For Ye Know

I Thess. 4: 2. “For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.”

I love it that Paul is reminding the Thessalonians of two things here:  First, they already have been taught how they should walk; and second, the commandments come from God, through Paul.  

I’m going to be very short today. (I know, for any of my sons who may be reading this–I’m short every day).

What we are about to study does not come from me.  It does not come from a book of “thou shalt not.”  It doesn’t come from anyone’s personal list of opinions and preferences. 

It comes from God, delivered through Paul’s pen. 

Brace yourselves. 

Terry Update

We saw the orthopedic surgeon this morning.  He unwrapped the foot, which is now a glorious rainbow of purple, yellow, and green all the way to his knee.  Still quite swollen, but no pain.  No pain when the doc moved his toes. Good sensation all over the foot.  That’s all good news. 

Not so good is that the doc called it a “very serious injury.”  Said the heel bone is pretty much pulverized (my word, not his) and that because of the breaks, his arch is all flattened out.  Said surgery is the only way to try to repair it (his word, not mine) and that there will almost certainly be an immediate onset of arthritis that will never really go away. 

We have a CT scan at 4:30 today, and after the doc reads that scan he’ll be more prepared to tell us when the surgery can take place.  He’s thinking a couple of weeks, since the swelling is still severe and the skin is all stretched out. 

Terry’s in pretty good spirits, but the inactivity is extremely hard for him. I may have to teach him to knit. 

How Ye Ought to Walk

 

I Thess. 4:1. “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.”

In this verse, Paul begins to move away from the very personal matters he had been dealing with and begins a more practical section of his letter, encouraging the Thessalonians to walk as they should and to continue to abound in Christ.  It’s time for a little father-son admonishing.  He addresses specific needs that had most likely been brought back to him in Timothy’s report.

The first section of these two chapters concerns Christian living (4:1-12).  We will be spending some time here.  There’s a lot to know.

Verses one and two exhort the believers to advance in conduct that is pleasing to God.  This section begins with an attitude  of love and brotherhood on Paul’s part.  He is not being a stern taskmaster, but a loving parent or elder brother.

He uses the words beseech and exhort.  What he is about to say is done with an attitude of pleading, begging, urging them to heed his words;   to exhort is to urge or appeal,  and carries an arousing tone as in strong preaching.

By the Lord Jesus could also be translated because of our unique union with the Lord Jesus.  What Paul is about to teach is not a matter of legalistic rules, but a matter of the heart.

We’ll begin to look more closely at the content of the exhortation tomorrow. 

Unblameable in Holiness

I Thess. 3:13. “To the end He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.”

Have you noticed the frequency with which Paul refers to the return of Christ?  There is a sad lack of knowledge, understanding and interest in eschatology among some believers these days.  The thinking seems to be that way too much emphasis has been placed on the End Times, and we need to focus more on today.  Not going to argue with that, because for a while it did seem as if everyone was totally focused on End Times theology.  What we need is to strike a balance. We’re not always very good at doing so. 

However, those things were very important in Paul’s thinking, and in the hearts and minds of believers in Paul’s day.  They fully expected the return of the Lord in their lifetime, and looked for it with great longing.  So should we.  It would change the way we live if we thought as those early believers did. 

To the end:  This could also be accurately translated as for the purpose of.  Paul is referring to verse 12, the prayer that their love would increase and abound. Verse 13 explains that the purpose of this great love would be to. . . .

Stablish your hearts: The increasing and overflowing love for God and for each other would strengthen them, make them firm and solid in their Christian character. 

Hearts:  In scripture, the heart is a term used to connote the whole inner life, including thought, feeling, and will. We don’t become stable by following rules and regulations, even thought doing so is a part of Christian character. Instead, our stability comes through the development of conscious inner strength which comes from love for and faith in God. In turn, we grow in love for each other and for all men. The goal of that growth is  to be. . . .

Unblameable in holiness: To be unblameable is to be free of any guilt or misdoing.  Someone has said that we need to live in such a way that if someone should accuse us of being Christians, there would be plenty of evidence to prove it.  That is what it means for a Christian to be unblameable.  I also need to point out here that we’re not talking about living this life in sinless perfection. Paul knew and understood that we would sin. The good news is that when we sin, we have an Advocate and a Propitiation for our sin (I John 2:1-2).

But what about holiness?  Isn’t there an awful lot of nonsense about being too holy?  Isn’t that for people who want to dress like they lived 300 years ago, and never do anything fun?

Not at all.  The word holiness that Paul uses in this verse is hagiosune. It is used only by Paul in the New Testament (Rom. 1:4, 2 Cor. 7:1, I Thess. 3:13).  It is not the process of becoming holy, but rather the quality of being holy.  It denotes an ethical quality, a purity of life.  It rests on the fact that by accepting Christ’s atoning work at Calvary, a believer is separated from the world and is set apart as belonging to God. If we are indeed devoted to God, we must also be separated from sin.  There is outward holiness, manifested perhaps in our clothing and by what we “don’t do.”  Far more important is the inner quality of holiness that is deeply offended by sin, and especially by our own sin.  This kind of holiness comes from walking closely with God, knowing Him, and becoming more like Him in our hearts. 

