destruction will come upon them suddenly!”
Jesus gives a similar warning in Matthew 24:44
“Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him."
That’s part of the great tragedy of our world today- so many people are completely unprepared to meet the Lord. Not only are they unprepared - they are actually proclaiming that there is "Peace and Safety" all around – Nothing to worry about! No judgment to face! You can just live any way that you want to. You won’t have to answer for it!
That’s why Paul says in verses 6 and7
“So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep; sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night.”
That’s not just a warning about drinking. Paul is also warning that we can’t allow anything in our lives that will diminish our alertness. Alcohol is just one example.
Just like alcohol will inhibit a person’s ability to think clearly and make good decisions, we need to avoid any form of sin or distraction that affects our ability to make proper moral and spiritual decisions.
That’s why in verse 8 Paul again encourages sobriety:
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
Does that language remind you of anything? It’s very similar to the “full armor of God” that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6. (the breastplate and the helmet)
Verses 9 and 10 remind us that as believers our ultimate destiny is to be with Jesus forever:
“For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.”
So we know that we’re going to live with Jesus for all of eternity, but how are we supposed to live with each other in the meantime? Paul starts to answer that in verse 11:
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
That’s definitely a good place to start – build each other up instead of tearing each other down!
Paul also encourages the members of the Thessalonian church to respect their leaders, saying in verses 12 and 13:
“But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, 13 and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”
Anyone who is in leadership can tell you what a blessing it is to feel love and appreciation from fellow church members.
And then notice in verse 14 that Paul adds this:
“We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
Paul obviously knew that certain members of the church weren’t going to be as loving and supportive as others, and he felt that the responsibility for ministering to the weaker members should be shared by the entire church, not just the leaders. He says “brethren”, help each other to grow, and work out your struggles together.
He continues that teaching in verses 15-18:
15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Paul’s advice when it comes to dealing with less mature brothers and sisters is to be patient, to always look for the good in each other, and to pray for each other without ceasing. Those are very good suggestions for all of us to follow, because ultimately the church is a family, and families need to take care of each other.
It follows naturally then that Paul reminds the church family at Thessalonica in verse 19:
“Do not quench the Spirit.”
Why do I say that it follows naturally? Because if we aren’t flowing together in love as a church family, then it means that the Holy Spirit is being “quenched” or limited in our church.
In scripture, the Holy Spirit is often likened to a fire, and we know that fires can be extinguished or snuffed out.
We certainly don’t want the lack of love for one another to become a hindrance to the fire of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our church, do we?
The next “family matter” that Paul addresses with the Thessalonians is not to despise prophecy within the church.
20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good
Why do you think Paul had to warn the church against “despising” prophecy? Isn’t prophecy a good thing?
I personally think that something bad had happened in that realm with the Thessalonian church, because in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Paul says,
“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.”
Do you see what might have happened there? Somebody had come into the Thessalonian church and “prophesied” to the people that the Day of the Lord had already come and gone! And these people claimed to have a letter from Paul backing up their false prophecy.
That’s a problem for sure. Wouldn’t you agree?
So we have to ask ourselves, what would cause people to despise prophecy? Bad prophecies, false prophecies, fleshly prophecies, unscriptural prophecies – those kinds of errors can cause people to doubt true prophecies.
That’s why Paul says in verse 21 “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.”
Which is similar to what John says in 1 John 4:1
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
Here at Praise we are careful to follow all of the scriptural guidelines regarding prophecy so that you can have confidence in the prophetic words that you hear. And on top of that, we encourage each of you to judge the prophetic words for yourself, to see if God wants you to receive and respond to them.
And regardless of whether or not you consider yourself to be a prophetic person, verses 22 and 23 are for the entire church family:
“Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
When Paul uses the word sanctify, he’s saying that we all need to “clean up our act”! Because sanctification is a process of purification that allows us to be fit for use by our King.
And he says that we need to let God “sanctify you entirely”. How entirely? Spirit, soul, and body – does that leave anything out? I don’t think so.
Compare what Paul is saying here to these other verses from 2nd Timothy 2:20-21
Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
Our goal should be to conduct ourselves as a “vessel of honor” so that we can be useful to our Master, our Lord Jesus Christ. And in order to be a vessel of honor we need to be sanctified. Think of it this way, you don’t use a dish until it’s been washed first!
