Ponderings

So.  It’s been a busy workweek, leaving me no time to post.  Tomorrow I should be able to get back to Thessalonians.  In the meantime, I have a little free  time, but this afternoon I have a session I’m really not looking forward to.  I have to be a “good counselor” and listen patiently, when what I really want to do is grab this poor unfortunate soul by the cheeks, make him look at me, shut up, and listen!  I really don’t care how he feels about much of anything, because his emotions are all centered on himself.  That kind of focus will surely lead to depression and other miseries, which he will then blame on all the people around him who don’t understand (read “agree with”) how he feels about the way he’s being treated.  Which, by the way, is with a great deal more patience and forbearance than he would get if he lived in my house!

So I’ve been thinking about what this young man really needs to hear.  This is my list:

1.  No one died and made you the sheriff of the whole world.

2.  No, the universe does NOT revolve around you.

3.  You need, more than anything, to just get over yourself.

4.  You need to apologize to your family for what you’re putting them through with your obsession with yourself, your feelings, your desires, and what you consider to be your rights.

5.  No, an iPhone is NOT a right.  It is a privilege.  You lost it because of your 3D personality.

6.  What’s 3D personality?  Disobedient, Disrespectful, Dishonest.  These behaviors come packaged together, with a neat little Buy One Get Two Free label.

Parents, I wish I could speak with every one of you because if you have one of these entitled, self-important people living in your house, you need to understand that we do indeed teach people how to treat us. They behave the way they do because it works for them.  Parents have given up their power to try to appease these little ghouls who feed off the guilt and psychobabble that parents have absorbed in their efforts to make sure the child is never unhappy.  These kids can’t ever hear “NO!”  or they may feel bad about themselves.

I wish more of them DID feel bad about themselves, because they ARE bad!  We’re so messed up in this ridiculous child-centered society.  Don’t you understand that you never have to teach a child to be selfish, throw a tantrum, lie, or be otherwise horrible?  They already know how to do all those things.  Our job is to teach them to think of others, to control their angst, to behave with courtesy and respect to the other members of their families.  These are traits we all admire, but we seem to feel helpless to demand them from our kids.  We work our fingers to the bone to provide them with everything they think they need, and then when they turn on us and snarl and snap, we’re just shocked and hurt.  After all, look at all we’ve done for them!

The problem is, we’ve missed the boat. Instead of training their character to be upright, outwardly focused, and godly we’ve taught them that they deserve anything they want, and that parents are a temporary inconvenience they have to put up with until they can leave the nest and REALLY start to live.  And do you know what happens when these benighted youngsters do leave?  Yup, you got it–they come back.  They come back because the boss didn’t appreciate how valuable they were, and now they don’t have a paycheck.  Or they come back because the school they attend expected them to actually DO something about getting their grades, and they just can’t tolerate having anything expected of them.

Yes, I understand that in today’s economy they may have no other place to go, blahblahblah. But you know what?  If they didn’t have the safety net of mom and pop, whose lives become one long misery when Junior plops his laundry back in Mom’s lap, they’d figure out something else.  Maybe they’d go on the dole, which is a whole ‘nother topic for a rant.

Ok, I think I’m done for now.  Maybe I should have titled this post “Rant #2.”  I’m sure there will be more.

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I Thess. 5:9-10

“For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. “

Our hope  is reasonable because it is in harmony with the act and intention of God for us.  Here are three points to ponder: 

1. The nature of salvation (v.9a). We are not appointed (set, put, placed) for wrath but for the completion of our salvation.  Salvation is the realization of a definite goal. God acted in His own interest, according to His own will and good pleasure, in appointing us unto salvation according to His gracious intention for us.  The wrath we will escape is His judgment upon sinners in the coming day of judgment. His divine wrath against sin is not our future, not because of any goodness of our own but because of His infinite goodness in providing a way of escape for all mankind.  Wrath is the destiny of all who reject Jesus Christ. 

In an eschatologic side note, it would also seem clear that believers will not have any part in the coming Tribulation (Rev. 6:15-17; 14:10; 19:15). We are looking not for the day of judgment, but for the coming of Jesus and deliverance from the very presence of sin.  What a day that will be!

We are appointed, praise the Lord, for the completion of our salvation which is described as being eternal fellowship with Christ (v. 10; also 4:17b). 

I was talking with my mom yesterday.  She turned 87 last week, and she’s not physically well.  She gets discouraged sometimes, waiting to go home to heaven.  Her husband is there, and her only son and one of her grandsons.  She longs to see them again, and she longs most of all to see the Lord. This is our blessed hope; this is what we long for and look forward to with all our hearts when we are in right relationship with God.  The culmination of our lives here on earth is that great Commencement Day when we go to be forever with Him.  Maybe today!

