Exhortations Regarding Idleness in the Church, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

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07Feb  We will look at 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10 in today’s blog.  As we come to the conclusion of our journey through this letter, Paul is led to address a dangerous problem that had developed in the thinking of these believers.

If left untreated, disorder in the church, like physical ailments, will only increase causing greater and greater sickness and pain. Because of a wrong response to the imminent return of the Lord, the problem of idleness touched on briefly in 1 Thessalonians, seems to have only grown worse.  There were those in the church at Thessalonica who had evidently stopped working and were running around in excited idleness from house to house in anticipation of the Lord’s return at any moment.

This wrong response to prophetic truth not only led to idleness and the lack of ability to support oneself and family, but it had resulted in becoming busybodies.  It appears they also expected the church to support them.  It is entirely possible that it was this group that had been spreading some or perhaps all of the false teaching discussed in chapter 2 of this epistle.  Furthermore, they were probably guilty of spreading rumors or gossip about others in the church.  Warren Wiersbe puts it this way, “They had time on their hands and gossip on their lips, but they defended themselves by arguing, ‘The Lord is coming soon!’”

In his previous epistle, Paul had warned these busybodies to stop such idleness and get back to quietly working with their own hands (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).  He later urged the believers there to admonish the unruly or undisciplined (ataktos, “out of order, disorderly, undisciplined”).  In view of this chapter, it is clear that either they had not heeded Paul’s admonishment or they had not listened to the admonishments from the church body.

This is a sad illustration of wrong interpretation or wrong application of biblical truth.  The New Testament does teach the imminent, any-moment possibility of the return of the Savior for His church; it is imminent, but no one knows when He will return.  It could be today, but it might not be, as has been the case for hundreds of years.  The principle is that . . .

We are to live as though

It will be today . . .

While working and

Continuing on in life

As though it could

Be tomorrow.

We must hold both truths

In proper balance.

As we learned from 1 Thessalonians, the coming of the Lord with all that it means to believers is to be a strong motivation to living in obedience to the teachings of God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit so that God will be glorified.

Misinterpretations and misapplications of the truths of God’s Word can cause endless trouble.  History records the foolishness of people who set dates, sold their possessions, and sat on mountain tops waiting for the Lord to return.  Any teaching that encourages us to disobey any divine teaching is not Bible teaching.

In these verse Paul offers two principles to help these believers get back on course in the lives and ministry.

1) The Exhortations of the Apostolic Team

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 3:6, “But we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from any brother who lives an undisciplined life and not according to the tradition you received from us.”

The seriousness of this exhortation is seen in the use of the word “command,” in Paul’s appeal in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the nature of the command “to keep away.” “Command” means, “give orders, instruct with authority.”  It was used for various directions given from persons in authority like human rulers, Jesus, and the apostles.  Paul used this strong word in connection with the idle busybodies in the first epistle (1 Thessalonians 4:2 and 11) and in this epistle in 3:4, 6, 10, & 12.

The word was a military word often used of a command by a superior officer.  The lesson here is simple:

The church is engaged

In spiritual warfare

(Ephesians 6:10ff))

With each believer a soldier

Whom God has enlisted

Into His army.

When we fail to follow

The directives of the Savior,

It leads to disorderly conduct

Which hurts our effectiveness

(1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2;3-4)

Paul uses another military term to describe the problem at Thessalonica.  Some of the saints were “undisciplined,” literally, “out of order” or “out of rank.” (see also 3:7 and 11).  This family of words was used of soldiers who were out of step or moving in disarray.  For another passage that uses military metaphors, we might compare by way of contrast two words the apostle used in Colossians 2:5 when he wrote, “For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit, rejoicing to see the order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.”  Here the apostle was thankful for the orderly way the Colossians had closed ranks and presented a solid front of soldiers in standing for the cause of Christ.  “Order” means “a fixed succession or order.”  It was a military term used of a rank or orderly array.  “Firmness” means “a solid body; steadfastness, firmness.”  This too was a military word and continues the military metaphor and means, “a solid front;” it was used of Roman soldiers marching shoulder to shoulder with their spears pointing forward.

In this regard, Paul appealed to the Thessalonians in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Commander-in-Chief of the army of God.  In essence, then, these commands came by the authority of Christ.  Paul was passing on authoritative instructions as an apostle, one sent by the Lord Jesus to plant or establish churches and to lay the biblical foundation for the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:20).  To disobey Paul’s directives was to disobey the Lord.

The command is spelled out specifically, “To keep away from any brother who lives an undisciplined life and not according to the tradition you received from us.”  “To keep away” originally meant “to set, place, arrange, fit out as an army for an expedition;” hence “to prepare, equip.”  Then it came to mean “to bring together” or “to gather up” as when one furls the sails of a ship.  Hence it came to mean, “to shrink back, restrain, withdraw oneself, hold aloof, avoid.”

The phrase “from any brother” stresses the principle and need of impartiality.  The tendency in exercising church discipline is to show partiality to some because of their standing in the community or in the church, or because of financial status, or simply because they are very likable people, but such cannot purify and toughen up God’s army for spiritual warfare.  As we are warned in 1 Corinthians 5, a little leaven eventually leavens the whole lump.

Paul goes on to pinpoint the specific problem, “Who live an undisciplined life and not according …”  As we break down these words, we can clearly see why Paul needed to so strongly address this issue.  “Who live” is literally, “walking in a disorderly way.”  “Walking” is a common word used in the Bible for one’s way of life or conduct in general.  “Undisciplined” is a vivid word that describes the nature of their behavior. “… The word means “to play truant.”  It occurred in an apprentice’s contract in Paul’s day in which the father agrees that his son must make good any days on which he “absents himself from duty or plays truant.”

The Thessalonians in their excited idleness were truants from duty and from work.  Such truant behavior was foolish because of the natural consequences and because no one knows when the Lord will return.  But it was more than just foolish, it was rebellion because it was contrary to the truth handed down to the Thessalonians previously (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12; 5:14) and to the teaching of the Word in general.  In essence, this constituted walking in disobedience to the Word of God.  This was rebellion and no excuse could justify such behavior. So strong measures were needed.

What does the Bible teach about manual (or menial) labor?  For one thing, labor was a part of man’s life before sin entered the scene.  God gave Adam the job of tending and guarding the Garden (Genesis 2:15).  Although sin turned labor into toil (Genesis 3:17-19), it must never be thought that the necessity for work is a result of sin.  Man needs work for the fulfillment of his own person.  God created him to work.

Have you noticed that God called people who were busy at work?

  • Moses was caring for sheep (Exodus 3).
  • Joshua was Moses’ assistant before he became Moses’ successor (Exodus 33:11).
  • Gideon was threshing wheat when God called him (Judges 6:11ff),
  • David was caring for his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 16:11ff).
  • Our Lord called four fishermen to serve as His disciples.
  • Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:1-3) and used his trade to support his own ministry.

The Jews honored honest labor and required all their rabbis to have a trade.  But the Greeks despised manual labor and left it to their slaves.  This Greek influence, plus their wrong ideas about the doctrine of the Lord’s return, led these believers into an unchristian and unbiblical way of life.

Later, the apostle will show that . . .

The issue here was ultimately

One of unwillingness.

The circumstances of life

(Sickness, loss of a job,

Economic conditions)

Sometimes keep people from working,

So the question was not one

Of inability but unwillingness

(Note verse 10, “if anyone is not willing to work, …”).

2) The Example of the Apostolic Team

1 Thessalonians 3:7-10 says, “For you know yourselves how you must imitate us, because we did not behave without discipline among you, and we did not eat anyone’s food without paying. Instead in toil and drudgery we worked night and day in order not to burden any of you.  It was not because we do not have that right, but to give ourselves as an example for you to imitate.  For even when we were with you we used to give you this command: “If anyone is not willing to work, neither should he eat.”

The apostle was always deeply concerned about his own example of Christlikeness, for he knew that a student will become like his teacher (Luke 6:40).  His great concern for this is evident in his statement in 1 Thessalonians 1:5 when he said, “… for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved (literally, “came to be”) to be among you for your sake.”

In these verses, then, Paul was able to turn to his own example and that of his team.  “Imitate” is the Greek word “mimeomai” from which we get our word “mimic.”  The idea of this word is that of modeling, becoming like, or following after another.  It stresses the nature of a particular kind of behavior modeled by another that we are to follow.  In the New Testament, it has a spiritual, ethical or moral emphasis and is generally linked with an obligation to a certain kind of conduct or character as a product of faith in the directives of the Bible and the example of the apostles or other leaders who were also following the Lord Jesus as their ultimate example.

It is linked to certain ones

Who are living examples

For the life of faith

And the character of Christ.

This, the apostle states, is a moral and logical obligation.  He said, “you must imitate us.”  The word “must” refers “to the compulsion of duty, of law, of custom, or of an inner necessity that grows out of the situation.”  Here it is the moral necessity that arises out of the fact these men were their spiritual mentors who followed the Lord Jesus and who had provided them with a godly example.

Thus, Paul adds, “because we did not behave without discipline among you, …”  Though they had the right to receive support from the Thessalonians, they set aside that right in order to provide a fitting example of Christ-like behavior (see verse 9).

This not only provided

An example to new Christians,

But was a way of answering

The false accusations of their accusers.

The word “without discipline” means “to be out of order, out of line.” It’s the verb form of the word used and discussed above in verse 6.

Paul himself was not idle.  His readers could verify this claim (“you yourselves know,” verse 7; cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:1; 3:3; 4:2; 5:2).  In imitating Paul, they would be imitating the Lord Himself (1 Thessalonians 1:6) because Paul’s life was so carefully patterned after his Lord’s.  He did not loaf at Thessalonica (verse 7b), nor depend on others to supply him with free food (verse 8a).  He supported himself in spite of much fatigue (“laboring to the point of exhaustion,” verse 8) and many obstacles (“toiling,” verse. 8; cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:9) in order to relieve the new Christians in Thessalonica of the burden of supporting him.

