Devotional # 184. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28

Devotional # 184. 4/4/16. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28.

Intro. Last week we talked about having the desire to “comfort” and “edify one another” and God gave us 18 tasks. One of the tasks was “praying without ceasing” (v. 17) and a couple weeks ago we talked about the knowledge that Jesus is coming back to Rapture his church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, Devotional # 181).  Both of these will be applied in today’s study. As I mentioned last week (Devotional # 183), I have been looking forward to this section, especially verse 23. Remember I asked you why I would be interested in this verse? Let’s find out…

v. 23. What I’m excited about this verse is in the middle but we have to understand what’s been said in the verses prior and at the beginning of this one in order to get the impact of what we’re getting to.

Paul starts off the verse recognizing that God is “the God of peace“. There are many gods but “THE God“, the one true God, is the only one who can bring peace. If you are a believer then you have known the peace that God brings to your personal life but He is also the only way for world peace. In Devotional # 182 we talked about how people would say “peace and safety” (1 Thessalonians 5:3) prior to Jesus’ Second Coming but there is no way to get peace around the globe without Jesus’ intervention. Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians is that God would “sanctify you completely” which reminds us of the last chapter when Paul said, “this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3, Devotional # 180). Since “sanctification” means “purification” we know that God will make us pure completely.

Now we get to the part I’ve been looking forward to: the mentioning of our “spirit, soul, and body.” Why am I excited you ask? Well, first let me say that what we’re about to talk about wasn’t Paul’s primary reason in writing those three words, nevertheless it is very important because it gives us an answer to an age old question: what are we? Who are we? Paul has given us three distinct parts which can be defined as a “trichotomy”*. It makes sense that we are made up of three pieces in the same way God, whose “image” we were made in (Genesis 1:26) is also Three Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). So let’s define these words:

Our “spirit” is our spiritual essence. This is the part of us that will live forever (whether in heaven or hell). Our “spirit” is what is spoken to by the Holy Spirit, whether we listen or not.

Our “soul” is best understood as our “mind”. It is our emotions and houses our conscience. It’s where we make decisions that affect our spirit and our body.

Our “body” is the easiest for us to understand. It is the material thing that we are housed in every single day of our lives. It contains our systems and our organs and our blood and our bones. It has great ability to heal itself and to heal others and it has great ability to die and to kill others. The body is not in and of itself sinful, rather the sin nature that we have inherited is housed in our body of “flesh” but implicates our “soul” and our “spirit” also.

Now that we know what these are and how they function we should also note the order that Paul uses them. He says: 1. “spirit”, 2. “soul” and 3. “body.” These are in the order AFTER Christ has gotten ahold of our lives and we are a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). But prior to the “old things passing away” we were in the opposite order: 1. “body”, 2. “soul” and 3. “spirit”. BEFORE Christ my body and it’s lusts were my number one driver. Next my mind was under the darkness of sin, maybe I let it rot by filling it with junk or maybe I prized it and thought if I got enough degrees and wrote enough books then I was using my mind to its greatest potential. Lastly, my spirit was in hibernation, it was there but it had not been awakened, I didn’t care anything about true spirituality. If I made an attempt at a religion of enlightenment or good works it was trying to awaken and feed my sleeping spirit. But if you are a Christian then you will know the transformation: the body takes a backseat and the spirit is alive and awakened with Jesus! Our mind also becomes transformed: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

Before we leave this section I must draw your attention back to how God will make us pure completely. Now we have a deeper understanding that God isn’t going to just make my thoughts (“soul”) pure but He is going to purify my body, my mind and my spirit! I will one day be as I was intended when God created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden pure and unadulterated (Genesis 2:17; 2:25; 3:22-24). How awesome is that?!

This verse concludes that we will “be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is again a references to the Rapture of the church, when Jesus comes in the clouds to save the Christians prior to the Tribulation starting (for more see Devotional # 181). Putting this all together, Jesus will keep us blameless in our “body, soul and spirit”. This is great encouragement if you’re like me and Paul where our body is constantly at war within itself (Romans 7). So Jesus will keep us blameless in light of judgment. When we are gathered to Him in the clouds we don’t need to worry about our sins because He has paid that price and He was blameless first so He can make us blameless.

*Trichotomy: For more on the different theories on whether humans are a “trichotomy or “dichotomy (made up of two parts) see the following article. Note that, after quoting several verses, it says, “It is impossible to be dogmatic” on whether humans are “dichotomous (cut in two, body/soul-spirit), or trichotomous (cut in three, body/soul/spirit)” since “there are good arguments for both views” (Source 1). Also note: “The soul and the spirit are mysteriously tied together and make up what the Scriptures call the ‘heart’” (Source 2).

v. 24. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” By context (from verse 23) we see that our “God of peace” purifies our whole person (our “spirit“, our “soul” and our “body“) to be “blameless” at the Rapture. Do these things seem difficult or almost impossible? That God is peaceful? Or that He can purify us? Or that we will be made “blameless“? Well, this verse is our reassurance: our very same Lord who called us will be faithful to do all of these things. The more time we spend trusting in God the more we see He will be faithful to keep His promises!

vv. 25-26. Paul asks his “brothers” (and sisters!) to pray for them. Have you noticed how many times Paul has referred to the church in Thessalonica as brothers and sisters? Christians truly are a family. And the request for prayer is a good lesson for us. No matter how mature in the Lord Paul, Silas and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1, Devotional # 172) are they still recognize they need prayer. We need to be humble enough to ask for prayer for the various ministries that God has called us to. This also should be considered with the fact that Paul and Silas and Timothy were praying for the Thessalonians “night and day” (1 Thessalonians 3:10).

When Paul says, “Great all the brethren with a holy kiss” notice this is a “holy” kiss so it’s different from a regular one, in fact it’s a custom carried over from Old Testament times. It was a kiss on the forehead, cheek, or beard which signified friendship and mutual faith in Jesus. Nowadays in the U.S. it would be the equivalent of a handshake (clasping with two hands). This is common in the New Testament (Acts 20:37, Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Peter 5:14).

vv. 27-28. Paul encourages (“I charge you“), in the name of Jesus (“by the Lord“), the church to read this letter (“this epistle“) in front of the whole church. This is where we get the common understanding that the books of the Bible were meant for the whole church and not just for a chosen few. This is why we can still apply the majority of each book (except for stuff that is contextually specific to that day and time) to ourselves and why we should be reading the books of the Bible in church. This flies in the face of what the Catholic Church did in the Middle Ages*. Not only did they not allow the common people to read the Bible (although most were illiterate) but even when the priests read it, it was usually in Latin and most didn’t understand, but that didn’t matter. Isn’t that crazy? As mentioned below, the Bible is for all people, for all time, in all languages.
Paul finishes this epistle as he often does with the words of “grace” and “Lord Jesus Christ” and “Amen.” This is exactly how Paul concluded Philippians (see 4:23, Devotional 141). Paul finishes this wonderful letter to his beloved Thessalonians, not with his own fond words (he’s already said that above), but with love from Jesus. This “grace” is God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it. What a wonderful reminder to us that despite not deserving it, our Master (“Lord”) will be faithful to His word to preserve our trichotomies until the glorious day of His coming when we will meet Him in the clouds!

 

*Look into such people as John Wycliffe, who believed the Bible should be for all people, in all languages. Fore morn listen to my Early Church History Series by clicking here .

 

 

References.

Source 1: S. Michael Houdmann, “Do we Have Two or Three Parts? Body, Soul, and Spirit?” Got Questions Ministries, n.d. Web. (http://www.gotquestions.org/body-soul-spirit.html).

Source 2: Craig von Buseck, http://www1.cbn.com/questions/what-are-the-three-parts-of-man

 

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Devotional # 183. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

Devotional # 183. 3/28/16. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22.

Intro. Two weeks ago we went over the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (Devotional # 181) and last week we went over the Tribulation and “the Second Coming” in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (Devotional # 182). In 1 Thessalonians 5:10-11 Paul told us because “our Lord Jesus Christ…died for us” and because we would “live together with Him” forever we should “comfort” and “edify one another.” We will pick up with that same mind-set here and God gives us 18 tasks below!

vv. 12-13. Paul “urges” the brothers (and sisters!) to “recognize” three groups within the church: 1. “Those who labor among you“. The word in the Greek here is kopiao and means to ‘work so hard you become exhausted’ (Source 1). The idea isn’t that you will do things to the point of dropping dead but that God will give you a desire and gift to work really hard for Him. Not sit back and tell others what to do but actually get your hands dirty. What a comforting thing it is to know that there are people in our churches that work this hard for the kingdom! Are you one of them? 2. “Are over you in the Lord“. These are the leadership that God has placed in the individual churches. 3. “And admonish you“. In the Greek this is noutheteo meaning”to caution or reprove gently” (Source 2). These are the people who lovingly, yet truthfully, sometimes gently, sometimes firmly, caution and warn other believers.