An unloving person cannot be a holy person.  God’s primary attribute is His holiness.  Without holiness, He could not truly also be Love.  Love is of God; God is Love.  When we love Him, we must become like Him, which leads us to an inner holiness that manifests outwardly in our behavior toward others. 

Our holiness of character and conduct are derived from Him, and will be tested by Him–not by the rules, standards, strictures and ideas of man. Holiness is what we are, not what we do. 

Finally, it will be those who are truly born again who will rejoice at the return of Jesus.  What a day that will be!  We will be presented to God the Father as sons, free from all fault and imperfection ( Eph. 5:27).  I look forward to that day. 

 

Increase and Abound in Love

I Thess. 3:11-12. “Now God Himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you.”

Paul’s blessings are often so full of love and yearning over the people to whom he writes. This is a prime example. He still longs to see them, and prays that God will soon allow that reunion to take place.  

It is the next verse, verse 12, that grabbed my attention this morning.  Paul prays that the Lord will make their love for each other, and for all mankind, to increase and abound until it is like the love he himself feels toward them. 

Increase: To become more, to increase, to be in abundance. 

Abound:  to be present in abundance, to overflow.

The increased and abounding love would be a strong evidence of their abiding faith in God. 

I know of a family that has recently suffered a truly heart-rending loss.  It is as nearly unbearable as anything I’ve ever heard of.  By their own testimony, they have experienced this increase and abundance of love toward them and other family members, some of it coming from people they have never even met.  This is what Paul is talking about;  it is what John was describing  in I John 4:7.  It is wonderful that believers would uphold, support and love one another deeply in such a time of tragedy. 

I have to wonder, though, if we show this same kind of abiding love toward one another and toward all men when things are going along pretty well.  I believe that Paul prayed for an abundant, overflowing love for his converts so that they would continue to love one another even when nothing special was being required of them.  We are often  very good at coming through for our friends and acquaintances when there is a crisis.  We need to love them just as much when there is no crisis, because everyone carries some burden of the heart.  We don’t always talk about those burdens, but they exist.

 Loving one another, loving all men, should be a natural outgrowth of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts and lives. 

 

Unexpected

Well, some days just don’t go the way you plan for them to go. 

I spent last night with my daughter, enjoying Masterpiece Theatre’s Pride and Prejudice; a five hour + orgy of Jane Austen.  We loved it.  Got to bed late, woke up at 6 and just couldn’t rest. Finally got up, tried to be quiet and not wake my daughter, slipped out the door around 8:15 and headed for home.  When I pulled into the driveway, an extension ladder was lying across the drive.  Odd, says I.  I go into the house, and my husband is sitting on a chair in the dining room with his left leg propped on a pillow.  He says, “I think you need to take me to the hospital.”  Long story short, he fell off the ladder from a distance of about four feet from his feet to the ground, landed very hard on his heel, and broke it. 

Many of you know Terry.  He’s a wonderful caregiver.  The flip side of that is he’s a lousy patient.  Good thing I love him so much 🙂 

His foot is very swollen.  He’s using crutches and can’t put any weight on that foot at all.  We’ll see an orthopedic surgeon this week. The ER nurse told us they probably won’t do the surgery for about two weeks, to give the swelling time to go down and relieve pressure on the skin.  Makes the surgery easier and helps prevent stress on the skin during healing of the swelling is greatly reduced. 

So for now, he’s using pain meds and ice, and feeling very unhappy about at least two weeks of limited activity.  Terry doesn’t do “inactive” very well. 

I’m thankful he didn’t hurt himself any more seriously.  Could have easily broken a hip, a rib or two, even his back. Could have conked himself into a concussion.  I’m thankful. 

And we’ll appreciate your prayers. 

Night and Day Praying Exceedingly

I Thess. 3:9-10. “For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God: Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?”

Once again, I am so impressed with the deep love Paul expresses for his converts.  He is delighted to hear of their steadfast faith in the face of persecution. But what really gives me pause is Verse 10, in which he tells them that he has been praying for them night and day “exceedingly.”

So of course I had to go look up that word!

There is a lot we can learn from Paul about prayer.  He almost always mentions thanksgiving when he talks about prayer.  Philippians 4:7 is a good example of that. 

He prayed “night and day.”  This was a constant attitude of prayer; whether he was conversing with others, writing, sleeping–in his mind there was always the prayer for those in Thessalonica.  The original language used here would indicate that they were praying by night and by day rather than all night and all day; there was never a time when his prayerful concern for them  was not in his mind. 

And now for exceedingly. This word is used only two other times; once in Ephesians 3:20, and again in I Thess. 5:13.  It is not translated identically in the three passages, but the same form is used in the Greek in all three passages.  It is a compound word made up of the words for abundantly (perissou), out of (ek) and above, over, beyond (huper).  It means abundantly, beyond all measure, exceedingly overflowing all bounds, superabundantly.