Paul did not have to exert himself so tirelessly.  As an apostle, he had “the right to such help” (verse 9; cf. 1 Corinthians 9:4ff; 1Thessalonians 2:7) from his converts.  He decided, however, to forego this privilege and leave an example for them to imitate.

With verse 10, the apostle reinforced their example by reminding them of their previous instruction as it pertained to working and supporting oneself and family.  As I noted previously, the instruction here is aimed at those who are “unwilling to work.”

This instruction was not just a matter

Of some cultural tendency

They may have noted

In the Thessalonians,

But of a fundamental biblical principle.

God is Himself a worker.  After all, He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.  As such, He designed a working vocation as a necessary part of life even before the fall and He expects each of us to be involved in some form of vocation that we might support ourselves and our families, find a sense of significance and destiny in our labor, and be a productive member of society.

Thus, denying support to those who are unwilling to work is not cruel, but becomes a basic form of discipline to force idlers into reality and into the responsibility of becoming productive people. This kind of discipline is tough love and provides a protection to both the individual and to the society.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Waiting For Christ . . . Warning Of Hell

Grace For The Journey

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5Feb In today’s blog we will look at 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 and look again at the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This was a theme precious to the heart of Paul.  He mentions the second coming of Jesus thirteen times as often as he speaks of baptism. An average of one verse in every chapter of his writings mentions the Second Coming.

In 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 he said, “For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”  And as he now come to close this great letter to the church at Thessalonica, he says this is verse 5, “And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.”

The Thessalonians had heard the gospel preached; they had turned to God, and in so doing they automatically turned from idols – but they did not stop there.  Having turned to the living God, they were created in Christ Jesus unto good works, and they had turned to the living God to serve.  But that is not all: As they served, they were waiting for His Son from heaven.

According to the Gospel revealed to Paul, every born-again believer has the hope of the coming of Jesus and every recipient of the grace of God believes in His second coming.

The grace of God

That brings salvation

Also teaches us to

Look for “that blessed hope”

And if you, dear friend, do not believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, if you do not expect Him to return to this earth, if I were you, I would take a long look at my salvation experience.

The Bible teaches us that redemption is instantaneous, and the moment we are redeemed we are just as thoroughly and completely redeemed as we will ever be; but salvation is continuous from the moment we are redeemed until we are glorified.  We are to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In Romans 8:14-17 we have been told that we are the sons of God (verse 14), we are adopted (verse 15), we have assurance (verse 16), we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (verse 17).  The Bible clearly teach that the Christian experience is progressive.  Until we see Jesus and receive a glorified body, there is no place in the Christian life that offers no further ground for growth.  In other words, there will never come a time, in your Christian life, where you can just sit down and do nothing for Jesus!

With that thought in mind, Paul reminded these early Christians that they were to be about the Father’s business.  We are to tell them the wonderful story of Jesus … of His coming into this world, of His dying for our sins, of His resurrection, ascension, and His Second Coming.  But that is not the end of the story, for as surely as there is a hope for the believer, there is a hell for the unbeliever.

The doctrine of hell is one of the most neglected doctrines in all of the Bible.  When hell is mentioned today, it is generally ridiculed, as if the whole idea of hell were so old-fashioned that only the naive and ignorant would really believe that such a place actually exists.  Natural men hate the idea of being held accountable for their lives to a holy God, because they love sin and do not wish to part with it.  The carnal mind throws up objection after objection to the idea of hell because it does not want to face the reality of it. Men live their lives thinking that maybe if they ignore a difficulty long enough, it will go away.  Even religious leaders are now attacking hell.  Let men do what they will; the objections of the foolish will not do away with hell.

Someone asked me once, “Do you really believe there is a literal hell?”   I responded by saying, “Let me answer that question from the Word of God.”  And then I showed them these verses: Matthew 5:21-22 says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, Fool! shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, You fool! shall be in danger of hell fire.”  This is the first mention of hell in the New Testament, and it is most interesting that the word fell from the lips of the Son of God.  In this passage Jesus plainly signifies that there is a hell, and that hell is a place of fire.  I pointed out another occasion when our Lord used the word “hell.”  In Matthew 5:29 He said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”  Here the Lord Jesus teaches that it is better to lose an eye – or even to be completely blind – than to have two good eyes and use them in the wrong way to commit sin that will bring damnation and the “whole body” be cast into hell.

Some teachers and ministers spiritualize hell, but Jesus definitely spoke of hell as being a literal place, a place with literal fire, and those who go there will have a body.  I think some of the confusion is that most people simply do not understand why there is a Hell in the first place.

The truth of the matter is that God never prepared a place called Hell for humanity, as seen in Matthew 25:41 where Jesus said that Hell is a place of “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  Therefore, Hell is a place where God will deal righteously with the devil.

Hell is where God will deal righteously with the condemned.  Jesus made this statement in John 3:18, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  The unsaved person is referred to as the “condemned” and Jesus made this statement in John 5:28-29, “Do not marvel at this; For the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and shall come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”  Although Hell was created for the devil and his angels, when man fell, he also became subject to eternal judgment; thus, the lost go to hell.

Having said all of that let me remind you that God wants no one to go to Hell.  2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  On the cross God in His marvelous grace and mercy, has made provisions for all men to be saved – anyone who acknowledges to themselves and God that they are a sinner, that they cannot save themselves, turns from their sin and to God,  accepts what Jesus Christ did upon the cross and through the empty tomb, and asks Jesus to be their Savior and Lord will be forgiven of their sin and escape hell.

What does the Bible tell us about the nature of Hell?

First of all, Hell is a place filled with unimaginable darkness and pain.

 Repeatedly Jesus spoke of outer darkness, where there will be wailing, weeping, and gnashing of teeth.  There is something about “darkness” that causes fear in our lives.  In addition to the fear there is physical and emotional pain.  Look at what Jesus says in Matthew 13:50, “And cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”  And then in Matthew 22:13, “Then the king said to the servants, bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The “gnashing of teeth” here refers to an outward manifestation of inward and emotional pain.  This truth is seen in Mark 9:18 when the father brought his demon possessed son to the disciples for deliverance, “And whenever this evil spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground and makes him foam at the mouth and grind his teeth and become rigid.”

Second, Hell is a place filled with unquenchable fire.

A quick study of the Bible will reveal that Jesus associates hell with “fire” as He often uses the term “hell fire.”  In Mark 9:46 and 48 Jesus describes Hell as a place, “where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.”  In Matthew 13:42 and 50 Jesus describes hell as a “furnace of fire.”  In Revelation 19:20 hell is described as “a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”

Third, Hell is a place filled with intolerable filth.

In Mark 9:46 Jesus described hell as a place where “the worm does not die.”  To understand that statement, one has to know a little of the history of Jesus’ day.  In the time of Jesus the Valley of Hinnom was used as the garbage dump of Jerusalem.  It was a place where people not only threw the garbage of the city, but it was a place where the bodies of dead animals were thrown, but it was also the place where the bodies of the extremely poor and executed criminals were thrown.  To consume all this, fires burned constantly.  Maggots worked in the filth.  When the wind blew from that direction over the city, its awfulness was quite evident.  At night wild dogs howled as they fought over the garbage.

Jesus used this awful scene as a symbol of hell.  In effect He said, “Do you want to know what hell is like? Look at Gahanna.” Some have described hell as God’s “eternal cosmic garbage dump.”   I don’t believe that is an adequate description of what hell is.  I do believe the Bible teaches that all that is unfit for heaven will be thrown into hell.

Because of the symbolic nature of the language, some people question whether hell consists of actual fear, fire and filth.  I promise you . . .

The reality is greater

Than the symbol.

The Bible exhausts human language in describing heaven and hell.

The former is more glorious,

And the latter more terrible,

Than language can express.

Four, Hell is a place of eternal duration.

As far back as Isaiah 33:14 hell is described as “everlasting.”  This verse describes hell in a similar way as we have seen Jesus teach about it, “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?  Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”  In Matthew 18:8 and 41 Jesus describes hell as “everlasting fire.”  In 2 Thessalonians 1:9 hell is described as “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.”  Revelation 20:10 says those in hell “shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”  What could communicate the duration of hell better than the expression “forever and ever?”

The most terrifying aspect of all about hell is its length or duration. Hell is eternal.  Hell will last forever.  We cannot you comprehend eternity.  No mathematical equation or formula can explain it. Your mind cannot conceive of eternity, but it is nonetheless real. This aspect of hell alone should cause men to cry out in repentance.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “In hell there is no hope.  The dammed have not even the hope of dying – the hope of being annihilated.  They are forever – forever – forever lost!  On every chain in hell, there is written ‘forever.’  In the fires there, blaze out the words, ‘forever.’  Above their heads, they read, ‘forever.’  Their eyes are galled and their hearts are pained with the thought that it is ‘forever.’”

Christopher Love says, “This is man’s misery in hell, he shall be there with no hope of coming out after he hath been there millions of years, than he was when he was first cast in there; for his torments shall be to eternity, without end, because the God that damns him is eternal.”

Let me give you a little summary of have we have seen so far:

  • Because of sin, humanity is alienated from God.
  • There is no doubt in the Bible that heaven and hell areconsidered real. Jesus Christ came to overcome this alienationand make a way for each of us to be reconciled with God.
  • We each must make that decision and it happens through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • If a person does not make that decision, they remain separated from God.
  • And that might be tolerable in this life and in a world that enjoys God’s mediation. But to die in a state of separation means eternal separation, this time in a place where God has withdrawn His presence … and that place is called hell.