What does it mean to “recognize” these people? Paul makes it a little more clear in verse 13, when he says “to esteem them very highly and love for their works sake.” This means to acknowledge and encourage the people you see (or don’t see but know it happens, or hear about). Everyone needs encouragement. By doing this we will be at peace among ourselves.

vv. 14-15. Notice Paul “exhort” people as he’s just told us to “exhort“! And he tells us: 1. “warn those who are unruly”, 2. “comfort the fainthearted”, 3. “uphold the weak”, 4. “be patient with all”, 5. make sure “no one renders evil for evil”, 6. “pursue what is good for yourself” and 7. “pursue what is good…for all.” Let’s look into these:

There are two tasks on here that may be a little uncomfortable or awkward for us: 1. to “warn those who are unruly” and 5. to make sure “no one renders evil for evil”. Both of these have the implication that people within the church will do these things and if you see it or hear about it, then it is your responsibility to make sure it is dealt with. For the vast majority of believers you should not actually approach the people yourself, instead you should mention it to someone in leadership. Notice this absolves you of your duty (other than praying for that person), it makes sure you’re not gossiping to the leader and it doesn’t require you to go tell everyone about it (even in the thin, false veil of a “prayer request” to others). For those actually called by God to confront people in this way, God will be working the ability to “caution or reprove gently” of noutheteo above.

The other five tasks may be difficult to do because your heart may break for people in doing them and you may also have your feelings hurt, but you do them anyway. They are: 2. “comfort the fainthearted”, 3. “uphold the weak”, 4. “be patient with all”, 6. “pursue what is good for yourself” and 7. “pursue what is good…for all.”  In order to do these you must be walking with the Lord and desiring His will and not your own. You will become comfortable with the heavy cost of discipleship and you will see the rewards this side of heaven, even though the rewards in heaven will be much greater.

vv. 16-18. Paul gives us the “will of God” on three tasks. As I always say, anytime we hear that something is the “will of God” we better listen up and apply it to our lives! These three are: 1. “rejoice always”; 2. “pray without ceasing” and 3. “in everything give thanks.”

 

  1. When I hear “rejoice always” it reminds me of when Paul told us “Rejoice in the Lord always” in Philippians 4:4. In Devotional # 137 we talked about how Paul was coming from a background of stress and pain but always had his hope in Jesus, as we should.
  2. We have covered God’s famous command of “praying without ceasing” many times. Recently (1 Thessalonians 2:13, Devotional # 178 and 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10, Devotional # 179) we’ve discussed that it actually is possible to talk with God all the time, it takes intentionality and a closer walk with the Lord, but not only is it possible, we should be striving each day to do it!
  3. Lastly, it is God’s will that “in everything [we] give thanks.” Again, this is a common mentality we’re told to have. We’ve had a special Thanksgiving Devotional (“Thanksgiving 2015”) but we’ve discussed it in regular Devotionals also (like Devotional # 137) and one that was both the holiday and fit in perfectly with the Scripture for that week (Devotional #112). In order to be thankful all the time we have to start expecting everything to work out perfectly and start to have the mindset that God’s will is good and even if it causes us a little pain we are ultimately blessed. The amount of times that we see this mentioned in the Bible, let alone that God is telling us it’s His will shows how important this is.

vv. 19-22. Now Paul moves into some more “action items”, not necessarily the “will of God” because it doesn’t say it explicitly; yet the Bible tells God’s will to man so these should not be considered “throw away” rules. These are crucial for the Christian to obey: 1. “Do not quench the Spirit”; 2. “do not despise prophesies”; 3. “Test all things” and 4. “Abstain from every form of evil.”

  1. We’re told not to “quench the Spirit”, but what does that mean? In the Greek “quench” is often used of fire and means to “extinguish” or “suppress” (Source 3). Five times the Bible describes the Holy Spirit as “fire” (Isaiah 4:4; Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:16-17, Acts 2:34 and here). Of course the Holy Spirit can never be fully put out but since humans have been given a choice, God has allowed us to hold back the Spirit from working. Often this results in extreme discomfort and shame for the Christian who, in retrospect, wishes they had followed the Holy Spirit’s prompting. We are commanded not to “quench the Spirit” not just for us to receive blessing but because we are holding blessing and even possibly salvation back from others! What an awful thing to do.
  1. Next, Paul says, “do not despise prophesies”. These “prophesies” can be spoken by God Himself (Acts 11:27, 28, etc.) or His written word (Matthew 13:14, etc.). When the prophecy of God comes from a legitimate and recognized spokesperson for the Lord it is to be taken seriously (Source 4).
  1. Paul means “Test all things” and when you find “what is good” then “hold fast” to it. I love that Paul tells us to test everything! Don’t just trust blindly. Many people think faith is walking out into the middle of a chasm like Indiana Jones, unable to see the path. Many people think if you are religious then you have to blindly follow a person or a church and do whatever they say. What’s even worse is that many religious people do follow a church or a cult blindly. And yet Paul tells us to “test all things.” If I tell you the Bible says something then look it up, don’t just take my word for it. But I encourage you, if you are going to bring it to correct me (or another believer), please make sure you’re using the Bible to test it and not just giving me someone else’s opinion. Make sure you find “what is good” and right and true. And when you have tested it and know it to be correct – cling to it (“hold fast”) and don’t let anyone steal it from you with fancy words or a sophisticated Powerpoint!
  1. When you hear “abstain from every form of evil”, what do you think of? There are probably the obvious evils that we avoid but I like that Paul doesn’t give us any wiggle room. “Every form of evil” shows us that evil comes in many forms and if the Bible speaks against it or the Holy Spirit convicts you about an evil then it is your responsibility to run away, hold back from it or do whatever it takes to “abstain.” This can’t be done unless you are relying on the Holy Spirit’s power to give you the strength and self-control to not fall into “every form of evil.” Remember the Holy Spirit gave the power to Jesus to “abstain” from falling into Satan’s temptations in the desert as seen in Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-13 (see Devotional # 6 for a quick explanation when we covered this in Mark) and to “abstain” from the desire to not be killed on the cross. This very same power also rose Jesus from the grave (as we celebrated yesterday on Resurrection Day 2016) and has been given to us!

Conclusion. I’ve decided to cut chapter 5 early here because I really want to spend some good time on verses 23-28. And actually I’m especially excited to share with you about verse 23 (go read it…what do you think I’m focusing on? Why am I interested in talking about this with you? How does it apply to our everyday lives?)

Anyway, today’s Devotional has been very helpful in showing us a partial (yet hefty list!) of Christian tasks. How can we apply these in our lives? Do not quench the Holy Spirit! Let Him move in your life in personal areas of growth and, when you’re called, to help others mature in the specific ways God has intended for them.

 

References.

Source 1: Kopiaohttps://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2872&t=KJV

Source 2: noutheteohttps://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3560&t=KJV

Source 3: sbennymi, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4570&t=KJV

Source 4: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1850.

Resurrection Day 2016

Resurrection Day 2016 (3/27/16)

Today is Resurrection Day! We celebrate the Lord Jesus rising from the dead. In fact we just had our church’s Sunrise Service…it’s watching the Sun rise as we celebrate the Son’s rise!! In a sermon I gave a couple months ago (click here to listen) we talked about John 20:1-31.

What stands out to me today is in verses 11-16: “But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.  And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!

Jesus has truly risen from the dead and what is His first thought? It’s for us, for our comfort (“why are you weeping?”) to each of us personally (“Mary!”). Jesus has so much love for us to save us from all the bad stuff we’ve done, to die for our sins and give us hope that we too can be resurrected from the dead (read last year’s Devotional # 131 Special Resurrection Day blog about that). As we read in last week’s regular Devotional (Devotional # 182) from 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,  who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” We have obtained salvation through who alone? “our Lord Jesus Christ”! How? What did He do for us? He “died for us” that we will one day “live together with Him”!!

Praise Jesus today, and every day, He rose from the dead! What a miraculous work He has done and continues to do in our lives every day!

