“We like to think that because we believe the right doctrine and belong to the right church we can always count on the Lord’s blessing in our lives. Israel believed their covenant with God and the presence of the ark in battle would assure them of victory over the Philistines. They lost the battle and the ark was captured by the enemy.”
“The Philistines also believed their idol to be superior to God until it fell and broke in pieces when the ark was placed beside it. The inhabitants of every city where the ark was placed were plagued with tumors. When the ark was returned, the Israelites who received it were punished for looking inside contrary to the law.”
We learn a valuable lesson from this historical account. The lesson is this: that even those in a covenant relationship with God cannot expect His blessing when they are (disobedient) to His laws and commandments.
Presumption, or “going beyond the limits of what is permitted or deemed acceptable,” regarding God’s holiness and kindness towards us, will always end up with His chastening hand upon us, not His blessings (Hebrews 12:6). God loves us and desires to bless us, but His holiness is always foremost in all His doings!
“Because God’s holiness is a function of His transcendence, because he is high and exalted, nothing in creation can match the Lord in His glory, power, and purity.”
So, let us each day walk with faith and in obedience to His revealed will for us, not presuming upon Him more than he has promised (Romans 15:18)!
PRAYER: Father, forgive us for those times we tend to presume upon you things that we shouldn’t, or expect more than you promised. Please help us to regard your dignity and majesty above all else, so that our lives would be lived by faith and your name lifted up among the lost. Amen.
*Adapted from the Topical Chain Study Bible , 1983
* Quote from Ligonier Ministries article, “the meaning of holiness.”
“What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him?”
David, the writer of this Psalm, is in awe of the Lord’s majesty, glory, and power. That is portrayed in the way he writes this Psalm. In spending time meditating on the creation of God, the night sky, moon, and stars, his thoughts bend to something he at first deems lesser than what he is beholding in the sky: humankind!
“What is man” compared to all this? He cries out. Why would you, a holy God, even take one part of a moment in time to consider us? But, then as he contemplates this thought further, he realizes just how much God loves us and how much he entrusted unto humankind.
“It is awesome to realize that the God who created the universe in all its awesome splendor created us and considers us the crown of all creation. Knowing the greatness of our God should inspire us to seek Him. As we see the truth of how God sees us, how He loves us and has called us to be His people, we should be encouraged. We should long to grow closer to God so that He might transform us into all that He created us to be.”
PRAYER: Father, we shrink back in awe of your greatness just like David. Please help us remember and be encouraged with the truth that you, in your excellent majesty, created us for fellowship and called us to be your people! Grant to us a greater desire to grow closer to you. Amen.
BRIEF RECAP: In our previous study, we looked at some of Paul’s exhortations to the Thessalonians regarding those men who were spiritual leaders in the church. In verses 12-13, he instructed them to “recognize those who labor among you,” and to “esteem them highly, in love, for their works sake.” He then made the plea for there to be peace within their local congregation. We will focus on verses 14-15, where the Apostle expresses how these folks are to treat each other within their fellowship.
14 “We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the [a]unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people.”
FOCUS ONE: Paul’s list of appeals found in these two verses are:
Admonish (warn) the unruly (undisciplined).
Encourage the fainthearted.
Help the weak.
Be patient with all.
Do not repay evil for evil.
(But) always seek what is good for one another.
This is a list of continuing responsibilities that each one of us has toward one another. If your church has a church covenant, you will probably notice that these items are expressed, in some form, within it.
So, let’s spend some time on each one, fleshing them out a bit, so we can become better equipped to love and serve one another as is fitting those who claim the name of Christ.
Admonish (warn) the unruly (undisciplined).
I think that we can all agree that such people need mature, loving accountability. It appears that some of the people in this newly formed church were neglecting their daily duties. They quit work and were not providing for their families. Most likely because of their misunderstanding or misapplication of things that Paul had taught them regarding the Lord’s return when he was with them (1:9-10; 2:19; 3:13; 5:1-3). This problem even had to be addressed in the Apostle’s second letter (2 Thessalonians 3:7-12).
You may remember that earlier in this letter Paul encouraged them to lead a quiet life, attend to their own business, work with their own hands, and behave appropriately to those outside the church. It appears that some people were not listening to those commands and needed to be admonished.
His next appeal is to encourage the fainthearted. These are people within the local church body that tend to become discouraged and depressed more quickly than most others. Such Christians need someone to come alongside them and share encouraging words; to say and do things to encourage them and cheer them up. The idea seems to be one of attempting to stimulate such people into pressing on in the “good fight of faith,” in other words, encouraging them to persevere!