Paul is led by the Holy Spirit to share these truths not only to inform the Thessalonica believers about the glorious truth of Christ’s Second Coming but to warn of the dreadful reality facing everyone who has not prepared for the day.   Hard truth . . . but needed truth.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Nothing But The Truth

Grace For The Journey

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4Feb  In today’s blog, we will look at 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 and learn what we need to base our hope for today and the future on.  Paul was a balanced Christian who had a balanced ministry; and we see evidence of this as he brings his letter to a close.  He moves from prophecy to practical Christian living.  He has turned from the negative (Satan’s lies) to the positive (God’s truth), and from warning to thanksgiving and prayer.

We desperately need balanced ministries today.  As, from time to time, we deal with the subject of prophecy; we must always remember that we are still living in the present.

We must never permit

The study of prophecy

To be an escape

From our responsibility

For today.

Paul’s emphasis is on the truth of God’s Word, in contrast to Satan’s great lie, which Paul discussed in our earlier studies.

Every believer has at least two responsibilities to God’s Word.

1) We are responsible to believe the Word.

Paul says this in verses 13-14, “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We have already seen Paul’s repeated words of thanksgiving for these early Christians in the first chapter of this letter.  He gave thanks for the way they responded to God’s work in their lives.  In these two verses, Paul reviewed the five stages in their salvation experience.

First, he reminded them of God’s love for them.

Verse 13 says, “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord.”  Whatever God does for the lost world springs from His eternal love.  We must never think of God’s great plan of salvation as an impersonal machine.  John 3:16 reminds us that God’s plan of salvation is rooted and grounded in His love, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Romans 5:8 reminds us that God proved His love for us when Christ died for the sins of the world, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

 In John 3:16

God said it;

On the cross

Christ proved it;

And in Romans 5:8

The Bible reminds us of it.

Second, he reminded them that God chose them.

Look again at verse 13, “…because God did from the beginning chose you for salvation…” Take note of this truth . . .

It is not love alone that saves us,

For God loves the whole world,

And yet the whole world is not saved.

Love reveals itself in grace and mercy.

God in His grace gives us through Christ

What we do not deserve,

And God in His mercy

Does not give us

What we deserve –

But He gave that to Christ.

Jesus said in John 12:32, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to Me.”

Third, he reminded them that God had set them apart.

Verse 13 continues “…God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification…” The word “sanctify” means “to set apart for a divine purpose.”  Sanctification reveals itself in three stages: past, present and future.  When we were saved, we were set aside. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived.  Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

In our daily walk,

As we allow God

To work in our lives,

We are being conformed

Into the image of Jesus Christ.

Paul reminded us in Romans 8:29, “For whom He did foreknow, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” Ultimate sanctification will be ours only in eternity.  Paul said this in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Fourth, Paul also reminded them that all of this began with God’s call.

Verse 14 says, “To which He called you by our gospel…” The same God who ordained salvation also ordained the means to salvation.  Look again at Romans 8:29–30, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”  You see, God not only knew who was going to be saved, but when we came to Him by faith, He predestined us for heaven.  That in itself is pretty awesome, but the story does not stop there, because after we responded to God’s call to salvation, He also foreordained that we should be conformed to the image of His Son.  In other words . . .

The glorified Son of God

Is to be

Our pattern,

Our power,

And

Our goal.

Fifth, he reminded them that God also gave them glory.

Look again at verse 14, “…for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  What began in eternity past reaches its climax in eternity future: we share in the glory of God.  Now don’t miss this truth . . .

What begins with grace

Also leads to glory.

This is quite a contrast to the future assigned to the lost. Hell is unspeakable when it comes to suffering.

2) We are responsible to practice God’s Word.

Verses 16-17 tell us, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.”  The Bible tells us in Isaiah 7:9, “… If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established.”

It is a biblical fact that believing the Word and practicing the Word will cause the child of God to be established.  Some believers talk more about their weak faith and their failures than they do about what God says in His Word about them.  Then they wonder why they never seem to grow strong spiritually!

I am convinced that a believer who is weak in faith should take the same amount of time he has spent bemoaning his failures and lack of power, and spend that time studying the Bible.  If a believer will do that, he will be well on his way to becoming strong in faith and established in the Word.

For example, the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that when you invited Christ to come into your life, forgive you of your sins, and make you a Christian, you became a new creation in Christ Jesus.  So read the epistles carefully and look for verses and passages that reveal who you are in Christ Jesus. Also, go through the New Testament and look up all the verses that include the phrases, “in Him,” “in Christ,” and “in Whom.”  Each of those verses tells you something about who you are or what you possess in the new birth.  As you learn, believe, and live by God’s Word and fix your faith on what God says about who you are in Christ, you will keep your heart strong and established in the midst of life’s trials and temptations.

Closely associated with the study of the new birth is the study of our sonship privileges.  Learning about, believing, and appropriating our inheritance as God’s children is an important part of establishing ourselves in our Christian walk.  The Bible says in 1 John 3:1, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”  In the new birth, we became children of God and heirs to certain rights and privileges in the Kingdom of God.  In fact, the Bible tells us in Romans 8:17 tells us that we are “joint (or equal) heirs with Jesus Christ.”

In regard to our sonship privileges, I want to remind you of the story about the prodigal son and his elder brother found in Luke 15:11-32.  Jesus told this story to teach the religious leaders of His day concerning the heart of God.  And you know the story about how the younger brother asked for and got his inheritance, left home, spent it all on lose-living, ended up in a hog-pen, and, out of desperation, swallowed his pride and went back home.

Verses 22-24 tell us that upon the return of the younger son, the father called for a great feast to be prepared to celebrate his son’s return.  When the elder brother heard about it, he was angry and jealous.  Verse 29 reveal the heart and attitude of this older brother, “I have served you faithfully all of these years, but you have never had a big feast in my honor.”  I like the father’s response to the elder brother in verse 31, because it tells us something about our sonship privileges, “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.” Hallelujah!  What a Savior!

When you are born again into the family of God, your Heavenly Father tells you, “All that I have is yours.”  All you need to do is ask yourself this question, “What does my Father have?”  If He has it, it’s yours, because you are His child and a joint heir with Jesus Christ.

How are you going to find out what God has provided for you?  By studying the Word of God.  Once you discover in the Word that God promises to meet a particular need in your life, you can claim your need met in the Name of Jesus.  Whatever God’s Word says is yours in Christ – belongs to you.

3) A study of the Holy Spirit will also help to establish you in the Word!  

The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:4 reminds us, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”  In other words . . .

The Spirit of God

Is also

The power of God

Living in us.

But if you don’t know what to believe about the Holy Spirit, you can’t put His power and ability to work in your life!  For instance, do you remember what Jesus said to the disciples about the Holy Spirit just before He went to the Cross?  The Bible says in John 14:16, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby) that He may remain with you forever.”  Anything you could ever need from the Holy Spirit is included in that verse!

But, you have to believe in order to be established, as we have seen in Isaiah 7:9.  It is up to you to establish your heart in what the Word of God says about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  You must believe in His power and act on His leading before the Greater One within you can work in your life the way He wants to.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Keeping Your Head in the Last Days

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Feb  We continue to look at 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 again today.  Yesterday we looked at the first sign the Thessalonians were given by Paul of the nearness of Christ’s coming – there will be a great “falling away” from the faith.  Today we will look at the second sign – “… the man of sin is revealed.“

After 14 years of studying the Bible, William Miller became convinced that Christ would return in 1843.  When Miller announced April 3 as the day, some disciples went to mountaintops, hoping for a head start to heaven.  Others were in graveyards, planning to ascend in reunion with their departed loved ones.  Philadelphia society ladies clustered together outside town to avoid entering God’s kingdom amid the common herd.  When April 4 dawned as usual the Millerites were disillusioned, but they took heart.  Their leader had predicted a range of dates for Christ’s return.  They still had until March 21, 1844.  The devout continued to make ready, but again they were disappointed.  A third date – October 22, 1844 was set, but it also passed.  Many people were swayed and confused by these end time teachings, and ultimately many turned not only from faith in those predictions but also from faith in Jesus.

This is a big part of the reason

That we need to have

A good foundation of what

The Bible teaches about the end times

And a firm grasp upon our faith.

In our text Paul writes to a church that had become confused once again about the end times and he writes to set them straight.  The question for us is “How do we avoid confusion in the midst of the last days?”  I want us to look at three simple, yet important, things that will help to guard against our faith becoming corrupted and confused.

The first thing that we need to guard against is, we must not be dismayed.

Paul says this in verses 1-2, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.”

Apparently, the church at Thessalonica, or some members of it, had become distraught because a rumor had circulated that the “Day of the Lord” had come and gone and they had missed it.  Paul seems to suggest that a letter or a report had falsely been sent in Paul’s name.  Paul is writing to correct these things.

The job of the enemy of our souls is to cause disbelief and disorder in the church; over the years one of his favorite methods is causing confusion about the end times.

Granted, because of all the preaching and teaching on this subject, the subject of the Second Coming of Christ can get a little confusing at times.  For example, there are some Bible teachers that believe in the Post-millennial theory of the Second Coming of Christ.  This theory holds that the church will remain on the earth until the Return of Christ at the end of this present age, at which time the church will be caught up into the clouds to meet the Lord when He Returns.  That is, the Rapture of the church and the Return of Christ will take place at the very same time, and conversely, the church will go through the tribulation and then experience the millennial reign of Christ.

Then there are those Bible preachers and teachers that hold to an A-millennial theory of the Second Coming of Christ.  This theory holds that there will be no millennial reign of Christ at all.  That is, they believe that everyone will be raptured at the same time and will all stand at a “General Judgment” before the Lord.

There are other Bible preachers and teachers that hold to a theory of Pre-millennial theory of the Second Coming Of Christ.  This theory holds that Jesus will rapture the church; there will be a seven-year tribulation period, followed by the millennial reign of Christ on the earth, which will be followed by the Eternal State.