Devotional # 182. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Devotional # 182. 3/22/16. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.

Intro. We’ve been going over eschatological (future things/ study of the end-times) themes in that last devotionals and we will continue to here, as we finish out the book of 1 Thessalonians and also as we move into 2 Thessalonians.

v. 1. By using “but” here Paul tells us he is transferring on specific subject matter (the Rapture) while keeping the theme of prophesy. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that he doesn’t need to spend a lot of time on reviewing the Tribulation or Jesus’ Second Coming with them since they’ve talked about it before. However, it is good for us that Paul does go over some of it so we in 2016 can know!

v. 2. Paul gives us our first vocabulary phrase here: “the Day of the Lord”. Anytime we see this phrase it is referring to God’s Judgment (examples are in Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 13:6-9; Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1-31; and Joel 3:14). MacArthur explains, “the future ‘Day of the Lord’ which unleashes God’s wrath, falls into two parts: 1) The end of the seven-year tribulation period (Rev. 19:11-21), and 2) The end of the Millennium…here, Paul refers to that aspect of the ‘Day of the Lord,’ which concludes the tribulation period” (Source 1). We should note that the “Day” doesn’t refer to one 24 hour period but can be an epoch of time.

We find our second vocabulary phrase: “as a thief in the night.” Often this is applied to the Rapture but instead this refers to how Jesus comes after the Tribulation. We see this in Revelation 16:15 when Jesus warns how He will come on the scene for the Battle of Armageddon. There also He tells people to be watchful just as we’re told here. Note that after the Battle of Armageddon has been raging Jesus suddenly appears on the scene and ends the war (Revelation 19:17-20).

v. 3. Here we have more descriptions of what the times will be like when Jesus comes for “the Second Coming.” In addition to 1. “as a thief in the night” (v. 2) it will also be: 2. When Peace is Spoken Instead Devastation Hits (“when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them”), 3. Quickly (“as labor pains”), 4. No Escape (“they shall not escape”). Let’s talk about what these mean:

They say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them.” This will be noticeably different than any other time. We’ve always had plenty of people talk about “peace.” But when Jesus comes after literal hell on earth all of the people who have told others to be at peace and also have claimed there is peace and safety will see what true judgment and destruction looks like. This is very clear today considering the terrorist attacks in Brussels Belgium that happened at about midnight PST (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35869254 ). I heard an interview with someone from the U.S. Department of Defense this morning and when asked when terrorist attacks would stop she didn’t say, ‘only Jesus can bring peace’, she started listing tactics and intelligence and military might. But it’s hopeless without Jesus. I mean literally there is no way to get peace around the globe without Jesus’ intervention. The very people saying these things (“they say”) will be the ones immediately, completely annihilated (“sudden destruction comes upon them”). There will have been a time when the Anti-Christ offers a peace plan that will work for a short time (Revelation 6:2*) but his true motives will be revealed – “to conquer.” As this begins the 7 year Tribulation it will be evident that sin and evil will never result in peace. Sadly, there will be many who won’t acknowledge God’s peace plan and willfully condemn themselves to hell.

As labor pains.This is imagery meaning an increase in frequency and intensity. This, again, will be unlike anything the world has seen. As the Tribulation winds down the “destruction” will come on more quickly and painfully. Part of this is what Satan and the Anti-Christ bring into the picture but much of it is dished out by the Father and the Son.

They shall not escape.Revelation shows us people will try and commit suicide but will be unable to kill themselves (Revelation 9:6) and will try and hide from God although they will be unable to do so (Revelation 6:16). Both of these will have happened prior to the “Day of the Lord” that we’re talking about here but we see how stubborn it is for people who know God is real (acknowledging Him) and reject His salvation (instead they beg to be hidden from His face). They have no one to blame but themselves.

 

* Revelation 6:2: The Anti-Christ has a “bow” which is considered a peace plan. But since there are no arrows the peace plan will fail.

vv. 4-5. “But you” marks an important point: Paul notes he’s not talking about the non-Christians from verse 3 anymore, now he’s speaking to the Christians both in Thessalonica and us today. He’s saying the believers (“brethren” and sisters!) are “not in darkness” which means we have a light, a roadmap, for the end times. We also are of the “light” and not of the “darkness” (v. 6). We know “that this Day” will not “overtake [us] as a thief” because this “Day” refers specifically to the Tribulation and since Christians won’t be on earth of that it won’t “overtake us.”

vv. 6-8. So if Christians aren’t on earth for the Tribulation or for the “Day of the Lord” why does Paul give a warning of not “sleeping” here? Because true Christians will be raptured (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Devotional # 181) but that doesn’t mean just because you go to church or say you’re a Christian that you will be raptured. The clear distinction between the “true” Christian and everyone else (the “pretend” religious person included) is shown here. Let’s look at it like this:

“True” Christian: 1. “sons and daughters of light and of the day” (v. 5); 2. “not asleep”; 3. “watching”; and 4. “sober” (v. 6).

Everyone Else: 1. “of the night” and “of darkness”; 2. Not watching (by implication); 3. “sleeping at night”; and 4. “drunk at night” (v. 7).

It should be obvious that this has nothing to do with being lazy or any sort of physical sleep and certainly not with drinking alcohol but the principles and attributes that accompany such things. If you are scared of not being a “true” Christian then now is the time to take action! If you allow yourself to be spiritually lulled to sleep you will miss the Rapture and consequently endure the Tribulation. And for anyone reading this thinking, “this is the typical doomsday speech about becoming a Christian to avoid all the bad stuff” I would agree with you in one way, but in another way I would ask you what’s the alternative? If I die and I’m wrong then I’ve lived a life helping people and reading a Book that has told me to put my family first and stop being selfish. But if you’re wrong you end up going through hell on earth (the Tribulation) and the only time it stops is when you find out that you’re going to the very literal hell. Personally, I hate fire and brimstone tactics to force people into repentance. Jesus never forced anyone, but He made sure they knew. Now you know.

So for those of us who want to be found “watching” and “sober” what can we do? Paul gives us two things to put on: 1. “the breastplate of faith and love” and 2. “as a helmet the hope of salvation.” The “breastplate” covered the vital organs of the body and in the same way “faith and love” protect our vital spiritual “organs.” Interestingly, “salvation” is always associated with the “helmet” (as we saw in Ephesians 6:17, Devotional # 119).

v. 9. This is probably the most important verse to show that believers won’t endure God’s wrath but instead will be saved from His judgement. If you think about it, what would be the point? Why would God put us through something like that if we’ve been faithful to His command of “denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him” (Matthew 16:24)? Although some think that this refers to Christians being saved from God’s eternal wrath and not His Tribulation wrath I disagree. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15 we see “asleep” and so it follows that “whether we wake or sleep” we will “live together with Him.” Sure, God’s judgment wrath was “appointed” on us before we accepted Jesus and it would apply then that if we were among the last group of Christians on earth that the wrath reserved for sinful people during the Tribulation would also be “appointed” on us. But the very fact of accepting Jesus removes us out of any and all of God’s wrath, whether that be hell or hell on earth.

There is an incredibly interesting contrariety (not contradiction) here: Paul says, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation.” In the same way that we can’t have Three-in-One and yet we have the Trinity and we can’t have Jesus be both fully God and fully Man and yet He is, in the same way, we see here that the words “appoint” and “obtain” sit comfortably next to each other. “Appoint emphasizes God’s sovereignty, but obtain is a word that emphasizes human effort. Together, they show that the full scope of salvation involves both divine initiative and human effort” (Source 2). Somehow, although we cannot do good works to earn our way into heaven, God has given us a choice and as such, we are responsible for choosing what He has done for us.

vv. 10-11. What has He done? “Our Lord Jesus Christ…died for us.” The fact that the same God that holds that “wrath”, that terrible “Day of the Lord”, our fate, in His hand, would humble Himself and come down to earth and die for our sins is incredible! But what else would have worked? How could anyone but a perfect God judge us? And at the same time how could He ever find anyone equal to Him in perfection? So it had to be Him who saved us! And that is the great news that Paul tells us to “comfort each other and edify one another” with.

Conclusion. Has this put things into perspective for you? Sure, an understanding of our Bible vocabulary words will be really helpful for you as you strive to be “watchful” and “sober”, but even if you can’t remember all of those things what will stick with you is that Jesus wants us to be vigilant and to encourage each other with Jesus’ great gift of salvation! But we can’t keep it to ourselves! We have to share this gift with other who haven’t trust Him as their Lord and Savior!