I’m not sure, but it seems possible to me that huper could be the root of our hyper, which we use in much the same way.  So Paul was hyper-praying for his converts, above and beyond all measure, overflowing all boundaries. 

And the word he uses for praying  is deomenoi, which is to ask, to beg. It implies  a sense of personal need, of asking for a personal favor.  So yet another prayer lesson from Paul is that he was on such close personal terms with God that he could plead with, beg, beseech God for a personal favor concerning his converts. 

When was the last time any of us pleaded, begged, beseeched God in a prayer that was way beyond measurable boundaries? 

Now We Live

I Thess. 3:8. “For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.”

What did Paul mean by this statement?  I believe this is a very descriptive  sentence, comparing Paul’s extreme apprehension to the relief of knowing all was well.  Before,  his apprehension had been like a dead weight.  He was unable to work, to write, to focus on anything but his dire concern for the welfare of his converts.  He was weighted down with fear that they would not stay strong under persecution and temptation.

Do you get it that he wasn’t so much worried for their physical safety as he was for their walk with God and their testimony toward others?   Sometimes I think we’ve really got our priorities wrong.  We pray, “Lord, give us safety as we travel/work/whatever.” We’re praying for physical protection, and then if/when something does go wrong we  wonder how a loving God could have allowed it.  For some strange reason, we tend to think we should be safe from all harm.

God never, ever promised us that we would be safe from all harm.  He did promise us that He would walk through the harm with us.  Psalm 23, among many other passages, reassures us that He will go with us through the valley of the shadow of death.  We do not need to fear evil; God is greater.

I believe much more energy and prayer should be focused on “Lord, please keep me close to You; help me to recognize the lies of Satan; help me to claim the promises in Your Word so that my faith doesn’t falter. When there is trouble, Lord, help me to cling to Your hand.”

The relief Paul felt when he was told of the steadfastness of his converts was so freeing that he could actually feel the joy of living again.  They had not turned aside from the truth.  They had remained faithful.

If you have children, you know what it is to worry when they leave.  Until they are safe back in the nest, or wherever they are going, we tend to fret over their safety.  Even more, we tend to be concerned for their spiritual strength and safety.  It really is a jungle out there, full of  danger and temptation to lure our children away from God and godliness.  When we see that they’re going to be all right; that they’re going to stand for the Lord and continue to serve Him, then we can breathe deep and thank God for giving us the rewards of the  years of labor in teaching and training them.

This is what Paul felt.  How he loved them!

Faith and Charity

I Thess. 3:6. “ . . .Timotheus. . .brought us good tidings of your faith and charity. . . .”

Paul cared very deeply for the new believers he had left at Thessalonica.  Far from being a cold, legalistic and demanding man, as some have painted him, his whole heart and soul were wrapped up in the churches he started and the people he led to the Lord. His life mission was to spread the gospel.  He had spent some time worrying that the new believers would lose heart, lose faith, and abandon the New Way.  So it was with great joy and relief that he received Timothy’s report of the steadfastness of his converts, and of their faith and charity.

In the Greek, both faith and love (charity) are given the definite article: that is, “the faith and the love of you.”  Faith is mentioned first because it is central and foundational to their Christian life.   Faith describes their attitude toward God;  love was their characteristic attitude toward man.  Taken together, these two words should be the embodiment of godliness.  The Bible says “without faith, it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6); and that proof of our faith in God is our love for others (John 13:35).

I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept today.  Faith in God, love for others.  Surely that should characterize us.  And yet I see so much dissension among believers.  We argue over things we shouldn’t. We fuss and accuse and demean and degrade other believers for disagreeing with us over things that are a matter of opinion, not of doctrine—although we fuss about doctrine, too.

Satan has a wonderful time when he can get us to shoot our own wounded.

Is it not possible for us to disagree without being ugly?

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  I John 4:7.

 

Timothy’s Report

I Thess. 3: 6-8. “But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now we live if ye stand fast in the Lord.”

Ahhh.  You can almost hear Paul breathing a sigh of relief.  All his worrying was for nothing.  Maybe later, when he wrote to the Philippians, “Be careful for nothing,” he was thinking of the time and energy he’d spent worrying about the Thessalonicans. 

We’re going to pick through these verse more carefully in the next couple of days.  Today has to be short because of my work schedule, so I’m just going to wrap it up with this thought:  When we have done the best we can, when we have followed God’s leading with all our hearts, when we have covered a matter in prayer and our only motive is to see God glorified, then there is absolutely no cause for us to worry.  God has said that His Word does not return void.  He has proven over and over again that He keeps His word, that He can be trusted to always, always do that which is consistent with His character.

There is an old chorus.  I can’t remember all the words, but it starts like this:  “Fear not, ye saints of God, there’s nothing to worry about; nothing to make you feel afraid, nothing to make you doubt.  Remember, Jesus never fails, so why not trust Him and shout!  You’ll be sorry you worried at all tomorrow morning!”

Amen.