We find ourselves at the beginning of 2010. Such a time as this generally tends to be a time of reflection and of making resolutions for the future. I trust that among your reflections and resolutions in anticipation of this New Year, there may be generous room for Christ centered spiritual growth and discipline!
I pray that this year God would replace the self centeredness which so characterizes our society and thinking , even here at Eastside Baptist Church helping us to see the beauty of walking together, under the Word of God, and in brotherly unity, praying and thinking as to how we may glorify God more and more together as a church.
Like Paul, I “ ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that you should walk to please God … and that you do so more and more …” ( 1 Thess. 4:1) .
The Bible envisages that we should please God in everything. Life under God is an all encompassing, comprehensive discipline. In 1 Cor 10:31, Paul says “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God “.
We have established the general principle from this text: Live to please God!
We noted that the basis for Paul’s appeal is the command of Christ: He urges them in the Lord Jesus! (4:1) – and again in 4:2 “For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus" . And in 4:3: “This is the will of God …”
The goal of this exhortation is our sanctification. Paul says: “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” (4:3). Sanctification is the process by which the believer is brought to greater spiritual maturity and Christ-likeness in the course of their lives. This process begins at conversion. The old habits are increasingly done away with and replaced with new ways which please God, and so it is possible to please God ‘more and more’.
Above all, Sanctification is a practical thing. It seems that some Christians just want to hear new truth. Certainly, God wants us to grow in the knowledge of His Word, but we need to translate what we believe into practice. Otherwise we are going to be like those in 2 Tim 3:6, 7 who are “burdened with sins and led away by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at knowledge of the truth.”
Two areas in which we need to grow in order that we may please God more and more:
Although there are many aspects in which we need to be sanctified, Paul, for reasons unstated in the text, specifically addresses…
(i) sexuality (4:3-8) and
(ii) brotherly love (4:9-12),
...as the special focus of God’s transforming work in the lives of the Thessalonian Christians and therefore in our lives. We receive these two exhortations as God’s specific instruction for this time. These are two areas in which the Christian church should be set apart from contemporary society. Since we have already considered ‘ sanctified sexuality’ last week we are now ready to consider …
(ii) Pleasing God through a sanctified brotherly love
The transition from sexual purity to brotherly love is a natural one. Sexual sins almost always involve someone else. They usually involve the exploitation and abuse of another person for selfish reasons. So then, in this area we are also called to act with brotherly love and purity to one another. (See 1 Tim 5:1, 2)
The word translated here as “brotherly love” is the Greek word ‘philadelphia’. This reminds us that we are united in the household of God (the church), where we call each other brother and sister. We are reminded that in this household there ought to be a warmth and concern for each other because of our family relationship in Christ.
We observe that the Thessalonian Christians were excelling in this area. Paul says “…you have no need …, for you have been taught by God to love one another.”
Is Paul saying we don’t need biblical instruction on loving one another? Obviously not, because the NT has so much to say on this subject and the church is often so poor at loving. But, let’s face it – there are Christians and there are churches that possess more grace in this area. The Thessalonians were displaying one of the most essential badges of Christian discipleship: Love for the brothers . “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”. (Jn 13:35)
They had been showing love toward all the brothers in (see 2 Cor 8)
But, even such a ‘perfect’ display of love needs continued encouragement to do still more. And there are many ways to do this.
Consider now how Paul counsels us to consider loving our brothers more in vv. 11,12.
V. 11 and 12 linked to the preceding section by the conjunction “and”. So, these two verses are actually an application to what Paul has been saying concerning the need to “do this more and more “.
Three areas in which your love for your brothers and sisters may be more sanctified in the church: (v.11)
1. Aspire to live quietly
2. Mind your own affairs
3. Work with your hands.
It is important for us to note that our daily habits of living and the way we conduct our own business, can manifest a real sense of Christian love. Love touches our lives in many ways which we often fail to recognize. Undisciplined living on the part of some in the church very often causes pain to others in the church. It disturbs the peace of the body of Christ. So, in terms of allowing the sanctifying power of God to work in improving our love life, let us then …
1. Aspire to live quietly
The word used here means being quiet in the sense of restfulness. Christians should not be ‘noisy’ or ‘frantic’ people . There should be a restfulness, a peace, and a serenity that governs the life of a Christian, because Christ is at the centre. Sometimes one gets dizzy when one sees the speed at which some Christians live. A person who is constantly on the move is not only distracted from his own walk with God, but he / she can be a distraction to his/her brother/ sister. A poised, serene Christian at peace with himself and God will be a source of peace to his brothers. Now such quietness constitutes a practical demonstration of love for others.
It is highly likely that there were such restless people within the Thessalonian church. The whole matter of the imminent return of Christ for instance, was introducing a speculative and unsettling element into the church ( 2 Thess. 2:1-3) .
This fact also might have been causing idleness. Ignoring the fact that no one knows the precise day nor hour of the Lord’s return (Matt. 24:36), some of the believers at Thessalonica had evidently stopped working and were instead going about from house to house as busybodies and doing nothing but anticipating the coming of Christ . Martin Luther had it right when he said : " Even if I knew that the world would perish tomorrow, today I will plant an apple tree".
2. Mind your own affairs
One of the solutions for restlessness is to mind your own business, and to start looking critically at yourself . Jesus says, “Stop finding splinters in the life of your brothers, when you have planks in your own eyes”. (Matt 7:1-5). Make it your priority to get your own life in order before you get busy in the life of others. There is a sense in which our first priority is to take care of our own lives, not in a self-centered way, but in a truly biblical way. We must however balance this with our responsibility to be involved with, and caring for others. Our tendency is to go from one extreme to another - either being too nosy or to the other extreme—isolationism. The point is that we must learn to love our brothers by not becoming ‘know all’ , overbearing pain in the necks who do not practise what they preach.
3. Work with your own hands
Paul has a major emphasis on this in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12! Scripture has little sympathy for those who will not work to sustain themselves. While we all have a responsibility to help those in real need, we also have a responsibility not to help them when they refuse to work or look for a job. Part of the help that such people need is to admonish them , counsel them and help them to find work. They must understand that God wants them to be self-supporting and productive in society rather than dependent on society.
There is a twofold concern expressed in v. 12 in relation to this loving concern for such people.
a. their testimony to outsiders: The unbelieving world is watching and we should always be concerned that our lives do not bring shame upon the Name of Christ. The world outside continually criticizes the church for her “noisy Christians ”, and her “busybodies”, and for accommodating those that are lazy without ever disciplining them.
b. The principle of being dependent on no one: God intends each one to work to meet their own needs and to be a burden to no one. This can be amply illustrated from Scripture. It obviously excludes those who are genuinely unable to work. We need to see work as a blessing. It must be promoted by the Christian community. Work is not a curse. It is a way to use the gifts and talents God gives us in productive ways.
As the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, God is a worker.
1. Brotherly love is a mark of a biblical church( Jn 13:35)
2. We need to continuously improve in this area.
3. And especially we must learn to love our church by being quiet people who are not in the habit of upsetting everyone ; we must avoid being busybodies ; we must make our own living , and not depend on the church to continually help us when we are continuously in and out of jobs; when we are unteachable; when we have lavish lifestyles and poor budgeting habits.
May our Lord continuously help us to see these things in the Scriptures and apply them so that we will please Him more and more through our sanctified relationships.