 

 

References.

Source 1: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1849.

Source 2: David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_1Th/1Th_5.cfm?a=1116001

Devotional # 181. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Devotional # 181. 3/15/16. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

 

Intro. Last week we covered the first 12 verses of this chapter (Devotional # 180) where we saw how to be righteous Christians, but I mentioned that it was laying a foundation for us to understand how the Rapture of the Church was going to go.

vv. 13-14. Having said that it is God’s will for us to be sanctified and cleaned by not being sexually immoral (v. 3), leading a quiet life, not gossiping and working hard (v. 11), Paul finishes that thought by explaining we need to be good witness to non-Christians (“outside”) and that we Christians “may lack nothing” (v. 12). With the fact that we lack nothing, Paul moves in to the truth of what our resurrection and the Rapture will be like. You see, because we lack nothing we also do not lack knowledge. That’s why Paul can say, “I do not want you to be ignorant” because ignorance is the lack of information.

I was reading Proverbs 14 this morning (as I attempt to read the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds with the current calendar day) and verse 6 stood out as applicable to this study: “A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it, but knowledge is easy to him who understands” (Proverbs 14:6). From what we’re reading here in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 there are those who are “ignorant” that heaven exists and that the Rapture of the Church will happen. Today there are very few people in the “civilized” world who haven’t heard the truth about a biblical heaven and the idea of the Rapture with movies like “Left Behind” with Nicolas Cage and the “Left Behind” book series (and films with Kirk Cameron). So we can see that many of them are “scoffers”, making fun of a Savior who would die on the cross; the ideas of sin, the Rapture and heaven. But for the Christian, we have this “knowledge” and it is “easy to him who understands.” What does this do for us? We’re told this so that we will have “hope” (v. 13) but notice that verse 14 says “if”. The “if” here makes it a conditional promise. “If we believe…” Believe what? “That Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” You can’t get much clearer than that!

In verse 14 we have the roadmap: What is to be done: “believe”, in Whom: “Jesus Christ”, Why: because He “died and rose again”, and the Result: the Father “will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” To “sleep in Jesus” sounds a little strange but is actually a truthful and perfect way to put it. Anyone who has died but believed in Jesus is not really spiritually “dead” – they are merely “sleeping.” Do you remember what Jesus said to His disciples, the family and the mourners of the little girl He raised from the dead in Mark 5:35-43 (Devotional # 15) ? He said that she was just sleeping, and then proceeded to bring her back to life. What an incredible story and what an incredibly hopeful outlook – that death is not the end but merely a short time of sleep followed with the fullness of eternal life! We must keep in mind that for that little girl (and any other people Jesus raised from the dead during His ministry) they were going to have to die again since every person must die (1 Corinthians 15:22; Hebrews 9:27). But the principle still applies: God considers the physical death of His Church as merely sleeping.

vv. 15-17. Paul substantiates his claim by saying this is true because it is “the word of the Lord.” This isn’t something Paul made up or even connected the dots and made a hypotheses. No, the facts of heaven and the Rapture were told to him by God. Not only to him but we see it elsewhere in the Bible, proving the validity of these claims.

The Thessalonians were unsure in what order future things were going to happen. Would their dead friends and relative miss Jesus coming back? Hadn’t Jesus promised to save Christians from difficult times? Paul explains how things will happen and in what order:

 

First, at “the Rapture” Jesus will come down from heaven. This will be announced, as always, at Jesus’ command (“shout”), also announced by a separate voice of an archangel and lastly, announced by a trumpet blast.

Second, the Christians who have died before Jesus raptures the Church will rise before the believers who are still alive (“we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep” and “the dead in Christ will rise first”).

Third, the Christians who are still alive will be taken from their earthly bodies (essentially dying) and join Jesus “in the clouds.”

 

We’ll look into these things in more detail but I think at this point it’s important to note that although many Christians refer to Jesus’ return for his Church as the “Second Coming” technically the “Second Coming” is something different that doesn’t happen until after the Tribulation. Although The Rapture and the Second Coming share some similarities, here are several key differences:

 

The Rapture vs. The Second Coming (Source 1)

  Rapture Second Coming
The Church Jesus returns FOR His Church (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:16-17) Jesus returns WITH His Church (Rev. 19:11-16)
Tribulation Before (1 Thess. 5:9; Rev. 3:10) After (Rev. chapters 16-19)
Reason Believers get delivered (1 Thess. 4:13-17; 5:9) Non-believers get judged (Rev. 3:10; 19:11-21)
Viewed Hidden (1 Cor. 15:50-54) Visible to all (Rev. 1:7)
Timeline Any time (1 Cor. 15:50-54; Titus 2:13; 1 Thess. 4:14-18) After specific events (2 Thess. 2:4; Mt. 24:15-30)

 

 

Contrasts Between the Rapture and the Second Coming (Source 2)
Rapture Second Coming
Christ comes for His own (John 14:3; 1Th. 5:28; 2Th. 2:1). Christ comes with His own (1Th. 3:13; Jude 1:14; Rev. 19:14+).1
Christ comes in the air (1Th. 4:17). Christ comes to the earth (Zec. 14:4; Acts 1:11).2
Christ claims His bride (1Th. 4:16-17). Christ comes with His bride (Rev. 19:6-14+).3
Removal of believers (1Th. 4:17). Manifestation of Christ (Mal. 4:2).4
Only His own see Him (1Th. 4:13-18). Every eye shall see Him (Rev. 1:7+).5
Tribulation begins (2Th. 1:6-9). Millennial Kingdom begins (Rev. 20:1-7+).6
Saved are delivered from wrath (1Th. 1:10; 1Th. 5:9). Unsaved experience the wrath of God (Rev. 6:12-17+).7
No signs precede rapture (1Th. 5:1-3). Signs precede Second Coming (Luke 21:11,Luke 21:15).8
Focus is Lord and Church (1Th. 4:13-18). Focus is Israel and kingdom (Mat. 24:14).9
World is deceived (2Th. 2:3-12). Satan is bound so he cannot deceive (Rev. 20:1-2+).10
Believers depart the earth (1Th. 4:15-17).11 Unbelievers are taken away from the earth (Mat. 24:37-41).12
Unbelievers remain on earth. Believers remain on earth (Mat. 25:34).13
No mention of establishing Christ’s Kingdom on earth. Christ has come to set up His Kingdom on earth (Mat. 25:31Mat. 25:34).14
Christians taken to the Father’s house (John 14:1-3). Resurrected saints do not see the Father’s house (Rev. 20:4+).15
Imminent—could happen at any moment. Cannot occur for at least 7 years.16
Precedes the career of the man of sin. (2Th. 2:1-3). Terminates the career of the man of sin (Rev. 19:20+).

 

(For more on how Christians will not go through the Tribulation and how our current trials and tribulations are much different from the Tribulation event, see Devotional # 179).

The charts above should give you some good information (and maybe even some extra stuff you didn’t know like how unbelievers won’t be aware when the Rapture happens or that there are no signs that happen prior to the Rapture) but let’s look a little deeper at a couple of things specifically here in verses 15-17.

 

We should acknowledge that time and again in the end times it is Jesus who starts something or gives a command to begin (read Revelation). In verse 16, “The Lord Himself” who descends “with a shout” is giving a “war shout”, which shows He is “a victorious King, giving the word of command to the hosts of heaven” (Source 3). This makes sense when we realize that when the Church is pulled out here at the Rapture it is the immediate beginning of the Tribulation, the 7 years of horrible plagues that God rains down upon the earth. Jesus is signaling battle positions to His angels. After the archangel comes the trumpet blast. We should be aware this isn’t “the judgment trumpets of Revelation 8-11, but is illustrated by the trumpet of Exodus 19:16-19, which called the people out of the camp to meet God. It will be a trumpet of deliverance (cf. Zephaniah 1:16; Zechariah 9:14)” (Source 4).

 

Many say that the word “Rapture” is not in the Bible, as if that somehow makes it untrue. I would point out at words like Trinity, Jonah’s whale and the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” are also not found in the Bible but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t many places in the Bible that teach the concept without using the exact word we use. So the reason we call it the Rapture is because of the phrase “caught up”. In the original Greek “caught up” is harpazo, which means “to seize” or “to snatch out or away” (Source 5).