“help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
FOCUS TWO: Helping the weak is next on his list. Some within the church did not lean on or press into the Lord as much as they should’ve for their spiritual needs. Of course, it should go without saying, but I will say it anyway, we are all weak and need the support and strength that comes from other believers-but some Christians need it more than most. So Paul calls for a “supportive ministry” to help these people.
Paul’s concern is regarding moral and spiritual weakness, not physical weakness. In their case, it might have been issues related to a shrinking back from the persecution they were enduring (3:3-5). Or, it could have related to their giving into various temptations to immorality around them (4:3-8). Another possibility would be their weakness in exercising Christian liberty in doubtful areas; this happened in other churches (Romans 14:1-15). Quite possibly, it was not simply one over another, perhaps all of these things were happening. So, Paul urges those who are strong in the faith, actually, in these words, he expresses that such people within the congregation are responsible for supporting those among them who are weak.
Moving on, we find patience next on his list. “Be patient with all.” This statement actually could be viewed as a summation of the previous three. Dealing with unruly people, the fainthearted and weak among them, would not be easy. Sin is active in all of us and requires our utmost attention in combating it within ourselves. But now he tells them that they have to help others in their combat! And some people say that the Christian life is easy. Really?
It takes a particular disposition to deal with other people who may not like OR apply our help and counsel. You and I can easily fall into a spirit of anger and bitterness. The danger for those receiving patient love and counseling involves their lack of desire to receive and apply such help. Intentionally or unintentionally, a person may be leading those who seek to help into a spirit of resentment or bitterness. But this should not be the case among believers. We all need patient treatment from each other as we “grow up unto all things in Christ.”
15″ See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people.”
FOCUS THREE: When we are angered or disrespected, our natural inclination is to retaliate or inflict injury, in some way, on the one who hurt us. Paul understood this natural, fleshly tendency within human nature, even among Christians, so he exhorts these people who are immature in the faith, but growing, to “not repay evil for evil” (v. 15). In other words, do not retaliate or seek revenge on someone who wronged you.
The desire will most likely be strong, but we must resist it. In those times when we feel like “getting even,” we must remember that our Lord spoke against it in Matthew 5:38-42, and so did the Apostle, in more detail, in Romans 12:17-21!
“(BUT) always seek after that which is good. . .” After dealing with what is harmful or just so much against our nature, Paul gives them and us an alternative, a better way to expel our energy! The Apostle told the Philippian church to “not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). We must remember that the offender’s welfare, or person in need, should be our prime objective. We should think of Jesus on the cross, not only for our encouragement but also for an example to follow. His selfless, sacrificial love for sinners, you and I included, is a fantastic example of self-denial that we need to be reminded of and strengthened with. This is true if we are going to be able to walk with such integrity and compassion among our brothers and sisters in Christ and those in the world around us.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
1. Does your church have a church covenant? If so, read through it and see how well it lines up with these scriptures and others you find during your personal study time.
2. How are you doing regarding caring for others within your local church? Do you receive instruction well? What might have to change in your heart?
3. How do you handle being wronged by someone? Do you harbor resentment or bitterness towards others? What other scriptures can you find that can help you in this area?
Brief Recap: The Thessalonian believers lived in a heartless pagan society that was engrossed in sexual immorality. They lived within a culture that made no provision for the poor, the sick, or the aged. A Christian would stand out from others because they “abstained” from all the forms of sexual immorality that were being practiced and encouraged. They had a shared unity among their members where brotherly kindness was openly practiced, so unlike the culture around them.
Now, as Christians, their conduct would be radically different than the culture in which they lived. They were to be light amid darkness; live lives of purity in contrast to impurity; to practice selflessness rather than selfishness. When the gospel first arrived in Thessalonica, people’s hearts had been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. As a result, two characteristics attracted the most attention from their neighbors: personal purity and love for one another!
So, it makes sense that Paul’s first exhortations to them would be along the lines of avoiding sexual immorality by practicing self-control, and to “excel still more” in their expression of love toward one another. The latter is what we will focus on in this study.
9 “Now as to the love of the brothers and sisters, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 for indeed you practice it toward all the brothers and sisters who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to excel even more . . .”
FOCUS ONE: In this study and including our next one, we see two themes and two groups emerge in Paul’s thinking:
The themes of love for the brethren and their testimony among unbelievers become Paul’s focus. The groups involved are the church (insiders) and unbelievers (outsiders). You can see this in verse 12.