Here is the bottom line – regardless of the correct theological interpretation concerning the Second Coming of Christ, you are not going to “miss” the Lord’s return if you’re trusting in Jesus – you don’t have to wonder about that.  Your salvation is based upon what Christ did and the fact that you are trusting in that.  The Day of the Lord isn’t going to come secretly and all of a sudden you realize that you have missed it.

The first thing that I want to drive home to you is this. . .

With regard to the Lords return

And specifically with regard

To teaching about it –

Don’t be dismayed.

The second thing that we need to guard against is, we need to be careful that we are not deceived.

Paul discusses this in verses 3-12.  In this passage he points out some truths that we do not have to wonder about:

First, we know that the forces of evil are at work in our world today.

Paul says in verses 6-7, “And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time.  For the mystery of iniquity is already work …”

Now we need to be careful right here, because Paul is not saying that the Antichrist is already here, he is simply saying that the attitude of lawlessness and rebellion that marks the work of Antichrist is already at work in our world today.  And I don’t think there is a person on the face of this earth that can deny that fact.

Christians today are the most persecuted group in the world.  Persecution is on the rise because of Communism, the expansion of Islamic and Hindu extremism, and because of the anti-Christ spirit that is prevalent throughout the world.  Literally hundreds of thousands of people today are being killed, brutalized, sold as slaves, imprisoned, tortured, threatened, discriminated against and arrested solely because they are Christians.

1 Peter 4:12-16 has given us this warning, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you, but rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. If any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name.”

Jesus said this in John 15:20, “Remember the word that I said to you, a servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”

The truth of is matter is that Christian persecution can be traced all the way back to Christianity’s beginnings.  Jesus Christ Himself was martyred on the cross.  Eleven of the twelve apostles were martyred for their faith.  John was the only apostle who died a natural death.  The Early Church faced widespread persecution with Stephen being the first Christian martyr.

Therefore, it is a fact that the attitude of lawlessness and rebellion is at work in our world today.

Second, we know that the restraining power that is now hindering Satan from having his way in today’s world is a “He.”

Look again at verse 7, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.”  It is evident that whoever this person is, he must be stronger than the devil, for it is Satan that is being restrained.

With that thought in mind, look at 1 John 4:4 where the Bible tells us, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world.”

In this present age, God in His sovereignty is holding back the power of the Satan, and restraining him from doing all that he wants to do.

As bad as the world is,

It is not as bad

As it could be.

As evil as man is,

He is not as evil

As he could be.

But one of these days, God is going to remove that restraining power and allow Satan to have the fullness of power and authority on this earth.

But when is this going to take place?  The Holy Spirit was given to the Church on the day of Pentecost, and when the Church is translated, or Raptured, the Spirit’s restraining ministry will be completed, and therefore will cease.  Therefore, “the day of the Lord” will not fully come until the church is taken out of this world, and the restraining power of the Holy Spirit is removed!

Now what does the Bible mean when it talks about the man of lawlessness and a rebellion before the day of the Lord?  In answer to this questions, for the purposes of my blog, I am just giving a simple overview of the subject.  When it comes to the identity of “the man of sin, the son of perdition,” there is much controversy among theologians.  Some believe that the antichrist is an evil dictator that will rule the earth during the tribulation, which will occur before the Lord returns for His church.  Others believe the church will go through the first 3 ½ years of the tribulation before it is raptured when the antichrist is revealed and a time of great suffering and pouring out of God’s wrath will take place before the Lord return in the Second Coming.  Still others believe that the Lord is going to rapture His church immediately prior to the tribulation period; the antichrist will become a world leader, will sign a counterfeit Peace Treaty with Israel and operate under-cover for the first 3 ½ years of the tribulation period.  He will then reveal himself for who he really is, break his treaty with Israel and it is during this last 3 ½ years God will unleash His wrath referred in prophecy as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” or “the great tribulation.”  After these seven years, Christ will then return to establish His millennial reign on the earth prior to establishing the Eternal State.  Those who believe the last two view distinguish between the rapture and the Second Coming (Day of the Lord).

 And, thirdly, the last thing that we should guard against is that we must not be distracted.

Paul says this in verses 13-15, “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”

In other words . . .

Do not become so distracted

By thinking, studying, waiting on,

The return of Christ

That you forget the purpose

For which you were saved.

There is a world of lost people

Just outside the walls of your church

That need to hear

The Good News of Jesus Christ.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Great Apostasy

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

31Jan  We will look at 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 today and see God’s counsel for the end times.  God in His marvelous grace always forewarns man of impending judgment and doom!

  • Before God destroyed the world the first time with a flood of water, He raised up Noah, a man of righteousness, and allowed him to prophecy and forewarn the people of his day for 120 years.
  • Before Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed with fire and brimstone from heaven, God allowed Abraham to intercede for the people there.
  • He also placed Lot inside the city, and if Lot had been faithful, he no doubt, would have been able to save some of those people from that judgment of fire.
  • God used His prophets to forewarn the children of Israel that, if they did not change their ways, they would be led away captive by the Babylonians for a period of 70 years.
  • Likewise, when Jesus was here on this earth, He forewarned the Jews of His day, that Jerusalem was going to be destroyed, and that their temple in which they worshiped was going to be completely destroyed that not one stone would be left on top of the other.

God, in His mercy,

And

God in His grace,

Never leaves Himself

Without a witness

In this world,

Regardless of how godless

The people might seem to become.

God always forewarns mankind of impending judgment and doom!

Now, it is no less true concerning the Second Coming of Christ, for God has forewarned us through prophecies and signs that point us to the nearness of His imminent Return. But unfortunately, we too are guilty of ignoring God’s great desire to let us know that we need to prepare ourselves spiritually for His Return.

In our previous studies of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians, we have seen that some of the believers in Thessalonica were having some problems with the doctrine of the Return of Christ.  They were eager concerning the Rapture of the Church, and looked for the coming of Christ in their life-time.  However, they had no idea that this age of the Church was going to span some 2,000 years.  Therefore, Paul instructs them to be cautious, because false teachers were going around preaching that they were already involved in the Tribulation period.

The Church in Thessalonica was therefore in danger of falling victim to deception and error.  So Paul gives this warning in verse 3, “Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come the great falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”  Paul says . . .

The “day of the Lord”

Has not come,

And will not come

Until two things happen:

(1) “For that day shall not come, except there come the falling away first …”  The Greek word that has been translated “falling away” is the word for “Apostasy.” And.

(2) “… That man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”

I will cover the first of these signs in today’s blog.  Our study of the “man of sin… the son of perdition” will require additional study of the Word of God than we have time for today, but which we will look at tomorrow.

The word “apostasy” carries with it three ideas:

(1) The word “apostasy” means “opposition towards God.”

It is used in the Bible as being opposed to God, and is the same as the Hebrew word used in Jeremiah 29:32, “Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his family: he shall not have anyone to dwell among this people, nor shall he see the good that I will do for My people,’ says the Lord, ‘because he has taught rebellion against the Lord.’”

(2) The word “apostasy” also means “a falling away, or departing from  the truth”

This is the same language used by Peter when he warns against apostate teachers who deny redemption by the blood, as seen in 2 Peter 2:1-3, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.  By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long-time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.”

(3) The word “apostasy” also means “rebellion against constituted authority.”

This meaning is in direct opposition to the message of Paul, as recorded in Romans 13:1-3, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.  Do you want to be unafraid of the authority?  Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.”

Already in our world there is a great apostasy.  Already in our world there is opposition and hostility towards God.  Already in our world there is a rebellion against constituted authority.

But the “apostasy” that is discussed in this our passage today is the “apostasy” that is involved within the ranks of organized religion.  There is a great and growing “apostasy” among “professing Christians” today.  You will notice that I said “professing Christians,” for the truly born again child of God, will not, and cannot become an apostate.

Zechariah 13:6 prophecies this very truth, “And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your arms?’  Then he will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’”  Just as surely as there were those among the Jews that were in violent opposition to Jesus, there will be those among the ranks of organized religion that are violently opposed to His teachings.

Today, as never before in the history of the Church, Jesus Christ is being attacked.  He is being stripped of His deity and of His virgin birth; He is being lowered to the level of great religious leaders and the founders of other cults.  And the world is saying that He was lying about His Second Coming!

Therefore, let’s look at the kind of apostasy that is going on right now, that is preparing the way for the Coming of the Lord.

First, there is an apostasy of belief.

The Bible gives this warning in 1 John 2:18-20, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.  But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things (It is impossible for the born again believer to be deceived about the truth of Jesus Christ, because we have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth). I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.  Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.”

Just as Jesus had His forerunner in the person of John the Baptist, and his disciples, to prepare the way for Jesus when He came forth preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, Satan has his forerunners to prepare the way for the antichrist when he come on the scene.

Before the people are ready

To receive the antichrist,

The real Christ must be

Displaced in people’s minds,

And in their hearts!

And the way Satan does this is to send out false teachers to deceive them into believing “another gospel.”  This truth is seen in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 & 13-15, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted – you may well put up with it … For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.  And no wonder!  For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”

Every false religion, every cult,

And every denomination,

That departs from the Word of God

Is a forerunner of the antichrist.

Every preacher, and every teacher,

That takes away from

The Lordship of Jesus Christ,

And says that Jesus Christ

Is not the only way to God,

Is a forerunner of the antichrist.

Do you know where the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons, and all of the other cults, get most of their members?  They get them from those who are on the rolls of Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, and other evangelical churches who have never been saved, so they believe a lie!

There is an “apostasy” of belief

Going on in the churches today,

And Paul says they

Are “enemies of the cross.”

Not only is there an “apostasy” of belief . . .

Secondly, there is also an apostasy of behavior going on in our churches today.

Let me remind you that . . .

False teaching

And false living

 Always go together!