 

We see that all of the Christians, those who were dead and those who have just died, all join Jesus “in the clouds”, “in the air.” So Jesus never actually comes down to earth but stays in the sky bringing His Church to Him. It is important for us to recognize that if He did come all the way down to earth at this point then He would be failing at the prophecy in Zechariah 14:4.

v. 18. The last part of verse 17 (“thus we shall always be with the Lord”) and this verse gave the Thessalonians, and give us nowadays, a lot of hope. The fact that all of the difficulties we have gone through on earth are over and we never have to leave our beloved Savior’s side is such a hopeful thought that it makes our current struggles worth it. Now here in verse 18 it says to “comfort one another with these words.” It’s important that we understand that this kind of “comfort” isn’t like Paul saying ‘hang in there through the tough times, the Rapture is soon’ instead he means ‘live holy lives, we have our hope of salvation!’ Do you see the difference? There is nothing wrong with being comforted by the Rapture (most Christians are!) but in the first example the focus is on us and the difficulties we’re going through, and the quick event of the Rapture, but as we’ve said many times it’s not all about us, it’s all about God. So if we “comfort” each other with encouragements to live holy lives as pleasing to God, and are hopeful and appreciative of the eternal salvation He provides, than we aren’t focused on ourselves instead our holy lives are also testimonies to the “ignorant” and “scoffers” (“outside”) who can receive his salvation just like we did!

 

Conclusion. When we recognize the foundation that Paul set in the first half of this chapter (1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, Devotional # 180) about living godly lives suddenly how Paul ends the chapter makes a lot of sense. And this key portion of Scripture on the Rapture reminds us of our personal responsibilities in our lives and in the lives of others. We take great “comfort” in the hope of our salvation and that we “shall always be with the Lord”. As you’ll see in Revelation 19:6-14 we come back to earth as part of Jesus’ army, so He is training us for great things. (Here, in 1 Thessalonians 4 Jesus is coming FOR His Church, in Revelation 19 Jesus is coming WITH His Church.) We have great responsibility and continued hope in Jesus!

 

 

References.

Source 1: http://christianity.about.com/od/endtimestopicalstudy/f/secondcomingof.htm

Source 2: http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/revelation/related-topics/rapture-versus-second-coming.html

Source 3: https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/1Th/1Th_004.cfm?a=1115001

Source 4: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1848.

Source 5: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G726&t=KJV

Devotional # 180. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

Devotional # 180. 3/7/16. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12.

 

Intro. Last week we covered all of chapter 3 of 1 Thessalonians, talking about Paul’s concerns for the church there and also the differences between current tribulations and the Tribulation of the end times (Devotional # 179). For this week we need to realize what we’re talking about next week. This week, in verses 1-12, we’ll see how to be righteous Christians, and next week we’ll be talking about the Rapture of the church. So what Paul gives us this week in verses 1-12 will help us better understand the Rapture through context.

vv. 1-2. The key to this section is in the words, “How you ought to walk and to please God” (v. 1). Notice that Paul says that these commandments are given through Jesus. So the things that follow are clearly telling us how we can be found faithful whenever Jesus decides to rapture the church.

vv. 3-8. The first thing that we should be doing to be found righteous when Jesus comes back at the Rapture regards sexual immorality. “Sexual immorality” in Greek is porneia, where we get our word “pornography”, and means “prohibited sexual intercourse.” This is in regards to “adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.” (Source 1). Why do you think this is the first thing mentioned? I believe that sexual immorality is very easy for every person to fall into and beyond that it affects every person. You and every person you know will be affected by this.

Notice that it says, “this is the will of God, your sanctification.” Any time the Bible tells us that something is the “will of God” we should pay attention! God’s will is our sanctification, which means “our purification” (Source 2). God wants us to be pure, according to His standards.

This applied to the Thessalonians in the same way it applies to us, we should not be overtaken by our lusts. God didn’t call us to be unclean but to be holy (v. 7). And the authority of it is unquestioned: if you don’t obey this you are not rejecting man’s command “but God, who has also given us the Holy Spirit.” The point is that we’re not like the Gentiles (v. 5) who don’t know God but we’re holy and we have the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Interestingly the word porneia that we just talked about meaning “sexual immorality” has the meaning of prohibited physical intercourse but it can also mean prohibited spiritual intercourse. In places like Jeremiah 3:20; Isaiah 1:21; Ezekiel 16:30 in the Old Testament, when God’s people worshipped other fake gods He called it “adultery” against Him. Since Paul is helping us understand the end times here in Thessalonians, it’s important that we look at places like Revelation 2:18-29 where we see that the future church of Thyatira is blamed for the sin of “sexual immorality” against God. So spiritual “sexual immorality” will continue to be present until the end of the world but what does your life look like now? And do you stand against it? Are you an “overcomer” (from Revelation 2:26)?

vv. 9-12. In verses 9-10 Paul encourages the Thessalonians that they don’t need any special motivation to love each other in “brotherly love.” What they do need is to continue in it “more and more.” I know this mentality from my work: continuous improvement. If we accept something as “good enough” we will become lackadaisical and that “good” will eventually end. In the same way when we are doing well in showing love to others we must continue in it, never giving up and never thinking we’re doing “good enough.”

 

Lastly, we’re given 3 items to model our lives after: 1. “lead a quiet life”, 2. “mind your own business”, 3.  “and to work with your hands.” When Paul says, “lead a quiet life” and “mind your own business” this is in direct contrast to the world. The unbeliever is all about how much noise they can make and how much gossip they can get and spread around. A truly changed Christian life doesn’t have wild fights or drunken parties, and it doesn’t spread news, even if it’s true, about others. A Christian doesn’t do this, not because they’ve been told not to or they are trying to obey a rule, but because Jesus died for their sins and the Holy Spirit truly has changed them.

 

The final model “to work with your hands” needs a little explaining. In looking at history it seems that the Thessalonian church was mostly made up of the working class of people. When they were saved and then heard that Jesus was going to be coming back (the Rapture) they thought they didn’t have to work anymore (Source 3). So this isn’t saying that only labor jobs are good work, but it is saying that whatever you do give it your best, as to the Lord (Colossians 3:23, Devotional # 162).

 

Conclusion. This has been a good lesson for us on what God’s will is for our life. So often we think about God’s will for our life as if he is a career planner trying to fit our resume into a position where we’ll be really happy. The truth is God is much more concerned with the shape your heart is in than what shape your bank account is in, or your job security or emotional happiness meter is registering. In reality the way He changes our lives, and uses us to change the lives of others, is much more important. Remember next week we’ll finish off this chapter talking about the Rapture in great detail. If we consider what our sanctification looks like by staying away from physical and spiritual sexual immorality and leading a quiet life while minding our own business and working to give Him glory then we will be ready if He does Rapture us tonight!

 

References.

Source 1: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4202&t=KJV

Source 2: hagiasmos, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G38&t=KJV

Source 3: Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/1Th/1Th_004.cfm?a=1115003

Devotional # 179. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13

Devotional # 179. 2/29/16. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13.

Intro. As we’ve moved through 1 Thessalonians we’ve seen that Paul and Silas and Timothy started and mentored the church in Thessalonica. We have the unique opportunity to both learn from the mentors and from those being mentored as we read through this letter and apply the encouragements to our own lives.

vv. 1-2. Again, we see Paul and Silas and Timothy’s hearts here. They wanted so badly (“no longer endure it“) to see, fellowship, encourage and train up the Christians at Thessalonica but they were unable to leave Athens. So they decided to send Timothy. Often times we think we can handle something through a text or an email (or even a phone call allows us to hear the inflections in a person’s voice) but what is really needed is a face to face with a person. Be willing to go out of your way to meet up with someone, to make the long trip, to see, fellowship, encourage and train up other Christians. Something I’ve learned in my job is there is no replacement for meeting someone and talking with them. There are people I’ve dealt with over the phone for 5 years but it wasn’t until I met them that they were really willing to go out of their way to help and the same for me helping them. It’s about the connection that you make with others. Meet with other Christians, not just when it’s convenient but when the Lord leads and you love them so much you can “no longer endure it“.

vv. 3-4. If we correctly interpret this it will give us peace, a game plan for our future and a great desire to see people saved. But if we incorrectly interpret this it could lead to a lot of difficulties in our lives and the lives of others. If we read this as if believers will go through the Tribulation (including the Great Tribulation) we can lose hope and also lead others incorrectly. So the context here (as we saw last week in 1 Thessalonians 2:14, Devotional # 178) is that Christians have to go through some tough times. In fact “we are appointed to this.” But the present difficulties are a vast difference from what Christians will endure during the Tribulation. The first point we need to know is that 1 Thessalonians 5:9 says, “for God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This shows us current Christians that we will not go through the Tribulation (“wrath”) but instead have obtained “salvation” from God’s wrath. The second point is to contrast what current trials and tribulations look like as opposed to the Tribulation that will last 7 years as Revelation describes. In 2 Corinthians 11:23b-28 Paul describes some of the things he’s gone through:

 

“…in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”

 

That is what current difficulties look like when suffering for the Lord. So what does the Tribulation of Revelation look like? Revelation, chapters 6-19 detail the Tribulation, some examples are:

 

-“there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth” (Rev. 6:12b-13a).