Sanctification of our human imperfections is not only possible, it’s a promise. God is faithful and will accomplish it, as we are promised in verse 24,
“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”
In the final verses of his letter, Paul prays for these believers and asks the church to pray for him as well:
25 Brethren, pray for us.
26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. 27 I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you
Christianity is far more than just a religion, it is based on our relationship with God and our relationship with other people. To those of like faith, our role is to strengthen and encourage, to those of the world, our role is to draw them to Christ. Yet, to really impact anyone we have to invest time. Since our time is limited we must be wise who we spend our time with and for how long. If we overextend ourselves with too many people we may have a lot of friends but leave a very little mark. Jesus sought the Father who he was to disciple and so should we. Ministers like to brag about how many people they have in their church services, the question really should be who are we discipling?
Paul traveled to many locations and established many relationships which caused him to long to visit them especially when they were facing hardship. Unlike the Holy Spirit, we cannot be everywhere at once. So Paul would send his disciples when it was not possible for him to be there himself. Here, Paul sends Timothy to encourage and strengthen the believers in Thessalonica with the hope that they would be able to continue to endure through persecution.
What sets us apart from the world should not be just our religious fervor but our ability to handle the pressures of life. We are no different than the world if our faith is just a crutch to escape the problems of the world rather than face them. We are human and we will struggle but that is why we are part of a spiritual body that we lean on each other for strength when we feel weak. Our goal should be to gain such endurance that we can handle anything.
Paul was filled with joy and delight once Timothy reported how well the Thessalonians were doing. One of the greatest pleasures I experience is to see those I disciple grow and develop. To see them no longer tossed to and fro by the problems of life but rather see them get through their problems by the wisdom and power of God. Like Paul, my prayer is that they would walk in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as He removes obstacles, and they overflow in the love of God for the world around them.
How can we tell someone walks with God? By the fruit you shall know them. A Christian bumper sticker or t-shirt is not enough. It is how we conduct ourselves that speaks louder than what we claim. We are no longer under the law but we are in Christ who fulfilled the law. So it is not about trying to do right it's about being united with our Savior. It is out of this union that fruit is naturally grown.
Temptation doesn't cease after salvation, our flesh will still try to draw us away. The enemy will twist scripture just as he did with Eve so that we compromise and give in to his deception. We must see through the lies and resist the enemy through the power of the Holy Spirit. It says here that the will of God is to be sanctified and abstain from sexual misconduct. So no matter what we feel or hear in our head it is sin to commit any sexual acts outside of the confines of holy matrimony.
The flesh is lust driven, God is love driven. Lust takes, Love gives! Lust is selfish, love is selfless. Lust makes a human nothing but an object. Lust is not of God there is no rationality to giving into it we must not listen to any thought that says differently. When we give in to lust we take away the dignity and value of the individual we have lust towards.
As set apart ones we are no longer desperate for intimacy because we are loved intimately from God. Human touch is important and to be enjoyed in marriage that is why Eve was given to Adam in the grade. Yet, that desire will be granted in God's timing and in His way, in the meantime we have Holy Spirit and the fruit of self control to resist temptation to keep our hearts and minds pure.
Love cannot be taught it must be caught. God is love and only in relationship with Him can we receive from Him. We can pound 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter) in people's heads all we want but until someone personally walks with God they will not receive His love to give away. Our job is to point people to God to lead them towards relying on Him, not on ourselves. The world teaches that self-reliance is the goal of maturity, in Christ, we are to grow in God-reliance.
The Thessalonians were sitting around waiting for Christ's return and begging others to help meet their needs. Paul was challenging their false thinking, telling them that their end-time philosophy was just an excuse to be lazy. They were being idle and doing what idle people do, minding other people's business.
The bible says to occupy until He returns. We are not to wait for His kingdom we are to advance His kingdom. Those who are daily seeking His Kingdom don't have time to be caught up in the affairs of civilian life. We are soldiers of God, His weapons of warfare to destroy the works of the enemy. When we gossip and backbite we are shooting down our very own and it is as if we have changed sides joining the enemies forces. If we are walking with God we are filled with love, which is an action word, so it means LOVE WORKS.
Paul says to live quiet lives, minding our own business, and working with our own hands. Meaning we are to be focused on simply doing our part and leaving every other part in God's hands. Life is so less problematic when we only stick to what God has made us responsible for.
Regarding Christ coming we know He will physically return, it has been promised, so we don't need to be caught up about it. This understanding should lead us to see death differently than the world, we have hope, it is not the end, those who have died are asleep in Christ and upon His return will awaken with those who are alive and together we will always be with the Lord. This should give us great encouragement knowing that those in Christ don't die they just remain asleep until His return.