Two more points to ponder tomorrow. 

I Thess. 5: 7-8

“For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.  But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.”

The word for is, again, confirmation of what has already been said. Paul emphasizes that the character of the believer is to be in all ways different from those who walk in darkness.  It seems obvious that most of the time, we sleep during the night hours;  the application here would seem to be that the unbeliever is in spiritual darkness, while the believer is a child of the light. We cannot indulge in moral darkness without losing our fellowship with God.

Drunkenness was commonly practiced during the night in the society Paul is addressing. Even unbelievers tended to cover their drunkenness, since then, as now, public drunkenness in broad daylight was a shameful thing (Acts 2:15; II Peter 2:13). 

Instead of hiding ungodly behavior in the dark, believers are to belong to the day. To be sober is more than not being drunk.  It is to be watchful, alert, possessing self-control, being prepared.  Part of  that preparedness is seen in the putting on of protective armor (see also Eph. 6: 10-18). Putting on conveys the sense of being clothed with the Christian armor.We are watchmen, and we are also warriors; our offensive weapon is the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.   While we watch and wait for Christ’s return, we are to be on guard for the attacks of Satan. 

It is interesting to me that the verb tense in Greek would indicate that we are not to put on armor, remove it, put it on again as we would our daily clothing; instead, it is a once-and-done act.  We are never to remove the brestplate of faith and love or the helmet of salvation. 

The breastplate was a piece of armor which covered the soldier’s body from neck to waist and protected his heart.  Our breastplate of faith and love protects us against spiritual assault.  The breastplate is pictures as being double, or having two sides.  Faith is the inner attitude of the believer toward Christ, while love  is the proper outward expression of the Christian life toward  other believers. 

The helmet gave protection to the head of the soldier.  It has been described as the brightest and most conspicuous piece, inviting the special attention of the enemy.  Our helmet is the bright hope of salvation.  We need to be clear that we are not hoping for salvation, because we have it the moment we confess our sin and invite Christ into our lives.  The hope we see in this passage is for the consummation of our salvation when Christ returns and we are glorified with Him (Phil. 3:21; Ro. 8:23).  It is this hope which helps us to stay the course; to not be weary in well-doing; to patiently await His return as believers have done throughout the centuries since He went back to heaven. 

 

I Thess. 5:6b

“. . .but let us watch and be sober.”

I like it that Paul says let us, not excluding himself from the exhortation to soberness and watchfulness.  No one is immune to becoming weary in well-doing; we are all flesh, therefore all susceptible to letting down our guard and falling into carelessness in our spiritual walk.  The only One Who is exempt is Jesus Himself; and His exhortations were never inclusive but always imperative.  For those of you who have forgotten your grammar, imperative often omits the understood subject you;  as in Philippians 4:4, (You) rejoice in the Lord always. . .and that’s the end of today’s grammar exercise. I promise not to do that very often, but I just have to say that a good understanding of basic grammar is a great help to understanding the Bible.  Just sayin.’ 

Now, back to our verse for today.  In the first part of the verse, sleep is used to describe the spiritual condition of unbelievers.  They may be wide awake in their business or personal dealings, but they are asleep when it comes to spiritual awareness.  We who claim the Name of Jesus must not be as those who sleep.  That means that our spiritual awareness must be wide awake, alert, and watchful all the time, because Satan never rests or relaxes in his attempts to derail us. 

To be awake, morally and spiritually, is not meant to keep us from living a joyful, happy life.  To be sober is not to wear dull, boring clothing and avoid any semblance of fun.  Have you noticed that people who interpret scripture in that direction are also usually very worried that everyone else is dressing/behaving inappropriately, according to their standards?  Hector the Inspector is, unfortunately, alive and well in too many of us.  So what is Paul saying when he says we are to be sober?

First, this watchfulness is strongly connected to the return of the Lord. We are told over and over again in scripture that we are to be watching (prepared, alert, waiting) for this event (I Co. 1:7; Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28; 2 Pet. 3:12). “And be sober” is to be rational, self-possessed, in perfect control of self.  Simply exegeted, this phrase means we must stay free from the dulling effects of sin and self-indulgence. 

I had a young man in my office the other day who is now four months into being drug-and alcohol-free after  three years of being in a constant haze.  He shared with me how he’s finding  his way again spiritually after being dulled by substances that he thought would bring him peace and happiness.  Of course, part of the spiritual restoration is to confront his personal demons, which is why he’s seeing me.  But the point here is that satisfying his fleshly appetites resulted in his being spiritually shut down and, ultimately, miserably unhappy.  What a perfect object lesson for this study today.  Without sobriety, true vigilance is impossible.