-“The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood.  And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter. Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night” (Rev. 8:7-12).

-“By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed—by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths.  For their power is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm” (Rev. 9:18-19).

 

Everyone can agree that the sun isn’t black, bloody hail isn’t currently falling and there isn’t a demon army with snake tails shooting fire and brimstone out of their mouths. That kind of death and destruction is reserved for the end of time and for the unbelieving, Jesus rejecting multitudes. I hope this helps you distinguish between the trials and tribulations that Christians have been going through since 33AD and the event of the Tribulation that has yet to come.

v. 5. Paul says “for this reason.” For what reason is he talking about? For the reason of both the Thessalonians and Paul, Silas and Timothy suffering afflictions and tribulations; this is why they wanted to send Timothy to the Thessalonians. So that Paul could know their “faith.” He was double checking that Satan (“the tempter“) hadn’t “tempted” them.  What sorts of temptations would Satan try and entice the Thessalonians with? The same that he does today. Maybe it’s that this Christian life isn’t worth it, maybe it’s that God isn’t real, or that we can still be Christians without standing up for the Lord and sacrificing our happiness and resources. In fact, Satan has three foundational temptations that he usually goes to. I’ve started calling them “Sins Triple Root” and they are: 1. the “lust of the flesh”, 2. the “lust of the eyes”, and the “pride of life”. We see them in three specific places in the Bible (Genesis 3:6, Luke 4:4, 8, 12 and 1 John 2:16). But how does this help us? If we are aware that Satan is trying to use one or all of these temptations on us then we can fight against them. God tells Cain, “sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” in Genesis 4:7. God is clearly stating that with His help we can overcome sin’s temptations.

v. 6. Verses 1–5 were telling us Paul’s heart in sending Timothy to find out how the Thessalonians were doing, here in verse 6 we fast-forward to Timothy having visited them and come back. Timothy’s report was: “good news“. They had “faith and love” and they had fond memories of the time that Paul, Silas and Timothy were there. Remember when they first came through they were only in Thessalonica for 3 weeks (Devotional # 175) according to Acts 17:2, which is not a lot of time. Paul is a smart man for checking in and making sure that the good memories that he has were also good memories for the Thessalonians.

vv. 7-8. Paul says “therefore” (meaning because there was a good report) it comforted Paul and Silas, Timothy and others. I think often times we underestimate the effect that we can have on other Christians. My wife and I were having a conversation with some friends yesterday who are younger in the Lord. They told us how they appreciated our biblical council but we told them it’s a two-way street: because they’re reading their Bibles and in prayer God uses them to give us encouragement and counsel also. Notice that Paul does say that in all of the “affliction and distress” they are comforted. This is another proof that the tribulations he’s talking about here are the ones happening in real time, right now.

 

So what does Paul mean by “for now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord”? One group of commentators explain it as Paul saying, “it revives us in our affliction to hear of your steadfastness (Psalm 22:26; 2 John 1:3-4)” (Source 1).

vv. 9-10. It’s really interesting how Paul puts this. He’s saying that even though he’s thanking God day and night that the Thessalonians came to put their faith in God and that they continue to walk with Him, he feels it’s not enough. Paul is saying that it’s too much for his heart and his lips. What incredibly important lesson can we learn from? That we should be praying day and night, or as we’ll see in a couple weeks Paul also calls it “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, Devotional # 183). But what really hit me right now as I’m reading through this is that Paul felt ill equipped to actually think and praise God efficiently. That’s something I need to work on in my prayer life. A lot of times I run through the things that I want but don’t feel a burning passion that I haven’t properly communicated to God how thankful I am that He has done certain things. What about you? Is your thankfulness ever too much for your heart and your lips? I think when we have that mindset then we can begin to enter into a prayer life that truly is taking place “night and day.”
A couple of years ago I tried to pray continually – it basically meant that throughout my entire day I asked God to remind me to pray. And you know what? It actually happened! It was one of the best days that I can remember. I’ve never felt closer to God. So why haven’t I done it in years? I’m not sure exactly…maybe I’m afraid that the next time I try it, it won’t be as good, maybe I feel like I’m too busy or maybe I just haven’t thought about it. But what I do know is that Paul leads by example and we should follow that example. That day that I just told you about where I was able to pray day and night was a regular full day for me. It wasn’t like I went into solitary confinement or took a “me day” in the woods. The reality of it was that I was able to pray all day long even with all my normal responsibilities. So I’m challenging myself and you to do this. Pick one day and do whatever it takes. Write yourself reminder notes, send yourself emails, do whatever you have to do to constantly be in prayer. But I strongly suggest that you make it a day like any other day because the end goal is for us to develop a mindset when we’re praying continually and we can’t do that if we orchestrate special situations since that’s not our everyday life. So what do those prayers look like? Well it could be a 45 minute long prayer in the morning as you’re getting ready and then some five-minute prayers throughout the day. At lunch you decide to be by yourself uninterrupted and pray. Some more quick prayers followed by some lengthier ones and then go to bed. It’s not realistic to say that you won’t have any conversations with anyone and you won’t do anything else. It’s just that the gaps of time that we waste should be filled with prayer. Trust me you won’t run out of things to talk to God about. Don’t just make it a list of “I wants”. You’re talking to your Father, and He will talk to you. Be patient, but be ready for “the tempter” (v. 5). Be thankful and have joy!

vv. 11-13. I love the separation of the Persons of God here! Not only does “our God and Father” direct our way but so does “our Lord Jesus Christ“! We can take notes on Paul’s blessing here. He says that Jesus “the Lord” can, if it is His will, “make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all.” And we know that it is Jesus’ will, as He says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). We too should be praying not just for our increase in love to love other Christians (“one another“) and love for non-Christians (“all“) but for our other Christian brothers and sisters to be praying the same thing and to be flooded with the same love.
And what will come from that kind of love? Jesus will “establish [our] hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” This applies as much to us today as it did to the Thessalonians then. Paul is giving us great hope! We will be made “blameless” – in the eyes of God, our Judge, it’s as if we’ve never sinned. And we will be made “holy” – in the eyes of God, He will make us pure. When will these things happen? “At the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” when we are with all of the other Christians (“saints“). Interestingly the word for “coming” here in the Greek means “presence” (Source 2).  Once we are in Jesus’ “presence” we are blameless. We have cast off this tent of a body and taken on our perfected resurrection body. We are made blameless because he is blameless!
Conclusion. We have been reminded about the things that we probably know: to thank God, to pray day and night, and to check in with other Christians. But we also learned somethings that we may not have known: 1. Satan chiefly uses three root sins to tempt us and 2. the difference between trials and tribulations that we face now and the Tribulation to happen in the future. Were there any other things you were reminded of? Was there anything that you learned for the first time? Leave a comment below. God bless!

 

References.

Source 1: Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/1Th/1Th_003.cfm

Source 2: Parousia, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3952&t=KJV

Devotional # 178. 1 Thessalonians 2:10-20

Devotional # 178. 2/22/16. 1 Thessalonians 2:10-20.