This truth is seen in 2 Peter 3:3 the Bible tells us, “Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts.”  The person that denies the truths of Jesus Christ and the Word of God, always goes hand-in-hand with the person that is a slave to his own unholy desires and selfish lusts.

“Apostasy” has sabotaged the Bible . . .

  • It, has humanized God;
  • It has deified man;
  • It has minimized sin;
  • It has glamorized sex;
  • And it has destroyed righteousness through the Atonement of the Cross.

And if you go into the average church today, you will hear very little , if any preaching on the inerrancy of the Bible; the necessity of being saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, by the Word of God alone, for God’s glory alone; the Lordship of Christ; and the literal Second Coming of Christ.  Sadly . . .

Because the focus of many churches

Has been turned from

The message to ministry,

There is very little solid doctrine

Being advocated; and there is very little

Difference between church members

And those that are members

Of the local service clubs in town!

What, then, is the answer?  It is simply not enough to come and join the church, and to follow with baptism, and become involved in some program.  My friend . . .

It is absolutely necessary . . .

To become aware of your sin problem;

Accept what Jesus has done about that on the cross

And ask Jesus Christ to come into your heart,

To forgive your sin and change your life!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

An Encouraging Word

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

30Jan  I want to spend the next five blogs looking into Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians.  A few months after writing his first letter to them, Paul writes his second letter to the Christians at Thessalonica.  Why did he find it so necessary to write this second letter?

Let me give you a short list of the possible reasons:

  1. The first letter didn’t answer all their questions.
  2. Verse 4 tells us their persecution had intensified.
  3. Chapter 2:2 tells us they had gotten a letter from someone claiming to be Paul … but this letter wasn’t from Paul.
  1. Chapter 3:11 tells us that some of the Thessalonian believers had quit their jobs to wait for the Rapture.

But the real problem was that these Thessalonian Christians were under such unexplainable persecution, that they concluded that surely God was displeased with them.

Have you ever felt that way?  I mean, when things go wrong … or when bad things happen to you … do you feel like God is punishing you … or is displeased with you to the point that He is withholding His blessings from you?  I think all of us have gone through that kind of thinking at some time in our Christian life.

That kind of thinking is what some have called “The Principle of Retribution,” and it is at the heart of every major religion.  And this kind of thinking and/or teaching says, “If you displease the gods, they will get you…floods, famines, fire, disease are the result of the wrath of the gods.” And it is amazing how many Christians have the same kind of warped idea about God.

Many preachers preach, and many Christians believe that God will reward the people who do good with prosperity … and punish those who do bad with suffering.

Why is it so easy to bring this kind of thinking from heathen religions over into Christianity?  It is something we have learned from childhood.  In one way or another . . .

We have been taught

That good behavior

Earns you rewards

And bad behavior

Earns you pain or disaster.

And because of that kind of thinking, we carry this into our Christianity.  And with that kind of thinking comes the idea that . . .

Suffering is a sign that

God is displeased with you,

And prosperity is a sign that

God is pleased with you.

And we draw the natural conclusion: If you have enough faith, God will reward you financially, physically & spiritually.  And the other side of that coin is, If you don’t have enough faith, that’s why you’re sick, poor and unsuccessful.

Faith is important for our salvation and in our living for Christ.  But there has to be a balance in our theology when it comes to this matter of sickness and healing, success and failure, and being wealth and being poor.  The truth of the matter is that bad things do happen to good people.  Why?  Because we live in a fallen world and life is not always fair.

The truth is the wicked do prosper and the godly do go through tough times.  And this is not a new truth.  David saw it and it troubled him, as seen in Psalm 73:1-15, “Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart.  But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  For there are no pangs in their death, and their strength is firm.  They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men” … “Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches” … “Thus my heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind.”  David finally got his answer, as seen in verses 16-17, “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me – until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.”

It was obvious to Paul that Satan was working overtime. As the lion, he was seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:7-8), and as the serpent, he was seeking to deceive (2 Corinthians 11:3).  It was in response to these needs that Paul wrote his second letter.  He began with their most pressing need, the persecution they were experiencing because of their faith.

In these first few verses, Paul offered words of encouragements to his suffering friends.

He begins by encouraging them to praise the Lord.

 In verses 2-4 he says, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure.”

After greeting his friends, Paul launched into a statement of praise to God for what God Himself had accomplished in their lives.  Paul was practicing his own advice that he had given them in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks.”  You cannot help but notice Paul’s repeated thanksgivings in these two letters.  You see . . .

Not only does prayer

 Change people and situations,

But so also does praise.

No doubt the Thessalonian believers did not consider themselves to be very spiritual as they suffered, but Paul detected what God was doing among them.

Of all the people in our lives, you and I are the worst one to evaluate our own lives.  Many times others can see the spiritual improvement when you and I miss it completely.  On the other hand, we often will miss the blaring signal that our sins are sending also.

Paul points out four things that God was doing in their lives for which he was thankful for:

First of all, he reminds them their faith was growing.

In verse 3 he says, “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly…”  I am sure you have heard this saying before –

A faith that

Cannot be tested

 Cannot be trusted.

I think one of the truths that we often fail to teach new believers is they can expect their faith to be tried, because Satan will see to it. You see, faith, like a muscle, must be exercised to grow stronger.  What a tragedy that so many Christian fall by the way-side when they face a trial of their faith!

Second, he reminds them their love was abounding.

Paul states this in verse 3, “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other…”  In 1 Thessalonians 3:12, Paul had prayed that their love for each other would increase, and now he sees his prayers being answered.

 Suffering and heartache can make us

Selfish and filled with self-pity,

But when suffering is mixed with grace

 And faith, it produces love!

Why? Because when Christians suffer, their faith reaches upward to God, and their love reaches outward to their fellow believers.

Third, he reminds them that their patience was increasing.

Paul writes in verse 4, “…so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience…”  No matter how we look at it, these Thessalonian Christians were having a hard time for the cause of Christ.

But we need to be reminded of something . . .

God never wastes time

And He never wastes experience.

If we will put our trust in the Lord,

Trials will work for us not against us.

That is exactly what James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

If we trust God and yield to Him, then trials will produce patience and maturity in our lives.  If we fight and rebel against our circumstances, then we will remain immature and impatient.

Fourth, he reminds then that their faithfulness was their testimony.

Paul says in verse 4, “… so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure …”  The Greek word that is translated “faith” here can easily be translated “faithfulness.”

What this is teaching is . . .

We reveal our faith in God

By our faithfulness to Him.

These early Christians were faithful to the Lord and to one another, in spite of the  troubles they endured.  When a person forsakes the church at the first sign of trouble in his life, he shows his lack of faithfulness to those around him.

Paul had every reason to praise God and give thanks for what God was doing in the lives of these young Christians.  These believers had proved to be good soldiers under massive attacks from the enemy, and this fact caused Paul to rejoice “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” He never ceased to give thanks and praise God for the faithfulness of his converts at Thessalonica.

One of the greatest things that any pastor will ever remember about the members of his church is their faithfulness to the cause of Christ!!  You might become my greatest friend and closest companion, but it is your faithfulness to the Lord that brings joy to my life.

Let me ask you this question, “Do you see yourself in this picture that Paul has painted of those early Christians?”  Is your faith growing?  Is your love for other believers abounding?  Is your patience increasing? Are others encouraged because of your faithfulness?

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Hearing News Of Tragedy – Reflecting On What We Learn

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

29Jan  Shock and disbelief!  That’s what I felt when I saw the news that Kobe Bryant just died in a helicopter crash on Sunday Morning.  As I began to comb through various online news and social media outlets after church, I slowly came to the realization that it wasn’t just Kobe who died, but also his beautiful daughter and seven other precious souls.

While thinking about the massive blow that this tragedy would have been for Kobe’s wife, surviving children, and entire family, two other things dominated my racing thoughts.

First, I considered why this news is so shocking to us.

Over 150,000 people die every 24 hours.  We all clearly know that life can end for any of us in the blink of an eye.  Of course, it always hits closer to home when it’s someone we personally know or who is universally known.  But, I think the reason we find ourselves struck with disbelief in these devastating instances is that many of us have what some call “The Invincibility Complex.” Despite the fact that we know how fragile and fleeting life is, a kind of subconscious mental block is always hovering right below the surface of our minds, deceiving us into thinking that this can never happen – especially to us, to someone we know, or to the seemingly immortal superstars who appear to be immune to the cruel sting of death.

This deceptive outlook is extremely dangerous, because . . .

An understanding of our mortality

Is the strongest safeguard

Against a wasted life

And a regretful eternity.

As the Bible instructs us in Psalm 90:12, when we number our days, we gain a heart of wisdom.  This thinking begins with “the fear of the Lord.”  The Bible tells us in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  Once our hearts have been enlightened by wisdom’s sobering touch, we begin to understand the reality of the undeniable truth of what the Bible says in James 4:14, “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

Ultimately . . .

Wisdom should lead us

To examine the state of our soul,

And to make sure that we have

Run to Christ for redemption

And reconciliation with God.

 And as the Holy Spirit confirms in our hearts that that we belong to Him, we find ourselves motivated to conduct our lives in righteousness, and to live in time for eternity – making every moment count for the glory of God.  We will live from the gospel and will be provoked to lovingly proclaim it to the lost around us. We will be compelled to keep our accounts short with the Lord, and to run to Him in repentance whenever we stumble, knowing that His love for us is inexhaustible, and that He sympathizes with our every weakness.

Secondly, this tragedy reminds me of the brevity and uncertainty of life.

Three months after 9/11, Kobe Bryant wrote a column for Newsweek reflecting on what he had learned from the tragedy.

He stated: “I’ve learned also that you can’t take things for granted. You know how we always say ‘See you later?’  One thing I’ve realized from September 11 is that you can’t ever say that for sure.  Things change in the blink of an eye.  People go to work and don’t come back.  One minute they’re living and the next minute they’re not.  And, it doesn’t matter who you are, there is nothing you can do about it.”  He concluded his article with these words: “We never know when our time here will be over, so we all need to make the most of every minute we have.”