This study will only be concerned with the first group, the “insiders,” those redeemed and a part of the church in Thessalonica. Verse nine is interesting in that Paul, using the word “now,” directs those who will be reading this letter to his next topic, that of love for one another. But directly after that, he says, “you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. . .” That’s interesting, isn’t it? Why mention it then? How did God teach them to love one another?
Jeremiah 31:31-33 is where we need to begin to answer those questions.
31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord: “I will put My law within them and write it on their heart; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Because this covenant will be new, it stands in contrast to the old covenant, which was the Mosaic covenant under which our Bible records Israel’s failure to keep it. This new covenant will have a (1)”spiritual, divine dynamic by which those who know Him would participate in the blessings of salvation.” This new covenant, which Jesus Christ announced in Luke 22:20, is represented by the “cup which is poured out for you,” signifying the manner of His death; death on a cross where His blood would be shed for the remission of sins!
When writing his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul spoke of this very thing (2 Corinthians 3:1-3). Paul, there is stating that their changed lives are proof that Christ had transformed them from within. In contrast to the false teachers that accused Paul of not having the proper documentation to prove himself a legitimate teacher, Paul’s commendation was “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (v.3). Sound familiar? It should! Jeremiah was speaking about an “internal” change within people that would be accomplished in their hearts as contrasted to the law written on tablets of stone that could only ever be “our tutor to lead us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24).
Add the above to the very words of Christ as he answered one of the scribes in regards to what commandment is the first or foremost of all in Mark 12:28-31, and you should be able to understand how God taught these believers to love: to love Him supremely and others sacrificially.
10 “for indeed you practice it toward all the brothers and sisters who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers and sisters, to excel even more. . .”
FOCUS TWO: This is the second of three times (4:1; 5:11) where Paul acknowledges that they are practicing the very things that he is referring to. He is not urging them to “begin” a particular behavior but to continue it or “excel still more” in the conduct they are already practicing. Paul has learned how well they are doing in exhibiting love for one another in their local region. Still, he seeks to encourage them to go further, to “think outside the box” and practice Christian love, gospel love, with others outside their small group, outside their community.
They were already encouraging one another, giving preference to one another, serving one another, rejoicing and weeping with one another, practicing forgiveness and tolerating one another for the sake of biblical unity, praying, and showing compassion for one another.
Paul does not want these believers to be narrow-minded in their expression of love for each other or other believers elsewhere. And, as we will notice in our following study, their expression of gospel love has purposes that extend to those outside the community of faith as well (v.12).
Paul wrote elsewhere that “love does no wrong to a neighbor. . .” (Romans 13:10); that a part of the fruit of the Spirit, the first on the list, is love (Galatians 5:22). Jesus taught that we are to love our enemies (Luke 6:35). Jesus tied our obedience to His word as an expression of our love for Him (John 14:23)!
The church of Christ has no boundaries, so neither should its love for others. Since God has shown His love for us, while we were yet still sinners as Romans 5:8 teaches, we are to love one another manifesting this same love to others: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). Gospel love, then, is not mere sentiment or particular feelings that we think we should experience but is an act of obedience to the will and word of God-at times without and sentiment or emotion (Matthew 5:44-48; Luke 6:27-36;1 and 2 John).
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
When people are regenerated (born again) by the Holy Spirit, they become new creations in Christ Jesus, “old things have passed away, behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). How has your life been changed since you have received Jesus Christ and His forgiveness?
Our culture, much like the Thessalonians culture, is overcome with sexual immorality of all types. Paul taught in the previous verses that a Christ follower must practice self control and remain sexually pure. What struggles are you facing in this area of your life? What are you doing to “resist” or “abstain” from sexual sin? Consider Philippians 2:12-13 and James 1:13-16.
What does Jesus tell His disciple to do in Matthew 26:41? How can this help you overcome temptation in your life?
In what ways can you “excel still more” in your obedience to Christ?
In what areas of your life or with what people are you struggling to show “gospel love?” Re-read the verses on love in this study and prayerfully meditate on God’s will for you.
Welcome to 2021! What a year it was that we just passed through. As we progressed through last year we faced the normal up’s and down’s that we expected to face, and some we didn’t. Add to the normal, the abnormal; Covid 19, mask wearing, social distancing, virtual schooling, businesses closing, and the election mayhem for starters. Sounds like a great time to make a New Year’s resolution, after all, “what didn’t kill us can only make us stronger,” right?