I Thess. 5:6

Therefore is the first word in this verse.  It’s a word that always refers to something that has been stated earlier, kind of like a back story.  In this case, it refers to the statement in verse 5 that we are children of the light and not of darkness. Therefore (because we are children of the light) let us not sleep, as do others.  Paul uses sleep to indicate an indifference to spiritual realities on the part of believers.  It covers all sorts of moral and spiritual laxity or carelessness.  When we grow sleepy and careless, we expose ourselves to the dangers of temptation to live in the darkness, not in the light. 

It is very tempting at this moment to launch into a sermon on all the ways we need to be awake; or at the very least to list many scriptures that warn us to be vigilant because Satan wanders about as a roaring lion, seeking his prey.  I’m very much afraid we have lost the attitude of watchfulness, soberness, and awareness of how quickly and easily we can descend into sin.

I believe it is more important for us to focus on what we know to be true.  The only way to detect a counterfeit is to be so familiar with the truth that we immediately see the false.  If we fail to study God’s Word, to hide it in our hearts, to seek its counsel from one day to the next, we will be far more likely to “sleep” and to become enslaved by sin in all its surface appeal.

I love Galatians 5:1. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Too often, we like to claim that grace gives us the freedom to live as we choose.  I’d rather emphasize that it is grace that makes it possible for me to NOT be in bondage to my own desires, but to live in the freedom and light of His love.  As the old gospel song says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy, in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Children of the Day

In verse five, believers are called children of the light and children of the day. The word children could also be correctly translated as sons, confirming the privileged status of all who put their trust in Jesus Christ.  To be called a son of  someone or something, in Hebrew, was to identify a person with whatever controlled him. So, you have  James and John, the sons of Zebedee, labeled The Sons of Thunder in Mark 3;17. A quick study of these two brothers would seem to indicate the nickname was appropriate because they were quick to speak, quick to defend Jesus,  and were perhaps of a stormy temperament.  Similarly, the term son of perdition applied to Judas Iscariot in John 17:12 and to the Anti-Christ in II Thess. 2:3 is descriptive of a man who is governed by greed, power, and Satan himself. 

In both Galatians and Ephesians, Paul teaches that it is what we are filled with that governs our thoughts and behaviors.  If we are filled with the lusts of the flesh, the result will be a life governed by self and sin.  If, on the other hand, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, our lives will be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit.  Perhaps we could even hope to have someone say, “She is a daughter of God; He is a child of God.” I love the Spanish phrase, mujer de Dios, woman of God. (Please forgive me if I’ve misspelled any of that.  It’s been a long time since I had Spanish in high school!)  

If we are children of the Light, children of the day, then we should be so close to Him that we are governed by and known by our Christ-likeness. 

  1. Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
    This is my constant longing and prayer;
    Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
    Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
    • Refrain:
      Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee,
      Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
      Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
      Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
  2. Oh! to be like Thee, full of compassion,
    Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
    Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
    Seeking the wand’ring sinner to find.
  3. Oh! to be like Thee, lowly in spirit,
    Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
    Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
    Willing to suffer, others to save.
  4. Oh! to be like Thee, Lord, I am coming,
    Now to receive th’ anointing divine;
    All that I am and have I am bringing,
    Lord, from this moment all shall be Thine.
  5. Oh! to be like Thee, while I am pleading,
    Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love,
    Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
    Fit me for life and Heaven above.                     (Chisolm and Kirkpatrick)

The Day of the Lord

Verse four makes mention again of that day. I want to emphasize that it is not the time when Jesus takes the Church to meet Him in the air.  The Day of the Lord occurs at some point after  the Rapture. It will not take believers by surprise; however, those who remain after the Rapture will indeed by taken by surprise at this demonstration of God’s power and purpose. It is a day, or time, of judgment upon the unbelieving world. 

Verse 5 explains why believers (and Paul is writing to believers here) will not be surprised: “For ye are all sons of light, and sons of the day.”  Paul was convinced that the people he addressed were all true believers, and would have no part in the judgment of the Day of the Lord. There had been a clear and lasting change in their lives that was evidence of their faith. 

One of my texts tell me that the expression “sons of light” is a Hebraic formula describing their nature as belonging to the light. It expresses an intimate relationship, that they were as closely related to the light as children are to their parents. 

This information set my mind to thinking about that parent/child relationship.  Children do tend to take on the characteristics of their parents, whether they intend it or not.  There is a often a strong physical resemblance; have you ever glanced in a mirror and seen your mother or father? It’s always startling, isn’t it?  There is also a resemblance in nature and behavior, a similarity of temperament and possibly of talents and gifts. 

If our relationship with the Light, Jesus, is similar to our relationship to our parents, then we ought to be taking on the traits, the mind, the words and actions, of Jesus.  Colossians 3:16-17 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”