Just as Kobe Bryant sought meaning in the aftermath of 9/11, many been searching for meaning in his shocking death. The unpredictability of life he highlighted in his Newsweek article is one obvious fact.  Another is his observation that, with regard to mortality, “it doesn’t matter who you are.”

All of us have an inevitable appointment with death.  The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27, “And it is appointed unto to man to die once, but after this the judgment.”  This is because we are all sinners.  The Bible say in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And as a result of that the Bible says in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  We all need to be ready for death when it comes and the way to do that is to acknowledge that we are a sinner, admit that we cannot save ourselves, accept what Jesus did upon the cross and through the empty grave in obtaining our salvation, and ask Him into our lives to be our Savior and Lord.

Thirdly, this tragedy reminds me that all people are important.

Our culture focuses on celebrity.  For example, seven other people died in the helicopter crash along with Bryant and his daughter Gianna, but their stories have not been the focus of media attention.  One of them was John Altobelli, a baseball coach who helped hundreds of players earn scholarships to Division I programs over the years.  He and his wife Keri were on board the helicopter with their daughter Alyssa, who played on the same basketball team as Gianna Bryant.  Another victim was Christina Mauser, the top assistant on the girls’ basketball team.  Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton, a teammate of Gianna Bryant’s, also died in the crash, as did the helicopter pilot, Ara Zobayan.

Those we don’t know

Are just as important

To their family and friends

As those we do know.

Other stories have occurred in the last few days that highlight this need to be aware of the importance of all people.  House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler has been front and center in the impeachment process.  Few know the name of his wife, Joyce Miller, or the fact that she has undergone surgery for pancreatic cancer.  This news came to light only when Nadler announced Sunday that he would miss a day of the impeachment trial to be with her “to meet with doctors, determine a path forward, and begin her treatment.”

Unless you live in Turkey, you may not be following closely the search for survivors after an eqrthquake struck Friday night, collapsing buildings and killing at least forty-one people.  Unless you live in Newburgh County, New York (sixty miles north of New York City), you may not know that a home invasion Sunday morning took the lives of three people, one of whom was a ten-year-old boy.

If you’re like most of us, your concern about the escalating China conoravirus crisis is related to the degree you perceive it to be a personal threat.  It also may not surprise you to learn that, according to Nielsen, twice as many people watched The Young and The Resless soap opera as watched the impeachment trial last week.  Many Americans apparently don’t see the relevance of the trial to their personal lives.

Celebrities obviously make the news because they are celebrities. But . . .

A central tenet of the Christian faith

Is that every person matters

Just as much as every other person,

Whether the world knows their story or not.

Paul’s assertion in Galatians 3:28 that, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” was radical for his culture.  The biblical claim that “whoever” believes in Christ receives eternal life (John 3:16) broke down the racial and cultural barriers of Jesus’ day and ours.

The fact that the intrinsic value of every person seems so commonplace to you illustrates the impact of Christianity on your worldview.  If you were living in Communist China or North Korea, where individuals are seen as subordinate to the state, it might not be as obvious.

Nor should we is the belief in the sanctity of every human life is accepted by everyone in our culture.  It has been noted that, with respect to our abortion laws and the statue of the unborn, “moving a few inches transforms property into a person.”  Many abortion advocates moved beyond the argument to have abortion “safe, legal, and rare,” advocating for the ending of unborn life more adamantly than ever before, even to the time of birth.

The systemic prevalence of racism and rising popularity of euthanasia show that for many Americans, the equal status and sanctity of every person is more fiction than fact.

The best way to help our culture

Value every person

From conception to natural death

Is to value every person we know

. . . Today.

None of us knew on Sunday morning that Kobe Bryant would not be alive on Monday morning.  None of us knew on September 10, 2001 that September 11, 2001 would change our world.

Mordecai’s admonition to Esther is God’s word to us: “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

It is by God’s providence

That we are alive

Not just where we are

But when we are.

And that we will meet

Those who need to know the Lord

And know the Bible truth

About facing their immorality

Every day that we live.

Pastor and author Mark Dever has noted: “Today is what the Lord has prepared you for.”  For whom has he prepared you this day?

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Second Coming of Christ

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

28Jan  We are looking at the last verses of 1 Thessalonians  chapter four.  There’s often an interesting background to what we read in Paul’s letters to the young churches he had founded.  The verses we will look at today are Paul’s response to a misunderstanding that had caused grief to the new Christians at Thessalonica.  Paul the apostle had personally taught his converts that the Lord Jesus was coming again to gather up His people, His church, to be with Him forever.  What a wonderful truth that was!  What comfort it gave to the little band of Christians living in a hostile world!

After some months Paul had to leave the city to return to Athens and then go on to Corinth in the south of Greece.  It was then that a misunderstanding of the doctrine of the Second Coming caused the believers some grief.  A few of the church members had died.  These deaths came as a great shock.  They began to be concerned about what was going to happen to their loved ones?  Were they going to miss the Second Coming?  They concluded that they had died too soon.

It is clear that they had misunderstood what Paul had taught that they should be ready for the Lord’s call or return at any time.  But human nature being what it is, they worried themselves sick about the fate of their friends who had died.  They wondered if those who had died would be at a disadvantage compared to those who were living when Christ returned?  Would their loved ones be miss the resurrection?

Paul’s assistant, Timothy, relayed the story of their grief to Paul.  You can imagine how Paul felt!   He had a real pastor’s heart and that’s how the first letter to his friends at Thessalonica came to be written.  He wanted them to know the full story, the whole truth, of the Second Coming of Jesus.

A simple misunderstanding can cause great anxiety.  Communication nowadays is so easy with e-mail, fax, text, and telephone, but before the 20th century it was very slow.  Two hundred and forty plus years ago messages were passed over long distances by signal stations on hills.  When the Battle of Waterloo was being fought England anxiously awaited the outcome.  At last the signals began to whirl, the message being spelt our letter by letter: “Wellington defeated …” The two words came through clearly and then fog covered the hillside.  Quite understandably the people thought they had lost!  The people were plunged into despair.  What a catastrophe for the nation!  But when the fog lifted, they saw the rest of the message: “Wellington defeated…the enemy.”

Misunderstandings causing confusion and trouble often happen in daily life if we’re not careful.  And that’s what happened in Thessalonica.  It’s the work of the enemy to sow seeds of error, confusion and doubt between believers.

Paul responded to their doubts and concerns

With words of reassurance.

In verse 13 he says, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.”  Before the resurrection of Jesus Christ death in the pagan world was literally believed to be the end.  A grim epitaph has been found on a tombstone of that time: “I was not; I became; I am not; I care not.”  There is no comfort there for those who are left behind.  There is no answer to the question, “What is the purpose of this life on earth?”

Of course, death, inevitable as it is, does bring grief through the parting of loved ones.  It would be very unnatural, in fact, inhuman, not to mourn when we lose someone near and dear to us.  Jesus did at the graveside of his friend Lazarus.  What Paul is saying is that the Christian’s mourning is not hopeless grief.

Death for the Christian is entirely different from that of the unbeliever because we share in Christ’s victory over death.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian was martyred for his faith by the Nazis days before the end of the Second World War in 1945, but before he was executed he wrote: “This is the end, but for me the beginning of life.”  For the believer, death is simply the gateway into the very presence of God.

Therefore . . .

Paul launches out into

One of the great fundamental truths

Of the Christian faith,

The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus.

When Jesus died on the Cross, the vast majority of His countrymen thought they had been the last of Him, but those who had witnessed His resurrection and ascension knew better.  They recalled Jesus’ teaching of His coming kingdom and it became absolutely clear to them that the next event in God’s calendar was the Second Coming of Jesus in great glory.

In Acts 1:11 the angelic messenger had predicted when Jesus ascended, “This same Jesus … will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”  No wonder then that Paul writes authoritatively.  There could be no doubt.  It was a statement of fact although still to be realized.

It was “the blessed hope”

That sustained him

In the many trials of life.

Paul makes four positive affirmations concerning this great event for the Christian believer.

The first is the Return.

 Paul says, “The Lord Himself will come from heaven.”  The Greek word that Paul uses for “come” is the word that was used for a visit of a person of high rank, especially of kings and emperors, visiting a province.  The Second Coming is when Jesus Himself comes, not one of His deputies or representatives.  It will be a personal, dramatic, public and unmistakable coming.

What Paul is teaching is that Christ is going to Return to complete the divine work and plan that God has for all of creation.  Man have made tremendous progress in terms of knowledge, but his flawed sinful nature has become ever increasingly apparent.  All the advances made seem to be one step forwards and two backwards, in morality, selfishness and exploitation.

Thousands are dying as a result of wars among people within the same country; there’s a great movement of refugees from the east to the west, both political and economic, as a result of man’s inhumanity to man; children, teens, and young women are being abused from sex trafficking and in their own home … I could go on, but it is clear we are destroying ourselves and can’t save ourselves.  It was equally as bad back then.

It is no wonder that believers are asking, “When is Jesus coming?”  Paul wrote this warning in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2, “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.”  He is simply echoing the words of Jesus found in Matthew 24:36-44, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

 Although the Bible gives us “signs” that point in that direction, it is  entirely appropriate to say that only God Himself knows for sure. But that hasn’t stopped many from predicting a date for Christ’s Return.  But those dates have all come and gone, leaving many a red face of embarrassment and scrambling for some logical explanation!

 Second, there is the Resurrection.

Paul simply says, “And the dead in Christ will rise first.”

Christianity is essentially a faith of resurrection.

