What do we mean by being God- centered? What is a God centered church? This question has been occupying our minds as we have been working our way through Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Being God –centered means to have the Word of God shape our way of thinking and living as opposed to living and thinking in a man centered or in a natural or fleshly way . Being God centered means to engage in sanctified living- a life that pleases God. Sanctification is a progressive process whereby the Holy Spirit continuously and progressively applies His Word to our heads and our hearts, causing us to act more like Jesus. The subject of sanctification is extremely important – for it must follow our justification. They belong together like the protons and neutrons that compose an atom. We all know that splitting atoms has disastrous consequences !
I simply point out that if you have believed in Christ and if you have been justified by grace through faith, then it must also follow that you should obey your Lord, “working out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you…” (Phil 2:12,13) .
The Christian race is not finished simply because we have started. Neither is the race a concluded matter because we have started well. You know the famous story of the race between the rabbit and the tortoise – and you know who won ! The tortoise, slow starter that she was , won because she persevered. The rabbit started with an impressive sprint but fell down exhausted before the finish line. Starting well is great – but it is not what matters. Finishing well is what counts. So your justification must be followed by sanctification. You must persevere to the end.
Now, the Thessalonians were commended by Paul because he knew that they had started well: “The gospel had come to you not only in Word , but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” BUT how did they continue? See 1:6-10! The Thessalonians gave rich evidence of a sanctified lifestyle. But we also saw that Paul exhorted them not to sit on their laurels , and he exhorts them: “For this is the will of God – your sanctification …” (4:3). He says to them : “do so more and more !”(4:1,10)
Now there are many aspects to that process of sanctification – that process of growing to be more Christ like and less worldly. Paul addressed a number of them such as the sanctification of our sexuality purity ( 4:3-8) and the sanctification of our brotherly love (4:9-12), the sanctified relationship with the elders of the church (5:12-13), our relationship with those that struggle in the church (5:14&15) , along with real displays of joy, prayer and thanksgiving . (5:16-18) etc. You will find that Paul is a very practical theologian. He never thinks in terms of doctrine as the Greek philosophers did. They loved philosophy because it stimulated their brains and because it sharpened their logical thinking skills – but it did very little else . Above all, it often lacked practicality .
Paul wants the truth to works itself out in practice , and he isn’t finished yet . And now he addresses …
5:19- 22 : “ A life pleasing to God through a sanctified obedience to the Holy Spirit and to the Revelation of the Word of God.”
Our obedience and submission to the Holy Spirit’s work in us and to His revealed Word (prophecy) is crucial to our sanctification! In this regard Paul reminds us: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies…”
In this regard there are two errors which are often committed in the churches. On the one hand there are those quench the Holy Spirit by claiming to speak prophecies and revelations that are not from Him, and then there are those who make altogether too little of Him, even despising His person and His work.
Now what does this mean - “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies…” ?
a. Do not quench the Spirit (v. 19)
To ‘quench’ in its other occurrences in the New Testament is used with reference to putting out a fire . This term is used here metaphorically to warn us not to quench - not to put out the Spirit’s fire . Simply stated this means that we must not hinder or oppose the person and the work of the Spirit. Paul writes this in the present tense and in the imperative mood i.e. “don’t go on quenching the Person and the work of the Holy Spirit.” This is what Jesus said that the Pharisees always did (Matt 12:22-32) . In fact they attributed the work of the Spirit to Satan! Jesus tells them that this sort of persistent blasphemy ( for they kept on saying this) was tantamount to committing the unforgivable sin-the sin against the Holy Spirit.
In view of this and what we read in v.20 about prophecies we may come to the conclusion that some in the church may have been resisting the gift of prophecy. This was certainly the case in Corinth. There the gift of prophecy was being ignored because of an overzealous emphasis on the showy gifts like speaking in tongues (see 1 Cor. 12-14).
b. Do not despise prophecies (v. 20)
The gift of prophecy is the ability to receive and communicate direct revelations from God. Now here is an important aspect to consider. Before the NT was completed (1 Cor. 13:8) this was an important part of the church’s ministry. It still is an important part of the church’s ministry, but the prophetic element today has become subject to the written Word, since in Christ the revelation from God, given to the apostles, is now complete à Hebrews 1:1-3.