Each year many people, including Christians, make New Year’s resolutions. We recognize that in certain areas of our life we need to do better. So, we commit to start doing or not doing something in the new year that will make us a better person. The idea is that if we get started off on the right foot at the beginning of the year, we will continue on the right path for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, New Year’s resolutions usually fail. One article I read online in People magazine, stated that in their study they found that most Americans are ditching traditional New Year’s resolutions for 2021. Here is one snippet from the article: “The top planned New Year’s resolutions for 2021 aren’t focused on going to the gym or losing weight, but rather saving money for the future (62 percent) and learning a new skill (50 percent) Seven in 10 Americans are tossing out their materialistic New Year’s resolutions for 2021, according to new research.”
That makes sense to me. People are planning ahead not knowing what the future may hold in these unsettled times. But, should that stop us from resolving to be better people, to be more Christlike? The fatal flaw of resolutions is that they generally seek to modify a particular behavioral pattern without addressing the heart issue behind the behavior. If we would be honest about ourselves, we would quickly attest to the fact that our heart is “more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jeremiah 17:9)?
But thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ that our bibles contain these words: “Therefore if any man is in Christ (born again), he is a new creation; the old things passed away; new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This means that as a “new creation” spiritually speaking, the quality of what we now are as forgiven, justified, redeemed sinners has changed; we have been given a new nature. The old nature no longer controls us. Those value systems we once held, those beliefs, desires, and plans have now been changed within us because the Spirit of God now indwells us (1 Corinthians 6:19; Romans 8:9)!
This change, as John MacArthur notes: “This newness is a continuing condition of fact. The believers new spiritual perception is a constant reality for him, and he now lives for eternity.” This divine, dramatic, and life altering change that has taken place within us changes the way we view the temporary world and its temporal things. It should be true of us that we do not want to focus our time trying only to modify our behavior, rather, we ought to use our time to grow more in Christlikeness. Growing in this way will automatically affect our behavior!
Peter, begins his 2nd epistle, by sharing all the blessings given to believers by God. He writes that all believers have received the same faith as the Apostles, a faith that comes through the righteousness of our God and savior, Jesus Christ. He states that, “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness,” and that “He (God) has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
This means that true Christians are secure in Christ forever and they will grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ because they have received all that is necessary to live reverently and obediently towards their Father in heaven! There is nothing more that we should ask for or expect to receive to help us, we already have everything we need. True believers have, right now, every spiritual resource they need to live godly in Christ Jesus, and that is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and His Word, which He uses to conform us more into the image of our savior!
Because of those very truth’s Peter say’s in verse 5, “giving all diligence (or make every effort), add to your faith or supplement your faith with virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. As Christians (new creations) you and I cannot be indifferent to the manner in which we live our lives. We have been saved by faith, and in that same faith we walk forward seeking to, in God’s power, put off the old man and put on the new (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Who would argue that these are not wonderful things to pursue? Who would be bold enough to contradict God Himself in the matter, especially after the clarity of Peter on the topic? Who might try to, still, after reading these words, bring up excuse after excuse in order to continue living in blindness? “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (vs, 9). In other words, a professing Christian, citing MacArthur again, “who is missing the virtues mentioned above is, therefore, unable to discern his true spiritual condition, and thus can have no assurance of his salvation.” This does not mean that he is not saved, but that such a person will live in doubt and fear even though he possess the benefits previously listed. His walk of faith will be weak, his growth in Christ restrained due to his lack of understanding and confidence in his savior.
If you are making any resolutions this year, put personal holiness at the top of your list, you won’t regret it. Below are two books that I think you will find helpful. As an Amazon Associate I receive funds for qualifying purchases, this helps support the ministry, thanks. Happy New Year!
It’s a crazy and uncertain world that we live in and that truth stands out even more clearly to us each election cycle. I have sat back, as all of you have I’m sure, and watched the election process for the next president of the United States take place. I have, along with all of you, been riding the roller coaster of emotions up and down and have gone through many twists and turns, finding myself a bit nauseated as the ride comes to its end.
Whichever side your on; Republican or Democrat, the end result has far reaching consequences. As a Christian blogger I tend to think of things through the lens of a biblical worldview: from God’s perspective more so than my own. I am truly thankful that by His grace I am one of His redeemed, and through His Word and work in me by the Holy Spirit, I am able to see things from His perspective. That helps me cope with a lot of things that happen in this world that I just don’t understand.