Intro. As we’ve walked through the second chapter of Thessalonians we’ve seen the theme of Paul reminding us what God had done directly and indirectly. In vv. 1-3 (Devotional # 176) we saw that although there are difficulties in encouragement it isn’t from “error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit” but was completely worth it. In vv. 4-9 (Devotional # 177) Paul taught us we have been tested and been approved to grow in patience and affection for Christians and non-believers. In these verses we’ll see again how God has taken care of us through persecution and taught us that the Church should be a joy to other Christians as much as it is to God the Father.

vv. 10-12. Here Paul is restating how he, Timothy and Silas encouraged and exhorted their brothers and sisters in Thessalonica. It was “devoutly and justly and blamelessly.” Last week Paul used the analogy of a mother, this week he uses another parental analogy, this time about a father. He explains that he “exhorted, and comforted, and charged everyone of you, as a father does his own children.” Before, when he used the analogy of a mother it was about being “gentle” and “affectionate” but now he’s talking about “exhorting and comforting and charging“. It’s not that these are so widely different and the point isn’t that these are the exact types of traits that mothers have to follow and separately fathers have to follow; instead it is what is natural to a mother and what is natural to a father. I know from experience that mothers nurture, that doesn’t mean that they don’t discipline but their primary trait is one of nurturing. I also know personally, as a father and as a son who has been fathered, that dads can do a great job of encouraging and charging their children. We talked a bit about “motherly” traits last week in Devotional # 177 , so let’s talk a bit about the fatherly role here. If my kids have done something that they’re a little bit unsure about, say at painting, and I playfully make fun of it even just a little bit it basically destroys them. But if I encourage them about it they’ll get even more excited and tell me more details and even more importantly they’ll want to do it again. In the same way when we are encouraging other believers, when we take on the fatherly role, sometimes we have to give them the hard answer or be blunt with them. The key, as always, is love. And that’s where Paul is saying he came from whether in motherly traits are fatherly traits he loves the Thessalonians and has given them a role model to follow when they disciple others.
Did you notice that he said “every one of you“? He didn’t pick out just one special person but he labored and gave each one the time that was needed. And the reason he has taken the time to love and encourage them is that they “would walk worthy of God” who called them “into His own kingdom and glory” (v. 12). So if we “have been approved by God” and “entrusted with the gospel” (v. 4) then God has called us and we must “walk worthy“. We talked about walking worthy in Ephesians 4:1 (Devotional # 103) and Colossians 1:10 (Devotional # 145). Last week we talked about how we are called to do something very difficult but here we see the end goal: we get to go to “His own kingdom and glory.” We will get to go to heaven and be with Him!

v. 13. Paul starts the section off with saying “for this reason“, for what reason? I believe it’s twofold: starting with the reason of going to heaven (v. 12) but also because when they received the word they welcomed it (v. 13). He says for that reason “we also thank God without ceasing.” Do you think someone can really thank God for something without stopping? The short answer is “yes!” Paul was so thankful that the Thessalonians had accepted Jesus as their Savior and were following after Him, that his mind was always thanking God.  (We’ll cover Paul’s “pray without ceasing” prayer life mentality more when we get to 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Devotional # 183). So Paul thanks God constantly that when the Thessalonians “receive the word of God” they welcomed it for what it really was: “the word of God.” We too can be thankful and confident that this isn’t “the word of men” but truly is the “truth“! One of the proofs of this is that it “effectively works in you who believe.” So it’s not just some dull archaic letters on a page but it is the living breathing word of God and it doesn’t just work sometimes it works “effectively“. But does it work for everyone? Yes, everyone who “believes.” We must understand this “believe” if we are to understand verses 14-16, Paul is essentially talking about Romans 10:9–10 which says, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness’s and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” So if we have heard the truth and we confess it and we believe in our heart then we are made righteous. Of course this is not our righteousness, which just means “right-ness” before God, only He can give us that.

vv. 14-16. With that in mind, that once you hear the truth you have to believe it, we get a glimpse into what the Thessalonians were dealing with. The persecution from their “own countrymen” was exactly what the church in Judea had also gone through. Read about the church in Judea in Acts 4:1-4, Devotional # 45. So the church in Judea had gone through (and continued to go through) a difficult time and they couldn’t possibly know that they were the fore-runners of how to handle persecution but they were able to look at the persecution Jesus had gone through for encouragement. And now the church in Judea was acting as a model for the Thessalonians. And no doubt thousands of churches who have endured persecution over the last two millennia have looked to Thessalonica as a model of how to get through persecution. God is always faithful to provide for us exactly what we need!

vv. 17-20. Even though Paul and Silas and Timothy have been away from the church in Thessalonica they can rest assured that Paul and the others have been with them in heart. And not just that – Paul and the others really want to see them again and have wanted to see them except Satan keeps spoiling their plans to go to Thessalonica.

There are two things in this next part that are really important for us to recognize: 1. Paul looks at the Thessalonians (and all Christians that he’s had a hand in bringing to the Lord) as a “hope, joy and crown of rejoicing“; 2. Paul is looking forward to the end of all the things that have to happen Revelation in order to be “in the presence of Jesus“.

Regarding the first one, Paul does not have disdain towards other Christians although I’m sure there were some that he was annoyed with sometimes but he views them as brothers and sisters, as children of the Lord. If we can develop the same outlook that God the Father has for others we would be very loving! Paul mentions that they are a “hope” which means that he receives courage and optimism from knowing that they are weathering the battles and following the Lord. He also says they are his “joy” which is pretty obvious that they bring him a happiness that can only come from when children are obedient. Lastly, he mentions the “crown of rejoicing” which is also known as the “Soul Winner’s Crown.” This is a literal crown that Jesus will give the people who have worked  hard loving others to Christ. We need to be more mindful of who we are praying for and “working on” to be saved and also those we’re discipling. What a great thing to be able to present people to Christ some day!! For more on the Six Crowns in the Bible see Devotional #136. He finishes off the chapter with this thought also: that the church is their “glory and joy.” Now I have to ask you, if you’re not attending church on a regular basis and making those relationships with other believers how can you ever hope to say something like this?

The second thing is that Paul is looking forward to when Jesus comes back (“His coming”). Now this could be one of two things: when Jesus comes back at the Rapture (Revelation 4:15) or at His Second Coming (Matthew 24:37; Revelation 19:11-20:6). I agree with MacArthur, who feels that by context, Paul probably means the Rapture (Source 1). This makes sense since we have no reason to think that Paul saw the same things John did (which is now the book of Revelation) and Paul’s words are that his joy and crown of rejoicing will be them “in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ as His coming.” If Paul is looking forward to presenting them when Jesus comes back then it must be the Rapture since that is next on God’s timeline. Since this has not happened yet we too can be looking forward to this time and we also should have a list of people that are our joy, that we are looking forward to presenting to the Lord and ushering into His presence for eternity!

 

References.

Source 1: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1846.

Devotional # 177. 1 Thessalonians 2:4-9

Devotional # 177. 2/15/16. 1 Thessalonians 2:4-9.

Intro.  Last week when we started 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 we saw the theme of Paul reminding what God had done directly and indirectly. We went through verses 1-3, which showed that Paul had lived out what he had taught the Thessalonians to preach the gospel even when there were difficulties. This week we’ll see that we have been tested and been approved to grow in patience and affection for Christians and non-believers.

v. 4. Paul tells us that those who preach the gospel have two very important things: they have “been approved by God” and then “entrusted with the gospel“. The idea of being “approved” in the original Greek is dokimazo meaning “to test, examine, prove, scrutinize” (Source 1). And to be “entrusted” in Greek is pisteuo meaning “to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in” (Source 2). This applies to us now as it did 2000 years ago, so if God has tested you and has been persuaded that you are able to carry the good news of salvation then who are we to question it? The key is that when we speak we’re not trying to make men happy but God. Because it is “God who tests our hearts” (which is a double confirmation with the definition of dokimazo we just read), it is God who we will have to answer to someday. Do we really allow what people think of us to make us bashful and self-conscious? Or do we have the “bold[ness] in our God” (v. 2) that Paul and the others had? If we truly believed that what we were doing mattered and saved souls and that we would answer to God one day we would be less concerned about what a person thinks of us and more concerned with truly preaching the good news.

vv. 5-6. Now Paul says there was no point in time when they used “flattering words” which reminds us of the “exhortation” that didn’t come from “error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit” (v. 3) that we talked at length about last week. Paul didn’t appeal to people’s pride by “flattering” them and didn’t hide behind “coveting” (“a cloak for covetousness“). Guzik explains, “Paul understood that covetousnessalways has a cloak. It is always concealed by a noble sounding goal. But Paul did not use the flattering wordsthat often are a cloak for covetousness” (Source 3). They also didn’t “seek glory from men” whether that was Christians are non-Christians. He goes on to say that he could’ve had the right to “demand” being taken care of as an apostle, as 1 Corinthians 9:14, Galatians 6:6 (see Devotional # 94) and 1 Timothy 5:17-18 say. But he didn’t do that because he thought the testimony would be more pure to new believers if he didn’t make those demands which he had a right to (1 Corinthians 9: 15, 18).

vv. 7-9. Instead they “were gentle among” the Thessalonians. In what way were Paul and Silas and Timothy “gentle“? We don’t know all the ways but Paul uses the simile of “a nursing mother” who “cherishes her own children.” Most of us, from personal experience, know how a mother loves the child that she is nursing. She is providing sustenance for that child – without her the baby will die. So she is patient and self-sacrificing and caring as the baby is nothing but selfish and also immature. When people first become Christians they are immature – they don’t fully know what the love of God is and so their bad habits and selfish desires often win out. We must be like Paul, like a patient and self-sacrificing and “affectionate” mother regardless of the selfishness and immaturity of other Christians. Next week we’ll see Paul use a “fatherly” analogy, which will give us a fuller picture, coupled with this one.