How then do we understand prophecy? The Puritan pastor William Perkins (1558-1602) wrote a treatise entitled “The art of prophesying”. William Perkins wrote this book for fellow preachers because he was concerned that the “main business was to preach Christ , and to reach the heart.” Perkins said that preaching should “rip up the hearts of those that heard it, and by the same token he saw the preacher as a spiritual doctor whose knowledge of the biblical remedies enabled him to bathe the wounds and heal the spiritual sicknesses of God’s people with the grace of Christ .” 
Now when I read this, I think immediately of the OT prophets. Their prophecies under the hand of God were spiritually very challenging and exposing. They ripped open their hearers hearts. But their prophesying was not heartless . Yes, it was severe , but it was not heartless . It was intended to bring healing to those who would hear and obey ! For those who had the grace to see the truth of these words , these words became life giving in their effect.
But there is also an opposite effect to such prophesying. Many whose hearts were ripped hated the prophets on this account and that is why many of them were eventually killed. Jesus words in this regard are very telling : “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it.” (Matt 23:37) Remember that the greatest of prophets was Jesus and for this reason He was killed by those who hated His prophetic words, because they perceived that He spoke against them !
Perhaps you will now understand that your preacher is a prophet in that sense, when he opens the Word to you, and when he proclaims it forcefully and filled with heavenly conviction and with contemporary application - “thus says the Lord…! ”
Now for argument’ s sake let us consider how God may be using this series of sermons to speak prophetically into the life of this church:
1. We begin by reading the Word of God.
2. The pastor –teacher who has a biblical office and mandate from God to inform God’s sheep of His will, having spent hours this week seeking to understand this Word, letting it first speak to his own sinful heart, praying into his own situation, now relaying this Word of God to his congregation, releases it as it were into the hearts of His hearers , at which time the Holy Spirit will do His ploughing work within each heart.
3. So, what has God spoken to us about? Many things .. just to take it from chapter 4 sexual immorality … the need for brotherly love … concerning the coming of the Lord… relating to church leadership … helping those that are struggling etc …! Do you get the point ?
Does this mean that you must accept everything thoughtlessly that comes to you from this pulpit ? Clearly no !
c. Examine All Things (vs. 21a)
Let me begin with the context . Apparently, however, certain “idle” brothers (v. 14; cf. 4:11, 12) had misused this gift by providing false information regarding the Lord’s return. This may have caused the church at Thessalonica to despise prophecy in general. Their tendency now was not to listen to any more prophetic messages! Paul warns against such an overreaction and urges the church to give prophecies their proper place in edifying its members .
This is also important since false prophets would arise, as the Lord Himself warned us . There must be careful discernment of the message of a prophet. Thus, Paul ends with this positive command : “Test  everything “. Here is your warning against gullibility . Here is a call to biblical discernment. The Bereans (Acts 17:11) tested everything Paul had said by the standard of Scripture (the OT )
In 1 Cor. 12:10 and 14:29 discernment is a spiritual gift to be used in conjunction with the gift of prophecy. It consists of an ability to discern whether what a prophet has said is true .
For us this is a call to examine all preaching and teaching in light of the Scripture. Just because somebody preaches from the Bible it does not mean his message is truly biblical. There is far too much Scripture twisting and proof-texting done in pulpits , and God’s people do well to know the Word of God themselves in order that they may discern what is truly the Word of God . It is difficult to skillfully handle the Word (2 Tim. 2:15). This is one of the reasons God places a greater responsibility on teachers (Jas. 3:1).
d. Hold fast what Is good (vs. 21b)
Obviousl then, once what is heard is discovered to be “the good,” i.e. true and in accordance with the revelation of God in Christ, then we must hold fast to it.
e. Stay Away From Every Form of Evil (vs. 22)
Believers must examine everything carefully and avoid that which does not conform to the truth – stay away from it . Avoid it. Don’t be taken captive by it .
This too , then is part of our sanctification , and it forms part of Paul’s ultimate prayer for the Thessalonians ( 5:23-24) : “ Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely , and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ . He who calls you is faithful ; He will surely do it “. Amen !
 Paul uses the following terms to describe the opposite of the God centered way of thinking and living i.e. by speaking about “the natural person” (1 Cor. 2:14) , “the spirit of the world” (1 Cor. 2:14) , “ being of the flesh” (1 Cor. 2:14; 3:1-4 ), “the wisdom of the world” ( 1 Cor. 1:20; 3:20)
 William Perkins : The Art of Prophesying , Foreword by Sinclair Ferguson p. x
 Gr dokimazo – to test metals in the fire , with the view of separating the metal from the dross .