Can I be honest with you? I am struggling with the very real potential (possibly a reality till I post this), that a worldview far different than my own may be leading our country forward. As a Christian I do not see that as a good thing. (Click here to see the issues at stake in the current election). https://7waysfromsunday.com/2020/10/26/our-current-dilemma/
What am I supposed to do with that? How are we as followers of Jesus Christ expected to handle this potential outcome and the years that follow? Should I, as lady Gaga (who rode a garbage truck in front of Trump tower protesting) do the same at Joe Biden’s home? Should I pull up my roots and move to another country as some have pledged to do? Maybe I could fall down in the middle of the street in my hometown and have a major breakdown, screaming “Noooo,” as someone with no hope, like one person did at Trumps 2016 inauguration.
Realistically, I can’t respond that way and neither can you. We are a people who have hope and that hope is grounded in the person of Jesus Christ! Come what may, we know that our God is in control and we trust in His providence over all things (Ephesians 1:11; Psalm 103:19). So, where do we go from here if our Father in heaven decrees it so that someone else, some other party, controls the reigns of government this upcoming year? God, in His Word gives us the answers that we are searching for:
Remember, God removes and establishes leaders. Daniel 2:21 teaches us that our sovereign God is the one who not only has the authority to change times and seasons, He also has the wisdom and authority to raise up new leaders and remove the old. Paul taught the Roman believers that: “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1-2). As a child of God I know that He is faithful and wise; I know that His thoughts are far wiser than my own. His ways and means of doing things will not always agree with what I think in any given situation (Isaiah 55:8-9), and that is ok, I trust Him, will you?
Respect and obey governing authorities. Romans 13:1-7 instructs us to be in “subjection” to the current authorities. Paul does not qualify that in any way. Whether we are in the same party or not we are to respect and obey its role over us. Remember, God allowed this change and He requires His children to conduct themselves as “faithful ambassadors “ while living under this temporary civil structure. To resist, Paul states, puts us in the place of “opposing the ordinance of God,” and that is never viewed as a good thing (13:2). Our obedience is not blind. When obedience to civil authority requires disobedience to God’s Word, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Ultimately, we are not to be a people who fear such authority, God ordained it to be, as Paul says: “a minister of God to you for good” (13:4). So, let us be diligent in promoting and helping our leaders in their role of restraining evil and protecting life and property, while trusting our Heavenly Father with the outcomes.
Reevaluate our prayer lives. We are to be a people that prays. A people that entreats and petitions God on behalf of all men and that includes “kings, and all who are in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Whether we like the leader or not. Whether we agree with them or not, we are to be praying for them! This may be hard for some of us at first, but you will find doing it a blessing to your soul. Pray that our leaders would repent of their sins and receive the gospel. Pray that their laws would be in accordance to God’s stated purposes that we find in His Word. Pray that God would use these leaders in such a way that we as Christians would be able to lead a “tranquil and quiet life” (vs. 2). In other words, that we would not have all kinds of external disturbances that would hinder us from being the church: Proclaiming the gospel, helping the poor and destitute, and building up the body of Christ.
Remain steadfast. Just as David petitioned the Lord to: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit with in me” (Psalm 51:10), after his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, her husband, we too may need to repent of our own sin. Obviously, I am not implying that we murdered anyone but listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5 at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-22). “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘you shall not commit murder’ and ‘whoever commits murder shall be guilty before the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court. . .” Our anger is just as bad in God’s eyes as murder, because anger is the emotion and inner intention that leads to murder.
Actually, anger is the emotion and inner intention that leads to other sins, like: hate, strife, and loss of self control (Psalm 37:8; James 1:20; Proverbs 22:24). These are things that our bible tell’s us should have no place in our lives (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8). In fact, it is an aspect of the flesh, not the Spirit, and we are called to walk in the Spirt so that His fruit may be manifest in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).
How have you handled your temper with friends, family members, and news anchors during this election cycle? Maybe it’s time to search our hearts and confess that we need God to cleanse and renew a right spirit with in us.
Rekindle a desire for holiness. As we move forward from where we are, I encourage you to pursue holiness. We are called to this very pursuit (1 Peter 1:15-16). Make it your goal to be more and more like your savior (Philippians 2:5-11). Fight the good fight of faith and like a good soldier: put off the old man, the old way of living, and put on the new man, “which in God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
I know, none of these things I mentioned are new and trendy in our day, but they are the teachings of scripture, and we will be truly blessed if we obey them in our daily lives. What I hope you realized as you perused through my post, is that the manner in which we move forward from here, is the same manner in which we are to regulate our lives no matter what is going on in the world around us! You and I are awaiting our king, king Jesus to return, let’s move forward seeking to bring honor and glory to His name, no matter who is president of the United States!