Once Paul and Silas and Timothy left the Thessalonians they missed them (“longing for you“) yet they were glad that they had received “the gospel of God“. But that wasn’t all that Paul and Timothy and Silas had “imparted” to the Thessalonians they had given their lives…not in terms of death but in terms of life! Paul challenges the brothers and sisters there to remember that they had “labored and toiled…night and day” for the Thessalonians. Paul isn’t prideful but he’s again making the comparison of how they are like a loving mother to the Thessalonians who are “newborns” in the faith. He and Silas and Timothy didn’t want to be “a burden to any of you” when they “preached to you the gospel of God.”

Do we be grudgingly “love” other believers? I’ll be the first to admit that I do. I might not say anything out loud but in my heart sometimes I’m thinking ‘you don’t know the sacrifice I’m making to talk to you about this or to go out of my way and help you.’ It can be very frustrating when someone is telling us their problems and/or asking for advice and we give them solid biblical advice and they shut their mouth only long enough until we stop talking, and they go right along on with their problems as if we haven’t given them the answer. But the more we give things over to God and let God have control the more patience we will have to just keep loving others and encourage them and strengthen them. Believe me this will take so much of your time. This will make you miss out on things that you’ve been looking forward to and cost you dearly. But it’s worth it. We know this because it was lived out by Paul.

 

Conclusion. Again, we see the theme of remembering what God has done indirectly and directly. In reminding the Thessalonians Paul is also reminding us, be affectionate and patient with those who need it and whom you were called by God to minister to. Paul devoted his life to this, toiling “night and day.” What God is asking you to do will cost you greatly, and no, it’s not popular today (remember what we talked about last week in Devotional # 176, how the modern Christian church has done a tremendous disservice by “deceiving” people towards Jesus?) And really self-denial never has been popular but you need to “put away lesser things” (Source 4) and love other non-Christians by “preaching…the gospel of God” and loving other Christians “gently“, “affectionately” and “not being a burden” to any of them.

 

References

Source 1: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1381&t=KJV

Source 2: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4100&t=KJV

Source 3: David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_1Th/1Th_2.cfm?a=1113004

Source 4: My paraphrase to lyrics of the hymn “Rise Up, O Men of God!” by William P. Merrill.

Devotional # 176. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3

Devotional # 176. 2/13/16. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-3.

Intro. We’ll break up 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 into several parts but the consistent theme throughout the whole chapter is remembering what God has done. Whether that be what God has directly done or what God has done through other Christians.

Just in this chapter Paul uses “you know” four times (v. 1, v. 2, v. 5, v. 11). He also uses phrases like “you remember” (v. 9) and “you are witnesses” (v. 10) to remind them of the things that they’ve seen. Why is he reminding them of these things? Let’s keep reading to find out!

vv. 1-3. Paul shows his care for the Thessalonians by using the term “brethren” (as we’ve often said this is encompassing of both brothers and sisters in the church) and he tells them that they’re already aware that when he and Silas and Timothy came to them it wasn’t a useless trip. Is he trying to remind them of something that they’ve forgotten? Is he trying to fake it because they don’t really remember it that well and he thinks that he can make the trip more “rose colored” in their memories? No, in fact he finishes this little section (vv. 1-3) by telling them there was no error or deceit. And that’s actually the reasoning of why he’s reminding them: because they have come to love the truth, they’ve stopped serving idols (1:9) and have a love for God and their salvation, so they need to be encouraged in what is true. Just like the Thessalonians, we also need to be encouraged. We have grown as Christians deeper than when we first believed. But sometimes we need to be reminded of what it was like when we first believed. This helps us be thankful for both where we were and where we’re going but it also gives us a mindset of sharing Christ with others and knowing that they’ll go through the same battles and we can prepare them for those battles because “we know” and “we remember.”

So Paul’s trip “was not in vain” because it produced these Christians in Thessalonica. And then Paul fills in the story for them, which they apparently already knew, about how he and Silas and Timothy had come from Philippi before going to Thessalonica for the first time. How were they treated in Philippi? They were “spitefully treated” which basically just means that people were mean to them whether verbal abuses or physical abuses. We actually covered the story in Acts 16:19-24, 37 (Devotional # 56). But they continued to be “bold in our God” when they came to Thessalonica. Can you imagine if Paul had just given up after Philippi? Then these Thessalonians wouldn’t have heard about the gospel at that time and they wouldn’t have become friends with Paul and grown as Christians. So much rests on us persevering and continuing on in what God is given us regardless of what outside forces pound against us. But we can’t just do this alone we have to have God’s help. Many times that means that we submit to things that we don’t like. Maybe we don’t see the persecution coming but God is calling us to prepare. He’s calling you to pray on your knees but you’re too busy. He’s calling you to read your Word and tell your family about it but you’d rather complain about work and your coworkers. Paul didn’t give up and I love that he uses the phrase “our God“, it wasn’t just that Paul was special and had a unique relationship with God instead He is “our God” also. There’s enough of God to go around! He truly is “our God“!

And in verse 3 Paul reminds them that when he was encouraging them it didn’t come from “error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit.” These three things we need to keep in mind when we are encouraging others.

-Are we encouraging other Christians in “error“? This would be when we misquote Scriptures (accidentally or on purpose). The ends don’t justify the means; as William S. Paley reminds us, “White lies always introduce others of a darker complexion” (Source 1). No matter how small it seems and how much you think it will help in the long run, we Bible believing Christians pride ourselves that there is no error in the Bible so don’t make it start having errors now.

-What about “uncleanness“? The Hebrew had been taught by God to avoid anything “unclean.” This applied to everything in their lives, divided into threes. For animals there were “holy” ones that could be sacrificed, there were “clean” that couldn’t be sacrificed but could be eaten and then there were “unclean” that couldn’t be sacrificed or eaten. This was also a representation of people (“holy” priests, “clean” Hebrews and “unclean” Gentiles*) and Paul was showing “his ‘manner of life’ was pure, not sexually wicked” (Source 2). It’s really cool that this got mentioned here in 1 Thessalonians because in my daily devotions this morning I was reading in Genesis chapter 7 which is when Moses is bringing all of the animals on to the Ark before the flood. God tells him to bring both “clean animals” and “unclean” (Genesis 7:8). From the beginning God has made a way of salvation for the Hebrew and Gentile.

-And lastly it wasn’t “in deceit.” Paul didn’t deceive anyone into becoming a Christian. I’ve been studying when Satan deceived Eve in the Garden and it struck me that he doesn’t blatantly lie but uses half-truths and preys on her weakness. In the same way the American church has deceived non-Christians over the last 40 years or so. We’ve been trained to be nice to people and to sometimes talk about Jesus and that He loves them and if the people will just accept Him into their heart then everything will be perfect. When we do mass alter calls or even witnessing and never following up then people think of Jesus as Santa and when their life actually gets harder (because they’re dying to their flesh and suddenly Satan is their enemy) they think they tried Jesus or church but that it didn’t work. We must stop “deceiving” people into a false following of the Lord. Lay the cards out in front of them (over time, after you’ve truly showed them the love of Jesus) and explain to them why their life will become more difficult but why it’s the best and most important decision they’ll ever make.

* http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/clean-unclean.html
 

Conclusion. Paul has reminded his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica of their history with the Lord and with Paul and Silas and Timothy and their other believing brothers and sisters. In the same way we need to be reminded…and to be reminding…other believers of what they were like when they first believed in the Lord and how we have loved them and why these things are important. Go out and love the “clean” and the “unclean” today!

 

References

Source 1: http://izquotes.com/quote/141078

Source 2: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible,  p. 1844.