When a Christian dies, it’s not the end.  Although it is true the body is laid to rest in the grave, the soul and spirit live on.  The dying but repentant thief crucified with Jesus was assured of being with the Lord immediately when his life ended: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Death is the gateway into the very presence of God.

Paul himself testified in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” For him, passing through death would bring him a closer, richer, and fuller experience of Christ than he was already enjoying on earth.  This is the Christian hope, in stark contrast to pagan hopelessness.  Therefore, Paul makes this promise, “the dead in Christ will rise.”

Third, there is the Rapture.

Paul is led by the Holy Spirit to write, “We who are alive … will be caught up…”  The word “Rapture” itself is not found in Scripture but is derived from the Greek word that Paul uses for “caught up.”  The word is means “to seize, to snatch away, to take by force.”  In the physical realm, it expresses that moment when I walk over and “snatch” something out of your hand.  In the biblical and spiritual realm. it expresses that moment when Jesus will “snatch” His church from the hands of death and the grave and bring us to himself.  And it is in that moment “the dead in Christ will rise first… and we who are alive…will be caught up” and given our imperishable, immortal resurrection-body.

This is an amazing and supernatural event.  It is incredible and unbelievable apart from faith.  And the question that springs to mind is, “How is this possible?  How is it possible that only believers will be ‘caught up’ and the unbelievers left behind?”  The first thing that we have to realize is that the power of the resurrected Christ is at work.  It was God who raised Him from the dead and, if we believe in the literal resurrection and ascension of Jesus, then we should have no difficulty in believing that the Rapture will take place.  It is that same power that raised up Christ that will raise the believers in the Rapture.

Someone might object and say that it’s impossible for a body to rise against the law of gravitation, but this overlooks the fact that in the resurrection body of Christ higher laws were in operation.  For example, think of a huge 747 aircraft setting on an airport runway.  It weighs many tons and is firmly clamped to the ground by the force of gravity.  It cannot possibly fly!  That is until the power of the jet engines are turned on and the laws of aerodynamics come into play, proving that there is a force which can overcome gravity.

So it was with the Lord Jesus.  Just as death and the grave could not hold Him when His Father raised Him from the dead in a glorified body, so nothing could hold Him when the time came for Him to return to His Father.  And so it will be when believers the world over “hear the voice of the archangel…and the trumpet call of God.”   Ephesians 1:3-14 makes this promise, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

My Greek professor said it well, “The Bible is simply teaching us that those who have been “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8) have within us the Holy Spirit who acts as a “magnetic attraction” that will respond to the coming of Christ.”  Just as iron objects are seemingly miraculously caught up by a magnet, so will Christians be “caught up” and drawn to Christ!

Paul goes on to say that this earth-shattering event will take place “in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”  Again questions arise: what’s the meaning of “the clouds … the air?”  There are many references to “clouds” throughout the Bible – at the Exodus and Mount Sinai when God revealed Himself in clouds, and in the life of Jesus, at His transfiguration and ascension God spoke from a cloud.  But the reference here seems to point to Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”

This is a subtle way that Paul has of once more reminding believers of the authority that we have over Satan and his demonic army.  In fact, when the Rapture takes place, we will meet the Lord in the very dwelling place of Satan and exhibit our total mastery over him once and for all.  As one studies the Bible, there can be no doubt as to the reality that’s being portrayed.  It’s the personal, visible appearing of Jesus Christ and the gathering to Him of all His people, whether dead or alive at the time.

Fourth, Paul turns with joyful anticipation to the reunion.  

He writes in verse, “And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  This is surely  . . .

The climax of the ages –

The descending Lord

And

The ascending saints

Being united forever.

 This is the heart

Of the Christian hope.

This earth is frequently the scene of sad separations but for the Christian it will be a thing of the past, never to happen again.  There, in the presence of the Lord, we will be beyond the reach of evil, pain and suffering.  Revelation 5:9 reminds us that heaven will be the place of the greatest reunion of all time, with people “from every tribe and language and people and nation.”  That’s the glorious prospect for the future but we don’t know when it will be, so back to the present!

What does the Return, the Resurrection, the Rapture and the Reunion mean to us in the here and now?  The Bible reminds us in Philippians 3:20 that “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there.”  Bu . . .

While we “eagerly await the Savior”

We are called on to live

Our daily lives in constant

Readiness for our Lord’s return.

No one but God knows if it will be in our lifetime.  Therefore, our present task is to work for the kingdom of God as if the Return of Jesus will be delayed until the next century but be ready if He should return tonight!  But what a prospect!  No wonder John prayed, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.”

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

Walking To Please God

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

27Jan  Today we come to the fourth chapter of the book of 1 Thessalonians.  In these verses, Paul is led to instruct the believers in living for the Lord.  The Bible uses the word “walk” when it seeks to describe our life with Christ.

Along with jogging, walking has become a popular exercise and outdoor sport. As one drives through the neighborhoods, you can see individuals and entire families enjoying a walk together.

In the Bible, the Christian life is be compared to a walk.  In fact, this is one of Paul’s favorite pictures.

In Ephesians 4:1 he says, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” In Ephesians 4:17 he says, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk…” In Ephesians 5:2 he says, “…walk in love.”

In Ephesians 5:8 he says, “…walk as children of light.”

The Christian life begins

With a step of faith.

But that step leads

To a walk of faith.

2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Walking suggests progress,

And we must make

Progress in the Christian life.

Walking also demands strength, and God has promised us in Deuteronomy 33:25, “As your days, so shall your strength be.”

We need to “walk in the light” because the enemy has put traps and detours in our Christian pathway, and many times Satan disguises those traps as other people and/or circumstances.  And, then, at the end of life’s walk, we will step into the very presence of the Lord.

In this chapter, Paul described a threefold walk for the child of God to follow.

First of all, we are to walk in holiness.

Verses 1-8 describe the world the Thessalonica Christians lived in.  The moral climate in the Roman Empire was not healthy.  Immorality was a way of life; and, thanks to slavery, people had the leisure time to indulge in the latest pleasures. The Christian message of holy living was new to that culture, and it was not easy for these young believers to fight the temptations around them.

Paul gave some reasons why we should live a holy life and abstain from sensual lusts.

  • To please

Paul says in verse 1, “…you ought to walk and to please God.” Everybody lives to please somebody.  And there are many people who live to please themselves.  When we live only to please ourselves, we have no sense of the needs of others.

And, then, there are those folks who are so busy seeking to please everyone else, that they have lost sight of themselves.  In other words, they really try to be “all things to all people,” and it simply doesn’t work that way.

Pleasing God ought to be the major motive of the Christian life, as seen in the example of Jesus in John 8:29, where He said, “I do always those things that please (the Father).”

  •  To obey

Note what Paul says in verses 2-3, “For you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.”  Paul reminds these new believers that sexual immorality did not please God.  God created sex; therefore, He has the authority to establish its boundaries.  From the beginning He established marriage between one man and one woman.  And in Hebrews 13:4 we are once again reminded that “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.”

  • To glorify

Paul says this in verses 4-5, “That each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God.”  This is the positive side of God’s commandments.  Christians are supposed to be different from the unsaved.  The words “possess his vessel” means to “control one’s body.”

Paul brings up something that is forgotten in our world – We have two choices: (1) We can allow our “flesh” to control our lives; or (2) We can allow the Holy Spirit to control our lives.   One leads to painful failure, and the other leads to glorious victory – To escape the judgment of God.

In verses 6-8, he continues by saying, “That no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.  Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.”

While it is true that the Christian

Is not under condemnation

(John 5:24 & Romans 8:1),

It is also true that

We are not free from the harvest

Of sorrow that comes

When we sow to the flesh

(Galatians 6:7-8).

There are many of God’s dear children today that are living in misery and pain because of their disobedience to God’s Word and will for their lives.

Second, we are to walk in harmony.

Verses 9-10 tell us, “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia . But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more.”

The transition from “holiness” to “love” is not a difficult one.  Paul made this transition in his prayer in 3:11-13, “Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you.  And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.”

 Just as God’s love is a holy love, so our love for God and for one another ought to motivate us to holy living.  The more we live like God, the more we will love one another.  Child of God, it is impossible to be right with God and wrong with men.

Did you know the Bible says that walking in love is good for your health?  Look at what the Bible says in Proverbs 4:10-27, “My child, listen to me and do as I say, and you will have a long, good life.  I will teach you wisdom’s ways and lead you in straight paths.  When you walk, you won’t be held back; when you run, you won’t stumble.  Take hold of my instructions; don’t let them go.  Guard them, for they are the key to life.  Don’t do as the wicked do, and don’t follow the path of evildoers.  Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way.  Turn away and keep moving.  For evil people can’t sleep until they’ve done their evil deed for the day. They can’t rest until they’ve caused someone to stumble.  They eat the food of wickedness and drink the wine of violence!  The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.  But the way of the wicked is like total darkness.  They have no idea what they are stumbling over.  My child, pay attention to what I say.  Listen carefully to my words.  Don’t lose sight of them.  Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.  Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.  Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech.  Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.  Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.  Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.”

Medical science has proven this to be true.  Researchers have discovered that hostility produces stress that causes ulcers, tension headaches, and a  host of other ills.  Now when you think of hostility, you may think of the type of anger you feel when something serious happens.  But according to the experts, that kind of thing isn’t what causes the worst problems.  It’s the little things: when the dry cleaners ruin your favorite dress or pants, for example.  Or when the cafeteria lady puts gravy on your mashed potatoes after you’ve specifically told her not to.  Sound familiar?

Just think how much stress you could avoid by being quick to forgive and not counting up the evils done to you.  Imagine the physical and emotional benefits of living like that!  If you have allowed yourself to be habitually bound by hostility, that may sound like an impossible dream, but it’s not!

Because as a born-again believer, you have the love of God inside of you.  If you will yield to that love, it will set you free. Remember when Jesus called Lazarus forth from the grave?  He was alive but still bound in the grave clothes.  Jesus commanded the bindings to be loosed so that Lazarus could be free to walk.

Jesus wants that same kind of freedom for you.  So, I challenge you to get into agreement with Him.  Remember: It doesn’t take a medical miracle to turn your life around. All it takes is a decision to yield to the force of love.

Last of all, we are to walk in honesty.

Verses 11-12 says, “That you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.”

Like the church in Corinth, it seems that Paul is now dealing with this issue of strife, boarding on division, in the church here in Thessalonica.  It seems as if envying, strife and divisions had reduced these two early churches to a state of carnality and had stunted their spiritual growth.

The years have passed but Satan has not changed his strategies. He knows that a house divided against itself will fall.  He also knows that Ephesians 4:13 says if we all come together in the unity of our faith, we will arrive at the full stature of Christ Jesus. He has assigned a spirit of division to operate in our personal lives, our church lives, our social lives and our family lives. His goal is the same as it was in Corinth and Thessalonica, “to bring envying, strife, division” and to stunt our spiritual growth.”

But we don’t have to yield to that spirit.  We can live in harmony, as we live the Christian life in walk in honesty before God and men.  How?  By allowing Christ to live His life through us.

Let me close by reminding you that the Christian walk is accomplished by holy living, harmonious living, and honest living.

When Christians as well as unsaved people watch your life, God will be glorified.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Part Of The Good News That We Don’t Want to Hear

Grace For The Journey

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24Jan  We come today to the third chapter of 1 Thessalonians where In these verses, Paul talks about his partners in the Gospel ministry and how he had sent them to establish them further in the faith and encourage them to grow in their faith.  Some of the believers in the church were disturbed that Paul and others were encountering persecution and sufferings because of their relationship with Christ.  When Timothy reported back how their faith was helping them work through these issues Paul was greatly encouraged and glad.  He rejoiced in the news and it deepened his desire and prayer that God would direct their way to them so they would be able to see them and to “perfect what is lacking in your faith.”  Then he wraps up the chapter by praying that the Lord may increase and about in his love and further build them up in the faith.

I think we all would agree that the gospel is good news.

It is certainly good news

That I am forgiven of my sin;

That I have been born-again

Into God’s family;

And that I am destined

For heaven not hell.

All of that is very good news.

And . . .

All of that is possible

Because of what Jesus

Has done for me.

When we consider God’s plan for us, and where it ultimately takes us, it is absolutely, unquestionably good news!

But the Bible teaches some aspects of that good news that we would hope was there.  One such verse is in our text, as Paul shares his concern for these believers “that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.”

What is Paul saying believers are appointed to experience?  The Greek word Paul uses here means, “trials, affliction, or trouble.”  No matter how you translate it, it is still not what we are hoping to find concerning God’s plan for our life.

We find it very easy to embrace passages like Philippians 4:19, where the Bible says “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus;” Or Deuteronomy 28:8, where the Bible says, “The Lord will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you;” and Deuteronomy 28:6, where the Bible says “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.”  Those are truths in the Bible that we enjoy reading.

But what are we to do with a verse like 1Thessalonians 3:3?  I could just jump over it and try to find something more positive to think about; or I could just say this just applied to the early church but it doesn’t really apply to us today.  But that would not be being true to God’s Word.

So, what is Paul saying about troubles in a Christian’s life?

First, he is saying don’t be surprised when it happens.

In verse 4 Paul says, “For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know.”  Now in that context the trouble came as a result of their testimony of Christ.  It could have come in the form of lost opportunities on the job or maybe even the loss of jobs.  Conversely, there would be financial consequences to their faith.   Certainly there were social consequences.  A Jewish family would often disown children who turned to the Christian faith; they would lose their inheritance; they would lose their family support system.

The community at large was not Christian.  In fact, the whole economy and political structure centered around the “divine” Caesar and his favor.  Of course, we know from Acts that Paul and others were physically beaten and imprisoned because of the public stand for Christ.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:18 and 3:5 Paul specifically mentions the devil’s involvement in all this.  Satan resists the propagation of the gospel.  Satan looks for opportune times of discouragement to tempt believers and try to defeat them.

Therefore, Paul reminds these believers that behind their persecution there was part of a spiritual battle going on.  And the biblical fact is the battle has not ended and like it or not there is no neutral ground.  That’s why we are told in Ephesians 6 to put on the whole amour of God.  That is why Peter gives us this warning in 1 Peter 4:12, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.”

There is a tendency for us to think something really strange has happened when a trials, difficulties, and persecution come into our lives.  There may even be the temptation to think God has somehow let us down.  But both Paul and Peter are saying that troubles and difficulties are not inconsistent with living for God.

In other words . . .

Jesus did not come into your life

Simply to make it easier

And more enjoyable.

He came to redeem you

From eternal destruction

And prepare you for eternal glory!

The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:13-16, “But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.”

Notice how Peter distinguishes between two kinds of suffering.

The Bible teaches us that

Suffering comes as a natural

Consequence of our own sin.

But the Bible also talks about

Our suffering as a consequence

Of our commitment to Christ.

One can be eliminated through repentance,

But the other may only be eliminated

With the Rapture of the Church.

Second, he is saying watch out for the tempter in those situations.

 Verse 5 says, “For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.”  Did you catch Paul’s play on words in that verse – “the tempter had tempted.”

Satan is the tempter

 And quite simply

That’s what he does;

He tempts.

He tempted Eve in the Garden. He tempted Jesus in the wilderness. And most of us have learned by now, he tempts us as well.

But a time of trial and testing has its own special issues of temptation.  When did the devil tempt Jesus to turn stones to bread?  He did it when Jesus was hungry.  When did the devil tempt Judas to betray Jesus?  He did it when all their hopes and plans seemed to be falling apart.

Satan is an opportunist. He is a strategist. He has a short-term and a long-term plan for your destruction.  But he looks for those moments when he can step in with his lies and suggestions; those times when you are tired or discouraged; those times when you have taken hit after hit; then he looks for an opportunity to deliver a knock-out punch.  That’s what Paul was worried about concerning these believers.

This truth is very clearly pointed out for us in the account of Jesus’ temptation, as seen in Luke 4:13, where the Bible says, “Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him unto an opportune time.”  Although those temptations were over Satan would continue to look for other opportunities.

This is exactly what we have been told in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  What, then, is the answer?  Peter gives us the answer in verses 9-10, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.  But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”

Look how that passage begins

 With the devil’s objective – devour.

But ends with God’s objective –

To perfect, establish,

 Strengthen, and settle you.

Don’t lose sight of the end of the matter.

In Psalm 73:2-6 we find godly Asaph very disillusioned about his walk with God.  It looked to him that instead of being the head he was the tail.  It looked to him that the advantage went to the ungodly rather than the godly.  So, he says, “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men.  Therefore, pride serves as their necklace…”

I have no doubt that most of us have had those same feelings. There are times when it seems as if you just can’t seem to “get avbreak” in life, and you look around and it seems like it is lost and ungodly folks that are having all the luck.  So Ashap pours out his complaint to God, as seen in verse 12, “Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches.”  In verses 13-14 he concludes, “Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence.  For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning.”

Then the key to the whole thing hits him – suddenly revelation comes and he understands what is going on.  We read what he finally realizes in verses 17-19, “Then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!  They are utterly consumed with terrors.”

The difference lies at the end of the matter.

One ends in terror and destruction.

The other ends in glory and everlasting joy.

Third, he says we are to pray for and encourage one another in such situations.

Notice how Paul addresses the whole group.  He has no thought of them enduring these things without the support of one another. He puts himself in the boat with them and them in the boat with him.  Folks, please drive this truth home . . .

We are in this thing together.

It is not every man for himself.

Our commitment to the Lord

Is also a commitment to one another.

Not only has the materialism of our culture invaded the church but so has the individualism.  It is hard for us to comprehend covenant commitment to one another because our society does not think that way at all.  Our society is built on stiff competition. There are economic benefits that have been reaped by structuring our economy around the selfishness inherent in fallen man.  That’s why it works.  It is based upon a broad reality.  That’s why communism fails.  It was based on an idealistic concept out of touch with man’s fallen nature.

But in the church, in the Body of Christ . . .

We are to live by another set of principles.

Instead of selfishness we are to live unselfishly.

Instead of every man for himself

It is one for all and all for one.

Paul commends these Christians at Thessalonica for the love they are exhibiting toward one another.  They are encouraging each other and supporting one another.  Paul sends Timothy to add to that encouragement, as seen in verses 1-2.  This whole chapter revolves around Paul’s concern for them.

That concern caused him to sacrifice something dear. He needed Timothy to be with him at Athens.  It was hard ground.  It was a difficult ministry.  When Timothy left Paul felt very lonely – you can see that in some of the words he uses.  He was facing hardship himself, but he sent Timothy anyway because he loved them and wanted them to be all right.

Paul wanted these believers to be so established that they would not be shaken or moved by the trouble they were experiencing.

When people skip over truths

Like we have here in our text,

When people think that salvation

Is nothing more than

An escape clause from Hell,

There is very little stability.

What we are talking about here is essential to our standing faithfully during times of trial and testing.

Paul prayed for these people and asked them to pray for him.

  • He prayed that he himself might go help them in their faith.
  • He prayed that the love they were expressing would abound more and more.
  • He prayed that they would stand firm and be ready for the coming of the Lord.

Paul didn’t just pray out of religious obligation.

His prayer for them flowed out

Of his love for them.

I think that is the secret

To a sustained prayer life –

If God can get our hearts

And fill them with love

Toward hurting people,

We will pray.

You and I may not be experiencing the same troubles that these Christians at Thessalonica were experiencing.  But we deal with the same adversary.  We are tempted by the same tempter. We need each other’s prayers and encouragement just like they did.  And we need to keep our eye upon the Lord and His coming just like they did.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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